Incubation progress and dealing with detached air cells.

I’ve set up a second incubator full of Pilgrim goose eggs;

This has been my little surgery-recuperation spot, with a rocking chair, reading material and incubators close at hand.  Currently I am (finally) reading SJWs Always Lie, which I received as a birthday gift this year, as well as Storey’s Guide to Raising Turkeys, in anticipation of 15 Midget White poults due to arrive in June.

Also, Domestic Geese by Dr. Chris Ashton has been invaluable as I learn to hatch the notoriously challenging-to-incubate Pilgrims.

I purchased some extra Pilgrim eggs on eBay from a farm in Missouri.  Although the seller packaged them well, the post office seriously mishandled the box, crushing one side and breaking one of the eggs, which leaked all over.

Smashed Pilgrim egg in bubble wrap

The problem with this is that fertile eggs have an air cell within them that can be damaged if they are jarred and jostled too hard.  Though the remaining eleven eggs are not cracked, there’s little chance of them developing if the air cells are damaged.

Eleven eggs from another farm plus three from Abigail; our hope is to increase genetic diversity in our flock.

I have propped up the purchased eggs with the blunt end up in hopes of getting the air cells to repair themselves back at the top of the eggs.

Here is the progress on Abigail’s eggs that I put in the other incubator about 12 days ago:

You can see a well-formed and intact air cell at the top of the egg. The blood vessels in the developing chorioallantoic membrane are also visible.

It is still a longshot that we will actually be able to hatch any goslings, but so far everything is moving in the right direction with Abigail’s eggs.  Now that the weather is warming up, we have stopped collecting the eggs she is laying in hopes of enticing her to sit on a clutch and hatch them the old-fashioned way!

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Training an aggressive gander to accept you as the alpha flock leader

I found an interesting thread on training geese on the Backyard Chickens forum.  Olive Hill, an experienced goose-raiser, shared the following comment:

One only needs to observe a gaggle of geese interacting with one another to know what they do and do not understand…Geese will understand if you get physical with them in the same way that they get physical with each other.

A goose fight almost always begins the same way. One goose, who either believes himself alpha to or wishes to be alpha to another, hands out discipline for a behavioral infraction. It may be that Goose A believed Goose B grazed too close to him, or Goose B may have walked between Goose A and his favorite mate. Whatever the infraction Goose A disciplines Goose B. This may be a nip, it may be a snaked neck and a wing spread, it may be a hiss. Whatever the discipline, Goose B has two choices: 1) He may accept it and obey by refraining from the behavior in question (and generally removing himself from Goose A’s immediate vicinity) or 2) he may challenge Goose A to exert his own dominance thereby proving his actions were not wrong — the dominant goose does as he pleases and therefore, if Goose B proves HE is, in fact, dominant, then his behavior was not punishable.

So let’s stop here and relate this to a human goose interaction. Say you have a Gander, who we will simply call Gander for the purpose of this exercise. You are weeding your flowerbed when Gander nips you. Here we have Goose A disciplining Goose B. This means that Gander either believes himself alpha to you or wishes to be alpha to you and has chosen this opportunity to try to exert that dominance. You have two choices. You can accept the discipline by not effectively reminding him of the true hierarchy of your relationship. Or you can put him in his place. Obviously we know the appropriate choice here. You need to challenge his discipline to determine, in no uncertain terms, that you are alpha to him.

So let’s go back to our goose on goose interaction. Goose B has decided that he will challenge Goose A’s discipline. What does he do here? He meets Goose A’s advance with an equal advance of his own. Usually this is the point in the interaction where wings begin to spread and necks snake. Goose B snakes his neck and spreads his wings at Goose A. This says “You may NOT discipline ME!”

So let’s go back to a human goose interaction at this point. This is why I always encourage people to spread their arms, posture and snake their neck as the first line of defense against an advancing Gander. This is what he understands as the first step in a challenge to him. This gives him the option to back down before the interaction must escalate to a physical one. Many, many, many ganders will stop right here. They are bluffers, those geese. They like to talk a big game, but are not often prepared to actually play the game they talk. But what if he doesn’t?

If Goose A decides not to back down when Goose B does not accept his discipline, this is the point at which their interaction gets physical. They will dance around at one another, much like boxers in a ring, until one sees an opening to grab the other by the base of the neck. Once one grabs on, they both grab on.

