On a cold day in late March 2013, a small roman tufted gosling arrived at my farm along with an order of bantam chicks. She had a mate, but he died in transit - the fault of the post office leaving them in my mailbox instead of calling upon their arrival, even though they had been warned a week ahead of time that these babies would be coming. Still, she was in good health and very happy to be taken out of the box and placed somewhere warm with food and water.
The bantam chicks were too small for her to live with, as even though roman tufted geese are the smallest breed of domesticated goose, she was still much larger than them and could easily crush them to death accidentally. The plan had been for her and her mate to share a brooder by themselves, but now she had no mate. As a result, she spent most of her time with me, cuddling or chewing on my hair (a habit she still continues to this day). When she had to be in her brooder alone, she had a rubber ducky to cuddle with that she took to immediately.
The little gosling was named Lacie.
Despite her lonely beginnings, she flourished. Everyone fell in love with her. When I had to go away to see my grandparents in failing health for a week, she went to be babysat by my other grandparents so she would not be lonely. My grandmother became completely smitten with her, even though she is allergic to birds.
She quickly grew and it was apparent that she had imprinted on me. When she was old enough, she followed me around outside while I did chicken chores and 'helped' me build a chicken coop for someone who was buying chicks from me.
As she grew older still, she made friends with some of that year's chicks, now older pullets and not in danger of being crushed by her. She moved out of her brooder and into the coop, where she was allowed to free range with the flock. She relished the sunshine and the delicious grass and getting to take naps with her friends.
She grew larger still and reached full size by the end of the summer, becoming a beautiful fully grown goose (although her tuft is rather lacking). She was always curious, happily following me around the yard when I was out or hanging out with her chicken friends when I wasn't. Her first spring, she went broody, something unusual for a goose of her age. When this happens, they usually give up before any eggs are hatched. Lacie, however, was determined to be a mom, and sat for the whole duration. However, because I didn't have a gander, her eggs were not fertile. I tried giving her duck eggs, but she did not successfully hatch them.
Still, she was happy and always around if I was outside, usually trying to 'help' me with picture taking or some other chore.
Even though she had her chicken friends, it was clear she was a little lonely. She was after all a bird of the water, and when she wanted to swim her chicken friends did not go with her. The ducks did not hang out with her either. Geese should always have a friend of their own species, and with that in mind I set out to get her some companions. However, the first year it did not go well. After purchasing hatching eggs, the goslings that hatched came down with a respiratory disease that infected them and all my chicks from that year. I had to cull before it could spread to my adult flocks. The year after that (after Lacie again went broody and again couldn't hatch anything) I found an ad on craiglist for some juvenile american buff geese. I snapped them up. They were beautiful and I hoped Lacie would like them.
After they arrived they began to follow her around, and in a few days she accepted their presence. In a couple of weeks they were a united flock and Lacie was very happy to have goose companions, even though she had never seen other geese before.
However, as the new geese grew, it was apparent something wasn't quite right. While I was told that they were purebred show quality american buff geese (and had paid for exactly that) it was becoming clear that they were not. Buff geese should have been much larger than Lacie, but they weren't. They were also built much more slenderly than they should be and they had odd lightly colored cheek patches.
After some sleuthing, it was found out that they were actually Canada goose hybrids, meaning they were sterile. Since they were both females anyway, they wouldn't have produced goslings. Even though they were not what they were supposed to be, they were still pretty, and I had bought them for Lacie, so as long as she liked them, I liked them. However, I was about to find out that their Canada goose heritage meant one other thing.
They could fly. They were fully flighted, able to soar over fences and indeed over trees. And fly they did, away from me and away from Lacie. Lacie was alone again. She seemed to take it in stride but I was sad for her. Luckily about a week later one of the sisters showed back up - just one. It's not clear if her other sister joined a migrating flock of Canada geese or was eaten by a predator, but she has not been seen since it was discovered they could fly. The returning sister was dubbed Willow, and she apparently was here to stay. Lacie had a friend again.
And the next spring, for the third year in a row, Lacie went broody, and not just once, but twice.
She was obviously determined to be a mother. She refused to hatch duck eggs and her own eggs would never hatch so there was only one thing to do - get her a mate.
So this spring three new faces arrived here - three more roman tufted goslings. This critically endangered breed had proven itself through Lacie to be sweet, gentle, and beautiful, and I wanted to help it recover from the the brink of extinction.
The new goslings were named Aurora, Jasmine, and Finn. They grew quickly, delighting in playing in the sunshine and eating the fresh spring grass.
Unfortunately one night the goslings somehow broke out of their outdoor enclosure and Aurora was killed by an owl. But Jasmine and Finn continued to thrive, and proved to be just as sweet and affectionate as Lacie.
Tonight they have spent their first night in the coop with Lacie and Willow, on their way to becoming part of their flock. Now Lacie has more companions of her own breed, companions that cannot fly away - and she has a mate. Next spring, she can become a mother and bring more of these beautiful critically endangered birds into the world.
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