Friday, September 08, 2006

Not yet half eight and we’ve clipped the wings of five geese before breakfast! The geese spend their day eating grass, dandelions and anything else that takes their fancy within the safe confines of the electric fencing/netting. They’re getting bigger all the time and have an impressive set of wings. We’d read that domestic geese are too heavy to fly and, for our five grey Toulouse, that seems to be true. However, with a good run at it, if a strong headwind is available, they can all get airborne to some degree, the lighter white Embden being the more successful. At the end of the day, if their patch is at the top of the field, their eagerness to get back to the barn and the awaiting wheat treat means that they hare off down the field, bouncing up and down as they get airborne for a short distance: very amusing. However, yesterday evening, as we were preparing to bring them in, I glanced out to the field and something was definitely wrong. I saw nine geese inside their enclosure and one white one outside, walking up and down the fence.

It was quite blustery yesterday and so, with a favourable gust just at the right time, it must have been enough for the goose to clear the fence, however, once outside, s/he was a bit of a loss what to do. The saving grace is that the geese always want to stick together, so having flown to “freedom”, all it really wanted was to be back with the group. Having got them all safely into their house, our thoughts turned to preventing a reoccurrence and the technique of clipping their wings. We emailed our Somerset smallholding friend, Val, for advice. We also looked at a couple of websites. One helpfully warned “NEVER CLIP A WING THAT IS GROWING BLOOD FEATHERS” saying that “you will bleed the bird to death”, frustratingly with a complete lack of explanation as to what they might be and how we might recognise them: not very reassuring! Happily, another site informed us what “blood feathers” were.

Armed with a book (Starting With Geese), a pair of kitchen scissors and some secateurs, we headed for the goose house. It was impossible to separate the grey from white, so we caught them one by one, taking the grey straight out onto the field but clipping the flight feathers (on one side only) of each white bird. There was loads of noise, as you might imagine, but it all made sense once we actually had a bird in the hand, so to speak! We were apprehensive before getting started but our confidence in goose keeping has grown immensely and we felt very proud of ourselves once it was all done.


Val Grainger said...

Hi Both
Hope geese now sufficiently unbalanced not to take off!
Wish I lived nearer and I would definatly book one for Christmas. Have you organised someone with a poultry killer and plucker to visit or are you taking them to a poultry abbatoir?
I have poultry on the brain at the moment as we were inspecting Nick and Ruths Christmas turkeys yesterday.We are running a prepare your xmas poultry course in late november!

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

Hi Val,
The white geese have not been off the ground since despite much flapping of wings. One of the grey geese does a funny theing where it waits behind the others, whether leaving the house in the morning or leaving the field in the evening, does a huge amount of flapping and does a vertical take-off for about two feet. We shall keep an eye on it, and may have to clip the wings of the grey ones too.
We intend to kill and prepare the geese ourselves onsite but I shall chat to you on the phone about what you think is best.
Your couse sounds great, we'd certainly join you on few if we were nearer! In fact, today we killed our first chicken, which is a bit symbolic really, just a shame that we are still waiting for our first symbolic eggs! Have a look at our gite website as we're starting to offer courses here.