The goslings have hatched!

We have successfully incubated Uncle Waldo and Abigail’s first set of eggs!  Four goslings were set to hatch today, and they all made it out of the shell, although one needed a little help. One more will hatch in two days, we hope.

Two days ago I noticed when I candled their eggs that they had internally pipped into the air cell. Yesterday evening when I got home from work they had all started to externally pip through the shell:

The penciled-in cross shows where the air cell dipped down to:

This morning they had enlarged their pip holes quite a bit.

First one out!

It’s lonely being the first one out, so she cuddled around her sibling’s egg to take a nap while waiting:

They slowly worked their egg tooth around in a circle to create a hinge at the top of the blunt end of the egg:

One little head poking out of an egg:

The empty egg shell:

This little guy just wasn’t making much progress so we gingerly began to crack away little bits of the eggshell.  I put him back in the incubator like this and he made the rest of the trip out by himself:

We made a video of one popping out of the shell:

Everyone is now snug in the brooder:

The two girls have the dark grey bills; the boys have pink bills.

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ABIGAIL WENT BROODY!!

Abigail, our 11-month-old Pilgrim goose

I just cannot believe our good fortune!  God certainly is blessing us in the poultry area at the moment.

She’d built her nest awhile ago and had been laying an egg in it every other day.  I collected some for the incubator and had been storing the rest in the basement because the nights have still been dropping below freezing and she wasn’t sitting yet.

But today I put those eight eggs back in her nest because it isn’t supposed to freeze again, and shortly thereafter she commenced sitting!

I was surprised that Uncle Waldo wasn’t with her and is instead spending this lovely sunny spring day out on the pond.

He kept close tabs on me while I was busy planting a new Stanley plum tree and a Red Haven peach tree, but he didn’t try to attack me.

I put food and a bucket of water in the duck-n-goose house with Abigail and quietly closed the door to keep the chickens from pestering her, as they seemed determined to do.

Here is some helpful information about broody geese from Domestic Geese by Dr. Chris Ashton:

“More females are lost in spring through lack of care than at any other time. It is essential to make a note of the date when the goose first sat seriously, both for the sake of her health and that of the goslings. Females that have been left to sit for more than 32 days off and find it very difficult to revive their appetite, and sometimes die.

First of all, the goose and gander should be wormed when she is definitely broody. The gander also tends to lose his appetite when the goose is sitting. The advantage of worming for the goose is that she does not lose so much condition while she is sitting and, if she becomes ill, one possible cause of disease is eliminated. Also, both birds will be free of worms when they lead the goslings out.

 The goose must be fed and watered once a day. This should not be too hurried an affair, as she will want to carefully cover her eggs with down, so that they remain warm in the nest for some time and are camouflaged. Wheat in a bucket of water is suitable, and the goose should be encouraged to swim if the weather is hot and dry, as this will give the eggs the correct amount of moisture.

If the birds are tame, the feeding and watering procedure is not a problem, as a tame goose will allow you to look at the eggs and left her off the nest, and a tame gander will not attack. In these circumstances, a goose can be fed twice a day if she is losing too much condition. With fierce birds it is much more problematical, and it is best to drive the gander to a place out of the way when you want to drive the goose off the nest, otherwise smashed eggs will result. Geese that are accustomed to sitting will probably look after themselves, but you must check. Young birds need more attention because they have not been through this process before, and can become very run down by sitting too tightly.” (Ashton, pp 131-133).

Provided she stays on the nest and the eggs are viable, the goslings should hatch on May 8th!

Prepping for goslings to hatch

I never thought we would get this far since Pilgrim goose eggs are notoriously difficult to incubate, but right now I have five eggs that are five days out from hatching and all are showing signs of life! So, it’s time to set things up for hatchlings…

Some folks brood their baby poultry right in the house, but we prefer to keep them out in the garage. We have a set of metal shelves set up with plastic totes that Phil has modified by cutting out the top, making a wood frame around the opening, and attaching hardware cloth to protect the babies from any chipmunks or mice that might get into the garage and to protect them from the possibility of a brooder heat lamp falling onto them and burning them.

The shelves in this unit are made of heavy duty wire from which we can hang the brooder heat lamps. The shelves can be moved up and down if we need the lamps closer or further away than the cord will allow.

Last spring we brooded purchased ducks and goslings and found that large wood shavings were the best bedding in the brooder boxes.

However, for the first couple of days post-hatch, when goslings are still figuring out what food is, you don’t want them to have access to the wood shavings because they will eat them and develop an impacted crop. For that reason, I have covered the wood shavings with puppy pads which I will remove once the goslings are eating well.

I have purchased unmedicated starter crumbles for them.  It is imperative not to feed crumbles that have been medicated with amprolium to waterfowl. They consume a great deal more feed then chicks do and will receive too high a dose of amprolium. Besides that, they aren’t especially prone to coccidiosis, so there really is no need for medicated feed.

