How to pluck a goose

If you have any suggestions or hints for processing waterfowl, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Plucking versus skinning?
If you have older, mature birds or birds in the middle of a molt, you may want to consider skinning them to harvest the meat. If you want a pretty carcass and the skin to keep it moist during cooking, the birds must be plucked.

Wet versus dry plucking?
Dry plucking can be done but is normally more difficult. Wet plucking involves immersing the dead bird in water that is about 150 degrees Fahrenheit for 3-5 minutes. As you want the water to get down to the skin, it is best to add a bit of detergent to the water to cut through the oil in the feathers. You also need to raise and lower the bird in the water to ensure the bird is completely soaked. If the feathers are still difficult to remove, soak them longer in the water. Soaking too long, however, partially cooks the skin making it more susceptible to tearing.

Where can I get processing equipment?
Ashley Equipment 812-663-2180
Brower Equipment 319-469-4141
Pickwick 800-397-9797

What is the best age to process?
As waterfowl have so many feathers, you want to pluck them when it is the easiest to get them all out. This is when the feathers are all mature and there are no pin (or immature) feathers. For ducks this is at about 7, 12.5 or 18 weeks of age. For geese it is normally at 9, 15 or 20 weeks of age. If you try to process between these “windows of opportunity” you will encounter large numbers of pin feathers that may double or triple your processing time and effort.

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I have one goose that has a gap where all of her breast feathers are missing – probably about the size of an apple. Mostly her other feathers slide over and keep it covered up unless she beats her wings – but I will keep trying to get a picture of it. She’s an American Buff goose. My kids have seen the geese breeding, but I’ve never noticed it — they tend to breed in the morning and then act innocent for the rest of the day . . . lots of gander pushing and shoving though.

It seems an odd place for the other geese to pick at – I was wondering if she’s plucking feathers for a nest? She’s only 9 months old and I wasn’t expecting any of my young ones to lay. We’ve looked through their fenced area though and haven’t found any signs of a nest, although it is possible the feathers just blew away.

I can’t remember what goose eggs look like exactly — are they textured like duck eggs or more porous like chicken eggs? Does anyone have pictures? I’d feel bad if she was laying and we picked them up with all the duck eggs.

They have a dog igloo thing, and a covered area under the chicken house, as well as a whole grove of tighly planted evergreens . . . judging from what I have heard on the forums the geese will just pick a random spot and lay eggs . . . what do your geese like to lay in / on / under? We have lots of extra tires so I could try one or two of those . . .

Written by: Ashley Hetrick How-To 0 Print This Article

How to pluck a goose

Harvesting down feathers can be a chore, but beneficial in the end result.

Raising ducks and geese can be rewarding — in many ways. They’re social animals that play out a backyard soap opera on a daily basis. Many species of ducks produce just as many eggs as your average chicken. Duck eggs are much larger and richer than chicken eggs.

Ducks also generally excellent, devoted mothers. If you’re not careful a single duck can raise two clutches of 12-16 babies in a single year. That leaves you with a common duck owner problem: overpopulation. An overpopulation of ducks can be quite the blessing if you’re prepared to harvest meat from your home duck flock. Which means, you also have the added benefit of harvesting insulating feathers for homemade down pillows, blankets and jackets.


The trickiest part about harvesting water birds is the plucking. When plucking chickens, most people scald the birds in 145-degree water to cause the base of the feathers to loosen. This allows for them to be easily hand plucked without much effort. They can also be mechanically plucked in a home use drum plucker in about 30 seconds.

Plucking ducks or geese can be a bit more complicated. Their feathers are water-resistant, and they’ve worked hard throughout their life to preen them into an insulated waterproof barrier. Drop them into a scalding bucket, and the water won’t reach the skin to loosen the feathers. Some people recommend dousing them in a mild dish detergent to break up their natural water-proofing oils so that the water can penetrate. However, in reality that just creates a soapy mess and doesn’t make the feathers any easier to pluck.

The fact that wetting ducks through scalding doesn’t make plucking them any easier means that hand-dry plucking is both easier and cleaner, which is good news for pillow fans. The feathers stay dry and clean with the dry plucking process, making them easy to store until you have enough to make your own down crafts.

