Goose eggs are particularly difficult to hatch artificially in an incubator, so leaving this difficult job to the goose is popular if she goes broody and is a good sitter.
Once a goose goes broody, you can’t move her nest so start off by encouraging her to sit in the right place by providing nesting material in a shed or covered area.
If you leave goose eggs in the nest, a goose will usually sit once she has laid a suitable size clutch of eggs. To prevent breakages whilst she is laying, it is usually best to leave a couple of eggs in the nest but to remove and store the others until there are enough for her to sit on. Geese can usually sit on 7 to 10 eggs comfortably.
When a goose is ready to sit, she will line her nest with down that she plucks from herself. If she is keen to sit (and sometimes she won’t settle, especially if the weather changes) then she should start to sit tight on the nest, coming off only for brief periods to eat, drink and bath.
A broody goose needs safety and peace and quiet to sit. There should be no rats since these will steal eggs from under her given the chance. If there is another goose that has also gone broody, you should separate them physically, or they can swap nests, steal one another’s eggs or even both sit on the same nest at the same time, spoiling one clutch of eggs.
Goose eggs take between 28 and 35 days to hatch and by the end of the incubation period, the goose will have become run down so it is important to take note of the date that she starts sitting so that you can intervene if she is still sitting after this time on non-viable eggs.
If you are going to candle her eggs, try to do this early on after 8 to 10 days because eggs can get fairly dirty which makes the job difficult later on.
Worming geese is usually recommended as they start to sit since often worms can take hold when the goose is run down but also gizzard worm kills goslings easily so by worming, you should be reducing the incidence of gizzard worm on the pasture once the goslings hatch.
The broody goose must come off the nest daily. Some will not and in these circumstances, must be forced off the nest or she will become very weak and may even die on the nest. Young, inexperienced geese are the worst for this but older geese are usually wiser in this respect. If you do need to lift her off the nest, be careful to hold her feet so they don’t break the eggs and check her weight in your hands. If she feels very frail and will not eat much when removed from the nest, it may be better to finish the eggs off in an incubator.
Ensure she has clean water to bathe in when she comes off the nest, which can safely be anytime up to an hour. This helps with providing the correct moisture and humidity around the eggs whilst she sits.
When the eggs start to hatch, it can take 2 or 3 days before all of the goslings are out. The goose will talk to the goslings and this will keep them under her for the first couple of days but as time goes on, the bravest will start to emerge more and more until eventually she abandons any unhatched eggs (which can then be removed from the nest) and will take the goslings to food, water and fresh grass.
Remember goslings are at risk of predation by the usual predators but also rats, hawks, buzzards and other birds of prey.