Commercially prepared feed is insufficient in niacin for waterfowl. Their legs will not develop correctly without supplementing with brewers yeast. Additionally, I have purchased some small packets of electrolytes and probiotics to get them off to a good start. After a few days, I will put out a little dish of chick grit for them and begin feeding them small amounts of chopped fresh herbs and grass.  I started various herb seeds in window boxes next to my catalpa tree seedlings:

There are differing strains of thought on the protein level that is best for goslings; we follow Metzer’s recommendation and keep the protein between 20-24%.

Finally, I washed up some little feeders and waterers and placed them on a small wire rack to elevate them slightly so that the goslings don’t kick their soiled bedding into their feed and water.

Today is Day 25 of 30, and we are all ready and waiting with bated breath to see if any babies will hatch on Wednesday next week!

Candling goose eggs with intact and detached air cells.

Here is a video I made to show what goose eggs with intact and detached air cells look like:

This is my first time hatching goslings with detached air cells, so I did quite a bit of research on how to manage this. Here is what I believe is the best process for trying to repair a damaged air cell:

First, wash the eggs with warm (not hot) water if they have been contaminated with a broken egg in the box. Otherwise, don’t wash them if possible.

Second, candle the eggs to inspect for hairline cracks. You can rub a little bit of wax over hairline cracks to seal them.

Third, store eggs upright with the large, blunt end facing up and the narrow end facing down in a cool room for 24 hours. This allows scattered air bubbles to move back up where they belong.

Fourth, put the eggs in the incubator upright, in a vertical position, as opposed to laying them horizontally as one normally does with goose eggs. Do not touch them for 48 hours. No turning!

Fifth, after 48 hours in the incubator, begin turning the eggs from side to side but keep them at a 45° angle upright. You want that air cell to reform at the top of the blunt end as the chorioallantoic membrane forms around the inside of the shell.

By day 15, the air cell may be resealed at the top. If so, you can move the egg into a more horizontal position, keeping the blunt end slightly elevated.

 

 

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!

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

Dealing with an injured goose bill

We like to let the geese free range around the fruit trees because they eat bugs and graze on weeds, but our gander, Uncle Waldo, just loves to eat the bark off our orchard saplings.   Since this kills the trees, we put some chicken wire around the saplings. This turned out to be a mistake which we have since rectified; however, we didn’t fix it before Uncle Waldo stuffed his big bill through the chickenwire in an attempt to get at that tempting bark, freaked out when he got stuck, and yanked his head up and back:

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Geese’s bills are actually rather soft and the chickenwire sliced right to the bone:

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Off to Dexter Animal Clinic we went, with Uncle Waldo in a dog crate honking dejectedly for his mate, Abigail, who was running about the yard in a tizzy, calling for Waldo, while the quacking ducks ran along behind her.

Protip: a wire dog crate is NOT the ideal way to transport a goose, as they spray poo out of their vent like a fire hose when they are scared.  Luckily we had put a plastic tarp around him.

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We weren’t sure if the vets would be familiar with treating geese, but Dr. Anna, a charming young British veterinarian, put us at ease right away with the knowledgeable way she handled Uncle Waldo.  This clearly wasn’t her first goose rodeo.

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She had Phil hold him in a towel to prevent poo spraying:

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And then proceeded to clean his bill thoroughly with a cotton ball and iodine, soothing our worried nerves by distracting us with commentary about the kind of “gayce” they have in England:

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She used a cotton swab to clean inside the sliced portion of his beak while chatting with him softly in her charming English accent, “Alright then, old man, here we go…”

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She showed us that the slice had gone down to the bone but wasn’t as bad as other damaged bills she’s seen.  She trimmed away the dead tissue with a little scalpel and then used surgical glue to fix him up:

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Uncle Waldo is about nine weeks old and weights 9.1 pounds:image

An injection of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and pain reliever was next; good old Uncle Waldo was such a trooper!

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Dr. Anna said the bill will not regrow but that granulation tissue will form and fill in pretty well around the injury.  Until then, Uncle Waldo must remain quarantined in the duck yard, which means the whole flock must remain there as they won’t willingly leave Uncle Waldo.

We had hoped to enter Uncle Waldo and Abigail in the Chelsea Community Fair; we thought they were a shoo-in for a ribbon given how rare Pilgrim geese are (the Livestock Conservancy lists them as critically endangered).  Alas, his days as a show goose are over before they began:

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However, he’ll still make excellent breeding stock.  We plan to breed and sell Pilgrim geese so as to do our part in saving the breed from extinction.

Uncle Waldo has a ten-day course of oral antibiotics now.  Dr. Anna explained to us how to crush the pill, dissolve it in warm water, and inject the antibiotic solution down his throat with a syringe; a goose’s windpipe is right at the back of their tongue in the center, so to give an oral medication, you must open their bill and insert the syringe down the side of their mouth a few inches into the esophagus.  I haven’t been able to get any pictures of us doing this yet, but I will try to and will add them when I can.

After we got home and Uncle Waldo had reunited with the frantic Abigail and resumed his place as Head of the Flock, I treated everyone to a big bowl of blueberries and cantaloupe, which I dumped into their little swimming pool for them to enjoy rooting out:

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It was a harrowing day but all in all Uncle Waldo is one lucky gander!