Last week, some goose magic happened in my backyard. I got a pair of goslings! If you thought baby rabbits were the pinnacle of cute, I recommend you try goslings.
A couple of months ago, I spotted an add for some rescue geese looking for a loving new forever home. I’ve always fancied having a goose, so I thought, why not check it out. Obligation free and all that. I called up to ask if they had any female geese – I have what they need, they can eat my grass and I even have a pond – and could I have a look at them day after next? No, I was just interested in one. The person on the other end said they had two female geese, one was a bit lame, the other had her wing sticking out – and would I consider taking both (pretty please)? No really, I said, I was just learning how to keep chickens, and it was going to be a bit much for me.
When I’d hung up, I immediately proceeded to the important business of settling on a name for my new goose, whom I had apparently just committed to adopt. I couldn’t decide if I should call her Selma, or Sophie, so I popped the man an email saying actually, I might as well take both geese – it seemed the perfect solution to this particular dilemma.
As it turned out, one of the geese was already called Lucy, a name which suits her well. The other is a cranky old character with strong opinions – like as to when I should be getting up in the morning – who is definitely called Selma.
Whyever did I ever think having a goose would be complicated? They are the easiest birds around. They are also a massive bonus in the garden: they eat the grass and weeds, and only the grass and weeds. My lawns have never looked so tidy.
They also lay eggs – and those are some eggs! They made me think of a dinosaur egg, but they make the fluffiest omelette. Though when my two ladies caught on to the fact that I was stealing their precious eggs, they started taking turns sitting on them, making sure they were not left unguarded for even a moment.
Eventually they had to come round to the fact that (without a gander) there wasn’t anything going to come out of those eggs. Lucy started wandering round the garden again, but Selma was dead set on becoming a mother: she ended up sitting on a cricket ball and a fake plastic egg, for days on end in the pouring rain, hardly ever moving from her nest.
I felt sorry for the poor old thing: so when I spotted another add for geese and goslings available (sort of) locally, I got in touch to see if I could get a male gosling to hand raise, who could grow up to make chicks with my two girls. Once again, I got talked into taking two, a boy and a girl. At least now I have a goose I can call Sophie!
When I got home, Lucy was standing there waiting for us. I thought it would be unfair not to show her the chicks, so I took them out of the box, and they made a beeline for their new mom. It took Lucy approximately one and a half minute to adopt them: she protested loudly when I took them away again to keep them warm, and wouldn’t let them out of her eyes, even following them into the house.
Selma, meanwhile, was pointedly turning her cricket ball and plastic egg, indicating that if Lucy could magically make some chicks out of thin air, then she could damn well hatch those. I had to forcibly remove her and bring her in with the others. She was on to it that there was something fishy about this whole process: the cricket ball and plastic egg were still there, unbroken – and yet, undeniably, two chicks. She kept touching them with her beak, as if to make sure they were real. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a goose who’s beside herself with joy and excitement: I am sure I saw two of them that night.
This is a few days ago, and by now Selma, Lucy and the two chicks give every appearance of a perfectly normal goose family. Selma, being a bit lame, sometimes has trouble keeping up: she is your classic overprotective mom and lets out a panicked squeal whenever she loses the little ones from her sight. At night, she takes them under her wing to keep them warm. Lucy, with her angel wing, isn’t quite so cushy and comfy, but she is very good at hissing at all and anyone who comes near them.
The chicks are Sebastopol geese. Lucy is a Toulouse goose (really, I should call her Lucille) and Selma, for all I can tell, is a Pomeranian. They are both female: but instead of competing for the chicks, they look after them together, just as they’ve been brooding their eggs together. Welcome to the modern goose family!
Geese are always a little bit magical. They feature in many a fairy tale: one of my favourite tales as a child was the tale of the Goosemaid, from the collection by the Brothers Grimm. It’s a tale of betrayal, humiliation and mistaken identities, but with a comeuppance and a happy ending. It still resonates with me today.
On DeviantArt, I found an illustration for a Vietnamese tale involving a goose feather coat, which similarly deals with humiliation and betrayal. Then there is the tale of the Golden Goose who makes everyone who tries to touch her, stick to her. The oldest collection of fairy tales are the “Tales of Mother Goose” by Charles Perrault. English speakers will be familiar with her from a well known collection of nursery rhymes.