How the Hen House Turns: Lucy Goose

How the Hen House Turns: Lucy Goose
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

We inherited Lucy the goose in 2002, when my neighbor said she couldn’t keep a goose in the house. Lucy kept banging on the glass door, wanting in when she saw the people inside. My hen house and pen were available, so I said—not realizing that geese live 25 to 30 years—okay.
Young Lucy fit right in, with Little Bear the turkey, White Silkie hen Fluffy, and two Polish chicks sporting creative feather-dos (another story for another day).

The young dogs, DeeDee and Scooter, our pointer-heeler mix fugitives from the 2000 fire, two-for-the-price-of-one, fire-sale dogs—understood they had another bird to watch. Lucy ignored them, thanks to her good sense.

It’s not easy to find animal care for two dogs, one turkey, two geese, three chickens, four ducks, multiplying swordtails, and a neighboring peacock who comes and goes—but we lucked out. My vet lives next door, and her son loves both the animals and the money I pay for their care while we’re away.

I wouldn’t want the job. The check list is a full page, single spaced. Ducks and geese are messy eaters, and they love fresh water after they dabble in the mud. Water freezes at night now, which means one had better dump the birds’ “bath tubs” every night and make sure the hose runs downhill all the way, no humps, or it will freeze tight, which means big trouble—several buckets of water to carry down to the pen every morning.

Geese are fussy, and not only about their water. Lucy turns up her nose at honeydew melon rinds if  they are too ripe, or too green, or not honeydew. She also likes lettuce and cauliflower leaf trimmings, but nothing else. I tried green beans once. Bad idea. A ripe strawberry? “Ptui!”

Geese do turn up their noses, they really do, even if they don’t have noses. It’s very clear. When Lucy takes a bite of something new, shakes her head, and spits out “ptui,” I know I’d better go buy some more honeydew.

Lucy made her gustatory tastes quite evident from the start. Especially delicious were the sheets of music at our Ladies Friday Afternoon Recorder Tootling Society. She listened for a while, but absolutely refused to go into the expansive ponds our hostess wanted her to try.

To this day she prefers bathtubs that fit her, where she can keep her feet securely planted on solid earth. It’s amazing how she manages to use her neck as a washrag, dipping her beak into a bowl of water not much bigger than her big soft torso, and keeping herself sparkling white every day.

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