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Beauty - Female Pilgrim Goose
Mature female Pilgrim Goose

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INFORMATION ABOUT PILGRIM GEESE




NATURE

Pilgrim geese are exceptionally calm, sweet natured (even personable), and self-sufficient. They are quiet and docile. Although they are much less aggressive than other breeds of geese, they can become protective of their newly hatched goslings.

Pilgrims are also excellent grazers and very good foragers. They are very hardy birds with a strong urge to flock. Pilgrims are very successful at hatching and raising their own young. The Pilgrim makes a superior farm goose because of its quiet disposition, excellent natural parenting ability, and fast growth (as much as 10 pounds in about 10 weeks).


CONFORMATION

The head should be trim, the crown slightly flattened, and the neck average in length and thickness. (Long thin necks should be avoided.) Pilgrim bodies should be full and plump, with a smooth, keelless breast. Each Pilgrim should have two rounded fatty lobes on the abdomen.

Knobs on the beak are a sure sign of cross breeding.

The production and exhibition forms of the Pilgrim are similar, unlike other forms of geese.


WEIGHT

The Pilgrim Goose is a medium weight goose weighing between 12 and 16 pounds when adult. Generally, the males weigh 14 pounds and the females weigh 13 pounds.


COLOR

Mature ganders (males) are either pure white or mostly white with small amounts of light grey usually on their secondary feathers and rumps but covered by their primary wing feathers. Traces of color are sometimes found on their tails and wings but not desirable.

When selecting males for breeding, I prefer using ganders with light grey secondary feathers and rump but avoid using ganders with excessive gray. The advantage of light grey secondary feathers is that light grey secondary feathers can visually identify Pilgrim ganders from other similar types of geese with pure white ganders.

The gosling males are silvery yellow with light beaks (see pictures below).

Adult geese (females) are mostly a pale gray, sometimes referred to as a soft dove gray (not the darker, "harder" gray of the Toulouse). Female have varying amounts of white on their head and neck, which is associated with the sex-linked color. Younger immature females can have a gray face that, as they age, develops white feathering starting at the beak and forming white 'spectacles' around the eyes. (In breeding, care must be taken to keep the quantity of white reduced to the head only and off the neck area. I do not favor white feathers scattered down the neck.)

Gosling females are olive gray with darker (almost black) bills.

Bills and legs are orange in both sexes when mature, while the eyes are blue in ganders and dark brown in geese.


These pictures demonstrate the color difference in male and female goslings.

Female in center surrounded by four males. One olive gray female and several silvery yellow males resting - day one. Female on far right. One olive gray female and several silvery yellow males walking - day two.

In both pictures you can easily differentiate the one olive gray female gosling with her dark beak among the several shimmery silvery yellow male goslings with their light beaks. You may also notice that the depth of color appears to change as your angle to the gosling changes.

These goslings hatched the night before the larger picture was taken and the smaller picture was taken on the following day. Each day the color difference between males and females increase.



One Month old Female gosling with parents.
Note that the female goose recently molted ... which is usual after hatching.
Month old Female gosling with parents.
One Month old Female gosling with parents.



Two month old male with unwanted grey spots on head and neck. Many times this "out of place" grey body feathering is replaced by white feathers on the first molt.

The grey on the flight feathers and rump (covered by the wings) are desirable as long as the grey does not become too dark or spread to where it is clearly visible.
Two month old male with unwanted grey spots on head and neck.
TWO MONTH OLD MALE



This is the head of a two month old female gosling. Note that the white feathering on the head around the beak and eyes is not complete.

In my birds, by the time the female is two and sexually mature, the white will have filled in to it's full extent covering the beak area and around the eyes. Hopefully there will be NO white feathers on the neck.
This is the head of a two month old female gosling.
TWO MONTH OLD FEMALE



(See AUTOSEXING below for additional color information.)


