Friday, April 26, 2013

Five Little "Office" Goslings

Things have been a bit hectic around here this spring.  In the middle of shipping we had two Geese go broody (setting on eggs) – two weeks apart time-wise – but apparently too close to each other space-wise.  'Hissy Fit', who can be quite cranky even for the Tufted Roman breed, had her first four Goslings hatch a little over two weeks ago.  
Just hatched Goslings.

Do you see them poking their heads up for a look at their surroundings?  And yes, that was a "hiss" emitting from that open bill, not gentle goose “chatter” as when the birds are content.  

However, there was trouble in paradise, the nest nearby had a younger Goose (one of Hissy Fit’s last-year babies) with a first clutch of eggs.  The next morning – probably after several hours of hearing the new babies peeping – 'Grey Tip' left her nest and moved over to apparently "help".

Luckily, we had been checking the geese every few hours to make certain nothing was amiss, and so were horrified to discover that the ensuing struggle over the remaining eggs, ended by pushing the babies out onto the partially frozen ground, with no protection. 

Since neither of the determined feather-brains would get off the remaining eggs to gather up the cold and shivering goslings, Dianna scooped them up into her shirt – there were now five – and rushed them into the house.  With two cranky geese on the one nest, there wasn't enough room to slip them back under Mom easily, and certainly not safe either for baby birds or an intruding human.  Goose bites and wing flaps hurt.  Luckily, the ganders were not nearby, but they did come charging back when they heard the distressed peeping of the babies on the way to the house.

Emergency Brooder
Although we already had brooder heat lamps, chick feeders and watering devices from years ago, it was a scramble to make an emergency brooder out of a new mortar box (for mixing concrete) and a carpet remnant, plus to find a large enough piece of cardboard for the sides.  Since we have lots of boxes and a heavy duty floor stapler, the sides were easy, but what to do for a water container? 
Two days old and enjoying their "greens".

Goslings need to be able to submerge their bills under water to clean away food particles and the chick water dish was too shallow.  Using a deep microwave bowl, with a mason jar with rocks to hold it in place in the center, we were in business.  The floating bits of green are minced dandelions sprinkled on the water to mimic natural feeding.  Of course, our chickens would have been greatly offended at such treatment of their food, but for waterfowl, it is a perfect solution.

Then what?
After three hours, both adult geese were still on the one nest and glaring daggers at each other.  Grey Tip’s eggs, because of the lower 40 degree temperatures, had gone stone cold and since she hadn’t covered up the eggs with straw, we had to make a decision.  After a long wooden pole was used to gently push her off the nest - along with the encouragement of tasty grain – the two gooses were finally separated.  The eggs were removed from the cold nest and the gate closed so that none of the other geese could disturb Hissy Fit.  We waited five more days to see if any other eggs under her would hatch, but when none did, the eggs were taken indoors, candled for viability and then sadly discarded.  As a result of this disaster, Grey Tip’s name has now been changed to “Poacher” and next year, the nests will be further apart, with provisions for fencing off the individual setting goose.

So now we have “5 Office Goslings” and although cute as the dickens, geese do tend to grow rather fast, which can cause difficulties in raising them yourself.  After a week, they were out of the mortar box and into one of the outdoor watering troughs that we used as a swimming pool for the adult birds.  
Almost too big for the water trough after 10 days.

Ever hopeful, a trial reunion was unsuccessful; the adult geese – who normally greet us very loudly anyway, expecting apples or other treats – terrified the babies.  A few day later if the adult geese can only hear the babies peeping, they go ballistic, but if they can see them around our feet, they are perfectly quiet and watch intently – guess its because they know the babies are not “lost’.

For those readers who have never raised poultry indoors, 
 there are a couple of hurdles to overcome.

Number one.   There is a distinctively pungent odor.  
Dianna's parents would have baby chicks under the legs of the kitchen's "trash burner" wood stove in the 1950's and they tended to occasionally escape, probably because – ahem – a little girl would sneak them out to play.  After the weather would warm a bit, and long before "chicken dust" covered everything in the kitchen, chicks would firmly be put outside under a brooder light.

Since our shipping room office/studio is not being lived in 24/7, it made sense to just leave the five goslings there, where we could check on them frequently while shipping.  It was the best idea we could come up with at the time, since it was too early to shut down one of the farm coolers, and there was no other warm, safe place for the babies with protection from predators like weasels, raccoons or other vermin, but if the bedding has any moisture at all, wow, does it smell.

Number two.  Time.
For waterfowl, ideally they need to be fed several times a day, with an amount they can consume within 15 minutes.  Then after they’ve eaten and cleaned their bills, the fouled water is switched out, and the water soaked bedding is removed.  If this doesn’t happen throughout the day, well – see Hurdle Number One.

Number three.  Protection.
Because we are still having frost in the morning and it will be a couple of weeks before they are feathered out, they'll need to be moved into an empty cooler soon, to give them more room to move around when not outdoors.  Each day, during sunny weather, they go for a supervised swim in their now re-purposed mortar box and then for an outing to eat weeds and grass.  Because it was obvious that we were going to raise them ourselves, their first bath was on day three to stimulate their wax glands and make them waterproof, otherwise it would not have been safe to let them bathe until feathering. 

Enjoying a sunny day bath, diving and splashing.
And probably somewhat more unique to us…
Whenever the phone rings, the peeping quiets down in the office, but after about 30 seconds into the phone call, the background noise level rises considerably.  All five goslings very loudly join into the conversation, probably assuming we are speaking to them – and because it’s polite to respond when spoken to – but what a racket.  Mercifully there are only five and not a dozen, or it would certainly be mayhem.
What’s next?
Good thing that one of the bulb coolers will be empty soon, because we are scheduled to have Ancona ducklings delivered Mid May, and right now, we cannot imagine having fifteen extra voices helping us on the phone. 


  1. It will be really interesting to see what sort of relationship these goslings will have with you, the humans, when they're adults.

  2. They should mix easily with the older birds in a month or two and will probably learn to behave in the same way, friendly, but respectful. We do not want them to become too comfortable with humans, because during mating season next year, there will be "sneak attacks". The adult geese will casually move away if we challenge any aggressive behavior and pretend they really didn't mean it. They know who feeds them, and greet us loudly, running for the fence to see what goodies we are providing. - Dianna