Dorothy and the Goslings

By Katherine Pioli

The goslings are growing bigger every day. We haven’t named them yet, though I have suggested calling them “Thanksgiving” and “Christmas.” Dorothy the hen is doing a great job of raising them. She sticks up for the little ones and flies in the face of the dogs or cat or geese when they get too near.

But Dorothy can’t seem to defend her little ones from the other hens. When facing their talons she turns tail and runs. It’s a problem because a couple of the hens – but especially the Araucana – want to tear the goslings to bits. Twice now I have rescued them from the beaks of our hens. I was sure that the goslings would die from the stress of the attacks, but they recovered. We now keep the hens in the pen nearly all day and let the goslings out in the yard with their mom.

It’s been really nice having Dorothy raise them, but there is one down side: the goslings don’t really like us. They run when we try to pick them up and peep their distress call. Ben wishes that they liked us more, but I like that they are learning to be birds. And Dorothy does everything a mother should. The one bigger gosling isn’t completely terrified by us, and when we pick him up, he settles down almost instantly and seems to be pretty calm.

Besides protecting her goslings, Dorothy she keeps them warm under her feathers – though they’re already getting too big for that. She shows them what to eat and what not to eat.

They’ve already turned into wonderful little grazers all across the lawn. They love the grass. Sometimes they’ll just plot down on the ground and pick at all the tender grass within reach. Lazy birds. We never had a problem with them eating the wood shavings at the bottom of their cage because mom never showed interest in the wood chips. Last year, that was a huge concern because our first clutch of goslings and ducklings would eat the shavings, which could potentially gum up their digestive tracks and kill them.

Dorothy makes all sorts of noises to talk with her babies. When we throw scratch out to them, she’ll run over to it and cluck some kind of “come-and-get-it” cluck and then just stand there and watch the goslings eat. There is her worried noise that she makes when she is looking for them or when they make their own distress call. She hates being separated from her babies.

This article was originally published on June 6, 2013.