As I have start down the road of small farmer and self reliant person, my backyard was quickly converted to make room for various birds. Even a room inside the house is kept extra warm in the winter so that two lovebirds are content. Because of my sudden acquisition of these feathered friends, I am often asked “why do you love birds so much?”, and, since our gaggle has expanded to five honking geese, “why do you love geese so much?”. These questions always make me smile. The first one is quite simple to answer, and a good one for anyone considering life on a farm. Birds, especially barnyard birds, are a gateway animal to farm life.
You can keep chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, guinea fowl, quail or even peafowl in your backyard without having to invest in the things that would label you “a farmer”. Most birds can be left in the capable hands of a friend for a weekend without fear of their diets or schedules being dramatically influenced. Many can be left overnight with a full food dish and not even notice that their people were away. They require basic shelter: not a huge barn, but a coop or shed will do. Most are happy free ranging should your property allow it, or can be contained in a small run that doesn’t need to take up acres of fields. A horse, for example, needs at least an acre of grass for pasture, a large stall at night, and regularly scheduled feeding and exercise. Goats and cows need less space but still need to be fed at exact times and also require daily or twice a day milking. Sheep must be shorn, and pigs will turn a backyard into a bare sod and mud landscape. Chickens and their kind seem like a happy compromise, an egg laying animal that will entertain and provide without all the hassle. So the answer to “why do you love birds so much?” is that I love all animals a great deal, but poultry was the first and most practical barnyard beast for me to invest in. I can say with some certainty that more animals, animals of the furry variety, are in our future. And for anyone thinking about a farm: start with some chickens are I’m sure your menagerie will grow.
The geese in my life have a more of a backstory. When I was a child my best friend had a pair of Toulouse geese who honked and harassed me, but were in some unexplainable way both intriguing and charming. My parents got a trio of geese for their farm along with a family of ducks, but these birds were raised by a mother goose and were always standoffish. So when geese came up as a possible addition to our farm, I leapt at the opportunity. Geese have a few qualities which endear them to me. First of all, they are much more intelligent than a chicken and, like many waterfowl, imprint as goslings. Their devotion means that as long as you are around they are never more than a few feet away, observing and muttering quiet honks. Unlike most creatures they won’t tire of your presence or grow bored. They are completely intent on you. Their need to appear threatening to strangers is overshadowed by a natural timidity, making them mostly bluster and not bite. While swimming or grooming a goose is as elegant a swan, but walking across the yard they have the gangly, awkward movement of a teenager after a growth spurt. So to answer these questions: why poultry is fairly easily explained. Geese have simply won me over in the journey.
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Questions? Feel free to leave a comment!