by Henry Lane Hull
“Gladys is fostering an onion.” With those words the Elder B.E. came into the house after a visit to the barnyard where he found Gladys, our pet goose, having added a large Bermuda onion to the clutch of eggs upon which she has been setting. As I have described previously, she is a most frustrating animal. For years she has refused to set on her eggs, then this spring something happened in her psyche whereby her maternal instincts came into play.
She began with three of her own eggs, to which I have added a couple of chicken eggs. I figured why not get the most out of her efforts. She has accepted the chicken eggs without apparently noticing that each of them is less than a third the size of her own productions. Gradually one of her own eggs disappeared, then another, leaving her with only one as a potential gosling and several as future chickens, and one as a “baked” onion.
The “onion” has been in its own world. Apparently she, or her ever-faithful spouse, Lou, retrieved it from some clippings and was able to shove it into the nest. The resident chickens are fascinated by her maternal approach. I feed her at the nest, away from them, but whenever she gets up, they rush to stick their beaks into what is going on under “Mother Goose.” The chickens are aware of who is the boss of the barnyard, especially as she snaps at them if they approach her food.
For me the process has been exhausting, and I use the latter word deliberately, as I have done everything I possibly could to foster her forthcoming motherhood. She is not at all appreciative of my labors on her behalf and even Lou lets me know that he should prefer me to let nature take its course. The problem is that the present course, as with those from past years, appears not to be working.
With previous fowl over the years I have not needed to be as involved, which concern I am certain Gladys sees as meddling. One of the benefits we have enjoyed this spring is the greatly reduced volume and frequency of her honking. While setting she seems to be concentrating on the job at hand, instead of running around the pen honking indiscriminately.
Over the years I have raised more fowl than I can count. I once had a Muscovy drake who was the best mouser I ever knew, far exceeding that of any cat I have had in his ability to eliminate the mouse population. He could ferret out a mouse anywhere in the yard, catch it with his webbed foot and then consume it headfirst. One always knew when he had succeeded, as he would strut around with the mouse tail hanging out of his mouth. As with some cats, he liked to show off his achievements, making sure I knew what he had done. He was a dear animal, sadly now having passed on at great age. I still miss him.
The resident rooster pays no attention to Gladys and her bizarre behavior. He is a gentle soul, with a timid, little crow that is actually quite melodic. The hens make more noise upon laying their eggs than he does with his crowing. He is also a complete gentleman, letting the hens eat first. Perhaps that is because he is a Bantam Silky and is half as big as the average hen, thus he has mastered the art of survival among behemoths.
Each day the barnyard is a new experience. Were I to go though college again I should take some animal psychology courses. I do not think I should need any animal husbandry ones as I have come to understand that field from on-the-job training.
I fear this will be another year of disappointment as to the emergence of any little goslings. For two years now we have foregone the experience of my Good Wife’s superb goose egg frittata in the hope of getting goslings in return. As long as the one goose egg remains in the clutch perhaps all is not lost.