Shetland geese come from Scotland’s Shetland Islands, but no detailed records exist of their development. They’re noted for their foraging ability and sex-linked color.
Mature geese weigh 10 to 12 pounds and lay about 30 eggs yearly if eggs are removed from the nest. Since their coloration is sex-linked, they sometimes get confused with Pilgrim geese, though clear distinctions exist. The plumage of the gander is white, and his eyes are blue. Females are typically half-white and half-gray with a saddleback pattern. The shoulders, secondary flight feathers, under-wing back and thigh coverts are gray. The head and neck are mainly white, often with varying amounts of gray plumage. The eyes of a goose are brown or brown mottled with blue. The bill of both sexes is pale orange and reddens or turns pink towards the nostrils and a pink bean.
The Shetland goose has a broad back and a well-rounded, keel-less breast, similar to a rugby ball. The abdomen is relatively flat with a single-lobed paunch. The wings are powerful, allowing for full ability of flight. Some farms may need to clip one wing’s to keep them home.
When selecting breeders choose vigorous, strong-legged birds free of physical deformities. Shetland geese in North America descend from a small genetic pool. As a result, special care must be taken to avoid genetic defects, including crooked toes, wry tails, kinked necks, and lack of vigor. Consider growth rate, egg production, and foraging ability for utility birds. Because Shetland ganders rarely bond with more than one female, keep equal numbers of each sex, preferably from multiple bloodlines, to allow breeding birds to pair up.
Shetland geese combine several valuable traits, including a shortened bill for active foraging. This resourceful breed will forage year-round and will even forage for grit and grass under snow cover.
Shetland geese typically form very strong bonds with their mates. Females often go broody after laying 12 to 18 eggs and are successful setters and mothers. They retain many other natural instincts, and will flock during the non-breeding seasons and band together to ward off predators.
Did you know:
The Livestock Conservancy is America’s leading organization working to save over 150 heritage breeds from extinction. We rely on the support of our members, grants, and donations from the public to raise the $700,000 a year needed to maintain our conservation work with rare breeds of farm animals. Click here to learn how you can help.