Heart of America Game
Breeders' Association

Questions & Answers on Raising Hawaiian Geese (Nene)

HOAGBA member Kenneth Howell of Muldrow, OK, shared his experiences with Nene in the August 1997 issue of the Heartland News.

1. How or why did you become interested in raising this particular species? How long have you been raising this species?
My wife Roberta became interested in the Nene when she saw a picture of one in about 1984. She, in turn, got me interested and we got our first pair in 1986. At the time of this writing, we have 43 of them, which as far as I know, is the largest flock of them anywhere. A few years ago, a gentlemen in Kansas had close to 100, but I understand predators nearly wiped him out.

2. In what size pen are the birds kept? Is it landscaped? If so, with what?
My pens vary greatly in size, from 8 feet by 20 feet to almost an acre. Each one is landscaped differently. We have most anything in the pens that we can get to grow - small shrubs, privet hedge, bamboo, river grass, reed grass and what some of us call "poke salad", which makes an excellent shade for the birds.

3. What sort of shelter is provided for the birds? What special things do you do to protect them during the winter?
About all the shelter the Nene need in our eastern Oklahoma climate is a windbreak in winter and plenty of shade in summer. The birds don't spend much time in shelters as they seem to prefer to be out in the open. I also keep open water for them.

4. What do you feed the birds during the non-breeding season?
I feed a 17% duck breeder pellet the year round supplemented with greens whenever possible. Green grass when possible, although in a small pen, geese make it impossible to keep grass growing.

5. What do you feed the birds during the breeding season? When do you switch to this feeding program?
Just before the breeding seasons starts, usually around November 1, I start adding trout chow to their diet just to raise the protein level. I personally believe that a protein level of 22 to 25% is really good for fertility in waterfowl.

6. What type of nests do you use? Where in the pen are they placed? What is used for nesting material?
Nene will nest in almost any kind of nest location provided for them, but the ones they seem to like best at our place have been square bales of hay placed to leave a "crack" between two bales about sixteen inches wide with a bale of hay forming the back and bales laid across the top. The negative side to this nest is that it really lasts only one year, which means building new ones every year. The Nene doesn't seem picky about location, but I try to locate them away from the path I have to use in feeding, cleaning or checking on birds. I just give them plenty of clean hay for nesting material.

7. How often do you collect the eggs? Do you ever allow a hen to set on the eggs?
If there is a danger of the eggs freezing, I collect the eggs as they are laid and replace them with dummy eggs. When the clutch is complete, usually three to five eggs, I allow the female to set on the eggs for about two weeks. I then put the eggs in an incubator for the rest of the incubation period, which is 27 to 29 days total. The female will usually lay a second and sometimes even a third clutch. Sometimes I will let a female hatch and raise a clutch of goslings. Both the male and female care for the babies and are very good parents.

8. What kind of incubator do you use? At what temperature are the eggs set? What is the length of incubation?
I use Marsh Roll-X incubators set at 99.4 degrees. The incubation period is 27 to 29 days.

9. Describe how you brood the young? What are they fed? Do you use a "teacher" for those that are hard to get started eating? Do you add any vitamins or medication to the drinking water? How long are the young kept in brooders?
I start the goslings in dry brooders, usually cardboard boxes lined with felt-like material for the first few days, but I like to get them off the felt and on dirt as soon as possible. They seem to do much better on the ground. I have an enclosed part of my barn which I can heat them with heat lambs. The goslings don't need a "teacher" to start them eating readily. I start them on 18% chick crumbles which is non-medicated. I also give them lettuce as often as possible. I don't use any medication in the water. I add vitamins to the feed in the form of Vionate. I don't have a set time to leave them in the brooder. I just watch them and when I think they are ready and the weather is warm enough, out they go into outside pens.

10. As the goslings grow, do you change the type of feed? If so, what do you feed and when do you switch to this feed?
At about three weeks of age, I start adding to the chick starter the 17% pellets which I feet to my adult geese. I gradually increase the pellets and decrease the chick starter until after five weeks of age, they are on pellets and greens.

11. At what age do you sex the young? How are the young of various blood lines and/or the sexes marked?
I sex the goslings when they are 4 to 7 days old and I pinion them at that time. I pinion the males on the right wing and the females on the left wing. I toe punch them to identify each pair's offspring.

12. What is interesting, challenging, etc. about raising this particular species?
The most interesting thing about Nene is their "personality". They are a very gentle bird by nature, and they love attention. They like to "talk" to anyone who comes around. They have certainly won our hearts and of just about everyone who comes in contact with them. If they were taken of the endangered list, I think just about every waterfowl fancier would have them. In closing, I just want to say that Roberta and I have spent many enjoyable hours living and "talking" with our Nene.

Nene owned by Kenneth Howell; photo by Dan Cowell

August 1997 The Heartland News