If you’ve ever wondered if geese can eat chicken feed, you’re not alone. Many backyard poultry owners find themselves with a mixed flock of chickens, ducks, and geese and wonder if they can feed them all the same diet. So can geese eat chicken feed?

The short answer is yes, geese can eat chicken feed without any issues. However, there are some important considerations to make when feeding geese chicken feed to ensure they get proper nutrition.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll take an in-depth look at feeding chicken feed to geese. We’ll cover the nutritional breakdown of chicken feed, what nutrients geese need, potential concerns, and best practices for incorporating chicken feed into a goose’s diet.

Nutritional Makeup of Chicken Feed

Protein content

Chicken feed is carefully formulated to provide chickens with adequate levels of protein. Protein is essential for growth, egg production, and overall health in chickens. Most chicken feeds contain between 16-20% protein from sources like soybean meal, canola meal, corn gluten meal, and fish meal.

The protein in chicken feed comes from both plant and animal sources to provide a complete amino acid profile. Higher protein levels around 20% are required for young, growing chickens and egg-laying hens. Broiler chickens grown for meat require diets with 16-18% protein.

Free choice oyster shells or limestone grit are also often provided to meet chickens’ calcium needs for egg production and bone health.

Fat and fiber content

Chicken feed contains 2-5% fat which provides a concentrated source of energy. Corn, soybean oil, and animal fat provide fatty acids that are essential for health. The fiber content comes from grain hulls like oats and rice bran as well as from any intact grains included in the diet.

Fiber aids digestion and keeps chickens feeling full between meals. Typical chicken feeds contain 2-4% crude fiber. Higher fiber scratch grains or whole grains are often fed to supplement pelleted feed and promote natural pecking and foraging behaviors.

Vitamins and minerals

In addition to macronutrients like protein, fat, and carbohydrates, chicken feed is fortified with all the essential vitamins and minerals chickens need. Common vitamin supplements include Vitamin A, B Vitamins, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. These support vision, growth, bone development, egg production and more.

feeds also contain adequate levels of minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and iodine. Each mineral supports specific body functions. For example, selenium boosts immune function while iodine ensures proper thyroid hormone levels.

Levels of calcium and phosphorus are carefully balanced for bone health. Inorganic mineral salts as well as sources like fish meal and algae provide bioavailable mineral nutrition. Vitamins and minerals are precisely formulated in commercial chicken feeds to avoid deficiencies and toxicity.

Nutritional Requirements for Geese

Protein needs

Geese require adequate amounts of protein in their diet for growth, egg production, and muscle development. Adult geese need around 14-16% crude protein in their feed. Higher protein levels, around 16-20%, are recommended for young, growing geese.

The protein should come from high-quality sources like soybean meal, canola meal, or fish meal. Geese that don’t get enough protein may have reduced growth rates, low egg production, and problems with feathering.

Carbohydrate needs

Carbohydrates provide geese with energy and should make up the bulk of their diet. Good sources of carbohydrates for geese include grains like corn, wheat, barley, and oats. For adult geese doing light work, around 60% of their diet can come from grains.

Higher fiber grains like oats are preferable to lower fiber grains like corn. Young geese need more protein and less carbohydrates, so around 40% grains is sufficient. Avoid feeding geese moldy, rotten, or spoiled grains as this can make them sick.

Fat content

Some fat in the geese diet is essential for providing concentrated energy. However, too much fat can lead to obesity and liver problems in geese. Aim to keep the fat content of adult goose feed around 3-5%. Higher fat levels from 5-8% can be fed to young geese under 16 weeks to support rapid growth.

Good fat sources for geese include flax seeds, rice bran, and animal fats. Limit feeding geese excess table scraps and breads which are high in fat and low in nutrition.

Vitamin and mineral needs

In addition to macronutrients like protein, carbs and fat, geese require vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Important vitamins for geese include Vitamins A, D, E, and B complex. Essential minerals include calcium for bone strength, phosphorus for energy use, sodium and chloride for maintaining electrolyte balance.

Feeding a small amount of balanced goose feed or poultry feed can help provide sufficient vitamins and minerals. Alternatively, a vitamin/mineral supplement can be added to homemade feed mixes. Access to grit can also allow geese to source some of their own mineral needs.

Potential Concerns with Feeding Geese Chicken Feed

Excess protein

Chicken feed is formulated to have high protein levels, typically around 16-20%, to meet the nutritional needs of growing chickens. This is much higher than the protein requirements for adult geese, which only need about 13-15% protein in their diet according to animal nutrition guidelines.The excess protein from chicken feed can put strain on geese’s kidneys and liver as they try to metabolize and excrete all that protein.

