Ever since this cold snap settled in a couple weeks ago, we’ve been struggling to find a reliable and relatively convenient way to provide the geese and ducks, and the chickens, with fresh water. It hasn’t been easy, but I think we’ve finally found a working solution that could be as close to ideal as we’re likely to get.
One night, a couple weeks back, the geese were being particularly vocal. Just as we were getting into bed, the birds assembled at the fence and started skronking as loudly as possible. The Hisser, AKA Barbara, is easily the most loquacious bird. She had conducted the waterfowl choir to hold forth at full skronk.
“What the hell’s their problem,” I wondered to Katherine as I slipped out of bed to spy the peeper pen in the bright snow-reflected light. Somehow, their squawking sounded like a demand, a we-need-something-and-we-need-it-now vocalization. My hunch: they were thirsty. They were surrounded by frozen water, but they didn’t have a drop to drink. Sure enough, I brought them a pail of water, and they shut up for the night.
A day or two later, and again the birds were squawking their heads off. And once again, water seemed to placate them.
I read in Dave Holderread’s seminal (and simply-titled) text The Book of Geese (his old book Raising the Home Duck Flock is the precursor to everything in the Storey Guide to Raising Ducks; however, Storey hasn’t published a similar update on geese, and if you want to keep them, I highly recommend finding a copy of The Book of Geese) that while geese can effectively be raised without a pond to splash in, they require a constant source of water at least deep enough to dunk their heads. “Geese are born thirsty and they stay that way,” Holderread says. And yep, he’s right. Without something like a bucket of water, geese and ducks are not happy campers at all.
After struggling with cheap and fragile white plastic buckets, and after finding a regular, heated chicken waterer totally inadequate — the waterfowl simply splash out all the water in the trough from the bottom of the waterer, emptying a four-gallon container in a matter of minutes — we’ve settled on a tough rubber bucket with a sturdy handle. Because we’re afraid our pipes will freeze if we use the spigot on the outside of the house — we’re waiting to confirm this, by the way — we have to fill the bucket in our bathroom tub and lug it through the house, out the backdoor, across the yard and into the peeper pen twice or three times a day.
At night, when the peepers are tucked into their straw piles, I retrieve the bucket and bring it into the mudroom to keep it from freezing, the only problem being that if we don’t replace the bucket outside first thing in the morning, the geese and ducks will 1st) empty the chickens’ waterer and 2nd) strike up the choir.
Last Saturday, as a special peeper treat — and I think this will become a standard affair — I excavated the kiddie pool from the snow and we filled it to the brim with warmish water for the peepers to bathe in. They were ecstatic, and they frolicked in the water for hours, despite the frigid temperatures. Sure, they don’t need the bathing water, but they’re damn sure happy to have it.
PICTURES TO COME!