My gander, protective of his pretty goose:
Ever since I was a child, I have wanted geese. We never had any growing up, and some acquaintances who did keep a flock assured us they were nasty, biting beasts.
Well, I wasn’t deterred.
So when some friends announced that they wished to thin their gaggle, Will and I jumped at the chance. We drove 45 minutes to our friends’ house to pick up the birds, intending to get some ducks, as well.
These friends own a greenhouse business, and the husband has 10 green thumbs and loves landscaping…so their yard is spectacular. A haven in this windswept, drought-thirsty land. So, wandering amongst the trees, well-groomed grass, fish ponds, and brick walks were several varieties of poultry. Guineas clucked and hunted – a different variety from our one poor lonely hen, but grayish and mostly similar to ours. Then, I spied an angelic white guinea, seeming so sweet in the middle of the flock. Most of the geese were in their pen, as were most of the chickens. The ducks, on the other hand, scampered, waddling, throughout the stand of wild plum bushes just south of the yard.
The kids marveled at the fish ponds while I talked to our friends about which birds to catch and about how we should do it.
After some comical pursuit, we (the six of us) caught four Chinese geese…and no ducks. We gave up on the ducks. There were a handful of white ones, and one that looked a bit like a mallard drake. I never spent time around domestic ducks, and these were far more agile than I supposed they would be.
We made the geese, gentle and wondering, sit down in cardboard boxes and tucked the flaps together, setting them in the shade as we finished catching the last ones. That made a trunkful.
Our friends offered to try to catch the ducks at night, while they were sleepy, and also proposed trying to get a guinea out of a tree at night, where they roost. We told them we only need one male, but if they wanted to get rid of more, we like guineas.
The geese were mostly cooperative, and none of them tried to seriously nip. At any rate, I’d had far worse bites from my favorite tom turkey of two years ago. One was determined, however, not to sit in his box, but made five efforts to escape. He pushed apart the flaps of the box, kicked open the bottom (it wasn’t a very sturdy box), and required the attention of one of the children to guard him. But at last we were on our way.
We were concerned about the trunk being hot, but couldn’t think of a better way to transport the birds, without borrowing a truck and a cage.
When we got home, I proposed that I would open one box at a time, pick the goose up until it was calm and had got its bearings, then set it down to begin exploring the yard. None of us wanted to shut the geese up in the chicken house, as they had already been shut up and had a frightful journey…but we weren’t sure they would stick around. We decided to risk it, supposing we could catch them toward sundown, if necessary.
Three disoriented, sleepy-looking geese came out of their boxes, and began looking for their former friends. The fourth was dead in the box, its neck cocked at an interesting angle, bill jammed in a corner. It had not been dead above five minutes, I judged, and had probably experienced heart-failure, as its eyes were wide open, suggesting a very sudden death – not heat stroke or despair or a variety of other things.
With a heavy heart, I decided to do an “autopsy”, just to be sure there were no organ abnormalities, broken bones, or anything suspicious. Everything checked out fine. On the “up” side, we did get to experience what domestic goose meat tastes like. It is much better than wild goose flesh. I found this a relief, after hearing all my life of Victorian families devouring goose meat at Christmas. (Really? Ugh! I had decided, and hadn’t really cared that Will no longer hunts much. Beyond sandwiches with nothing but mayonnaise, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to do with wild goose meat. And I’ve been through a stack of suggestions.)
The three remaining geese wandered widely throughout the afternoon, and toward dark, we herded them a half-mile back to the house. But we could not catch them. At last, they dashed through a break in the tree row and headed out into the pasture. I gave up, tired, sore, and feeling they would probably make it alright until daylight if they’d just have the sense to bed down and stay put. But we decided to take one more peek at them before leaving them alone. Lo and behold, only one goose had materialized on the other side of the trees. The poor gander marched and honked and peered about for his gaggle-mates until we went to the house, praying for their survival.
What had happened to the other two geese? We’re not sure. Perhaps they bedded down in the trees and called it quits for the night, when the third one wasn’t looking. At any rate, the next morning, there were no honks resounding throughout the yard. Will went for a drive, to see if he could locate the gaggle…if there was one. He found two geese, over a mile away, in a field. He came back for the kids and I, and, together, we set out to catch them. Billy had rigged a leg-catcher out of stiff wire, and I felt this was our best chance…though I used it cautiously, you can be sure, realizing that these geese had nothing like the strength and resilience of Canada geese. Well, we had a stroke of luck. One of the pair jumped right in the open car door, as we chased her up the ditch. Will dove in and grabbed her. We boxed her and put her in the trunk. Between the four of us, we corralled the gander, and boxed him, too.
They are currently lodging in the lamb’s kennel, where they can see out, but not wander, and where we can make friends before they get set free again.
We still have not heard from the third goose. But we still are hoping. Will alerted all the road-grader drivers to please keep on the lookout for our roaming pet goose. 🙂
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