Ever heard of a Guardian Goose? Me neither! At least not until a few weeks ago. We lost my very favorite chicken, Little Red, to a coyote last month. The darn thief jumped our six foot fence into the bird yard right in front of me and the dogs! No shame. None. He quickly hopped in, snatched Little Red, and took off over the fence again. All with me and the Great Dane pup in hot pursuit.
Enter the idea of a Guardian Goose. I was distraught and looking for ways to protect the flock. We reinforced the fencing with barbed wire, add onto the existing covered runs, and started keeping the birds in their runs until late morning.
But I was still worried. I researched online about how to best protect your flock from predators. One post suggested getting a Guardian Goose. After a deep dive down the rabbit hole of raising geese, we decided to give it a go! I searched online again for a hatchery that had a small minimum number for ordering their birds. We only wanted one goose. From everything I had read, if we got more than one goose they would stick together and protect each other more than the general flock.
I quickly found Metzer Farms. Knowing absolutely nothing about geese, I called their customer service line and spoke to a super friendly and knowledgeable person who chatted for a while with me about the different breeds of geese. Between that conversation and my own online research, we settled on an African Goose. We wanted to get a female, in the hopes that she would learn to ‘mother’ our other birds and thus be more willing to protect them. One of the other great things about Metzer Farms is that they have a two bird ordering minimum. And they allow you to mix and match waterfowl. Happily, I chose another duckling! I’ve fallen absolutely in love with my ducks this past year and was thrilled to add another to the group.
Ordering birds through the mail was a new experience for us. We’ve always gotten our chicks and ducklings from the local feed store. The owner would even kindly place a special order for us if there was a breed she didn’t have and we wanted. But we thought we’d try it ourselves!
Ryan the Gosling and Chadwick Boseman (CB for short) the duckling arrived at our local Valley Center post office in perfect condition in late March. The hatchery emailed me when they were shipped out, and the post office phoned me when they arrived two days later. I eagerly jumped in my car that day in late March, sped down to the post office, and gleefully strode in to pick up my new babies. The folks in line must’ve thought I was nuts! After getting my box of birds, I immediately started talking and singing to them. Hey, I figured that would help them imprint on me, right?!
I strapped my new friends into the front seat next to me and drove home, chatting to them the whole way. We had the brooder box all set up and ready to go. This time, we decided to try something new and put the brooder in our bathroom tub. The idea was that if it was in the house, we would clean it more often. And, then I would be able to spend more time with the babies. The brooders we have had out in the garage were always ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
This time we also vowed to take the babies outside every day and let them explore. Again, we thought that would also help them to bond with us. This was important because our last batch of ducklings hated us. Or so I thought. We’d handled them weekly, took them swimming, etc etc but they always screamed when we interacted with them. Even now, as adult ducks, they will only come over to me to get treats but will not let us handle them.
Fast forward to Ryan the Gosling and her buddy CB’s new life! It’s been four weeks now in our bathtub brooder. We got them another little friend, an Amercuana chick we called Phoebe 2 (Little Red’s actual name was Phoebe). We hoped that by raising Ryan the Gosling with a duckling and a chick, she would get the idea to guard the ducks and chickens.
The three little amigos bonded immediately. Phoebe 2 hilariously stands on top of CB’s back for most of the day. And Ryan the Gosling has turned out to be incredibly sweet, patient, tolerant, and protective of the little chick. She even puts her wing around Phoebe when they sleep. Of course, all three curl up in a giant lump to sleep. It’s adorable.
We knew ducklings doubled in size each week, but we were not at all prepared for how fast and BIG Ryan the Gosling would grow. In just one month she is huge! Her neck especially. She nearly hits the top of the brooder (which is poultry netting) when she stands up tall. This is causing us to rethink said brooder situation.
First month down! The babies are all still alive, healthy, and happy. We are really enjoying this little group. They are super chatty and sing us to sleep at night. They talk with me every morning while I get ready in the bathroom. They love exploring outside each afternoon. We are even starting to introduce them gently to the flock of big ladies.
Now our work on building a new, larger coop begins. We cannot separate these three and we want to integrate our entire flock into one coop. Stay tuned for progress!