Preparing to Pluck

When it comes to harvesting down feathers from your birds, make sure you provide them fresh clean water to bath in before harvest. The birds love preening and cleaning themselves, and will do all the cleaning work for you if you give them the right tools. Supply them fresh clean water in a small kids pool or large rubber feed tub on a clean surface. Give the birds a short break period (10-20 minutes) in a dry clean area to dry off before harvesting. Damp feathers can mold in storage.

If during the harvest process the feathers become soiled by just about anything (blood, excrement, etc.), simply wipe the bird down with a damp cloth until the feathers are clean and then make sure to allow them to dry thoroughly before plucking and storing the feathers.

Selecting Feathers To Harvest

How to pluck a goose

Geese have excellent down feathers for harvesting.

Roughly 20 percent of the feathers on a duck or goose are considered “down,” and they’re easiest to harvest from the underside of the bird, on the stomach, breast, thighs and upper legs. Larger, tougher wing feathers are not appropriate for use. For home use, there’s a big gray area as to how big a feather you can use and still keep the pillow comfortable. Some of the feathers on the upper back between the wings can help fill out a pillow and keep it fluffy, but may not have the insulating power of down for a comforter or jacket.

Commercially, the “100 percent down” label is reserved for items containing only the finest 20 percent of the bird down feathers. Other items labeled just “down” may contain other larger feathers as well, and are much less expensive to purchase. You’d be hard-pressed to notice the difference in a pillow. Keep in mind that feathers insulate less well than down.

How Much Down Can You Harvest?

While being very selective and using only the finest of down (20 percent of the bird), it takes about 12 Wild Canadian Geese to make a single standard-sized pillow. Domestic geese can be up to two to three times as large as their wild cousins. Therefore, it only takes 6-8 domestic geese to make a 100 percent down pillow. Using some slightly larger, but still soft feathers from the back and thighs of the birds, a single pillow can be made from as few as 3-4 domestic geese.

Likewise, it takes 40-55 geese to make a 100 percent down king-sized comforter. It would take a bit over half that number of domestic birds to make a king-sized comforter.

Goose down is more resilient and durable than duck down, and has better insulating qualities. High-quality duck down can still make an excellent pillow. In many cases high-quality duck down is superior to low-quality goose down. Be choosy with your duck down and you’ll do just as well.

Ducks vary greatly in size, but they’re generally about half the size of a wild Canadian goose. Plan accordingly, and expect to both be very choosy with your duck feathers and use the feathers of a lot of birds to accomplish your task.

What advice would you add on making a down pillow or down comforter? Share your tips in the section below:

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Good day.
I am stil very new with raising geese.
We rescued a goose after the mother abandoned it.
Gansie is now 4months old, domestic goose. Recently gansie started to pluck her winge feathers, became very distant. At fisrt i thought it was just jealousy toward the new family member (baby guimea fowl). Plucking got worse. There is almost no more feathers on both gansie’s wings. I also found feathers that look like the stems have rot.

My concern is that she might be ill. Perhaps she is plucking to make way for new feathers.
I am still new at this so I have no ideas what is going on.
If anyone has advice I would appreciate it.


  • How to pluck a goose

How to pluck a goose

How to pluck a goose

  • Feb 9, 2021
  • #2
  • Goosebaby


    The “rotten” one is a blood feather that she ripped out, the black part is dried blood. It definitly is not normal to pluck feathers and it’s enormously painful.

    In parrots feather plucking is an obsessive behavior caused by lack of stimulation, extreme stress, or poor diet. Waterfowl don’t feather pluck to my knowledge but I suppose it can’t nesserarily be ruled out.

    Most likely she has feather mites that are causing her to itch like crazy, they burrow into the feather shafts and she’ll pull them out just to get some relief from the biting mites.

    A second option but less likely than that is cystic feathers, more common in parrots but one of my ganders did have it for a few years, it’s very uncomfortable and they’ll pluck all the feathers in the immediate area trying to get relief.

    • Feb 9, 2021
  • #3
  • GranderTheGander


    Gansie has bathing water available every day, right? There is a Canada gander on the river here who showed up all ragged last year. He was still not fully grown, but had no down feathers, had limited fear of people and was not a part of any flock. I suspected he possibly was raised in captivity and was not given regular bathing water, because I read once that can really mess up their waterproofness and feathers.

