Recently I wrote about the need to confine my three geese now that the breeding season has begun, lest the females start nesting someplace outside and become prey to the abundant wildlife here ("The Geese Discover their Freedom"). I was apprehensive about confining them since they’ve recently had the run of several mostly-vacant properties, including a small hayfield and an expansive lawn adjoining a big creek. Only a couple of weeks ago, I spotted them swimming up the creek quite a way from here. And the only place I can confine them is in the roughly 7-by-12-foot shelter where they’ve been spending nights since they came here.
As it turns out, they haven’t taken well to confinement, nor have I. Reluctantly, I’ve been trudging up the hill to their shelter two or three times a day with buckets of water and piles of fresh greens, only to be pecked at by the gander, who seems to resent my intrusion. I’ve been told if he’s becoming aggressive that’s good, because it means the girls are getting ready to start laying and he's defending them.
Well after almost two weeks of confinement they hadn’t laid a single egg, though I’d witnessed a couple of matings (or attempted matings, at least — it’s hard to be sure). And every time I went up there they were pawing at the gate like prisoners trying to escape. It was hard to blame them — I wouldn’t like being confined in there, either, though it’s a nice enough shelter if you’ve never known freedom.
One day I went up there in the early afternoon, and as far as I could tell they hadn’t even touched the greens I brought in the morning or the mix of grain and layer ration I had given them. One of the geese had slipped out earlier when I wasn’t quick enough to shut the gate and was having a grand old time nibbling on grass and dabbling in mud puddles. It seemed to me that when your prisoners go on a hunger strike, it’s time to sit up and take notice. It was a beautiful day, if a little windy, so I gave in and let them out, trusting they’d be back in the evening. You should have seen them run shrieking down the hill with their wings flapping. Boy, were they thrilled to have their freedom!
Evening came, and no geese. After dark, I thought I heard them making their low, chuckling sounds in the woods behind the chicken coop, then there was silence. Next morning when I headed into town, they weren’t to be seen anywhere. I was beginning to fear the worst, but at the end of a long day I was coming back over the swinging bridge when I spotted them on my neighbor’s lawn, near the water’s edge. When I called to them and clapped, they shrieked and honked a bit and started moving toward me, then seemed to think better of it.
The neighbor only uses his property as a weekend getaway, and I haven’t seen him all winter. But I was beginning to think he was in for a surprise — he might just have acquired a trio of geese! Later in the evening, though, I looked out just in time to see three geese strolling sedately up the road toward my driveway. At first they flirted with returning to their shelter but declined to go in, even after I poured out a fresh supply of feed for them. Finally, just before dusk, they capitulated, digging into the bowl of grain with some gusto while I quickly exited and shut the gate behind them.
I’m going to have another go at confinement, hoping this time someone will start laying soon. If one of the girls would make a nest in there and go broody, that should keep them close to home, I would think, since the gander would stay around to defend her. I hope so, because I sure can’t see keeping this up for the entire summer!