Geese grazing in a field or paddling across a pond are a classic sign of summertime. But what happens when these iconic waterfowl wander into your backyard? You may find yourself wondering what foods you can offer them.

If you have leftover rice from last night’s dinner, can you toss some to the geese? Or could rice hurt or even kill these beautiful birds?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Most experts say geese should not eat plain white rice often or in large amounts. But small servings of leftover rice once in a while are generally fine.

The Basics: Can Geese Have Rice?

Geese are primarily herbivores, meaning the bulk of their diet consists of plant-based foods like grass, seeds, fruits and vegetation. However, they are opportunistic eaters and will consume almost anything they can, including rice.

Let’s take a closer look at whether rice is safe and nutritious for geese to eat.

White rice lacks key nutrients

White rice is mostly carbohydrates and lacks the protein, vitamins and minerals that geese need to stay healthy. During processing, the nutritious bran and germ layers are removed from white rice grains. What’s left behind is mostly starchy endosperm with traces of nutrients.

While geese can technically eat white rice, it doesn’t offer much nutritional value. Feeding geese too much white rice could lead to deficiencies over time as their main diet lacks proper protein, fat, vitamins and minerals.

Rice can ferment in geese’s digestive systems

The digestive systems of geese are designed to break down fibrous plant materials, not starchy refined grains like white rice. When geese eat white rice, it can ferment rather than properly digest. This can lead to upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating and other digestive issues.

Brown or wild rice still contains the nutritious bran and germ and is easier for geese to break down. The additional fiber also helps move food through the digestive tract. But even these varieties should be fed sparingly to avoid fermentation problems.

Some cooked rice is okay in moderation

While geese should not eat large amounts of rice, small servings of cooked white or brown rice once or twice a week are unlikely to cause problems. The rice should be thoroughly cooked until soft. Avoid feeding them dry, uncooked rice.

For a nutritious boost, mix a few tablespoons of cooked rice into a grain mixture along with oats, corn, wheat and other seeds and grains geese can safely eat. You can also top cooked rice with chopped greens, diced hard boiled eggs, or shredded carrots and apples for added nutrition.

In moderation as an occasional treat, rice can add variety to a goose’s diet without causing digestive upset. But it should never make up a substantial portion of their food intake long term. Focus on providing geese a varied, nutrient-dense diet based primarily on grasses, leafy greens and high-fiber vegetation.

Healthiest Foods and Treats for Geese

Geese thrive on grass, greens, seeds

Geese are herbivores, meaning they only eat plant-based foods. Their natural diet consists primarily of grasses, leafy greens, roots, berries, and seeds. Geese have serrated bills ideal for grazing on lawn grass, weeds, alfalfa, clover, and aquatic plants like seaweed.

They get a nutritious blend of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals from these greens and vegetation. Letting geese graze freely on fresh pasture is the healthiest way to feed them.

In addition to fresh grasses, geese enjoy leafy greens like lettuce, kale, spinach, and even the trimmings from your garden veggies. They gobble up fruits like grapes, melon, berries, and chopped apples too. And they go nuts for seeds from grasses, flowers, vegetables, and grains.

Scattering a seed mixture provides fun foraging enrichment.

Favorite fruits and veggies

Geese relish many fruits and vegetables, both greens and produce. Here’s a list of some of their favorites:

  • Lettuce – Romaine, red leaf, green leaf
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli trimmings and stalks
  • Cabbage trimmings
  • Grapes
  • Melon chunks – cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon
  • Berries – strawberries, blackberries, raspberries
  • Apple slices or chunks
  • Squash trimmings
  • Sweet potato or pumpkin scraps
  • Corn cut off the cob
  • Shelled peas
  • Bean trimmings and pods
  • Tomato wedges or chunks
  • Pepper strips
  • Broccoli florets
  • Carrot tops and peeled carrots
  • Beet greens and cubed beets

Offer fruits and veggies chopped or in large pieces that geese can grasp and swallow. Scatter them on the ground or hang leafy greens or cabbage in their pen for enrichment. This gives geese a fun foraging activity.

Limited amounts of bread or cracked corn

Geese can eat small amounts of bread, cereal, popcorn, or cracked corn as an occasional treat. But these should make up no more than 5-10% of their diet. An all-grain diet leads to angel wing deformity in growing goslings. Excess bread and carbohydrates also cause obesity and loose droppings.

Here are some healthy guidelines for supplemental treats:

  • No more than 1-2 slices of bread per goose daily
  • 1⁄4 cup of cracked corn or popcorn per goose daily
  • 1⁄3 cup dry oatmeal or birdseed per goose daily
  • Avoid feeding duck feed, which is too high in protein

Scatter treats in the pen or use a treat ball to make geese work for their snacks. This provides exercise and prevents boredom. Never overfeed treats, but use them judiciously for training, enrichment, and bonding.

Dangers of Feeding Geese the Wrong Things

Avoid processed human foods

Feeding geese human junk foods like bread, chips, popcorn, or crackers can be highly dangerous for them. These foods lack proper nutritional value and are difficult for geese to digest properly. Consequences can range from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies to deadly digestive issues like angel wing disease.

