How the Hen House Turns—The Human Factor (Part 5): Goose Whispering

How the Hen House Turns
The Human Factor (Part 5): Goose Whispering
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

My strange relationship with Bobbi goose began when she grew into adolescence. I didn’t know then, that geese will establish a pecking order by mounting another goose when no gander is around. (The ducks also do that.) I thought Bobbi must be a male, and Bobbi thought I must be some kind of strange goose she needed to dominate.

Bobbi has never attacked me with a serious bite, but whenever I stay too long in the pen or herd them down the hill too early, the hackles rise along her long neck. (She is a lovely Chinese swan goose.)

To show who is boss, she will nip my leg gently as I leave the pen. At first, she was more aggressive about it. In my irritation I would grab her around the wings and tuck her head under my arm.

Immediately, she would quiet down. No honking, which would start up again when I turned her loose.

She continues to honk when I work in the pen and quits making noise when I leave, but whispering helps, sometimes. She quiets down a bit, looks puzzled, then honks again until the next whisper.

In the morning, all is quiet in the Hen House. Even if I’m as late as 9 a.m., when she hears the water running into their large pans, she used to begin honking. The honking would continue after I let all the birds out into the pen, until I finished distributing the lay pellets, corn and oyster shell.

When I finally leave the pen, the honking stops. Now what’s that all about? I can understand the insistent honking when I walk Ms. Ritz and Kiebler back down to the pen after their early morning swim in the stock tank near the house. The honking clearly says, “Our turn. Let us out of here to graze in the yard,” for it stops the minute I open the pen gate.

When I pass Lucy in the yard, she always answers my greeting with a quiet “Ak ak.” If I squat down to pull a weed, however, Bobbi starts up again with a loud protest that doesn’t end until I stand up. Her logic escapes me. I can’t help but wonder who she thinks I am.