Do you dream of increasing your flock of domestic birds with a new species? Or maybe you want to get into small-scale goose farming but you are not sure which breed to choose? In either case, the Pilgrim goose could be an interesting choice. This plump and friendly goose is not necessarily easy to find, but its qualities make up for its rarity. Keep reading to learn more about this relatively new breed.

divider-birds

Quick Facts about the Pilgrim Goose

Breed Name:Pilgrim
Other Names:Settler Goose, Australian Settler
Country of Origin:America or the United Kingdom (exact origins are unclear)
Breed Purpose:Eggs and meat
Ganders (Male) Size:13.8-18 lbs
Geese (Female) Size:11.9-16 lbs
Breed Class:Medium
Broodiness:Average
Egg Productivity:35-45 eggs per year
Egg Color:White
Lifespan:15 to 25 years
Climate Tolerance:All climates
Flying Ability:Average
Varieties:Single
Rarity:Threatened

Pilgrim Goose Origins

It is not easy to disentangle the facts from reality as to the origin of this friendly goose. According to some sources, this breed originated in England and was brought to America by pilgrims, hence its common name.

But other sources report that the breed was developed in Iowa during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Oscar Grow, a leading waterfowl breeder, is said to have developed and named the Pilgrim goose in honor of the pilgrimage his family undertook during the Great Depression.

This breed was first documented in 1935 and was admitted to the American Poultry Association’s Standard of Perfection in 1939. It was standardized in the UK in 1982 and admitted to the Poultry Clubs standard in 1999.

Pilgrim geese are now rare, but their status has moved from “Critically Endangered” to “Threatened” according to The Livestock Conservancy – formerly known as the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC).

divider-birdcage

Pilgrim Goose Characteristics

The Pilgrim goose is a breed of medium-sized domestic geese. The head is thin, the crown is slightly flattened, and the neck is of medium length and thickness. Their body is full and plump, with a smooth, keelless breast. The beak is of medium length, straight and knobless. Their strong, low-lying wings give them rather average flying skills.

They are known for their docile and friendly temperament. Although they are less aggressive than other breeds of geese, they make good sentinel birds thanks to their developed vision and their good awareness of their environment. It’s not uncommon for them to alert their owners when an intruder is on the way, but they’re normally pretty quiet.

Uses

In the United States, the Pilgrim goose is mainly used for meat production, since this bird grows quite quickly. In fact, goslings can gain up to 10 pounds in less than two weeks. At maturity, ganders weigh between 13 to 18 pounds and geese between 12 to 16 pounds.

The eggs of Pilgrim geese can also be eaten. This breed lays about 35 to 45 eggs each year. However, most breeders prefer to maintain egg production for breeding purposes.

divider-bird

Appearance & Varieties

The Pilgrim goose is one of the few breeds where males and females can be easily identified by color. This is called auto-sexing.

  • Adult males (ganders) have creamy white plumage, a gray rump, and blue eyes.
  • Adult females (geese) have olive-gray plumage, white facial patches, and brown eyes.

Both sexes have orange beaks and legs.

It is also easy to differentiate the sex of newly hatched goslings:

  • Male hatchlings are silvery yellow or light yellow with light-colored
  • Female hatchlings are a darker grayish-green with dark beaks.

Interestingly, there are only four other breeds of geese with sexual dimorphism: the West of England (Old English), the Choctaw (Cotton Patch), the Shetland, and the Normand goose.

Population/Distribution/Habitat

The exact population and distribution of Pilgrim geese are difficult facts to know. According to The Livestock Conservancy, Pilgrim geese are found on breeding farms mainly in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. There would be fertility and deformity problems in this breed of goose, probably due to inbreeding, which would explain the rarity of the breed.

The classification of the Pilgrim goose, however, has changed from Critically Endangered to Threatened, suggesting that conservation efforts and improved breeding techniques have been undertaken to save the breed. But still, there are no estimates from official sources on the number of individuals bred in captivity. Furthermore, some breeders admit that good Pilgrims are very hard to find.

divider-birdcage

Are Pilgrim Geese Good for Small-Scale Farming?

With their docile temperament and robust health, Pilgrim geese are an excellent choice for the home goose flock. Indeed, they are robust, calm, good foragers, and easy to tame. Moreover, since the sexes are easily differentiable, it is easy to make the selection of future breeders. Furthermore, it is advisable to maintain a ratio of one male to three to five females.

Another remarkable characteristic of these birds is that they make excellent natural parents and take great care of their young. However, males can be very protective of their nests and may exhibit hissing or “honking” behaviors towards their human caretakers during the breeding season. But they will calm down quickly if you leave them alone.

Interestingly, Pilgrim geese can help control weeds—an excellent perk for anyone who owns a bit of land. Indeed, these birds naturally tend to feed on weeds, which reduces their proliferation. In addition, their droppings can be used as ecological fertilizer for pasture.

divider-birds

Final Thoughts

The Pilgrim goose is a rare breed with somewhat nebulous origins. It is mostly found on commercial farms in the United States, where it is raised primarily for its meat, which is known to be tender and juicy. Its docile and calm temperament also makes it an excellent choice for breeding on a smaller scale. In fact, these medium-sized domestic birds are a valuable asset to a farm or homestead. If you are lucky enough to find a local breeder in your area, you will certainly not be disappointed with your choice!

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Pikist