    By the fall, he had filled out and all his feathers were smooth, except for one small patch on one wing. Then, after a couple of months, he started looking ragged again. I’ve watched him–he is preening obsessively and pulling out feathers, even though he now has a goose companion, appears to have no problem with cold weather, has no food shortage and has a whole river to swim in. I really think he preens obsessively because he did not having bathing water as a gosling.

    • Feb 9, 2021
  • #4
  • Goosebaby


    Gansie has bathing water available every day, right? There is a Canada gander on the river here who showed up all ragged last year. He was still not fully grown, but had no down feathers, had limited fear of people and was not a part of any flock. I suspected he possibly was raised in captivity and was not given regular bathing water, because I read once that can really mess up their waterproofness and feathers.

    By the fall, he had filled out and all his feathers were smooth, except for one small patch on one wing. Then, after a couple of months, he started looking ragged again. I’ve watched him–he is preening obsessively and pulling out feathers, even though he now has a goose companion, appears to have no problem with cold weather, has no food shortage and has a whole river to swim in. I really think he preens obsessively because he did not having bathing water as a gosling.

    I wonder if he has feather mites also, it’s technical term is depluming itch, and that behavior is pretty common, they obsessively preen because it causes extreme pain and itchiness to the point they start pulling their own feathers out, it’s more common in spring and summer.

    You’re right to suspect that he may have been raised in captivity, wild birds can get it mite infestations but captive birds are more prone because their lives aren’t constantly on the go, he probably got the mites wherever he grew up and hasn’t lost them, his condition worsens when the mites start breeding in spring.

    While there may be many ways to skin a cat, plucking waterfowl can be broken down into two methods—wet and … Continued

    By David Draper | Published Nov 20, 2015 12:05 AM

    How to pluck a goose

    How to pluck a goose

    While there may be many ways to skin a cat, plucking waterfowl can be broken down into two methods—wet and dry. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s take a quick overview of both techniques and how they work for the waterfowler.

    Dry Plucking: This is my preferred method for plucking waterfowl, and the cleanest. Admittedly it can require a stout hand and some time, but with practice, you should be able to pluck a duck in 10 minutes or less. A big Canada goose can take closer to 30 minutes. Because waterfowl have fairly tough skin, you shouldn’t have to worry about tearing it. Starting at the top of the breasts, grab a handful of feather and pull them upward, toward the head. They should pull out easily. As you move down the breasts, you may have to pull downward. Once it’s clean, move onto the legs and wings, the latter of which take the most time, then flip the duck and pluck the back. Pin feathers can be removed with a traditional paraffin dip—or more quickly, and easily, with a torch passed lightly and quickly over the whole bird.

    Wet Plucking: As the name suggest, wet plucking requires a pot of water, one that’s been heated to 130 to 135 degrees. Many experts also recommend adding a drop or two of dish detergent to the pot, claiming that this helps penetrate the oils that make a duck’s or goose’s feathers naturally waterproof. Grab the fowl by the feet, then dunk it in the pot, agitating it a bit to get the soapy water into and under the feathers. Do this for 30 to 45 seconds per bird, then remove it from the water. While it’s still wet, pull the feathers from it, starting with the wing and tail feathers first, which are notoriously the most difficult. The breast and back feathers should pluck the easiest. Any remaining down can be removed by wetting your thumb and running it along the skin.

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    How to pluck a goose

    Before preparing goose that has been frozen, it should be properly thawed to limit the risk of food poisoning. Most experts typically recommend thawing a frozen goose in the refrigerator. Although this may take several days, the cold environment helps prevent bacteria from developing. Goose can also be thawed while it is submerged in cold water. A microwave can also be used to thaw frozen goose meat, and this method is typically much faster than other options.

    Contrary to what some individuals believe, it is not considered safe to thaw meat or poultry at room temperature. Bacteria, such as salmonella, is able to reproduce at temperatures above 40° F (4.4° C). These types of bacteria can cause serious foodborne illnesses.

