We weren’t expecting to raise ducks or geese this year. But the little ones found a way into our hearts and onto our farm.
I am so glad we decided to bring our Toulouse gosling and our Pilgrim gosling home. Not just because they are adorable, but because they serve a valuable function as well here at Iron Oak Farm.
From the beginning, our geese imprinted on us and followed us everywhere. We kept them in the house way longer than I usually keep poultry. We did this partially because I was smitten and enjoyed their company in our sunroom while I typed on the computer each day; and partially because, while they were twice as big as any other poultry we had, they seemed so helpless. It took them a long time to work out their large legs and wide feet. They were slow and clumsy and rather delicate.
Each night, after dinner, we would take them outside with us to the garden and they would sit under us while we weeded a bed or two. They insisted on touching us and would only wander for short distances to eat grass, then come running back when they realized they were a few steps away.
I have to admit, I liked being needed. I felt a bit like Anna Paquin in the movie Fly Away Home. They loved us! They would come when they were called. “Goose, goose goose” and they’d peep and come running/stumbling to be near.
Eventually it became too much to keep these fast growing geese in the house and we moved them out to the teenage wing of our coop, which was split in half with our ducks on the other side. I admit, I was emotional, their last night in the nursery. I sat with them a long time in the coop their first night. They cuddled on my lap and I enjoyed smoothing the soft warm down on their backs. I told myself that this might be a much needed routine until they adjusted to the transition of being on their own for most of the day and night.
The next morning everything had changed. Any sentiment I had about our geese being lonely was soon displaced as I witnessed their affection towards our ducks and the ducks in return. Evidently, it was love at first site. Through the chicken wire that separates the two pens the ducks were bumping their beaks through the small hexagon shaped wire and the geese were craning their necks and nipping at the fencing to nuzzle with the ducks.
That night, when they settled down to sleep, the ducks moved from their usual spot in the far corner of the coop to reside against the fencing so they could lay next to the geese through the wire mesh.
Mom and Dad, meanwhile were forgotten.
I soon realized that it was silly to keep these two flocks separated. Out of habit, we keep young birds separated until they can fend for themselves. I wasn’t sure how the ducks and geese would get along at first, and I wanted to make sure the geese could at least get away if they got into a tuff.
I opened the adjoining door and the geese ran into the duck pen. Everyone started peeping and quacking and rubbing necks and then they all laid down together, like it was meant to be, and they’ve been inseperatable ever since.
The duck/goose relationship, while we’re now out of the family picture for the most part, has been both compatible and beneficial.
The ducks have helped the geese learn what’s what around the coop area. I think they’ve found strength in numbers. The geese seem less helpless, and while that could be simply because they’re getting older and bigger, I noticed an immediate attitude change as soon as they joined the ducks. They now act as the duck’s protectors, which is wonderful since ducks are all but helpless when it comes to attacks.
They watch over the ducks, let them eat first, come between them and any “potential” danger… it’s an amazing relationship.
The geese have also helped us socialize our ducklings. These ducklings have been unlike any ducklings we’ve raised so far in that they’ve been skittish from the beginning. It could be partially our fault as we didn’t handle them as much as we usually do. But since the geese have come into their lives, the ducks come willingly and we’ve helped that behavior along by offering them food by hand.
I can’t help but smile when I see the cloud of white fluffy waterfowl parade around the yard. They look like plump marshmallows waddling from spot to spot.
The geese are starting to honk and they’ve realized that the beating of their strong, large wings can help them move faster across the yard. Occasionally our two hens will let out a loud quack, quack, quack, and I heard a distinct “honk” the other day in response.
If you raise ducks, and are worried about their well being, consider adding a couple geese to your flock. They’ve brought us nothing but joy, peace-of-mind, and amusement.