Mummy goose – Flo(rence) – was hatched, last year, in an incubator at home (from eggs bought on the internet). She spent her first summer in the garden, with us. Over the past nine months or so, she’s become completely accustomed to a much less ‘civilized’ environment on the croft and along the shore in Eriskay.
Even so, Flo is still completely at ease with me. She’ll feed from my hand, let me stroke her, pick her up – without protest. Early this Spring, Flo found her life partner in one of two twins Mr & Mrs Jackson raised last year: we call him Bert. (Fortunately, Flo‘s twin brother has teamed up with Bert‘s twin sister.)
A few weeks ago, Flo set up a nest on a very slightly raised (and therefore drier) patch amongst tall rushes – a well concealed (and sheltered) spot. Incubation takes 35 days. Five weeks on a nest – just imagine it! Bert has to stay nearby to protect Flo, and that limits how much food he can find. But poor old Flo will only have occasional short breaks off her nest – to stretch her legs, find some water to drink, and a something to eat. (Most days I take grain to her – which she takes from my hand.) After five weeks she’s weakened by hunger, thirst and numbness: her legs and webbed feet have turned pale from being tucked under her body so much, and she walks unsteadily.
There were eight eggs under her, and during today the first two goslings hatched – those you see here. there’s a third egg ‘pipping’ too. Another day and hatching may be done, and another day after that the goslings will be fluffed and plumped up and Flo and Bert will take them out into the world, searching out food (mostly just grass), water, shelter from the elements, and safety from predators.
We have six geese – three couples, and their goslings. We allow them to live a nearly natural life. We give the adults – most days – a small ration of grain ; but that’s mainly to encourage them to seek us out if they are really hungry or ill. Most days, most of the geese will present themselves at the croft store, at the time of the morning when they know I’m most likely to be there. But some may disappear for a few days, in winter because they have to search so far for food, or in summer for the very opposite reason – because they have an abundance of food.
Geese do have such personality, and I find them to be less trouble, less work, and easier to handle than chickens.
They’re also good to eat.