Spring Animal Notes

My Pilgrim goose, Kay White, sat down on a clutch of nine eggs March 31st. This is the earliest she has ever started brooding. She is six years old and apparently has finally gotten the hang of the process. For her first three springs Kay laid and laid and laid, leaving the growing pile (up to thirty eggs) to get old and cold while she gallivanted happily outside.

This year she began by laying six eggs in the corner of the calf stall. However, when lambing stopped, she abandoned that nest — so challenging having to work around Moxie’s schedule for access! — and laid nine more in the corner of a lamb jug. Then she sat. If all goes well, we should have goslings on May Day.

After his injury last winter, my gander Andy was entirely docile. Though Pilgrim geese are calm by temperament, it was tempting to interpret his quiet submissiveness as gratitude. Thank you for working so hard to save my life! I knew this line of thinking was folly, and at best Andy was simply alarmed by the thought that I might grab him and force a feeding tube down his throat. Still, it made me feel good.

That new docility evaporated the moment Kay began ovulating. Andy was instantly back on patrol, honking and hissing. He snakes his head along the ground, warning me (and any passing chicken) not to approach the royal bedroom. He stands on tiptoe and flaps his wings, showing his might. He keeps a wary eye peeled for suspicious activity at all times.

It can be hard to find the self-control not to kick a goose who is viciously pinching your thigh and beating his wings against your leg. However I remember how much I love the old fool and I recall that it is a temporary madness.

*    *    *

Last weekend after chores, moving boxes from the mudroom at around 5 PM, I glanced out the windows of the future dining room and saw a coyote at the bottom of the south pasture.

I was startled. I had closed the chickens in only a few minutes before.

I watched as the coyote turned and trotted straight toward the barn.

Of course the electric fences are turned off for the winter and sagging, windblown and loose.

The coyote trotted up onto Allen’s peninsula …

… and then down to investigate the manure pile. In winter I drop our kitchen vegetable scraps there and the occasional frozen, cracked egg. (In summer I put kitchen scraps in the garden compost.)

I have seen coyote tracks around the barn for many years. I always assumed, however, that they were made under cover of darkness. Last summer, it is true, I lost four chickens to a coyote that came right to the barn door. (I have to write about this soon.) I wonder if it was this coyote. Clearly I will want to re-think where I put my broken eggs, among other things.

Still, even in my nagging anxiety I was thrilled to watch him. From the house I will have a fabulous front-row seat on the farm and wildlife action. That thought made me happy.

*    *    *

After our Friday snowstorm, the robins returned to the farm on Monday, April 3. This moment every year is for me, the real harbinger of spring. Of course we will have more cold and messy weather, when they will hop around the dead, icy ground looking miserable. However, the robins are back and that means summer is coming!


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