I have Sebastopol geese I raised myself. I anxiously awaited while my goose, Poppy, patiently sat on a nest with ten large eggs under her. She got off the nest periodically (usually once every couple of days) to eat, take a bath and stretch her legs and wings. I always took this opportunity to check on the eggs.
After the first week she pushed two eggs out of the nest so I discarded them. Usually when a mother does this it’s because the eggs aren’t developing. A few weeks into nesting I noticed another egg was missing, leaving seven.
I watched week by week as Poppy’s legs became paler from lack of use. She had an overall appearance of dehydration despite my catering to her needs daily. Everyday I brought her fresh water and food with as many green grass tips as I could find around my barely greening property. She always cherry picked the green bits first and daintily drank the water I provided.
By day 30 the goslings were due to hatch. I knew several had developed well from the heaviness of the eggs and yet nothing happened. Unlike hens, who won’t budge off their nest during the final days, Poppy took breaks and returned to her eggs. This made me nervous. I started to lose hope. In years past my waterfowl weren’t able to hatch their eggs so I was afraid this was a repeat.
On day 31 I noticed Lucian, my gander and Poppy’s mate, hovering near the pen and chasing the other animals away. Usually he wanders the property each day until dinnertime when he goes back into the pen with her for the evening. I had to keep the pen doors locked at all times so Luca or a predator wouldn’t bother Poppy or steal her eggs.
When I let Lucian back into the pen he immediately went to Poppy’s side. I saw her lift her wing to let him see underneath her. I heard peeping and followed Lucian’s lead. There was a tiny, wet gosling with its eyes still closed, breathing heavily. Poppy lowered her wing and Lucian sat next to her preparing to attack the next animal who dared get near his family. I was elated to finally welcome a gosling born on my farm! A couple hours later the baby was fluffed and snug under mom:
This was the only gosling to hatch that day. A little over a day later I was losing hope again that any more would hatch…then I heard more peeping. Another gosling was making its way into the world! And then there were two:
Another day went by while the goslings worried their dad with their fearless antics. Poppy finally decided to leave the rest of her unhatched eggs to be with her little family. A couple hours later I saw the chickens had taken over the nest, digging and scratching around knocking the eggs all over the place. Sadly, I knew it was time to discard the unhatched eggs.
I shooed the chickens away from the nest and started collecting the eggs. They were ice cold. When I reached for the last egg it protested with a loud PEEP. I couldn’t believe this baby was trying to hatch. I turned it over and blood ran down my hand originating from a crack in the egg. Not good. I decided I was going to give the baby a fighting chance so I gently removed pieces of the shell to reveal a very active baby.
I cupped the baby, leaving it in its shell and quickly set up a heat lamp and comfy towels. The gosling’s yolk hadn’t absorbed and he needed rest. I did what I could to clean the blood off the shivering baby and left it under the heat lamp to rest and absorb the yolk.
I checked on him constantly and within a few hours the yolk had completely absorbed. Small sections of down were finally drying but his legs were splayed and he couldn’t hold his head up. Despite his obvious issues he chatted constantly in varying degrees of peeps and whistles. Such a sweet baby.
I left him in the laundry room under the lamp for the evening hoping for the best. The next morning I sprang out of bed to check on him. Before I reached the laundry room he heard my footsteps and called out to me.
Hopeful, but not knowing what I’d find I peered in at him. There he was, holding his head up, completely fluffed and standing up looking like a real gosling. His legs were still weak but much better than the day before. Part of the process of hatching is to exercise their little legs by pushing against the shell – he didn’t get to do this so his legs needed time to strengthen.
I was so happy and he seemed happy too. His navel, where the yolk absorbed, was normal and other than weak legs he was doing great. I taught him to drink and eat and encouraged him to use his legs. He got stronger by the hour.
Later that evening I told him goodnight and went to bed. The next morning I heard him making his sweet little whistles and peeps when he heard my approach. I couldn’t wait to get him out to love on him. When I looked in his brooder I didn’t expect to see what I did.
My sweet baby was laying down, barely holding his head up. I picked him up to inspect him. He had pasty butt. This is where feces is hardened like cement and obstructing any more from exiting – a condition that can kill babies, especially one who’s already compromised. This can be caused by stress and he certainly had a stressful start. I cleaned him and as I expected he had been unable to poop through much of the night.
He wouldn’t eat or drink. That’s the kiss of death.
His condition deteriorated throughout the day. I kept him close, talking quietly to him and he chatted with me all day. I wasn’t going to let him die alone. The death contractions (I don’t know what they’re really called) started hours before his death. There was no going back now. Finally his mouth started opening and closing repeatedly. The is the sign death is near. He stretched out his little legs behind him as he took his last breath. I was a mess.
I’m glad his suffering is over and yet I know I’d failed again. Each of these deaths makes me feel maybe I’m not cut out for this lifestyle. Maybe I can’t do this anymore.
We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. RIP little one, I wish I could have done more.