Notes From a First Time Farmer – My First Fortnight With the Goslings

Two weeks ago my goslings arrived in the mail.  So far, I can say this experience has been both harder, and easier than I expected.  The easy part is that goslings are the most sociable animals I have kept thus far.  Chicks and ducklings are pretty friendly, but these little guys are even friendlier.  I don’t know if this is because of their nature, or because we are making more of a conscious effort to socialize with them than we have with our chickens and ducks.  The goslings are going to grow up to be 10 – 20 pound birds, so we want to make sure they like us.

Before they arrived I made sure I had the brooder all set up.  There was food and water waiting for them, and all Dave had to do was turn on the heat lamp.  I thought we were good to go, until Dave put the goslings in their new home.  It was immediately apparent they needed a bigger pad.  Luckily, I had an old rabbit cage I was able to repurpose.  But, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, they are rapidly outgrowing their current digs.  We have another rabbit cage, and are pondering ways to attach it to the one they are in.  Needless to say, work on their outside home will commence pretty damn quick.

It hasn’t been all fun.  My house smells like a very wet, very dirty dog.  Their brooder has to be changed every morning, and before I go to bed at night I turn their hay and pine shavings, and toss a bit more on top because they poop constantly.  The feed store said I should feed them gamebird crumbles because it has the highest amount of protein, which goslings need to grow.  However, you have to be careful how much protein you give them or their feathers will come in too quickly and they could develop angel wing.  So, I mix their crumbles with oats, and nutritional brewer’s yeast for niacin (I’m not convinced the gamebird crumbles have enough).  When the goslings arrived, the company I ordered them from had added a seventh.  This was done in case one didn’t make the trip.  They all did, but one of the goslings was smaller than the rest, and had a rounder shape.  She didn’t really want to eat the first evening, but the next day she was grabbing lettuce with the rest.  A few days later, I woke up and she had died.  By that time, all the goslings had started doubling in size, except for her.  After looking on the internet, and reading in my books, I think she may have had a congenital defect.  Even though I’m pretty sure there wasn’t anything I could have done, I still feel bad.

I was turning their bedding, and all 7 of the goslings broke out to go wondering into the kitchen.  They wanted to graze on the breakfast bits my kids had left on the floor.
I was turning their bedding, and all 7 of the goslings broke out to go wondering into the kitchen. They wanted to graze on the breakfast bits my kids had left on the floor.

One of the things I knew, but hadn’t quite sunk in, was how much the goslings love greenery.  Ducklings love lettuce.  Goslings love it even more.  When I open the brooder up to give them some, there is always one who takes a flying leap out and into my lap, while chewing the greenery the whole time.  We took them outside yesterday, and again today.  They love grazing.  When they got tired, they looked around for us, and would come sit close by.  At one point, two of them were sitting on my foot.  I haven’t ever had a duckling or chick do that.

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The goslings enjoying the grass, and telling us all about it.
The goslings enjoying the grass, and telling us all about it.

I thought chicks and ducklings talked constantly.  Goslings have them beat hands down.  I don’t think there isn’t a moment when one of them isn’t peeping or trilling.  When we talk to them they run over to the edge of the brooder and start talking back.  Dave told the kids they should read to the goslings so they are used to the sound of their voices.

The other morning my daughter was sitting in front of them reading a story.  I told her it was time to brush her teeth, so she put her book down and went to go get that done.  My youngest son sat down in her place and started reading to them about Clone Troopers.  Cedar Rose came back.  “You can’t read them that!”

“Why not?”  He asked.  “They love Star Wars!  Particularly the Clone Troopers.”

“If you are going to read to the goslings, it has to have a message.  Clone Wars doesn’t have a message.”

“Yes it does!  The story is telling them if someone is shooting at them they should run away.”

My daughter conceded that was important to know, and from there the kids proceeded to tell the goslings about strangers, and stranger danger, and how they can only attack strangers, not us.

My daughter reading to the goslings.
My daughter reading to the goslings.

Last Monday was the first day they were home alone.  We were all at work and school.  When Dave and the kids opened the door, they all ran to the edge of the brooder, talking madly.  I have never had this experience with our other flocks.  Chickens are kind of sociable, but it is in a way more reminiscent of a cat.  They like to see you, love it when you bring treats, but want to be left alone to be about their business.  Ducks are friendlier than the chickens.  They’ll quack at you to say hi, run over and take peas from your hand, and even let you pick them up when you are putting them back in their yard.  Goslings take personable to a whole other level.  I know they are farm animals, and yes we are going to eat two or three, but they are more like having a pet.  I know this will change a bit as they get bigger, and mating season will be something else.  That’s the future however, and I am going to enjoy their happiness to see us and be around us.

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