One study found that geese fed chicken starter feed with 20% protein had increased liver weights and more fat deposits compared to geese eating a special lower protein goose feed. Feeding high protein chicken feed long-term may increase the risk of gout and other health issues in geese.

Not enough fiber

Chicken feed is also very low in fiber, with around 2-4% crude fiber, since chickens have a simple digestive system compared to geese. Geese require a higher fiber diet, about 5-8% minimum, to support their digestive health. The lack of sufficient fiber in chicken feed can predispose geese to issues like enteritis, diarrhea, and poor digestion of nutrients.

According to avian experts, geese’s digestive system benefits from high-fiber foods like grass, leafy greens, and aquatic plants. Chicken feed lacks these sources of insoluble fiber that geese naturally seek out in the wild.

MSU Extension recommends adding supplemental fiber sources like chopped greens or alfalfa to chicken feed for geese.

Lack of vitamin E

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient for geese, but chicken feed tends to be deficient in this vitamin. Chicken feeds are primarily composed of grains like corn, wheat, and soybean meal. According to a poultry research study, these grains and byproducts only provide about 10-25 IU of vitamin E per kg.

In comparison, geese require a minimum of 50 IU of vitamin E per kg of feed for proper development, immunity, and reproduction. The lack of adequate vitamin E in chicken feed can cause nutritional deficiencies in geese that may impact their growth and health over time. Adding vitamin E supplements or green forage high in this vitamin can help offset this nutritional imbalance.

Best Practices for Feeding Chicken Feed to Geese

Offer free-choice grass or hay

Geese love to forage on grass, clover, alfalfa, or other greens. Allowing them access to pasture for grazing gives them this opportunity. An alternative is to offer free-choice grass hay. The fiber in the greens and hay is essential for geese digestion and gut health.

Make sure they always have ample access.

Supplement with grains

While geese enjoy grazing, they still need supplemental grains in their diet. An adult goose will consume around 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 pound of feed per day. Choose a feed designed for waterfowl like ducks or geese. Examples are Producers Pride Flock Raiser Crumble or Dumor 16% Flock Ration.

The protein level should be 16-20% for geese. They particularly enjoy cracked corn as a treat!

Provide grit

Geese need insoluble granite grit to help grind and digest grains and plant material. Offer free-choice grit starting at 2-3 weeks old so goslings develop this habit. The grit accumulates in their gizzard and aids the digestive process.

An adult goose will consume around 1-2 tablespoons of grit per week. Popular options are Producers Pride Granite Grit or Manna Pro Granite Poultry Grit.

Mix flock feed rations

For the best nutrition, mix different feed sources into flock rations. Create your own by combining:

  • 40% corn
  • 30% protein pellet or crumble
  • 20% wheat middlings or bran
  • 10% oats

Adjust percentages based on cost and availability of ingredients. Store extra feed in metal trash cans with tight lids to keep it safe from moisture and rodents. Top off feeders as needed so geese always have access.

The Bottom Line

There are some exceptions where using a bit of chicken feed for supplemental feeding can be okay, but geese should get the majority of their diet from feeds specifically formulated for waterfowl. These will have the right protein to calcium ratio and ingredients geese can properly digest.

Free-ranging geese that get most of their diet from grazing may also be able to tolerate more chicken feed. But in general, it is best to avoid chicken layer feeds as a staple goose diet.

The most important things for keeping geese healthy are access to clean water for swimming and bathing, high-quality waterfowl feeds, and room to graze. With proper care geese can live happily for 15 years or longer.

Be sure to do research on the best practices for housing, handling, and feeding whichever waterfowl species you plan to raise. Connect with other local breeders and veterinarians familiar with caring for domestic geese. This will help prevent common health issues and injuries.

Raising geese can be very rewarding but does require some special considerations compared to chickens. Their unique nutritional and environmental needs, as well as typical temperament and behaviors, make geese fascinating creatures.

With the right setup and information, geese can make great additions to any small farm or homestead looking to branch out beyond chickens for an even wider variety of fresh eggs and meat. Just be sure their diet is waterfowl-specific for optimal health and growth.


In summary, geese can safely eat chicken feed as part of a balanced diet. While chicken feed alone does not provide optimal nutrition for geese, supplementing with hay, grains, and grit can help balance out any nutritional deficiencies.

Following best practices for feeding and monitoring your geese will ensure they thrive, even when chicken feed makes up a significant portion of their diet. If in doubt, consult with an avian nutritionist to formulate a custom feed ration for a mixed flock.

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