I had to re-home my pet goose, Swann, this weekend. There is a long story attached that I won’t go into here but it has been hard going, made especially so because I fell completely in love with him.
He has been a truly lovely animal to get to know. We rescued him and another goose just over a year ago when they were abandoned by their previous owner. Unfortunately, the other goose escaped (another long story) and so we were left with one. And one goose isn’t good because they are flock animals.
For a while he was in his enclosure by himself while we (we share our poultry with our neighbours) tried to figure out what to do with him. He became depressed, and it was heartbreaking to see such a beautiful animal so sad. So we decided to move his house next to the chicken shed and let him free range with them (our chickens free range completely on the country estate where we live). We thought it would be better for him to mix with the chickens, with the risk of him escaping too, than staying in his enclosure away from everyone. And it worked! He perked up and obviously wasn’t sad anymore.
And it stayed that way for about a year. Though he didn’t mix with the chickens he seemed to enjoy being around everyone and during the summer he spent a lot of time up at the houses.
But then, about two months ago, he began biting people. And a goose bite is like being clamped by a pair of pliers! He only bit me once when he was lunging for my friend! He bit people he didn’t know. Eventually, the only people who could get close to him and not get bitten were me, and my neighbour, Will. Swann’s usual position was in a general thoroughfare and so quite a few people were chased and/or bitten. The situation couldn’t continue, but there was disagreement between the four of us as to what direction to take. I wanted to set him up properly with a couple of girlfriends and a pond. The decision wasn’t mine though, as it isn’t my property. We put him back into an extended enclosure to stop him biting people and the pressure was on to find him a good home.
I became stressed and ill trying to find a solution. I loved him so much I didn’t want to hand him over to just anyone. I put an add on a poultry website and someone sent a message saying he would give Swann a home. I spoke to the guy on the phone. He had an acre of land, and a pond, two female geese, lots of ducks and chickens! It sounded ideal. I arranged to go and see the place with my husband. I almost emailed the guy and said, we’ll just bring Swann with us. I was so desperate to re-home him, and the guy was promising everything I wanted for him. But, thanks to the internet, I researched the guy online, and what he was saying to me didn’t quite check out. So we went to see the place without taking the goose and I’m so glad we did. When we arrived the animals he had were being kept in a builder’s yard. The ground was hard and compacted earth with stones. Even the chickens couldn’t scratch the earth for bugs because it was too hard. There was a dirty hole in the ground that seemed to be the main drinking water, and all the animals (over 40) slept in the one 8’x6′ shed. We were horrified. We didn’t take him there.
In the meantime a new neighbour moved in with a kid who was fascinated by the goose, and liked to gather up the other two kids (who otherwise weren’t interested) and provoke him. I would hear them shouting at him and daring to run through his enclosure. And then the sheep who were in the same field discovered he had food and would come down in their sheep-like fashion to steal his food. He was scared of them and would retreat up a small hill until they left. I was worried they would trample him in their stupidity.
I enlisted the help of everyone I knew: my colleagues, my sister, her colleagues, my friends, their friends. A huge network of people all phoning people they knew who may be able to help.
And then I got another message from the poultry advert. A woman, asking if I still had him. I cautiously replied yes. I was scared to hope. I spoke to her on the phone and it was promising. All the things that had been lacking in the last place – grass, fresh water, individual sheds for the different animal types – were voluntarily offered up. I asked if we could do a ‘dummy run’ to find the place so we didn’t get lost when it came to transporting the goose and straight away she knew I wanted to check her place out and said she would feel exactly the same about her animals.
We drove up on Saturday early evening to see the place, and I can barely express how relieved I was. The couple were LOVELY. Obviously kind, animal-loving, practical and capable. Their place was LOVELY. Two beautiful geese, two beautiful ducks and lots of gorgeous chickens. The animals were obviously happy and well looked after.Everything about the place had been well done. I couldn’t wait to re-home him there.
This is him soon after we let him out of his box. I stayed close by for reassurance.
These are his two new (hopefully) girlfriends. Lovely to hear other geese after just having one for ages. They chatted, he chased them, they sat near each other but not together, got up, moved closer, sat down, got up, sat closer again.
This is me saying goodbye. Because he was lonely, especially after we put him back into his enclosure, I would go out and spend hours with him. I would paddle with him in the pond, play with him in his bath, extend my legs so he could jump on my wellies, which he liked to tug. I would take him for walks, make sure his mirrors were always clean so he could see himself, make sure he had fresh water, and bath water, and food. I would cuddle him, and chat to him and love him.
So saying goodbye was quite hard!
This is him exploring his new pond. It is newly built, and none of the other animals have been in it yet but he jumped straight in and had a swim!
I could have stayed and watched him in his new home for hours! There are ducks and chickens but somehow none of them made it into the photos. This is him chatting to his girlfriends and getting slightly closer.
I felt so happy and relieved as we drove home. Nothing is certain in life, but I know that this place and the people there are the best he could have.
It has been an honour getting so close to such a bright, characterful, comedic, intelligent, fun animal. I love him.