Now, it’s not really reasonable for you to be dancing around in a circle with a goose waiting for an opening to grab him by the base of the neck so you can beat the tar out of him with your “wings” (we’ll get to the beat the tar out of one another portion in a moment). It’s also not fair to the goose because you don’t have a base of the neck at his level onto which HE can grab. So what’s a goose owner to do? Look at what comes next in the goose to goose interaction.

Once they have ahold of one another, before the beating begins, what happens in this natural position? Their chests bump. Hard.

So what can you do that he will understand as the second step in a challenge? Bump his chest. Hard. This is also why blunt toed boots are excellent foot wear for chores. A good, hard chest bump tells the gander you will fight him over this. He understands it, it the normal progression in a challenge. It also mimics the natural dynamic between two geese as when you bump him, he will be tossed back a little bit, losing his ground to you. When two geese are bumping one another, it causes them to occasionally lose their grip on the opposing goose.

What happens if the chest bump isn’t sufficient? Do it again. It would truly be a rare gander that would escalate an interaction to the bump stage and then not follow through after just one bump. In a goose on goose fight they will repeatedly bump and push one another with their chests. I, personally, will bump up to five or six times before taking it further. This mimics their natural progression. It also gives him ample opportunity to rethink his actions.

But what if he doesn’t? What comes after the chest bump? Here’s where the goose on goose action gets ugly. What comes after chest bumping, to put it bluntly, is beating the ever loving poop out of one another with their wings. This can take a long time, is likely to result in many large bruises and sometimes only ends when one or both geese are literally so exhausted they cannot possibly carry on.

I do not recommend getting into a wing beating match with a goose. It will hurt. And the bruises will last for weeks. I have never been in a wing beating match with a goose but I have had to break up wing beating matches between geese and the size and severity of the bruises I can assure you are not worth engaging them in the exact language they speak. Instead, like the grabbing onto the base of the neck, we need to look just a little bit further in the fight to see what happens. Now, some goose fights resolve themselves during the wing beating match. Those are usually the less evenly matched fights. Your goose does not realize he is not evenly matched with you however, so it’s okay if we ignore those fights and focus on the fights that progress to the sheer exhaustion stage. In these fights the beating continues for what seems like forever, when one or both (usually both in an evenly matched fight) begins to tire it slows, they start throwing those chest bumps they used in the beginning back into the mix as it’s less taxing and eventually one goose will fully pin down the other. In essence, whichever goose is more exhausted ends up pinned — and therefore the loser. The pinning goes on for a few seconds to a minute, however long the winner feels like punishing the loser and then the loser is let up to tuck tail and run.

So if we skip the wing beating for our human-goose interaction, what we need to do is skip straight to the pinning. You can do this one of two ways, you can literally pin him to the ground or you can pick him up and hold him very firmly with an attitude of meaning business. Both accomplish the same thing. They immobilize the goose, with force, for an amount of time the goose has no control over. One thing to remember when doing this is the goose should be positioned to run from you when you set him down. So if you pin him on the ground, you should swing him around to face away from you.

And finally we have the victory lap stage. No matter how exhausting the fight, you will not see an alpha gander let a good beating go unacknowledged. He will spread his wings, stand tall, run to his gaggle and honk his head off about it. Now, your neighbors may find you quite amusing (and possibly insane) if you were to run around your yard honking with your arms spread out like wings. But you CAN mimic the effect by saying something aloud. I like “THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT!” in the retreating goose’s general direction for good measure. (note: I in no way guarantee this will exempt you from being seen as the neighborhood crazy. LOL!) But this is, of course, optional. Though a good touch, I must say.

So, to recap. In a goose on goose interaction, you have:

The Discipline — Can manifest in many ways.
The Challenge — Usually snaked necks and spread wings
The Dance
The Neck Grab
The Chest Bumping
The Wing Beating
The Exhaustion
The Pinning
The Retreat (for the loser)
The Victory Lap (for the winner)

For human to goose interactions, we can cut the list down:

The Discipline — Can manifest in many ways. Any unacceptable behavior by a goose should be interpreted as this step.
The Challenge — Snake your neck, spread your wings, posture over him, hiss for good measure.
The Chest Bumping — Remember: it’s a rare goose who will give up after just one. Give him 3 – 6 bumps to change his mind.
The Pinning — Grab the neck, turn the goose away from you and pin him with force. Either on the ground or in your arms. Hold.
The Retreat (for the loser) — This is why you turned him away from you. Set him up for success, give him a clear retreat path.
The Victory Lap (for the winner) — Optional. I guess.