BREEDING

Physically, breeding stock should have keelless breasts and broad backs. Temperamentally, only calm and sweet natured Pilgrims should be bred, since good temperament is a part of Pilgrim breed character.

Avoid breeding Pilgrims with long necks, long legs, any hint of a knob on the beak (a sign of cross breeding), or shallow breasts. Males with excessive gray on their bodies and females with predominantly white necks should also be avoided. (I breed for white adjacent to the beak and around the eyes, but no further down the head and neck. For breeding I prefer males hatched from females who don't have excessive white.)

Although one gander can be mated with as many as three to five geese, I prefer keeping one gander with no more than two geese and enjoy keeping them in pairs and even trios with two males and one female.

Because Pilgrim geese are sex-linked for color, keeping the desired ratio of males to females when selecting replacement breeding birds is simple.


EGG PRODUCTION

Properly managed for egg production, a Pilgrim goose is able to lay between 35 and 45 white eggs annually. Each egg weighs six to seven ounces.

When allowed to hatch her own eggs, a goose should lay and set somewhere between eight and twelve eggs. I've had the best hatch rate with geese on nests with eight eggs.


AUTO-SEXING

The Pilgrim is the only domestic (American) goose breed in which males and females have sexually distinct coloration and pattern that easily identifies their sex both as goslings and as adults. Pure strains of Pilgrim geese are sexually dimorphic, therefore auto-sexing. Auto-sexing means that a bird's sex can be determined by the color of an adult's feathers or a gosling's fluff.

Adult males are creamy white and gosling males are silvery gray with light beaks. Adult females are olive-gray and gosling females are olive gray with darker (sometimes almost black) bills. Initially, there isn't a great deal of difference in the fluff and they are most easily differentiated sexually by the bill color. As the goslings grow new fluff grows as well. At 12 to 14 days the females have become gray and the males have a distinctly whitish cast.

Pilgrims are readily auto-sexing as adults but the difference is not always easy to tell with newly hatched goslings and may vary with strain.


PLUME COLOR INHERITANCE

Studies on plumage color and patterns in domestic geese have shown that crossing gray geese and white geese of European descent produce some goslings that have auto-sexing plumage color similar to Pilgrims.

Research suggests that sex linked plume color is due to a color inhibitor present on the sex chromosome. Since males have a double dose of the color inhibitor, plume color is prevented and white plumage is produced.


ORIGIN

Although popular literature frequently describes Pilgrim geese as an old breed originating in England and arriving in America with the Pilgrims, this is not the most likely origin of the Pilgrim Geese. Oscar Grow, a water fowl authority in the early 1900s, claims he developed the Pilgrim breed in Iowa. He says his wife named these geese after their relocation, or pilgrimage, from Iowa to Missouri during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The breed was first documented by the name "Pilgrim" in 1935 and admitted into the American Poultry Association's Standard of Perfection in 1939.

Many references can be found to auto-sexing geese in colonial America, western England and Normandy, France, but these various auto-sexing geese were never referred to by any standardized name. Since white European geese crossed to gray European geese produce some second generation auto-sexing offspring similar to Pilgrim geese, small populations of auto-sexing geese were likely found in a variety of locations. (Chinese or African species don't display this tendency.) Since Oscar Grow documented this characteristic and named the breed Pilgrim, he is credited with the Pilgrim's origin.

Some authorities indicate the Pilgrim goose is related to another auto-sexing breed, the now rare West of England goose. This goose could possibly have arrived with early colonists.


STATUS

The Pilgrim goose is a rare domestic breed originating in the United States whose status is listed as Critical.


SUMMARY

With their calm temperament, auto-sexing characteristic, good parenting ability, and hardiness, I believe that Pilgrim geese are the most practical and enjoyable geese for a family farm's poultry flock.


Baby - Female Pilgrim Goose - with a Gander and Beauty in the far background

In Pilgrim Geese the males are white and the females are grey. They are mild mannered and enjoyable to be around.

Two Ganders - Males are always white!




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