Notes From a First Time Front Yard Farmer – Summer With the Geese

July is almost over, and the geese are full grown.  I meant to write regular updates as they grew, but summer got away from me.  My kids got out of school, my son had an appendectomy a week later, my mother-in-law (who is awesome) came to visit, and time flew by.

Last I wrote about the geese they were goslings.  They were cute, fuzzy, and still living in the house in a rabbit cage.  That lasted for about two more days, and then my husband and kids braved Wal-Mart for a kiddie pool.  We set the goslings up in there with a baby gate around it, and netting over the top in case the cat got ideas.  It worked for a day.  The cat seemed to be wondering what new nuttery we had going on, and after a brief inspection, ignored the birds.  The goslings, on the other hand, chewed the netting, and kept knocking it down on themselves, causing a birdie panic.  So, we moved them, their kiddie pool, and little fence out to my husband’s workshop.  It worked okay for a couple of weeks.  I was able to hang their food up so they couldn’t knock it over, and we visited them two or three times a day with clover and lettuce.  The goslings kept knocking their water over, so their pen was always a soppy mess, and had to be constantly dumped and cleaned.  Then they realized they could hop out of the pool.  So, we moved them to the unused side of the chicken coop.  That seemed to be a good temporary solution.  I could hang their food, and set their water up so they couldn’t knock it over.  We took them out everyday, and put them in a pen in the yard.  As soon as they ate all the grass in that day’s spot, we would move them to another area.  While it was patchy, my yard hasn’t looked that manicured in years.

It was the goslings first day in their new home.
It was the goslings first day in their new home.
After they were moved to the chicken coop, we would take them out everyday, and herd them in the evening.
After they were moved to the chicken coop, we would take them out everyday, and herd them in the evening.
Saying good morning to the goslings in their little pen.
Saying good morning to the goslings in their little pen.

Knowing the chicken coop wasn’t going to work for very long, we went and bought a metal shed to turn into the goose house.  My husband built a subfloor, and tied the shed to it so it won’t blow away when we have 90 mile an hour winds in the winter.  He cut holes around the top so they would have adequate ventilation.  Then he fenced in the yard for them (which didn’t take as much time as he thought it would), and they had their permanent home.  The kiddie pool was still in good shape, so we keep it filled up for them, and they love hopping in and out for goose baths.  I let them out into the wider yard the morning, and they roam all over.  They follow my kids and I around while do the morning farm chores, talking the whole time, and putting their beaks into everything.  The other morning I was setting mouse traps in the food shed when a goose stuck it’s beak in to see what it was.  Needless to say, the trap went off.  The goose jumped back honking, and giving me a dirty look.  I picked the trap up, reset it, and put it somewhere they couldn’t easily investigate.

I hadn’t realized how curious geese are.  They want to check everything out, and inevitably they try to eat it.  The geese love my children’s bike tires, sticks, any kind of cord, and they even chewed a bumper sticker off the back of my car.  I find this tendency of theirs exasperating, and worrisome.  They could something stuck in their crop, or get Hardware Disease.

According to “The Ultimate Pet Goose Guidebook,” Hardware Disease is one of the number one killers of pet geese.  Geese love to investigate anything shiny they see sitting around in the grass, and will often ingest it.  If it was something metal, the bits will remain insider their body and be absorbed into their bloodstream.  It is almost always fatal, but entirely preventable.  I’m always following them around, and making sure they haven’t picked up something they aren’t supposed to.  The “Ultimate Pet Goose Guidebook” recommends going over your yard with a metal detector to help find any nails, screws, or other shiny objects a visual inspection had missed.  I’m considering it.

They are like the goats of the poultry world – constantly getting into something, and chewing something they aren’t supposed to.  It is amazing to me how quickly they grew.  For a while there, every couple of days, or weeks, we were having to move them to somewhere bigger.  Even though they are fully grown now, they still require a fair amount of work.  They eat a lot, drink a lot of water, and their shed needs to cleaned regularly.  The geese don’t just make trilling sounds anymore, they honk.  Alfie, the gander, has this crazy screaming honk, that kind of sounds like someone is ripping his wings off or something. What is really going on is that he heard my voice, and is saying hello.  I sometimes worry the neighbors are going to get disgruntled at the racket, but, luckily, Alfie doesn’t honk as often as the roosters crow.  It’s kind of funny to me, but hanging out with the geese is one of the better parts of my day.  It is relaxing to sit with them, while they nibble on my shirt, and talk in my ear.  They let me pet their backs while they investigate my shoelaces and untie them. When I am with them, the worries of that day drift away.

Quericus is stretching his wings.  It kind of looks like dancing to me.
Quericus is stretching his wings. It kind of looks like dancing to me.
Queenie is showing off.
Queenie is showing off.
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