Instead, it’s best to offer geese their natural foods like grasses, aquatic plants, seeds, berries, and small aquatic invertebrates. These provide the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals geese need to stay healthy.

Prevent vitamin deficiencies

Feeding geese inappropriate foods over time can deprive them of key nutrients and lead to potentially fatal vitamin deficiencies. For example, angel wing disease results from a deficiency in vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus caused by poor nutrition.

Vitamin deficiencies make geese more vulnerable to illness, cause bone and feather abnormalities, and can greatly reduce their lifespan. Always make sure geese have access to nutritious, natural foods to help prevent these issues.

Reduce spread of diseases at shared sites

Feeding geese in public parks or other shared sites makes disease transmission between birds more likely. As geese congregate to compete for food, they spread bacteria and parasites through their droppings which contaminate land and water.

According to the Humane Society of the United States[1], bread in particular encourages sizable goose populations to concentrate, increasing the quantity of feces and chances for disease issues. It’s best not to feed geese in public areas.

Additionally, moldy leftover bread can cause a fatal disease called aspergillosis among geese and other waterfowl. So it should always be avoided.

Good Goose Feeds Bad Goose Feeds
Natural grasses Bread
Berries Chips
Seeds Cookies
Aquatic plants Crackers
Insects Popcorn

Following some basic rules about what to feed geese can help keep sizable populations healthy while avoiding issues. Be sure to offer them natural nutritious foods while avoiding processed human junk foods or moldy bread that can be incredibly harmful to them.

Creating a Backyard Habitat to Attract Geese

Provide open spaces with sightlines to water

Geese love open spaces with a clear view of any nearby water sources. They feel most comfortable when they can easily spot potential predators or threats. Make sure to trim back overgrown bushes, trees or tall grasses that might obstruct their view.

Create a open “runway” from the water to the habitat area, at least 30-50 feet wide. This allows geese to move comfortably between the water and land. Having this clear access point is key to attracting them from the water to your backyard.

Plant grasses and aquatic vegetation

Geese graze primarily on grasses and leafy greens. Make sure to plant grasses and aquatic vegetation they know and love. Some good options are fescue, ryegrass, clover, alfalfa and aquatic plants like mermaid weed or American pondweed.

You can plant small patches throughout the habitat or designate a larger grazing area. Just make sure not to spray these grasses with herbicides or other chemicals! Geese will avoid treated areas. Mowing the grasses once they get tall keeps the habitat tidy and maintains the desired heights that geese prefer.

Set up a small pond

Adding a small backyard pond is a great way to attract geese looking for water access. The pond doesn’t need to be large, even a plastic kiddie pool filled with water can work. Place pond rocks and aquatic plants around the edges to create a naturalistic environment.

Make sure the pond has gradually sloping sides so geese can easily enter and exit the water. Clean the pond regularly to keep the water fresh and appealing. You can even install a bubbler to prevent standing water and deter mosquitoes. The sight and sound of moving water is enticing for geese.

Having this water source onsite gives them a place to swim, play and drink whenever they please!

Deterring Geese When They Become a Nuisance

Use decoys and reflective items to scare geese

Geese can be easily frightened by unfamiliar objects, so placing decoys of predators like coyotes or dogs in areas where geese congregate can help scare them away (1). Reflective items like old CDs hung up on string also deter geese as the light reflections startle them.

Motion-activated sprinklers are another great scare tactic. When geese land in the sensing area, they get sprayed with a startling but harmless burst of water (2). Using multiple types of decoys, reflective items, and motion sprinklers maximizes the chance that something will scare the geese away for good.

Install physical barriers

Physically blocking geese access to lawns, ponds or walking paths with barriers is extremely effective. Options include:

  • Pond netting – Floating plastic nets stop geese landing on ponds (3).
  • Low fences – Short fences around 30 inches tall prevent geese walking onto lawns.
  • Grid wire – Plastic or metal grid barriers placed over grass stop geese grazing (4).
  • The Illinois Department of Natural Resources found that installing physical barriers reduced nuisance geese numbers by over 90% in problem areas (5). While less aesthetically pleasing, barriers work better than scare tactics alone.

    Work with wildlife authorities if needed

    For serious nuisance goose issues, work with federal and state wildlife agencies who can legally:

  • Oil or shake goose eggs to stop hatching goslings.
  • Catch and relocate geese during June/July molting when flight feathers regrow and geese cannot fly away (6).
  • Use approved chemical repellents on grass near waterways geese use.
  • As a last resort, wildlife authorities can cull geese populations if they pose aviation strike risks or contamination issues. But authorities prefer implementing egg/gosling control first (7).

    Stopping geese accessing food, water and nesting spots works better than relying solely on scaring them away once they arrive somewhere. Persistence with multiple deterrent techniques is key!


    Next time you spy geese in your yard or local park, resist the urge to feed them table scraps or bread. While the occasional handful of leftover rice won’t hurt in moderation, a diverse diet of greens, seeds, and berries is healthiest for our feathered friends.

    With some thoughtful planning, we can provide the habitat and nutrition geese need without enabling nuisance behavior.

    If geese become a problem, deterrent techniques and wildlife authorities can humanely encourage these beautiful migrants to move along on their travels. By supporting geese and other species appropriately, we can sustain vibrant backyard ecosystems for generations to come.

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