Geese have personalities. Strong personalities. Returning from England to three what seemed very similar geese, in just two months, we have “trois enfant terrible”.
The three seem very content with us and each other, a Trois Mousquetaires, where one goes the other follow. The expectation of a noisy haggle hasn’t materialized, instead a constant chirrup of happiness and curiosity. After breakfast tea, we wake the geese. They have been awake many hours, but we are greeted as long lost friends with honks and flapping wings. Opening the gate, the ritual running up and down the garden, wings flapping and little webbed feet neatly trotting along like ballerinas on their pointes. Sometimes in the excitement, we take off. Not far, a couple of inches, but that too is cause for celebration, and another run down the garden.
Geese adore water. Our pond isn’t ready quite yet, so a big orange cement mixing basin does the trick. It cost far too much, but nothing else worked, either too small or too deep for clumsy feet not to trip over. Geese at almost three months, especially our Toulouse are big. Long gone is the ability to see those orange feet. The head and heart rush and the feet must follow. More often they don’t. Things are stepped on, tripped over and geese crash headlong into whatever is ahead. Much shouting ensues, a conflab on what went wrong, as if anyone was particularly noting anyway.
A leaf, a gust of wind, a slightly bigger water splash, cause mayhem. A tangle of geese clamber out of their pool, noisily honking accusations about whose fault this is and running off to the sanctuary of their enclosure before realising it was actually nothing at all.
As well as the pool, a yellow bucket is great for snorkelling in. Geese need to keep their nasal passages in their beaks clear. Blowing bubbles in water is an hourly ritual. The odd mole hill also has to be investigated. That tough almost plastic beak likes to dig up stones in the moist mole hill. Dirty beaks then need washing. The clean bucket is soon muddified and very soon a chastising beady eye is sending me off to fetch clean water. We need to snorkel – get water now.
Squabbling is a favourite pastime. Blame too. Was that you, or was that me..utter confusion!
A few weeks ago we visited the local store, full of farm bits and bobs, horse things, and poultry supplies. There were also rubber squeaky toy pigs for dogs. The oink was a good oink, a realistic porker grunt. Purchased we took said squeaky pig to the geese. Barley immediately started to quiver her head and neck and she opened her beak in a slow sort of – what on earth is that? Bumble decided it needed to be grabbed, squashed, jumped on, and squeaked. I have never seen a goose so obsessed with an object. The pig is dragged about, dumped in the pool, prodded, chewed and should either of her “sisters” attempt to steal, well a rather unpleasant zeal of jealousy, of non-democratic sharing ensues.
Barley will tackle bumble. Two geese playing tug of war with a rubber pig is not an everyday site. They tear up and down the garden, with Bonnie screaming and running in circles. Bumble will not share the pig. Eventually the other two wander off and for the next half hour all you can hear is a muffled herr, herr, herr, sound to break up the squeak, squeak, squeak of the piggy. Its all-consuming. A meteor could land in the garden, and bumble would be none the wiser.
Sometimes, as today, it gets into a heated argument. Feathers are pecked and pulled. Necks outstretched and sometimes the odd hiss, Bumble will get very upset that she has to share. The feather pulling got silly, suddenly the realization that friendship should be deeper than a rubber pig, and the pig is dropped. Yes we got too excited, we got silly, we shouldn’t, we are ok now, we must makeup. I swiftly remove the offending pig. But we shall repeat the whole drama again in a few days. It’s always the same. No sharing. Lots of squabbling and finally a make-up session.
Bumble is a greedy goose. Greedy to take toys, greedy for lettuce and melon. She is the biggest of the three with the ability to keep a beady eye on everything. The crescendo at feeding time after I ring the little food bell on the chicken pen, is deafening. Geese dribble and Bumble is so excited by food, her honking is saliva filled and squelchy sounding. Melon, tomato and lettuce are favourites right now. A slice of melon takes approx. thirty seconds to disappear. Today Bumble stole the lettuce. Running away and chewing furiously fast at the same time, that shark toothed beak and scaly tongue, scoffed the lot. Barley and Bonnie didn’t stand a chance!
Bonnie has a tuft on her head – not sure why, maybe a sort of birthmark thing. A goose filled with curiosity. Work in the garden must be investigated. Brushes in buckets taken out. Garden forks moved. She does not like the chickens. Chickens are to be pecked and if possible gripped by the scruff of the neck and shaken vigorously. The chickens seem to take it as a massage and annoyingly to Bonnie wiggle and manoeuvre for more pecking. Occasionally it gets a little too rough and squawks and feathers fly and we rush to split up the mismatched opponents. To Bonnie these strange little red feathered characters are just too annoying and on occasion there is a coop invasion. Chicken food is knocked over, chickens are scattered. It takes a good half hour to round everyone back into the coop, often finding we have chickens on the outside and the three stroppy geese on the inside.
Barley is a water-baby. We did fill the new pond once, a trial run. The look of absolute sheer delight on Barley’s face when she realized she floated. Her first swim. Buoyancy is an amazing thing when you’re a heavy weight goose. Those big feet suddenly have finesse. She dived, she flapped. We got thoroughly soaked. Thanks Barley. Where Bumble is big and clumsy, Barley is slow and careful. Usually coming up the rear, she waits her turn to snorkel in the bucket, or play with the pig. For now we have a worrying issue. A very fluffy feathered goose, almost Chinese looking without the thick orange eyelids the other two have, she is being bothered by the tiny feathers that surround her eyes and keeps closing them, the aggravating tickle bothering her. Not sure what’s to be done, but we hope the vet has some ideas. Can feathers be removed permanently? I hope so.
Keeping geese is easy. They need a good supply of grass, ideally fast growing and nutritious, corn, grain and grit. Treats welcome. Around the garden are hay and strong patches for sleepy geese to relax. At night we have made a pen with chicken wire to keep out predators, but with the French obsession with shooting anything that moves, our geese being eaten is remote. Geese poop. In fact they poop a lot. All day. In their swimming water. Everywhere. What goes in comes out, but it seems multiplied by four. The poop and straw however go into the composter. Goose poop is great for vegetables, so I can’t complain. We live next to a beef farm, so straw and hay is free – that helps.
The only thing we do watch is their feet. They trip a lot and already Bonnie has lost a toenail. Its growing back but I have moved a few obstacles out the way of a mad-cap goose on the run. Never leave anything near a goose that can be swallowed. They eat first and ask later. Knowing your trying to grab what’s frantically being chewed, will be swallowed whole in one gulp. Too late – I ate It! Like three years olds running riot after a birthday party, things are moved. Yesterday my mobile phone case was decimated. Tony’s rubber shoes are chewed and anything yellow or orange must be investigated. Being told we can’t have it, means we want it.
So another week of goose poop management and squeaky pig tempers has begun. Geese can live up to 45 years – so it’s a lifetime commitment. I have only completed two months but it feels like years. We haven’t laid eggs yet. That will be fun. They found a few chicken eggs last week. Suddenly the squabbling became motherly cooing and the little eggs were rolled together and straw patted round in a nest shape. Barley say on them. Proud surrogate mother. The other two stayed close. So that’s a little glimpse of our goose world. More to come I am sure. But for now its almost midnight and three little geese are tucked up in bed. Dreaming of pigs maybe? Squeak, squeak!