Thursday 24 October 2013

Small Obsessions

Back before we actually bought these geese we had read that they have nice, amusing personalities with their own idiosyncratic and funny ways. Simon had told us that they get funny little obsessions for no apparent reason which they then cling to like a terrier with a stick, returning time and again to that specific place and thing. If it is a particular fruit tree and maybe a loose flap of bark, they (or maybe just one of them  who has got the idea into his/her head) will worry and worry at it making the tear bigger and bigger till, potentially, they have ring barked and killed the tree. We have tree guards round our orchard trees for that reason. Many trees now have thoroughly chewed lower branch tips.

Goose 'worry-hole'?
We have also had them nibbling and nibbling at a particular bit of ground which looks, to me, like any other. Maybe there we a worm there once which they fancied. The work away at it from all angles till they create a little conical hole in the mud, roughly goose-head size and as deep as they can reach. Obviously when it rain the hole fills up with water and they seem to leave it alone but when it's dry they are back. In the case pictured it is right where I throw down their breakfast grain so, inevitably, some falls down the hole and then there's great excitement as they gather round, heads lowered over the hole, honking loudly.

We love their personalities, too. They are a tight knit group. The 'goslings' have now grown up to the point where they are difficult to tell from the adults. We know, of course, that Goosey and Goocie have black markings in particular places and Gander is the big, wry-tailed, upright boy, usually at the back, but the only real way to tell them now is that the grown ups have that saggy belly between their legs which older geese get, while the 'babies' have tight, smooth under-carriage.

Blue (left) and Rolo at breakfast
These guys, regular readers will know, are our first attempt at breeding geese and all has not gone well because the 'parent birds' we bought as a breeding trio turned out to be, we are sure, fully or recessive 'wry-tailed' as well as being, almost certainly, a sibling group, i.e. brother and two sisters. Unfortunately, therefore, we have been wickedly in-breeding and our first batch have, in many cases, had hatching or subsequent developmental problems and have either died or been culled out, leaving us with only these 2 'babies' from 17 eggs. Not a good score! We have been a bit dispirited by this and frustrated by our "inability to keep them alive" and have doubts about whether we want to be 'in' geese at all. We have a possible option on replacing the gander with one named George, hand reared by our friends down the road (if he turns out to be a boy) but if not we may just keep them for the eggs. Apart from anything else, I am not happy having to slaughter them. I'm not 'happy' doing rabbits or chooks, to be truthful but I can manage it well enough when it needs doing. I think maybe I love geese in a more complex way and cannot, in my head, see them as just food. My problem, I guess, not anything I should be unloading on the reader.

Bubble with her 'bum' feathers in pin. 
Ah well. Enough of this. Today Liz is back from the UK having done her stint of house-minding for Diamond and John. I must walk the dogs now and then grab some lunch before nipping out to Knock Airport to meet her from the plane. It will be good to have her back in the fold.

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