Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Mrs. Frodo Goose, aka: Serenity set with her head drooping low against her chest.  She had been broody for over a month and no signs of a single gosling yet.  We the humans of the ranch had been impatient as well.  We dearly love the fuzzy little goslings and delight in their antics.

More importantly we were worried about Serenity.  It normally takes 28-35 days to incubate goose eggs but she had been broody for over 45 days.  A bird can brood itself to death and we really didn’t want to lose her.  She is Pigwidgeon’s daughter and we had just lost Piggy so we definitely didn’t want to lose her too.

We already had the small pen and coop designated for her and goslings, but now 10 days past due there was no sign of young life and Serenity hadn’t left the nest at all for over a week, nor had she shown any interest in the food and water we had put under the front porch with her trying to encourage her to at least eat and drink. 

We had given up hope and had been trying to tempt her off the nest with every treat we could think of.  We knew that a snake had been in the nest one night three weeks earlier and despite our re-homing him we had no idea if he had damaged the eggs beyond salvation or not.  She wasn’t about to give up, but we had.

Roaming the yard was Casino Muscovy, a handsome drake who no longer had other ducks of any sort to share his life with.  The geese treated him as an outsider and the guineas were far too silly to acknowledge him.  Only Piper Peacock occasionally chatted with him.  He often spent his days in such a glum funk we threatened to change his name to Eeyore.

Because we live in the woods pests of all sorts are a constant problem that must be dealt with.  We prefer natural pest control over all else.  Muscovies are tremendous at pest control.  Snakes, rodents of all types, scorpions, biting flies, wasps, mosquitoes the list that ‘Scovies like to eat is quite long.  But here we were down to one lone ‘Scovy.

After much family discussion we decided on a temporary lift on our agreed upon ban of no new animals for Mr. Casino’s benefit (and ours).  We talked it over with Cas and he told us in no uncertain terms he was lonely and needed a female or two in his life.

He dictated to me the following email which I posted on a local homesteading list on his behalf:

Ladies and Gentlemen of the list,

I am a lonely Muscovy Drake.  All my hens and male companions have gone to the big pond in the sky.  There are far more rodents, snakes, gohphers and biting flies here on the Rock ‘n Tree ranch than I a single male duck can handle.  Therefore, I have consulted with my human charges and convinced them it is time a few hens need to share this natural feeding bounty with me.  If you should know of some HEN (I want no competition thank you very much) Muscovies that would care to share their life with me please contact my female human, Jan at …

Thank you for time,

Casino Muscovy, Esquire

Within 30 minutes I had a response for not the two hens we had agreed upon but four at a reasonable cost. 

Two days later, on Friday afternoon, we went to pick up the lovely ladies you see at the right.  Ms. Cocoa is of course the chocolate colored one.  Henny Penny is the solid white lady.  Both these two already had names. 

We watched the mannerisms of the two pied ones for a bit and decided that the larger one was Faith (after all we all need more faith) and Hope is therefore the smaller one.

As soon as the girls were in the garden trailer and being driven around to the small coop the very despondent Mr. Casino sprang to life!  He was wiggling with delight all over.  His crown went up and he immediately waddled to where they waited to enter their new home. 

When the tail gate on the trailer was opened he leaped into the trailer to be near them.  Inside the cage they were in the girls were saying “A MAAAAAAN!”  There had been no drakes at their previous home.

Despite whispering sweet nothings in their ears Casino refused to join them in the coop.  Holding out for when he could be in a secure run with them. 

The secure run would be, hopefully, prepared the next day.  Because Muscovy hens can fly (our drakes are always too fat) we needed to roof the small section of the pen they would be kept in for 2-3 weeks before being allowed to free range with Casino.  We also needed to put an escape proof gate on that section and it was already nearly dark.

That’s when we heard it.  Anyone who has had a flock of geese where the hens hatch out naturally the cry that goes up from the rest of the flock when they see the first gosling for the first time.  “Congratulations” they scream to the wearied mother. 

“Nooo, it couldn’t be it’s been 45 days since she went broody” ds said as we rushed around to peak and see.  Before we ever got there we heard the high pitched voice of a newly hatched gosling.  Sweet, high and clear. 

Looking under the front door we watched as the little yellow and gray ball of fluff crawled out from under Serenity as she patiently turned her three  remaining eggs.

She gave me such a look, because I had been telling her for days I didn’t think her eggs were fertile and that she should come out and eat before she died.  She had stubbornly refused.

The look told me “I told you so!” as she neatly tucked the chirping gosling under downy chest.

“Houston we have a problem” I said.  We had just put four strange adult birds, that we had no idea of their temperament in the pen that had previously been dedicated for goslings.  “Now what are we going to do?”

Since it was almost dark and Serenity still had eggs to hatch we knew she wouldn’t leave the nest until at least morning.  So we had until the next day to come up with a secure pen for her and her offspring. There are far too many hawks, possums, raccoons, crows and other predators that would delight in nabbing such a tender morsel as a baby goose.

The problem was the little jabber jaws wouldn’t shut up.  It was broadcasting loud and clear “Here I am world!” As if it was talking directly to Mr. O. Possum and his predatory friends. 

We admonished Serenity to shut it up and she quickly tucked the gosling back under her. 

