When George or Gracie flap their wings–about a 5-6 foot span–the earth moves! In all honesty, I’ve been sucker-punched by both of them by their wings….with George, it ended up giving me a black eye. But in reality, they were both just trying to escape my grasp—not hurt me.
When I first let out the runner ducks and geese in the morning, George and Gracie run from one end of the orchard to the other—feverishly flapping their wings and vocalizing the entire time—all of the runner ducks cackling and running en masse behind them. Quite the picture. Embden geese can’t fly—they weigh too much—but THEY don’t know that! In their heart of hearts, they’re flying; it brings a smile to my heart….they remind me of a friend of my older son when he was about 4. He jumped off of a shed and broke his arm. He was absolutely astounded at the outcome, because, after all, he was wearing his superman cape.
But I digress. Over the last year, it has been intriguing to watch our two geese mature. They fascinate me. All day long, whenever George sees me, he calls out….and keeps calling until I answer him. If I’m in their area, he and Gracie surreptitiously follow me around—very curious about everything I do, but not wanting me to really “know” that they’re curious (here I go, anthropomorphizing again!!!). When I leave, they make a big point of checking out whatever I was involved in doing. Sidewalk superintendents with feathers!!!
Only recently, while I was pruning the orchard, George snuck up behind me and “poked” me to try to get me to leave “his” orchard. Previously, he had contented himself with a short hiss when my actions upset him, or made him nervous; this has been his only direct attempt at dominance over me. It took a few minutes—-chasing him all over the orchard—but I did manage to catch him and hold all 20 pounds of him close, so that he knew I was still his “mom”. He was all regret and apologies afterwards—just a beautiful, big baby. But a baby with a purpose.
His newly established role on the farm is The Protector….of ducks–especially the 13 ducklings that we incubated and introduced into the previously culled flock (that’s now down in numbers to 11 members). It’s George, not Gracie that stay with these little guys all day–herding/guarding them around the orchard or vegetable garden all day. He protects them from airborne predators, the pushy, adult runner ducks and anything else that George deems a “danger” ….he’s even taken on (and won!!) one of our 115 pound Maremmas!!!
He strikes a VERY impressive pose. At night, he and Gracie work together to get them back into the duck house; George sloowwwwly walking back and forth between the duck house and ducklings, calling out loudly to them to “come here…..” until they get the message. Gracie pulls up the rear, kibitzing at the ducklings to keep their momentum going! In the morning, the exodus of ducklings from the duck house is performed in the same manner.
For a while, George was very upset when everyone was getting situated in the duck house at night. The duck house was set up so that he and Gracie had one partitioned area, the ducks another and then the ducklings had their brooder area, complete with an infrared light to keep warm……(With Gracie’s bad leg, I have had to keep her separate from the ducks at night; too much furtive activity and no place safe for her to go) At least that WAS the way the duck house was set up until I let George and Gracie have access to the brooder area. The geese and ducklings loved the change…but talk about overgrown canaries in an itsy bitsy, living space! The brooder is a very little enclosed room…its only about 3′x3′x3′, with a small doorway and a ceiling. Spread out, the ducklings take up about a fourth of this space. Enter one gander and its like swimming at the YMCA on a Saturday in the summer!!! Standing room only. Every night, when all of the ducks and geese are inside their house, George bends way over, just barely fitting through the brooder doorway….goes in, stays in there for a couple of minutes to settle everyone down, then moves to just outside the brooder doorway, surveying his domain. Amazing.
Tonight, after having had to have been away for most of the day—a day of pouring rain….we came home to the ducklings tucked safely into their brooder, with George and Gracie standing guard outside the duck house door. The adult runner ducks were still busy blithely grubbing around in the mud….waiting for the instruction to go inside.
George… Our pterodactyl with a heart.