When Sammy Onyango started raising geese as a hobby three years ago, he had no idea that he could make good money while at it.
He had previously reared ducks and turkeys but decided to try his hand at goose farming after buying a gander (a male goose) and two geese while travelling from Nairobi to Kisumu back in 2018.
The flock has since grown to 38, weighing between 4kg and 8kg based on breed and sex.
Onyango keeps four breeds – Pilgrim, Chinese, Embden and Steinbacher.
And contrary to the notion that exotic animals have to be fed on commercial feeds to be productive, he says free-range is the best way of rearing the birds.
Onyango allows the geese to freely roam in his compound. However, they require shelter for the night.
“A good shelter also helps to protect the birds from adverse weather conditions,” he advises.
The shelter, he adds, should be spacious to allow the birds to move around freely, free from predators and well ventilated.
According to Onyango, commercial feeds are only necessary during the cold season as they have to stay indoors most of the time.
“Geese prefer selecting feeds for themselves and should, therefore, have enough space to roam and pick what they want. They mainly feed on grass, but their diet includes young vegetation, tree barks and insects. They also feed on kitchen waste like peels,” he says.
One goose can eat up to 160g of feed at a go. Sammy spends about Sh2,000 monthly on feeds to supplement the green fodder. A 70kg bag of layers’ mash feeds the 38 birds for over a month.
He prefers geese over ducks because the latter mature within 10 weeks, and if one does not have a ready market, they are likely to overstay on the farm, taking up space.
“Every bird hatches up to 10 chicks every four to five months. Their gestation period is between 28 and 35 days, and mine hatch mainly in May and November,” says the farmer, adding that goslings have higher survival rates than a hen’s chicks.
A mature goose costs between Sh3,500 and Sh4,000, depending on its weight. They mature after two years and lay between 15 and 30 eggs yearly. On average, he sells five birds monthly online or through referrals.
“One must start looking for market by the ninth week. After the tenth week, they add insignificant weight. But geese continue building up and improving meat quality with age,” says Onyango.
“Mature females can weigh between 2kg and 4.5kg, while males can weigh between 5kg and 6kg.”
Another advantage of geese over chickens and other domestic birds, Onyango says, is that they are not susceptible to contagious diseases. They are also “intimidating,” a quality that secures them against most poultry predators, such as wildcats, dogs and mongooses.
Dr Paul Kang’ethe, a vet, recommends regular vaccination of the birds and up to 160g of feed to ensure maximum productivity.