Last month I had written about the predator attack on a temporary pen where we were housing goslings overnight in much grim detail. I am relieved to report that we have had no predator losses since and have started sleeping a little easier at night again.
There was one gosling who had survived that terrible night while sustaining some gruesome injuries. In my emotional state at the time, I could not bring myself to put him down despite the fact that I was sure he could not make it.
I was apparently wrong all around.
The kids affectionately dubbed the little thing Nick Fury - for reasons which should be obvious to Marvel fans.
It turns out that Nick Fury is actually a girl goose, but we are keeping the name anyway. Yes, I have considered fabricating a goose-sized eye patch for the sake of dramatic effect.
All of her other injuries have completely healed and she gets around fine although she has to rely on her hearing when her little flock is off to her right. As for the flock, they have never so much as looked at her funny this whole time. She's the same gosling they have known since hatch day.
So.. it looks like someday we will be saying: And that's how we came to have a one-eyed goose. Here's hoping to happy adventures for Miss Nick Fury.
Posted by Anita
Needs goose eye-patch ideas.
When we acquired our first substantial number of goslings we did what most people do these days: We went to the internet and searched for basic care information. Most of what we found assured us that geese and other waterfowl have higher protein feed requirements than chickens and it was suggested that we feed either a game bird feed or a feed specially formulated for waterfowl. Easy enough. We knew that we would be free-ranging our adult flock on grass someday, but our young birds would need supplemental feed until they were grown. There were plenty of formulated feeds in the feed store with pictures of geese and ducks on the package.
What we did not find during that initial search was information on Angel Wing Syndrome - and so, as with most things out here, we had to learn the hard way.
As anyone who maintains a small farm knows, you cannot always keep animals just because they are cute. They need to serve some practical function as well. What can a flock of geese do for you?
The guardian goose.
There is a blog post or a YouTube video floating around out there somewhere that suggests keeping a single goose with your chicken flock to protect them from predators. I have never personally encountered the original source of this information, but I have read enough blogs and such to have encountered the reference repeatedly. A lot of our customers also come out to our place looking for a 'guardian goose' for their flock. They tell me that they read that they could raise a single gosling with their chickens and it will bond with the chickens and fight to defend them as part of its own flock.
I really hate to burst bubbles here, but it simply is not true. I will give the benefit of the doubt and say that individual animals have their quirks - and it is possible that someone somewhere ended up with a goose that seemed to do exactly what they are advertising. However, such a goose is an exception and, if he does indeed exist out there, he is in imminent danger.
In our experience, a single goose will not actually bond with chickens (or guineas or turkeys and so on) no matter how young the goose is when you bring him home. It is within the realm of possibility, though I am purely speculating here, that if a gosling were actually hatched by a chicken he would imprint on the chicken and, therefore, appear to have bonded with the other chickens. However, imprinting happens a lot earlier than a couple days later when you bring a gosling home from someone else's farm. Bonding is something else entirely. A goose bond is very strong and it is not handed out all willy-nilly to any other creature just because it happens to have wings. A goose will bond with another goose if another goose is available, but a lonely gander's second choice is... you. (Because if that gosling had been incubated and hatched by humans, chances are high that he imprinted on a human.) Sure, you may be able to isolate a goose to the point of him following your chickens around in desperation for company, but he is not going to stick his neck out (pun intended) to defend those chickens. Any such behavior is self-defense and nothing more.
And this is where the real problem comes in: A single goose cannot defend itself against a determined predator. A flock of geese work together to defend their territory - circling, honking, hissing, and snapping like a multi-headed monster. To the unwary predator, that is exactly what the flock is. It is no longer a scattering of meal-sized birds, but a single, immense, obnoxious, and potentially painful creature that is just not worth the trouble for a snack. If you are following me here, you can clearly see how one goose and a flock of chickens cannot produce the same effect.
It does not matter how long we have been doing this, or how many times things go horribly wrong and we get through it. When we lose any animals, the heartbreak is the same. It means we are human, I tell the kids, We know by the pain we feel that we have lost none of our humanity along the way. And none of that reassurance in our humanity dulls the ache -- or quells the fear.
When I tell people that we inevitably lose some poultry each year to predators, I do not often see any surprise register on their faces. Honestly, I think I might be able to hear them thinking: "Sure. That's what happens when you insist on free-ranging your animals, you ding-bat." Sometimes my confession is followed up by their testimony (which confirms that my mind-reading skills are on target), "We will be keeping ours in a safe coop and run. So, no worries."
No worries. If only.
While it is true that we have a chicken missing periodically - the likely victim of a hungry hawk or a late morning fox on the prowl for a snack - most of our losses have not actually had anything to do with free-ranging. Nothing compares to the losses we have sustained inside safe enclosures. And I mean nothing compares - by any measure and not just quantity. The chicken who comes up missing at the mid-morning roll call does not compare to the discovery of an entire grow-out flock helplessly torn to bits. Waking up the morning after your safe enclosure was no longer safe is a punch in the gut.