It's dangerous to be a man bird in the spring and not every boy residing at Freegrace has survived the season. We knew nothing of water fowl when we took our new friends in after Irene. They'd behaved so beautifully up until now, giving me no indication that there was bloodshed in our future.
I did enough research to educate myself on their habitat needs: bedding, feed, water and over-wintering but I wasn't prepared to be fostering them over a year. And there's no telling whether, had I known they'd be around this long, that I'd have learned of this ugly instinctual behavior until it started to happen. I'm used to our hens, and while we've lost a few, I feel I understand their needs and nature. But not all birds psychologically flock together. I hope that by sharing some of these experiences, that novice homesteaders interested in keeping water fowl will be prepared when I wasn't.
Ray's been photographing our feathered and furry friends, from the beauty to the fury.
***a warning to the sensitive, the last picture is of Lonely Boy's injuries. While not horrible, it's not pretty. But be assured, Lonely Boy is recovering beautifully.***
|Gussy. She's best friends with Goosie the Canada goose.|
One very bright spot has been Goosie, the Canada goose. She famously left her gaggle and decided to adopt Suzy and her family years ago. Geese mate for life. They won't abandon their partner under any circumstance; putting themselves in mortal danger to protect a sick or injured mate. So it seems that Goosie must have lost her other half and found no reason to continue on the migration trail alone and adopted a kindly farming family. She steers clear of the water fowl drama, preferring the relaxed company of our foraging hens who have never found a reason to bicker or complain. If she'd fit in the coop, I'd gladly bed her with the chickens at night. I know Goosie would prefer it.
If you've been keeping abreast of the bird drama, we've had one drake murdered. A second paralyzed. A third maimed. I've been putting the blame on two duck bullies, you can see them below with their lady companion.
But the evidence is now murky. My neighbor, Julie, lent me a large crate and I managed to pen the two bad boys for a night. The next morning, out comes the white gander from the communal pen, bloody and battered This leaves one of the three Toulouse geese to blame (those are the gray geese). The problem is that Toulouse are much harder to distinguish, sex wise, and it's been assumed by the goose owner that they were all geese, not ganders. As it turns out, one or more may be a gander and he's defending the nest in the pen where they all bed at night. As it turns out, this is a nasty business and the guardianship of the clutch of eggs waiting in the nest falls under the militant stewardship of a chosen gander. We thought the gander was the very large white Swan goose. We were wrong.
One of our Victorias is a Victor.
The white gander, I've named him Dagwood, is now convalescing with Lonely Boy and his Sweetie Pie. He's recovering. His lady friend, Guinivere, has flown over the fencing to visit with him for a spell. It's all so damn Shakespearean.
Almost as melodramatic as Ruthie with a bone.
|Don't you cross this puppy when she's working on her bully stick, she'll give you the stink eye.|
|Lonely Boy outside his new digs with Sweetie Pie.|
And so we continue on, hoping to foster these animals as best we can, reminding ourselves that the animal world is cruel in its own particular way and kicking ourselves for not knowing more in time to stop a great deal of pain. It's a lesson that I'll take with me as we continue to add to our farm animal flock, not to take on an animal without educating myself on their true needs and particularities. I'll be the first to admit that I anthropomorphize all animals, to their detriment. I tend to care in a manner that speaks more to a misplaced affection best applied to Disney characters and plush toys instead of caring for them based on their true animal nature. No wonder they refuse to give me a cuddle.
Lesson sadly learned
Lesson sadly learned