Geese are mostly herbivores, though technically they are omnivores and can eat a variety of foods, it’s always plant matter that will make up most of their diet.
That being said, geese that are kept domestically are often fed commercially produced feed like other animals.
Considering that geese might be kept alongside chickens, you might wonder if they can share food with their smaller cousins.
They are both birds after all, and have highly similar biology. So, can geese eat chicken feed?
Yes, geese can eat chicken feed safely and will derive a good amount of nutrition from it.
However, chicken feed is not nutritionally optimized for geese, and it has too much of certain nutrients and not enough of others.
Geese should not be fed chicken feed long-term, and instead should get specially formulated waterfowl feed.
There’s nothing wrong with geese having a little bit of chicken feed, and if nothing else is available it will definitely provide them with calories and much of the nutrition that they need.
But problems will arise if they are given chicken feed long term, and it can be especially problematic for growing goslings.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know about giving chicken feed to geese below…
Does Chicken Feed Have Health Benefits for Geese?
Chicken feed has many of the same benefits for geese that it has for chickens.
It will provide geese with energy in the form of calories thanks to protein and carbohydrates, and it is fortified with all sorts of vitamins and minerals, all of which geese need in their own diet.
Together, the nutrients in chicken feed can help geese maintain a strong and healthy skeleton, heal from injuries, improve feathering during the molt, balance their metabolism and countless other cellular functions, boost immunity and much more.
However, problems arise when geese are given chicken feed on a regular basis instead of as an occasional treat.
Chicken feed is for chickens, and even though both species are birds with very similar biology, their nutritional requirements are not the same.
Notably, many chicken feeds are highly deficient in niacin compared to the requirements of geese, and some even have too much protein.
Nutrition Info for Chicken Feed
The precise nutritional content of chicken feed will vary depending on the brand and the type, but every single one of them has similar groups of nutrients that chickens require, and geese can still benefit from.
All chicken feeds will contain protein (a great source of calories) and also an essential resource for growth, muscle function and healing.
Although the amount of protein that geese and chickens need is generally comparable, note that some chicken feeds contain too much protein for geese, especially for goslings; we’ll talk more about that later…
Carbohydrates and fiber are present in grains and other plant matter, though they’re highly processed into pellet or crumble forms.
Naturally, chicken feeds will also contain many vitamins, particularly B complex vitamins, plus vitamins A and E.
These will be supplemented by minerals, everything from iron, manganese and magnesium to phosphorus and even copper.
Lastly, typical feeds will be further fortified with various amino acids, enzymes and potentially antibiotics or other medications to help chickens ward off germs and parasites.
So, in the end, these are all good things that geese need, but chicken feed doesn’t have everything that they need and some things that they do it has too much of!
This is rarely a problem for a handful of feedings, or if the geese managed to break into the chicken run and steal a little bit of their food, but deliberate long-term feeding of a chicken feed is going to cause issues for your geese.
Are There Issues Associated with Long-Term Feeding of Chicken Feed?
Yes. The biggest issue will be an overall decline in health and greater vulnerability to illness because chicken feed is not nutritionally complete for adult geese.
You’ll notice that your birds stop thriving over time, experience more health issues, an overall decline in energy levels and feather quality, laying productivity and more.
However, the issue is far worse for goslings. Goslings that are deliberately fed a steady diet of chicken feed will typically grow slowly and experience deformities, with the most infamous being angel wing syndrome.
This is a condition where the wrist, or outermost section of a birds’s wing, grows directly outward from its body instead of lying flat and flush alongside it in the normal position.
This is exacerbated by nutrient deficiency (niacin) and also by too many calories and too much protein.
Goslings so affected are in bad shape, and though the condition might be corrected or at least mitigated with proper care and an immediate about-face in terms of nutrition, once they grow up into adulthood suffering from it they will be unable to fly.
This is why it is so important to ensure that geese get a correct diet that is optimized for their needs.
This usually consists of specially formulated mash or other goose feed, or a whole diet of grass, plant matter, and produce along with a few choice bits of animal protein in the form of insects, slugs, snails, and so forth.
Geese are Healthier when Fed Waterfowl or Gamebird Feed
It’s not wrong to want to feed geese a commercially produced feed for convenience or precise control over their nutrition, but if you want to do that spend the extra effort (and sadly the extra money) to get them a specially formulated waterfowl feed that is suitable for geese or, depending on the breed, gamebird feed.
Although there aren’t nearly as many varieties on the market compared to chicken feed, there’s bound to be something that is perfect for your geese and you can get it with all of the same variations that you would chicken feed…
I’m talking about differing levels of protein or vitamins, formulations for meat birds or laying dames, with or without antibiotics and other medications and so forth.
Don’t hesitate to give your geese a little chicken feed if they need a snack or if there is nothing else on hand, but don’t make it a staple in their diet.
Can Goslings Eat Chicken Feed Safely?
Yes, but only very small amounts and only occasionally.
As described above in detail, goslings that are fed a continual diet of chicken feed are highly likely to suffer poor health, slow growth, and angel wing syndrome which is permanent and can cripple them.
How Often Can Geese Eat Chicken Feed?
If you want to, you can serve your geese chicken feed once or twice a week as a convenience option, snack, or incidental item on their menu.
This certainly won’t hurt them assuming they’re getting a proper diet the rest of the time, but remember that the more regularly you feed them chicken feed, the more unbalanced their overall nutrition and condition will become.
Preparing Chicken Feed for Geese
You don’t need to do much to prepare chicken feed for geese. You can give it to them the same way that you would give them their normal feed, or scatter it and let them peck at it off the ground.
If you have larger pellets or if your geese seem to be hesitant to eat them, consider crushing or grinding them to make the pieces smaller and easier for geese to swallow.
Never Give Geese Moldy or Spoiled Chicken Feed
Where do you want to give geese chicken feed periodically or not, make sure you never, ever give them any chicken feed that has gotten wet and turned moldy. This is a serious health hazard for geese, one that can be fatal.
That’s because moldy feed might play host to certain species of mold that produce dangerous toxins, ones that can cause severe organ damage and even kill your geese.
Two of the most common dangers associated with injury and death in geese are Aspergillus ochraceus and Penicillin viridicatum.
These two are notorious for growing on grains that have been exposed to moisture, particularly when those grains were previously dried out – just like the ones you find in chicken or goose feed…
If there’s any signs that the feed is moldy, rotting or otherwise degraded do not feed it to your geese! Give them fresh, clean feed only.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.