Next Jolie, the ever vigilant bird protector settled herself in for the night on the front porch, with Georgia in the bushes nearby.  We were pretty certain that between the Mama Goose and the two protective dogs the gosling would definitely make it through the night.  I am happy to say we were right.

Saturday we got up early and mulled over the problem of too little space for too many birds.  I proposed one solution, but Sean came up with a better one that Gary modified even further.

Sean headed out to feed and release the penned geese and nearly stepped on a six foot long rat snake headed toward Serenity and the gosling.  Serenity was hissing loudly as he beat back the snake with a stick and used his other hand to call his dad for help. 

They tried to catch the snake to re-home it several miles away, but the snake had other ideas that involved a small yellow and grey gosling.  An idea that did not sit well with the Serenity or the two men.  The snake ended up re-homed to heaven.

As soon as the blast happened Serenity quit hissing, she’d seen this maneuver before, then calmly rolled her three eggs over and tucked the endangered gosling securely under her wing.

During the day Saturday we removed the shanty from the end of the small run.  It was in such bad shape from having a tree dropped on it in an ice and wind storm we spent a lot of time picking up pieces, hoeing and raking to make certain that there were no bits of wire or nails that might hurt the birds.

We have decided to not go back into the bird business for certain so instead of purchasing new fencing to patch the fence where the shanty had stood Gary tore down ten foot of the fencing on what was previously our big pen and moved it to the small run. 

Ideally we would have loved to simply used the big run, but the same wind and ice storm that had destroyed the shanty had torn up the roofing and fencing on the big run horribly.  We had also had some large predator get in that pen with the flock one night and do grievous damage.  The birds refused to ever go in that pen now. So the little pen was our only option, unless I wanted to give up the garden I had already started planting.  That would be a no.

While the two men were doing the heavy lifting and chores that are difficult for me to do I was the “Go-fer” I was sent running anytime a tool was needed we didn’t already have on the work site.

Thirsty?  Lemonade was made and delivered frosty cold along with some salty snacks.  Starting to sweat?  I ran for the dew rags.  Need a different pair of work gloves, hearing protectors, any item they needed I went to gather.  I clocked many a mile all day Saturday. 

As we labored Casino sat in the shade chatting with the girls through the open coop window getting to know them the best he could from so far away.  Yet he refused to enter the coop when given the opportunity.  The drake enjoys his freedom for certain.

So by the end of the day the shanty was torn down and ready to be recycled or burned where applicable.  The fencing was up and we had recycled part of the barn tin from the shanty into a sliding gate of sorts for the newly created gosling day care center in the end of the pen.

Unfortunately we still didn’t have the roof, gates , sun shade or gosling “play pen” fencing up. 

An explanation about the gosling play pen for those who haven’t read my post Lessons Learned post.  Small birds are extremely adept at getting out of what seems to the human eye a secure pen.  Once they get out they are extremely fast and adept of out running adult humans. They will seek shelter under any feathered backside they see and most of the birds that those backsides belong to will fight you to protect those escapees.  I’m too old and fat for such antics any more. If you want to keep them where they belong you add an extra of fencing over the main fencing.  This second layer needs to be either small poultry netting or hardware cloth.  Even with that some baby birds will show you they can climb that stuff and still get out.  So you do your best and create their play pen area with keeping them as secure as possible while leaving them with their Mom.

Luckily goslings two through four had not hatched yet so Jolie and Georgia once again took up their post.

Sunday there was rain in the forecast but it never showed.  We worked hard at trying to complete the areas where goslings needed to be housed and Muscovy hens  needed to be able to get some fresh air.

Not to mention Mr. Casino was getting pretty put out about being able to see the girls through the coop windows, but not being able to really get to know them.  Bless his heart all the time we were working he would set outside the coop at an angle where he could view the lovelies on the roost in the coop and speak softly to them.  What good are other ‘Scovies if a fellow can’t really be near them?

Once again the dogs took their designated posts and the mama goose patiently set on her eggs, we were now headed for day 52.

Sunday morning started out with the aroma of a broken rotted egg coming from under the front porch.  Serenity quickly disposed of the egg, then turned her attention back to the gosling and the two remaining eggs.

We turned our attention to the chores at hand.  While the men put the sunshade over the playpen I started the laundry and baking for the day.  Once the sunshade was up I started adding the layers of wire to keep the little darling(s) in the play pen. 

Saplings were cut for upright supports for the roof for the Muscovy end and the work of putting the roof and predator proofing on began.  Sunday ended with the dogs once again on patrol and the Bird Pen A La Scrounge taking shape nicely.

Yep A La Scrounge.  Because we stay on a strict budget it was determined that this bird pen was to be created with what we had on hand.  We recycled fencing, cut saplings from the property, and the sunshade was an old tarp from another project a few years earlier.  The low gate on the play pen is recycled barn tin, and it is all being held together with, you guessed it baling wire.  Yep we live on a farm. We always have baling wire.

After dinner on Monday the men went outside to finish roofing the duck end of the pen and temporarily put up a gate to keep them secure.  The gate will be permanently hung on Tuesday evening. 

Finally the duck hens were released into the small run.  Casino was absolutely beside himself, not sure which girl to flirt with first.  He is one happy muscovy today.

Under the front porch the little squirt sits in the middle of its mother's back still waiting for those slow poke siblings. Surely they'll hatch soon,

Jan who loves her birds but sometimes thinks they are a lot of work in OK

No comments:

Post a Comment