When we first ordered the chickens, we ordered 75 pullets (female chicks) and 15 cockerels (male chicks) with the thought that a few roosters would make better eggs. When we told Matt and Kim about the roosters, their eyes grew wide anticipating the morning sounds from the new flerd. Upon considering this - as well as the fact that chick sexing claims only 95% accuracy, thus giving us a few males anyway - we contacted the hatchery to see if we could substitute the cockerels for a few geese. Happily, they obliged and sent along four Toulouse Geese, an old breed of goose developed in France and known as an all-around great farm goose.
Unfortunately however, about two weeks into their stay at Ecotone, one of the goslings became ill and died within 8 hours of our noticing its condition. We buried her out by the old apple tree in the pasture, and then there were three. But a few days later,yet another gosling came down ill. We caught this one much sooner and immediately began giving her electrolytes mixed with Brewer's Yeast, first by eyedropper and then just mixing into their larger water container. While she remained weak for a few days, and therefore lost some weight compared to the others, it appears as though she's fully recovered.
After doing some investigation, and consulting our friends Brian and Cindy at Winged Elm Farm, we think that they ate some vegetable matter with something toxic on it. When I was cleaning out the barn I came across several blobs of something unidentifiable, which Jen and I have come to think is some type of motor grease. It actually looks as though several buckets of whatever it was were dumped behind the barn, and we even found one behind the primary brooder. We don't necessarily think they ate the stuff directly, but simply ate some of it on plants they're beginning to graze upon. I've removed as much of the stuff as I can, and we plan to spread some straw and grass seed, as well as add bamboo to block the area entirely, to rehabilitate each area. Until then, though, there are no animals except dogs allowed in the back yard to prevent another intoxication.
But the geese are great! Jen and I each took them on their first field trip to the pond yesterday. They waddled behind us and the dogs as we made the trek to water, and when we arrived they all stopped, looked at the water as though they had seen it all before, and chirrped their way to the edge of the pond to graze on the water grass and bugs. I've been reading Konrad Lorenz's The Foundations of Ethology, and so all of this developmental conditioning is taking on deeper dimensions for the relationships growing up between us and these otherwise very silly birds.