I found her comment interesting because it perfectly describes the interactions with Uncle Waldo that I’ve had.  I’ve clearly let him get away with challenging me and winning, so he naturally believes himself to be alpha to me.  Our youngest daughter, on the other hand, chases him around whenever he comes around her snaking his neck; she just found it entertaining to chase him, but it turns out it was exactly the right thing to do.  And Phil’s “playing baby” is analogous to “the pinning,” which is why Uncle Waldo never challenges him.

Since I have only one gander, I was curious about Olive Hill’s gander-to-gander dominance interaction, and I found a short video of a gander fight which perfectly exemplifies her description:

And just for laughs:

Pilgrim Gosling Hatch-a-Long

Pilgrim geese, as I’ve mentioned before, are “sex-linked”,  which means right from hatching you can tell the males from the females based on color. Here you can see Uncle Waldo and Abigail as newly hatched goslings:

Abigail is dark gray: Uncle Waldo is lighter grey with more yellow in his fuzz.

Here is Abigail today, standing next to a Rouen duck:

She has made a good-sized nest out of straw in the duck-n-goose house:

The ducks have been sneaking into her nest to drop some of their eggs.  But ducks seem to be a lot less picky than chickens; whereas the chickens will only lay in their nesting boxes, the ducks have been dropping their eggs any old place.

We have 4 duck breeds: our light weights are Indian Runners, our medium weights are Buffs and Crested Whites, and our heavy-weights are Rouens.  You can see how much bigger Abigail’s eggs are than the ducks’:

By way of comparison, here you can see an extra large chicken egg, one of the medium weight duck eggs, and the Pilgrim goose egg:

Because we are having a cold snap with temperatures well below freezing right now, Phil has been collecting Abigail’s eggs every day and storing them in a wire basket in the basement where it is about  60°F.   If they are kept cool but not cold, out of direct sunlight, and turned over every day, the eggs will stay viable for several weeks.

We had been thinking that next week when temperatures come back up, we would return Abigail’s eggs to her nest. But now I have decided to incubate four of them all the way through hatching and let Abigail lay a new clutch of eggs to sit on.   From what I have read, Pilgrim geese are not the most skilled at hatching their own eggs

One of my co-workers had a couple of egg incubators she wasn’t planning to use anymore, so she gave them to me.  The model I am using is a Lyon Turn-X by GQF:

This model allows me to control the temperature and humidity and has an automatic turner that rolls the eggs 180 degrees every hour so I don’t have to remember to turn them myself.

In 7 days we will candle the eggs, and if this clown…

…has been doing his job, we SHOULD see this:

The dark spot is the developing embryo. Image from Backyard Chickens goose forum

If NOT, then we’ll see this:

Check back in seven days to learn how the Uncle Waldo saga ends!

Forum threads of interest: http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/658057/picture-journey-of-my-goose-egg-incubation-awesome-all-pics-in-first-post-easy-to-see

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/472851/dewlap-exhibition-toulouse-incubation-diary-with-pics-hatch-day

A Tour of Our Chicken Coop

Have you ever looked at some of the chicken coops on Pinterest? I know people whose houses are not as nice as some of these coops:

By way of contrast, here is my own coop:

Taken in the late summer, before tarping the run for winter

OK, don’t let the fact that it’s not Pinterest-worthy fool you. It is actually a very good and sturdy coop!

For winter, we placed a tarp over the run roof to keep out snow and made windbreaks by placing straw bales around the edges of the run.

I thought I might take you on a little tour of it in case you’re interested.🐓

First of all, the basic structure of the coop was repurposed from the builder’s shed from when our house was built. We had no idea this shed was even here when we bought the house a few years ago. The house is now 12 years old and the builder shed had become completely overgrown with brush such that we didn’t even know it was here until the autumn after we bought the house.

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The view from standing next to the chicken run and looking up toward the path to the driveway

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The back of the shed had no vinyl siding, so we painted it with deck and dock paint.  Phil cut several windows into the board and installed latches that lock closed with carabiners.

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The coop has a second floor which the birds do not have access to. We store bales of clean pine bedding up there.

 

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We used hardware cloth to make an attached predator-proof run.

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A hardware cloth skirt extends out about two feet to keep out digging predators.

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An old tire full of sand and food-grade diatomaceous earth serves as the run dust bath, which chickens use to keep their feathers free of parasites like lice and mites.