    Thawing a frozen goose in the refrigerator is typically recommended. This type of cold environment is just warm enough to prevent bacteria from forming, but it is warm enough to allow the goose meat to thaw. When goose meat is placed in the refrigerator, it can take several days to thaw. It is generally best to plan on cooking goose several days ahead of time, so it will have enough time to thaw properly.

    Individuals who can not wait several days for a frozen goose to thaw can also use cold water to thaw it. Before doing this, the goose should be wrapped in watertight material, so no water or bacteria can reach the meat. Frozen goose can be wrapped tightly in several layers of plastic wrap or sealed in a plastic bag to prevent this. A goose can then be placed in a sink or large bowl and covered with cold water.

    When thawing frozen goose in cold water, the temperature of the water will often rise slowly. To prevent this, most experts recommend replacing old water with new cold water every 30 to 45 minutes. Although a goose will thaw faster in cold water than in a refrigerator, it can still take several hours or even a day to thaw completely. Thawing time generally depends on the size of the goose.

    A microwave can also be used to thaw a frozen goose. Frozen meat and poultry should be removed from any packaging materials before being thawed in a microwave. Some of these materials can melt and affect the taste and safety of the food. Although microwave thawing is faster than other thawing methods, it will often partially cook the food that is being thawed.

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    Discussion Comments

    @ceilingcat – I can’t believe anyone doesn’t have a microwave these days! I usually do most of my defrosting in the microwave, but if I don’t have access to one, I like to use the cold water method. It’s not as fast as using the microwave, but it’s faster than the refrigerator. ceilingcat January 2, 2013

    It sounds like you really have to plan ahead if you want to cook a frozen goose. I’m thinking about cooking one for a family dinner in a few weeks at my grandmother’s house. We’re doing all the cooking there, and she doesn’t have a microwave.

    So I think thawing in the refrigerator will be the best bet for us. I’m definitely going to have her remove the frozen goose from the freezer to the refrigerator a few days in advance. That way the goose will be ready for cooking when it’s time for the big dinner. Ted41 January 2, 2013

    @LoriCharlie – That’s kind of funny. I always get really nervous about cooking meat too. However, I’ve always thought the microwave was the least safe way to thaw anything, frozen goose included. But after reading the article, it seems like it’s save to use the microwave, cold water, or the refrigerator. The only thing that’s unsafe is to just leave the meat on the counter at room temperature. LoriCharlie January 1, 2013

    I always get really nervous about cooking meat. I know you can easily get food poisoning from meat if you do the wrong thing. I usually only buy meat the day I’m going to cook it, and then just take it directly from the refrigerator to the stove.

    I usually only freeze meat that has been already cooked, and then I can microwave it when I want to eat it again. You don’t have to worry about unthawing frozen meat that has already been cooked.

    If I do need to freeze and unthaw raw meat, I prefer the microwave method because it’s faster.

    Six tips to help ensure game meat doesn’t go to waste.

    By Outdoor Life Online Editor | Published Aug 06, 2019 1:00 AM

    How to pluck a goose

    Many bird hunters have developed some bad habits. One of the worst is stuffing doves or pheasants into a rubber-lined game pocket and leaving them there to “cook,” and perhaps spoil, by the end of the day. Other hunters might field dress a bird, let it hang for a couple of days, then try to dry-pluck it. The usual result is that pieces of skin are torn away and the bird is a mess.

    Don’t waste good meat. Here’s some advice from a few experienced hunters and shooting-preserve operators who have cleaned literally thousands of pheasants and other game birds. These experts agree on the right way to handle a bird in the field.

    Step 1. Field Dress ASAP

    A bird should be field dressed soon after it is shot, particularly in warm weather. Field dressing is a simple operation. First, lay the bird on its back and pull the feathers off from below the breastbone to the anal opening, clearing the area for the first cut. Make the cut from the soft area below the breastbone down to the anal opening, being careful not to puncture the intestine. Reach in and take out the viscera, pulling downward toward the anal opening. Then remove the windpipe and crop.

