“All geese are assholes.” “We ate those hose-necked bastards.” “I hate geese.” “Geese are mean.” “My parents/grandparents/neighbors had geese when I was a kid, and they chased us all over the place!”
I’ve heard all sorts of stuff like that about geese. But you know what? My flock of Toulouse geese aren’t like that. To be honest, I didn’t know much about geese when I got them, but I saw some pretty photos of them on a Flickr Friend’s photostream, and just wanted them, so I ordered ten day-old goslings from Murray McMurray almost two years ago now. So I got to be Mom to them, and I found them very easy to raise as babies. Also, adorable, cuddle, sweet, smart. I sat with them for about twenty minutes several times a day, and let them climb over me, groom me, tell me about their day. I find they still need some one on one attention, especially eye contact and grooming time.
One of the things I did early on was take them for a walk every day. We’d walk down to the end of our driveway (about 800 feet long) and back. Sometimes I’d go up into the woods instead, but I would lead, they would follow. When things were scary, you know, when anything would happen that wasn’t part of the routine, they’d look to me to see what to do. It’s okay. It’s not scary! Let’s go check it out! I really became Mama Goose to them and they would constantly check in with me to see if what they were doing was the right thing. It was really too cute for words. I constantly had a parade of ten geese behind me.
(One time, Albus Dumbleboar got out of his pen for the first time ever. He was wandering around the garden, exploring all this new exciting space. I’d heard that you could lead a pig by his tail, and turns out, it worked! It’s not precision steering, though. That was one time I was really glad there wasn’t a video camera around. There I was, hanging on to a pig’s tail, followed by two barking dogs and 10 excited geese.)
That first summer, a few of them started to turn obnoxious. I really learned what “to goose” meant. That pinch can really hurt! I got very good at pretending not to notice the one who was about to get me when my back was turned, then I’d reach around and grab him by the neck and haul him over to The Shed, where he would get a time-out. Before you know it, one of them would start to act up, and all of them would rush to the shed, just waiting for the bad boy to have his time out. They’d all point and laugh at him, then swagger away. They were so funny, always telling on whoever was acting up, giving away the game, giving me lots of warning. Sometimes I’d just raise my voice the tiniest bit and they’d all go running to the shed, and no one would actually hiss or charge at me at all.
Out of the ten I started with, we ended up with six boys and four girls. That fall, we slaughtered four of the boys, making sure to get the most aggressive of them all. To be honest, really only two of the four “needed” to go off to freezer camp, but the best ratio to keep of boys to girls is two girls to one boy. We had Christmas goose that year and it was yummy! The girls we kept turn out to be great egg layers. Every one of them sat on nests in the spring, but the boys were too young to have those eggs be fertile. We’ve read that it usually takes at least two years for this breed to fully mature, so we are very much looking forward to having goslings this spring. We are going to try to get them open water somewhere along the swamp’s edge so that they can breed properly as heavy geese need to be in fairly deep water for that to happen.
So now I’m heading into my second winter with my flock of six. I’m so busy with so many other critters and stuff that I worry that I’m not spending enough one on six time with them, but they’ve solved that problem for me. They wait for me in Elly’s shed in the morning. While I milk her, they groom me and chat with me, telling me all about their day. They very gently pull my hair, starting at my scalp and going all the way to the end, checking for bugs, you know. I get lots of goosie cuddles, and it’s just all so sweet. I love spending time with them. I really hope we get goslings this spring!