Proud Papa Fred

By catalyst

Fred the gander has taken our two young goslings under his wing. With Ethel on the nest, it seems like he needs some kind of goosey relationship to feel complete. Ever since they were little fist-sized fuzz balls, Fred’s been interested in the peepers. He used to hassle Dorothy the mother hen and try to scare her away from them, behavior that looked a little threatening to the goslings–we half thought he might try to cull them from the flock himself.

The goslings are growing at an incredible rate. Their adult feathers are coming in strong, and it seems they’ve in their teenage years. One of them, when he’s standing out there peeping his head off, every once in a while his voice will crack from a peep into a weak little honk. We try to discourage it: we much prefer peeping to honking.

The gosling’s surrogate mother, Dorothy, has nothing to do with them anymore. When they outsized her, Fred took on the responsibility of rearing them. He’s an attentive sentinel and chaperone, and he seems to take some pride in overseeing his new charges. Under his watchful eye and guidance, the goslings laze about in the kiddie pool for hours and plop down onto the lawn to nibble young grass shoots within beak’s reach.

Fred does not like us being too close to the goslings, but I’m doing my best to undermine him. I’ve trained the young birds to eat chicken scratch from my hands. Now, whenever I head towards the garage, where we keep the scratch and feed, they come running over, expecting a treat. I chalk up some of their prodigious growth to the heapings of grain they’ve been gulping down. My hope is that I might be able to cultivate a closer relationship with them than I did with Fred and Ethel, but I don’t hold out much hope. The waterfowl seem naturally wary of us, and I suspect that, unlike most of our chickens, who cavort and gather around us and sometimes hunch down in a submissive posture (I suspect as they might to a cock in full vigor), there’s some amount of intrinsic fear programmed into their genes.

This article was originally published on June 26, 2013.