Corrin asked me a little while ago about the geese – “At some point, I’d love to hear about your geese, I don’t recall you mentioning them previously than your Lemon Glut. Do they lay? how many? I assume they’re wild? do they do anything else for you .. as in composting like chooks? They’re very beautiful.”
We are relatively new to geese. The original incentive for trying them was an idea that perhaps they would be territorial enough to ward off some of the predatory wildlife like goannas, and give the chooks a bit of protection. Plus we had, for the first time ever, a secure body of water in a lined dam. And the original pair were so picture-book picturesque.
Our first pair of geese were named Kirsty and Xanana (my partner is huge on puns – sorry!) But being very ignorant about geese at the time, we didn’t know that male Pilgrim geese are always pure white with blue eyes, and the mixed colours of Xanana and Kirsty were a sure giveaway of two females.
Xanana sadly got got by a a mother wild dog teaching her pups to hunt. Kirsty sat on the island crying for days. It was heartbreaking. So we got some more geese to keep her company. This time we got five more – José, Patrick, Trevor, Jackie, and Charlotte. After watching the way they worked as a team with one standing guard while the others grazed, we thought that a larger flock might be better at self defence.
The first year Jackie successfully hatched six goslings, one died from a tick, five grew into adulthood, but Patrick was got by a fox and Charlotte died of no obvious cause. This year poor Jackie has had ten eggs taken one by one by goannas, but one of the younger generation has been smarter and is sitting on a nest of eight eggs on the island. So now we have nine adult geese and potentially up to eight goslings due in a couple of weeks time.
So, from that limited experience, ten things I know about geese:
1. They are intelligent, endearing, and have lots of personality – way too much to be suitable meat animals. Goodbye goose dinner idea.
2. They are really demonstrable in their affection, racing up to greet us when we get home, agreeing (under a bit of sufferance) to being picked up and cuddled, which makes them great pets once you get over how big and noisy and scary they are.
3. They are raucous. Really raucous. Early in the morning. Very early in the morning. Did I mention raucous?
4. It takes a village to raise a child and a gaggle to raise a gosling. The whole group are devoted and diligent parents. The males guard the female on the nest and make sure the babies eat first. It’s probably how Patrick got got. All young fathers should watch goose movies.
5. It is cruel to keep them without a swimming size body of water. They are water birds. They love it so much.
6. Watching geese on the dam is one of the great pleasures of life. Beautiful, graceful, happy, entertaining.
7. They graze, and they eat lots of grass. We give them a scoop of laying pellets a day too, but mostly what they eat is grass.
8. They poo soft green pellets, like wallabies but softer, but quite acceptable (unlike ducks that are really messy poo-ers).
9. They can fly, quite a distance when in danger. We have had to go collect Trevor a couple of times from a neighbour a kilometre away, downhill, when they were spooked by wild dogs.
10. Though they are large and noisy and scary and hang in a flock with guards, they are still vulnerable to foxes and dogs and need a safe place (like an island) to sleep at night.