09 June 2010

Stray Gosling

We've been allowing the adult geese to maintain a nest with a few eggs in it for the last couple of months. Nothing has hatched, but they've continued to take turns laying the occasional egg. Yesterday, I was on the verge of tossing all their eggs, destroying the nest, and forcing them to do something more productive (like mow the grass and look after those 14 hatchery goslings that the rest of the gaggle has adopted).

Then something interesting happened last night. A couple of days ago, we had yet another Buff Orpington hen hatch out a brood of chicks. She has five, and she moved them to within a few feet of where the geese have been taking turns sitting on eggs. As I was closing up the barn, I took a final glance at her before turning off the lights. Something seemed strange. One of her babies didn't look exactly like a chick. And it didn't peep like a chick. And she was pecking at it, like it wasn't hers.

I took a closer look, and discovered it was a gosling! Totally dried off and fuzzy, so it'd been hatched for some time. And it was mobile. The mother goose began hissing at me, and I pushed the gosling in her direction. She took it under her for the night, and I closed up the barn.

This morning, there are still no more goslings. And that one gosling was off the nest and trying to follow Mother Orpington out the door with her brood. I again returned the gosling to its rightful nest, but am wondering how long this can continue. If the mother goose will not get off the nest and brood the gosling, he/she won't survive for long. The hatchery goslings are much too big for this new gosling to keep up with, and they go way out in the high weeds to forage all day.

If there's no change later today, I'm leaning heavily toward putting the gosling under Mother Orpington tonight in the dark, and seeing if we can pull off a cross-species adoption. The chicks are still so small, it just might work. Otherwise, I'll have to put the gosling in a brooder and raise him/her myself.

Other thoughts?

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