Jonathan: Our croft Embden geese are currently four in number: one can never be certain about gender with geese unless you follow their behaviour very closely (well, in spring it’s perhaps not necessary to pay attention quite so closely!), but we do know that we have one gander, and probably one goose and two other ganders. The gander we’re certain of is in fact from our first ever hatching (from bought eggs), born in early 2008. He’s something of a character! He lost his beloved partner a couple of years ago, and rather lost his way as leader of the gaggle. But over the past year he’s grown in confidence again, and has re-established his position of authority. And – despite being 3-4 years older than the others – it looks as if he might be at the beginnings of a new romantic relationship. Well, certainly, there’s one of the young ones that he doesn’t boss about as much, and has started to allow into the henhouse with him when he goes there for his Zweite Früstuck (second breakfast). And this is where the narrative proper of this post begins. The old gander has learnt that when I’ve been in the henhouse a while, and he hears the sound of grain falling into the galvanized troughs, and the hens start their cacophony of pecking and fussing and chasing, there’s some grain that gets scattered, and some of it reaches the sliding hatch of the automatic door. Now the hatch is definitely designed for chickens, but gander has learnt that if he pushes his body in far enough and paddles his webbed feet vigorously, he will eventually pop right into the hen-house, landing right in amongst the hens and their food. (It is, after all, called a pop-hole!)
A while back I adjusted the pop-hole slider to make the opening smaller, but that’s not put him off – he simply pushes it up with his back! However he has also learnt that if he does that I will open the door proper and shoo him back out. So over the past year he has taken to standing outside, with his neck through the pop-hole, scoffing up every particle of food within reach! Thus self-invited to the hens breakfast party, every time it puts me in mind of Mr Jackson in Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse. “Tiddly, widdly, widdly! Your very good health, Mrs Tittlemouse!” Well, I have to open the main door (into which the pop-hole is set) at some point, to let myself out: Mr Jackson – as I have now decided to call him, rushes in, his girlfriend a little timorously behind (but bolder by the day). It’s not enough that he greedily joins in the breakfast party: once the troughs are empty, he picks them up in his powerful bill and tosses them to one side, so that he can get at the grain caught in the wooden holders the troughs sit in. And once he’s done that he pushes the heavy wooden holders around too. I’d love to capture all this ‘on film’, but alas I’m encumbered with tools and buckets and feed and a heavy proper camera is too much. For now, here’s some very poor photos taken on my phone. When I can, I’ll replace them with some better photos.