    Step 2. Get Rid of the Blood

    During warm weather, pack the empty cavity with dry grass and then press the sides of the opening tightly together. The grass will absorb the blood and will keep insects from entering the cavity. In cold weather, don’t bother. Leave the cavity open and the meat will cool, free of bugs. You can expedite the cooling by placing snow in the cavity. Both dry grass and snow can also be used on furred small game such as rabbits and squirrels.

    Step 3. Keep Air Circulating

    Unless the outside temperature is very cold, try to avoid carrying birds in a lined game pocket, where minimal cooling will take place. It’s far better to hang the birds from your belt or a sling, exposing them to the air.

    Step 4. Skinning Isn’t So Bad

    Many hunters believe it’s a crime to skin a grouse or pheasant, but it’s really a matter of preference. One ratio-nale for skinning rather than plucking a bird is that the hunter might not be in a situation where taking the time to remove all the feathers is feasible.

    You can easily pluck a bird immediately after it is shot, when the body is warm. The feathers will pull out with little trouble, and the skin will not tear. Granted, some hunters dislike stopping a hunt after each kill to pluck a bird. Whether you skin a bird or pluck it in the field, place it in a zip-top bag so that the bare skin isn’t exposed to dirt and bacteria.

    Step 5. Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold

    Once its body has cooled, plucking a pheasant will most likely tear it apart. If you want to pluck a cooled bird, first dip it in hot water (180 degrees exactly). If the water is cooler or hotter than 180 degrees, the skin will tear. It’s hard to maintain the correct water temperature, so this method isn’t recommended. If you plan to pluck pheasants, do it in the field soon after the birds are in the bag.

    Step 6. Hanging Helps Tenderize

    If you want to tenderize mature cock pheasants, hang the field-dressed birds in a cool, dry place for a couple of days before skinning them.
    Don’t expect any dramatic improvement in the taste. You won’t be able to detect much difference between birds skinned in the field and those skinned a few days later.

    How to pluck a gooseAn easy curry pheasant recipe to cook up your freshly dressed bird. Outdoor Life Online Editors

    An Easy, Authentic Curry Recipe for Wild Pheasant

    That rooster pheasant in your freezer might be only days or weeks old—you can still vividly remember his cackling flush and your instinctive shot—but if you turn him into this delicious Indian curry, you’ll be turning back the clock thousands of years. Archaeologists discovered evidence that people were eating curry at least 4,000 years ago, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the long history and numerous adaptations of this ancient dish are … complicated. But curry isn’t complicated to make, and it’s a fantastic comfort food—ideal for a fall or winter feast among friends. It’s sweet, spicy (you choose your limit) and filling, and it just so happens to go perfectly with pheasant.

    My beautiful girlfriend, Samina, introduced me to this particular curry creation. She acquired the coveted family recipe from her full-blooded Indian father, Muneer. He learned it from his mother, who might very well be cooking curry in her Bangalore home as this is written. There’s no telling how deep the roots of this sacred recipe go, but it’s certainly authentic.


    1 pheasant (breast meat and whole legs) 1 medium sliced onion 3 large diced tomatoes 2 medium chopped potatoes 2 cups mixed chopped vegetables (your choice; I recommend sweet peppers, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli) 1 diced jalapeno pepper 1 medium bunch cilantro (leaves only) 1/2 cup plain white yogurt 1/2 cup sour cream 1 teaspoon ginger paste 1 clove minced garlic 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper 1/2 teaspoon curry powder 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/4 teaspoon cumin 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 2 teaspoons salt (or add salt to flavor) 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 cups basmati rice (any white rice will suffice) 4 cups water


    Main Dish

    1. Slice pheasant breasts into medium-sized cubes. Leave legs whole.
    2. Heat vegetable oil in a large cast-iron skillet (at least 12-inch diameter) on medium heat. Add 3/4 of the sliced onion and pheasant, spread evenly across skillet surface. Brown pheasant on both sides, flipping only once.
    3. Add ginger, garlic, cayenne, curry powder, cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, salt, two of the diced tomatoes, both chopped potatoes, 3/4 jalapeno and yogurt. Cover the skillet. Cook until potatoes are soft.
    4. In a separate pot, mix rice with water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat source and cover.
    5. Add all remaining vegetables to curry. Heat until veggies are fully cooked but still firm.
    6. Add 3/4 of cilantro leaves and simmer for 10 minutes on low, covered.

