Sometimes I wish I had all that lovely down that my flock of geese has.

I look outside the back window during this frigid, wintry weather and wonder how they stay healthy and well during such awful weather.

But my geese, although domesticated for hundreds of years, have a historic memory taken from their wild ancestors.

When I got my first geese, I thought I had to rush out into a wintry night and rescue them from the blustering mix of snow, cold and wind. And I did.

It wasn’t easy. I chased each one, picked him or her up and put them into the garage. Then I realized that they know far better than me how to take care of themselves.

When it’s freezing outside, they simply curl into a ball, then bury their lovely orange beaks into their wing feathers and tuck their equally orange feet into their warm, thick down.

I still worry about them and want to bring them in whenever the thermometer drops to below freezing and sometimes subzero temperatures.

But they seem to be doing OK. Providing fresh water is a challenge, since nearly as soon as I pour them some, it is frozen solid. I know, though, that they can get all the moisture they need by eating the snow. But since they are my wonderful pets, I still worry.

Fresh food such as lettuce and celery, along with the usual cracked corn, help them along. I wish I could bring them in, but we just don’t have a barn. Perhaps that’s just as well.

When they decide it’s time to find additional warmth, they all pile into the coop which is rather small. But that means they are closer to each other and can provide each other additional warmth.

In the more than a dozen years since I first acquired my first geese, none have suffered from lack of water and frigid temperatures, at least that I know of. And when I can, I haul water in the winter.

Finny and the gang are outfitted to survive in this frigid weather. Mother Nature knows what’s she doing, I keep reminding myself. But I will feel so much better when spring arrives and I know they are warm enough.

But then, the hot temperatures arrive and I know they are suffering. When a goose walks around with its beak open, I know the temperature is way too high. The little “kiddie” pools will re-emerge from the garage, and be filled with water so they can swim around a bit.

And despite the snow shoveling needed to get into their pens to make sure they have enough food and water, they are worth every sore muscle this causes me.

They still rush over to eat a special treat from my hands, and Finny still allows me to pet his lovely gray and white feathers.

Meanwhile, in the small pen that houses Ossie and Gossie, last year’s goslings, a rescued Julia and the last of my original flock, Seb, sometimes try to stuff themselves into the converted doghouse that serves as a coop. Three can fit comfortably, but the fourth must find an alternative way.

Ossie is usually the one left out, but she simply sits down in front of the house, facing inside, just touching those who have found shelter. That seems to give her enough of what she needs to stay warm. We’ve built another shelter adjacent to the doghouse for those times when the wind blows snow everywhere and some kind of cover is needed.

While I fret over them and worry about them, I do know that Mother Nature is taking care of them.

In another month or so, the sun will be higher and the days will be a bit warmer. Having watched and cared for the flock for many years, I know that the hot summer weather is probably harder on them than these cold, dark nights.

Meanwhile, across from the goose pen are my flock of 10 ducks, mostly female, who have not laid an egg for many weeks. I miss their wonderful eggs. I am so used to them that the taste of chicken eggs pale in comparison to these richer duck eggs.

Soon, though, not only will Millie, the last of my original ducks, but also the “Chocolate Drops,” last fall’s new ducks, will start laying. I can hardly wait to feast on the first duck eggs of the new year.

Keeping any kind of farm animal puts us to the test of whether we really want to go outside when the temperature is below zero and the snow is blowing. But all I have to do, once I’ve warmed up in front of our wood stove, is think about spring and summer and all the joy the geese will feel, and how I good I will feel to watch them wander around the yard.

And I wonder how many of my girls will lay their delicious eggs, and even hatch out a few.

I never thought about having geese as I was growing up, but I have to say they have given me more joy than I ever could have imagined.

Bring on spring!

Eileen M. Adams has kept geese for more than a dozen years. She may be reached at [email protected]


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