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A store bought set of nesting boxes with roosts is attached to one wall. We have far more nesting boxes than nine hens need; three to four hens per nest is all that is necessary.

If you look carefully, you can see a nest full of nice fresh brown eggs

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Screen cloth was affixed over the inside of the windows to keep mosquitoes out; hardware cloth covers keep out predators.

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We keep a little rake in the coop for stirring droppings into the pine litter on the floor.

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Tree stumps and straw bales in the run give the hens something to climb on to alleviate boredom when they are confined.

Phil made the door and added a little kick plate to make it easier to close while carrying things.

Under their sleeping roost, Phil made a droppings table. It is filled with a mixture of sand and zeolite; we keep a kitty litter scoop in the coop and scoop out the droppings table daily. Droppings are disposed of in a black compost can outside the run. After the droppings compost, they will be added to our gardens.

Feed hangs from a carabiner clip. For the winter months, a heated waterer on a cinder block placed inside a plastic bin provides a constant source of water while keeping the floor and litter dry.  The coop is not wired for electricity, so Phil ran a very long outdoor extension cord from the garage all the way out to the coop.

Phil made a pop door out of a plastic cutting board so as to avoid the problem of a wooden board warping and not sliding up and down the frame runners properly. He made the pop door runners out of kitchen drawer runners.  We close the pop door at night during cold weather but leave it open during warm weather since the run is predator-proof.

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Happy pullets eating kitchen scraps in the summer.  We have created a deep litter floor over the dirt run by raking out soiled coop pine bedding into the run and tossing in shredded leaves, old straw, shredded paper junk mail, garden scraps, and any other kind of organic matter we have.  The chickens scratch around in it looking for tasty bugs to eat, which helps turn the bedding to cover their droppings, which prevents the run from getting smelly.

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All around the coop I planted herbs that have traditionally been used to repel poultry pests and parasites, including mint, lavender, oregano, pennyroyal, and wormwood.  In the summer months, I toss sprigs of herbs into the nesting boxes.  I also planted Borage flowers and Russian comfrey  to provide yummy forage for the hens.

A few pictures of our flock, with breed listed, out to free range on this cold, windy March day:

Black Australorp

Plymouth Barred Rock

Light Brahma

Starting from the bottom: Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Silver-Laced Wyandotte, Golden-Laced Wyandotte

Hope you enjoyed this little coop tour!🐥

Tough and defiant, but apparently only so long as men keep the electricity working.

Of all the things there are to loathe about feminism –  from its insipid vagina “art” to its laughable women’s “studies” – I think the thing that disgusts me the most about it is its pointless rebellion.   It’s like when your toddler stamps her little foot and shrieks, “I won’t (put on my coat, wear my shoes, etc) and you can’t make me!”  and you just shake your head sadly at the toddler because it’s such a stupid thing to be rebellious about, so not based in reality.

With toddlers, you can just kind of laugh it off. But when grown women do it, it is simply ugly to behold.

Take this for instance:

What is this even a protest against?  Is it supposed to be against capitalism or something?  But in what sense are the women of this nation standing up to materialism en masse?  To globalism? To over consumption?  It is absurd. It is rebellion just to be ugly, with no point or purpose.

Actually, scratch that. I think it does have a purpose.  Consider this quote  from a woman viewing the statue of Pointless Rebellion Girl (highlighting mine):

…when we saw it we were very struck, almost emotionally. You know the bull is kind of a symbol of almost a male power in a way, and this little girl is just standing there triumphant. I think it’s gorgeous. I love it.

The purpose is to be as insulting and condescending towards men as possible.   And to what end? Although the sculpture was apparently created by a woman, it was commissioned by a finance company and rolled out with a slick advertising campaign.

Sisters, do you not see how you are being manipulated here? Feminists (and the women who listen to them) are merely useful dupes; look and you will see the men behind the curtain.  They are trying to sell you an image that causes enmity between normal women and men. Why would they do that?  What are they trying to get you to do? And why?  Don’t participate. Don’t believe the advertising; it is not reality.

Back in reality land, we just had one of the most significant weather events in the entire history of the state of Michigan. One third of Michiganders are without electricity. Including me.

Let us check DTE Energy’s website to see what is going on with power restoration, shall we?

What imagery are they using to reassure a frightened, cold public sitting in the dark?

Oh Pointless Rebellion Girl, where is thy statue when the lights go out?