Thursday, 14 June 2007

Mother Hen or Mother Goose?

Now here's a twist.

Back in April I said I'd be putting more goose eggs in the incubator after the second batch hatched out. True to my word, I put 5 eggs (all that were available as the breeders were slowing down on their laying) in the incubator.

After a couple of weeks, I candled them ( ie I held a bright light to the egg to see what was happening inside), from which it was clear that only one was fertile.

Which presented it's own problems. When we hatched out a single duckling, we put it in with the 9 goslings that hatched out 3 days earlier, and he/she is happy as Larry.

However, this last gosling was the only hatching expected at the beginning of June. We really didn't want to leave him on his own. However, by good fortune, one of our Black Rock chickens went broody at precisely the right time.

You need to be careful getting hens to hatch goose eggs, as hatching eggs need to be turned regularly during incubation, and goose eggs are a bit large for a hen to turn.

But, in the last 4 days of incubation, turning is no longer necessary. So, we moved the broody to a house away from the other chickens, with 4 plastic eggs under her to keep her keen.

Then, after 24 days (incubation for goose eggs is 28 days), I slipped the fertile egg in under the broody.

Sure enough, 4 days later, we found a neatly broken goose egg shell thrown out of the nest, and next day, our broody was a fiercely protective mother of our 13th gosling of the Spring! After some initial confusion (goslings are not designed to scratch for their food!), the two have settled into a happy routine.

The next two weeks should be interesting, though. Goslings grow at an alarming pace, and by the time this little fella is 4 weeks old (at the beginning of July), he should be about the same size as his foster Mum!

The plan is to let him out in the paddock to mix with the other goslings then, but much will depend on the weather, as if it's wet, I'm reluctant to risk him catching a chill, given that he will still be covered 50% with down.

Complicated game this!