When I returned from New Hampshire I knew it would soon be hatching time for the geese, if hatching were going to happen at all. On Monday during chores, I saw Kay get off the nest briefly to snatch at some fresh grass outside the barn before waddling back hurriedly. That evening I heard a single high-pitched voice peeping from under her feathers. My schedule was crazy. I wished her well, pulled the barn doors closed for the night, and raced home.
The next morning I spied the heads of two goslings peeking from beneath Kay’s feathers. I stood at the stall gate, watching until the goslings emerged. Two goslings! How great!
My gander, Andy, was beside himself with paternal pride, marching back and forth in protection.
He hissed and clacked his beak at me menacingly.
Shortly after I took this photo, Andy leaped at my face, honking and flapping his wings.
By the end of the day it was obvious there were more than two goslings. Four, five, six — eight altogether!
I waited another day to be sure the final, unhatched egg was “a dud,” in E.B. White’s phrase in Charlotte’s Web. Then, using a pitchfork to ease it gingerly out from under Kay, I removed it. Sure enough, it was unfertilized and rotten.
Once the egg that signaled “stay sitting” was gone, Kay was ready for exercise. She and Andy decided to take their brood on an exploration of the sheep stall.
They investigated the pans of food and water.
And when the babies got tired of hiking, they stopped for a nap.
Andy is on permanent patrol these days. Soon I will let the new family out of the barn . . . and then he will have no rest at all.
Sad update: this morning there are only seven goslings. There had been five females and three males. Now one male is missing. I have no idea what happened. I suppose the little guy could have wandered through a crack somewhere his parents couldn’t follow to protect him, and then been picked off by the chickens or Flossie the barn cat when he couldn’t find his way back. But I can’t find a trace.
My heart fell to my shoes when I realized he was gone. I hate it when something dies on my watch!