    Salad Combine remaining sliced onion, diced tomato, jalapeno and cilantro with sour cream and thin to saucy consistency with water.

    Serving Instructions

    Scoop a healthy portion of rice onto a plate or into a bowl. Smother rice with the curried vegetables and pheasant pieces. Soak all of it with a liberal amount of the liquid curry “sauce” that has collected at the base of the skillet.

    Tip: If you’re in the middle of cooking and realize there isn’t enough sauce, just add some water.) Smother all the curried awesomeness with the salad, or just serve it on the side.

    Taxes…how to pluck the goose.

    Well, Congress is fiddling with the tax laws again. Between the time this is written and the time you read it, all manner of mischief may occur. One thing is certain: whatever the Solons of Capitol Hill do, it will be done in the name of “fairness.” Actually, another thing is certain, too: it won’t be fair.

    Part of the problem, of course, is that what seems fair to me may not seem fair to you. I don’t much care about the depreciation schedule on a FedEx truck, but I sure want to get rid of that alternative minimum tax. And so on.

    But the bigger part of the problem rests with Congress. The tax code not only raises money for the government, it buys votes for our representatives. All those tax credits and deductions the legislators toss around make some constituency happy, and that presumably translates into votes for whomever can claim credit.

    Some of those deductions have become so sacred that people forget they are the work of legislators, and not carved in stone next to the Ten Commandments. The home interest deduction, for example, is designed to promote home ownership in America. A worthwhile idea, no doubt; but was it really conceived with 12,000 square foot palaces in mind? Is it socially beneficial to have homes like these dotting the countryside? Or the good old charitable deduction–certainly it is good to share with those in need, but do we need a tax break to tweak our consciences? Besides, doesn’t the government already share a lot of our tax dollars with the same people? Every time another loophole is opened or an exemption defined, it forces the base tax rate higher in order to compensate, and creates some economic dislocation, often unforeseen and unwelcome. Don’t look for consistency here.

    The point is that if none of these things existed the tax rate would be much lower and, even more important, you could file it on a postcard, all by yourself. Calculations have been made that a flat tax of 13% would raise the same amount in taxes as the present system. If the flat tax is too controversial, a progressive system with two or three brackets would still fit on that postcard.

    Of course many people would howl that such a change is unfair, and in a sense, it would be. It would undo a lot of entrenched practices and unemploy a lot of accountants. But no system is going to make everyone happy, so if it’s going to be unfair, it might as well be simple.

    What’s the chance of real, comprehensive tax reform? Zero. Not just poor, or near zero, but actually flat zero. Our representatives will blow a lot of smoke and make some changes, and may even improve things for a while, but it won’t last. There will be new pressures and new promises and different people, and the same old game will go on.

    The president has just proposed a 15% corporate tax rate. In theory, this would encourage corporate growth in the United States and repatriate much corporate money presently housed abroad. It would stimulate employment and the economy. But wait! By the time lobbyists for depletion allowances and ethanol subsidies and farm price guarantees and research grants and who knows what else are finished wining and dining our representatives, change will be glacial.

    The president also proposed changes in personal taxes. Seven brackets to three. Eliminate all deductions except mortgage interest and charitable contributions. Eliminate the estate tax. Repeal the AMT. This is all an opening gambit. All Democrats and any Republicans with injured constituencies will raise hell. Both sides agree reform is needed, so some kind of compromise will eventually pass, one we hope will help the economy and investors.

    To some degree, this is all part of the cost of democracy. Our government is inefficient and subject to constituent pressure by design; dictatorships can be efficient. But there ought to be a balance somewhere short of the level of waste and profligacy we presently enjoy.

    We have ourselves to blame, certainly; we elect these people, but it goes beyond that. The whole election system has become so money dependent and so demanding of candidates’ time, dignity and honesty, that good people with good intentions often won’t run, leaving the field to those with big egos interested only in the political game and its ancillary benefits.

    So, on they will go, changing the rules to please somebody or buy a vote, and we will all pay the price. There is a famous remark by a French treasurer of the pre-revolutionary era to the effect that taxation is the art of plucking the goose without killing it.