Our two and a half year old grandson was coming to stay with us for Christmas and we were debating as to what we should do to entertain him. This was all the more necessary since his parents were away in England and Jason will be totally at our care during this time. During his last visit about six months before we took him to the local zoo where we noticed his love for water fowls and hence we settled for a pair of geese and four Indian runner ducks to give him company. The geese were just two years old and the ducks, all females, have not yet started laying eggs. A wire-mesh fence was put up around a small water tank and there was already a coop close to it. The geese and the ducks were kept in separate compartments during the night, though they were left together in the enclosure during daytime.
Rearing geese is not common in this part of the world and I had to hunt for information on goose rearing all over the Internet and over phone from a few growers at far off places. I had to travel about 100 miles to get layer pellet sand locating a vet who knew about geese was nothing less than a wild goose chase.
Though Jason joined me every day in feeding the birds, he took more delight in throwing pebbles in the water tank and watching “five little monkeys” on the lap top. However for me what started off as an additional odd job became an excellent pastime. Even after my grandson had left, taking care of the geese and the ducks has become a passion for me. It was wonderful to watch them, the pair moving about in perfect unison and swimming in the water tank like the synchronized swimmers of the Olympics. With their sharp eyesight and wide field of vision, combined with their strident calls, Geese make excellent guards against approaching intruders or predators. On the other hand the ducks are timid little things taking every step with caution and trepidation. The gander takes so much care of the goose, an inspiring example for humans on fidelity. The male always waits for the female to take food first while he keeps watch on the surroundings leaving us in doubt whether what is good for the goose is good for the gander. And if for a moment one of them is missing the other will make loud calls waking up the entire neighbourhood.
Just after a month the ducks started laying eggs and the goose also showed signs of laying. A small wooden box with saw dust was prepared and kept in the coop for laying eggs. The very next day she laid her first egg and all of us were excited with goose bumps all over to see the shining white egg pretty big in size weighing about 200gms. Every alternate day she continued to lay and it was so wonderful to see how she took care of her eggs, how she covered them with straw when she went off to eat, drink or to take a bath. After four eggs were laid we had to go out of town leaving the geese and her eggs in the care of our maid who had to deal with so many other chores. We came back in the night and the next day I went in to see whether the eggs are safe. To my utter dismay all the four eggs were missing and we were left wondering what has happened. My dream of hatching a clutch of goslings was shattered. She laid one more egg and straight away started brooding with a vengeance, jealously keeping vigil as if it is the proverbial golden egg. Was she grieving over the lost eggs? Was it worth to allow it to brood over a single egg which could even be sterile? I didn’t know what to do. She is still sitting over, as I write this, without coming out for a swim or taking food. I have provided room service of food and water, but she is not showing any interest. When will she give up on her nest and not care what happened to her eggs?
Meanwhile scientific investigation coupled with references over the Internet threw considerable light on the mystery of the vanished eggs. Mongooses are in plenty in our backyard and I learnt from the net that they were the prime cause of extinction of the Nene geese of Hawaii. Pieces of egg shells at unlikely places too endorsed my line of investigation. So there is enough reason for the brooding goose to be extra vigilant. I too joined her efforts to ward off the predators by setting traps and scaring them away. In the meantime the gander appears to have just abandoned his partner, moving about merrily with the ducks eating and drinking. To add insult to injury the other day I found him in a compromising position with one of the ducks. May be they are just confused friends and the act may not amount to infidelity.