by Henry Lane Hull
This year, as I have noted previously, marks a renewed effort on our part to contribute to keeping the worldwide goose population from slipping into extinction. To some that potentially dire prospect might not be a threat of global significance, but with the inspiration that every little bit helps, we continue to hope for goslings.
Gladys, our goose, is the most non-maternal female of any species I ever have known. She lays eggs whenever and wherever she chooses, never gathers them together to form a nest and most sadly, rejects the good offices of her faithful mate, Lou, the gander, to assist in the process.
Geese, in my view, are the most like humans of all avian creatures. In normal circumstances, the goose and gander share the rearing responsibilities for the goslings, with the gander often setting on the nest to give the goose a well-deserved break from her maternal duties. Ganders also take the goslings for walks, teach them to swim and protect them from aggressive chickens or other less refined coopmates.
Ducks come in second with respect to sharing parental chores. Drakes are particularly talented in teaching ducklings how to eat, granted often largely by demonstrating how to hog the food themselves, but they do pay attention to their offsprings’ needs.
Given Gladys’s “I could not care less about the eggs” attitude, we have been fortunate to find that one of the Rhode Island Red chickens has become obsessed with setting on her nest. I have slipped the itinerant goose eggs in under her, distracting her in the process by dropping a few grains of corn in the front of her nest. At one point she turned, looked at the new additions and stared at me as if to say, “What is that?” Nevertheless, she has accepted the new objects and continues setting.
Her fellow chickens appear to be oblivious to what is happening. For a start, they do not like Gladys as a person. She has been outrageously aggressive towards them, grabbing their corn, pushing them aside when I serve shrimp peelings, which all of them crave as a means of building calcium for future egg production, and constantly honking at them.
Our remaining rooster is a very handsome bantam silky. He produces a modest crow with a slightly melodic tune to it. He is not at all bossy, despite being the only male living with 11 hens. He struts around the coop and allows the hens to push him aside when it comes to mealtime, or perhaps his gentlemanly nature leads him to stand off until the ladies have finished eating. Unfortunately, our other rooster, Spot, who was our goat’s companion, was taken off by the fox.
More domestically, for the first time in my life I am delighted to have leeks in one of our bathrooms. For the grammarians reading this item, I have not misspelled the word “leek.” A month ago I started a large tray of leek seeds in the brightest spot in the house, an upstairs bath with multiple windows offering southern exposure. The combination of sun, water and good soil has produced a truly bumper crop, now almost ready to be planted outside. I am counting on my Good Wife substituting fresh, homemade potato leek soup for her superb goose egg frittata, which we are foregoing in the hope of goslings.
Recently, I was away for a few days and my Good Wife and the Elder B.E. complained over the goat’s behavior when they refused to hand feed her the way I do each morning and evening. I have tried to explain that she simply enjoys being served personally, rather than having her food dumped in a trough on the ground. She especially likes to look at us while eating. She is oblivious to the fowl activity in the adjoining building, but definitely misses Spot, who acted as her consort, thereby proving that species one might consider poles apart can become good friends.