Our animals in general show one of two behaviours. The first is that they spot we have food and mob us, the sheep will cluster round, sometimes rearing up to get into the food bucket, the pigs will run towards us and the chickens gather at our feet, not all at once mind as we keep them in separate areas. The second is when they realise that we don’t have food, then they become curious/cautious which involves them creeping forward to check again that we don’t have food, and then running away when they realise we don’t.
The only exception are the geese. They have just one mode – pure aggression. There are three of them, two ganders and a goose, which is almost certainly a poor combination, and we’ve had them since they were eggs. We have left them nameless, in part because at some point we may turn them into dinner!
We used to keep them with the chickens and ducks in the poultry orchard where they were quite happy, but then we realised that they were killing the chickens. We had a set of bantams and we kept finding them dead, with all their back feathers ripped out and a bloody area left. My original theory was that it was the crows as we seemed to be being mobbed by many murders of crows and I read that they do attack smaller birds. As a result we put up some mesh across the whole orchard area at around head height, and a set of cds to hang about and scare off the crows. It did reduce the number of crows in that area, but sadly didn’t stop the deaths.
Then I saw the geese having a go at one of the chickens, pecking at it’s back. I decided it must be the geese. So we set up a partition of the poultry orchard made from the mesh with the ducks and geese on one side with the pond, and the chickens, of which there were only two left, on the other. This seemed to work for a while, and we obtained some more chickens. Only a week later I went in to feed the chickens and initially couldn’t find them, until I started finding corpses. Of twelve chickens only one was left alive, cowering in one corner of the chicken run. The partition was partially down, and I jumped to the conclusion that it was the geese. I was in the process of giving them a piece of my mind – lecturing them at some length and telling them that they were going to only last till Christmas when suddenly a fox shot across the orchard. I chased it, though I have no idea what I would have done, and it leapt up the fence and climbed over between some of the mesh and then ran off. I duly apologised to the geese, and set about fixing up the fencing around hte orcahrd. It was alreayd six foot high, but I added two levels of electric fence, and tightened up the mesh all around. We also repaired the partition.
Once again we went to get some more chickens though this teim they weren’t bantams and we only got five. We watched carefully to see what would happen. All seemed ok, we just needed to repair the parition now and again, until we realised that one of the ducks was starting to look ragged. After watching the two ganders corner the poor duck and have a go at it we decided enough was enough. Saving the duck, and spraying it’s back with anti-biotic, we ejected the geese from the poultry area.
They now live in what will eventually be our garden. They have two troughs of water which they use to wash themselves and drink. It does mean that we walk past them all the time, and they often come as far as the front gate. They make a real racket when people come to visit, which is rather useful, and the dogs are definitely scared of them.
The two ganders are the source of almost all the noise, the goose says almost nothing. She’s also a lot more considered than the ganders, she’ll waddle over to see if I have food, whereas the ganders will hiss a honk. They’ll move aggressively forwards, hissing and with their heads lowered whenever someone is walking away or past them. When I walk towards them they back away quickly, only to turn around to chase as soon as my back is turned – and they’ll even nip the back of my knees if I dont keep an eye on them. The most annoying thing they do is hiss and nip when I feed them. I used to let them eat of my hand, but when one of the ganders actually nipped my arm, and then dipped down to eat again from my hands, I decided that I’d stop doing that! Now I just put their feed on the ground and back away.
Still, they provide some entertainment and some security, so they’re not in immediate danger of being turned into dinner!
Here’s the three of them in typical fashion, the ganders are to the right of the picture both hissing like crazy, the goose more thoughtfully on the left:
And a close up of the lead gander: