The stories, travails, mistakes, successes; the journey of a change in lifestyle for two would-be market farmers and permaculturists.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

And Now, the Rest of the Story

We left off with the hatch of 9 cute little fluff balls of gosling fun, and the expectation of a whole bunch more.  Well, as they say, don't count your goslings before they hatch.

Last Thursday, I had been expecting the arrival of Twinkle's babies.  She was a prodigious layer, giving us 18 eggs before deciding to settle on her nest.  This is a large number of eggs, especially for this breed of goose.  5 had been taken for artificial incubation, giving us only one gosling from this breeding.  Bummer.  So, I was really anxious to see what I was sure was going to be a large hatch.

Friday came around, and this was what was still greeting me when I did a check.

The hissing made sense.  It was time for goslings to appear, but what wasn't making sense was the fact that she was still tight to the nest.  No movement upward to allow for hatching babies.  Hmm.  Well, she had been nervous all along, maybe these were going to take longer.  There were a lot of eggs.  Hmm.  

Saturday came around, and still nothing that I could see.  Her gander had become distracted with the little ones next door, and indeed Twinkle had been on and off her nest running the fence after them.  Something was feeling awfully wrong.  As the day progressed, I started having a sinking feeling that I better take a look.  When she left the nest to run the fence, I stole an egg and ran into the house to candle it.  My heart sank as I held the special candling light next to the shell and discovered that nothing had been developing.  It was obvious that I needed to check the rest of the eggs.  As luck would have it, she was on  her nest when I decided to go for it.  Armed with gloved hands and a coat, I started taking eggs out of the nest.  Dodging the thrusts of her bill and failing often, I took my bruised hand and arm along with a whole buncha eggs to be candled.  Bummer.  Nothing.  This poor bird has spent 4 weeks sitting on nothing.  No wonder she had been nervous.  Maybe she knew?

So, now what?  I like to foster harmony among the animals where I can.  It makes my job easier, and them happier.  As luck would have it, I have a lot of goslings around right now, and at least one of them does belong to her.  Geese are pretty good at adopting goslings, so I decided my best shot was to see if she wanted the extra babies that had hatched out in the incubator 2 weeks earlier.  There were still eggs in the nest, so before I took the next plunge, I loaded up the 3 into a fabric crate, and took them down with me.  

Are you our new mom?

I checked the nest again, and found more cold, untended eggs, and the stench of something long dead.  Twinkle fought me off again, defending to the end her infertile eggs.  I took them in to check for sure, and yes, they were all duds.  The one that reeked was black, and I knew that it had rotted inside.  

Upon returning, I found Twinkle going in and out of her hut, and I took the now 2 week old goslings out of their cage.  It took a minute, but very quickly, her tone went from one of distress to wonder.  Her sounds seemed to be little murmurs of joy, but maybe that was just my hope.  No one seemed to know what to do, and indeed this was a transition for everyone.  At least, there was no aggression, and that seemed positive.  It was evening now, and I stood watching, realized that her gander, Bluebell, was not as pleased to see the new babies, so all were locked in the hut, and as I left, Twinkle and her new charges where laying side by side.

Fast forward.  More changes had to be made.  Bluebell continued to be unhappy about the older adoptees.  Eyebrow, who was Jezebel's gander, had already lost interest in his babies, and wandered the fence next to the bachelor ganders.  So, I took a chance and tried a new arrangement.  Eyebrow was put in with the bachelors, and he wandered off to take a pool bath without batting an eye.  Bluebell was put in the pen with Jezebel, and he immediately started taking charge of what he must have considered his babies.  Jezebel seemed to welcome him.  Twinkle seemed content with her new charges and had obviously assumed her motherly duties.  It was taking awhile for them to make the switch.  They had imprinted on humans, and still came running to me when I entered their pen.

Come back, come back!

That is changing though.  Today, for the first time, these guys did not run up to me.  Mom has finally made her point about that evil human.  They have also been learning how to be a collective group, in a fashion.  the pens have been opened up for both groups, and the moms have been teaching their gaggles to stay with their own.  Bluebell sometimes chastises the older ones, but for the most part, seems to be a neutral provider, although he obviously favors the younger, smaller group.  Sometimes, the moms seem to share, but most times, they herd their groups separately.  It is fascinating and mystifying at the same time.  They grow and learn everyday how to be geese, and it is hard to justify doing "work" when I could be watching.

New Family
A Real Blended Family       

Getting there! 

1 comment:

  1. An exciting tale. We once raised a Canada Goose from an egg that we found abandoned at our pond. Geese are fascinating, intelligent and surprisingly adaptive. We thought ours would be imprinted on humans and never leave, but then she sexually matured and miraculously turned into a real goose, leaving us for the first gander that flew by. Keep up the good work.