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Geese that are underweight, have almost no feathers, bare skin and sores, help!

 
Bini Spisak
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Last spring I brooded a set of six goslings for a friend of mine because they wanted to try geese, but didn't have the equipment to brood them. I gave the geese to them when they were a couple months old and out of the brooder. They have had them since then. I believe the six of them are three boys and three girls. When I gave the geese to them they had a run in shelter for them and a more protected pen to be locked in at night. Now they look terrible because they have almost no feathers and in some spots just bare skin and sores and are about half the weight they should be. They are presently kept in one smallish paddock 24/7, they supposedly get free choice pelleted duck feed, have a kiddie pool for water, but have absolutely nothing for shelter, not even a wind break and are exposed to the elements completely. I recently got two of them back and had to take the one to the vet because it had an abscess that was probably left untreated for two months and was turning into sepsis, but that one is getting better now that those two are back with me. The two that are back with me are eating like crazy now that they have full bowls of food, hay and access to grass just like all my other ones do. I was told that they were beating up on each other (only at night) and that is why they are in such bad condition and that predators could not be the problem at all even though they have lost 30+ ducks to predators and 4 of the goslings that their geese had this year so far. My two questions are, is the condition of these geese from them beating each other up, from predators harassing them at night, or something else I'm not thinking of? I wanted to buy all of them back because all I hear is complaints about them and I don't like the condition they are in but was told that I couldn't buy them back. What are anyone's suggestions for dealing with this situation as I would like to continue to be friends with them, but geese are just not something I think that they should own and would like to make the geese and everyone else have a good out come in this situation if possible. Please HELP!!!
 
R Ranson
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Oh, poor geese. So glad you are taking an interest in their well being. Did you know a goose can easily live for 100 years, and lay for over 80 years? (citing the BBC, but can't remember which article it was - average goose lifespan is shorter) I think the oldest recorded age of a goose is 140 years. They have surprisingly long memories and a very complex social structure. To think that this animal could outlive the human that cares for it, makes me feel that geese, more than any other livestock, deserve extra special care. At least that's my thoughts.

By the way, welcome to Permies.com


A photo of the geese would be a big help trying to diagnose what's wrong with them. Until then, I can toss out some theories.

My first thought was it's approaching molting season (at least it is here) so they will start to look miserable very soon. Then reading more of your post, I see their conditions have not been ideal, and I suspect this years molt will be very stressful.

Because of their long memories, geese are very susceptible to depression (in my experience), and can pine away and die if something stressful happens - like loosing their nest, or moving home, or general unhappiness.

... is the condition of these geese from them beating each other up, from predators harassing them at night, or something else I'm not thinking of?


Yes

Probably all of the above. If an animal is weakened for any reason, predators will move in, even big critters like geese can be attacked by raccoons, cougars, eagles, whatever's common in your area. They will fight more when stressed, especially as it's breeding season. And of course they are grumpy from the molt, which makes them fight even more. If the lack of shelter isn't doing them direct harm, it will certainly contribute to their overall ill health.


What are anyone's suggestions for dealing with this situation as I would like to continue to be friends with them


How to say this gently? I'm not sure how. This is your situation, and there is no way I could ever get all the relevant nuances from an internet post. What I have to say may not be relevant to your situation. I would like to say something from my personal experience, and you can take what you want from it. My personal experience has been that people who cannot treat animals with at least the most minimum basic needs (food, water and shelter - although I'm also fond of safety from predators, I don't consider it a basic need as they don't have it in the wild) also don't treat humans with a great deal of care. Although I've sometimes found myself friends with people like this in the past, I find any relationship I have formed with them don't last. But like I said, your situation, you need to decide what's best for you. All I can do is offer my thoughts.

Did I do that gently enough?

Getting back to your options. This depends a great deal on where you live. Could you give us some idea of what country/region you live? We could tailor fit our answers to suit your location. If you don't want to, that's okay too.

Ideas:
-offer to take care of their geese while they upgrade their facilities then when they come to collect their shabby geese, apologize that they died and these healthy geese are other geese that you had bought somewhere else, here's some money in compensation. This is not the best option as you may get a bad reputation for killing geese.
-You may live somewhere where there are laws requiring basic care for animals - food, water, shelter, and (locally to where I live, the law includes) safety. Where I live there are different laws for livestock and for pets, but the line is blurry. The police or local bylaw officer may be able to help, but every city seems to be different in how they handle this sort of thing. This may or may not be anonymous, and it is wise to gather evidence to support your point of view (photos, a log of events, statements from the vet, stuff like that) before going to the authorities, in case you live in a more litigious part of the world.
-The SPCA, or your local animal rights activist organization/ animal shelter, may be willing to step in. Where I live they have a huge influence and in many animal rights cases, much stronger resources than the legal route. Tips to the SPCA are usually anonymous, and they usually tell the farmer/animal owner that "a neighbour made a complaint about..." In many cases this may end with the death of the animal, especially with livestock. Some branches of the SPCA require you make a donation to cover vet bills before they will take your complaint seriously, but I doubt that's the norm.



 
Bini Spisak
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Thank you for the very detailed response. I really do appreciate it. I will try to get some pictures of them tonight. The thing that I can't understand about this situation is that they have sheep and dogs also and take absolutely wonderful care of them, i.e. prompt medical care, shelter, the best food, etc. However the geese and ducks just do not get the same care. I just will never able to figure that out. I only originally agreed to let them have the geese because I saw how well the other animals are cared for and because they had decent accommodations for shelter and predator protection at first. They liked the way that the geese behaved when they were like three to four months old, but once they turned about 6 months old and started acting more like adult geese in temperament they didn't like how "mean" they were. The reason they give for not giving them back is that there is one goose that will not come anywhere near them and just has learned to keep her mouth shut and they think that somehow they will train all the other geese to be like that one. This situation has really been bothering me and it is nice to see that there is at least one person that agrees with me that geese are long lived animals that have long term memories and emotional live to go along with that. I just love how personable and goofy my other geese are and feel terrible for allowing this to become of the other ones.
 
R Ranson
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Ah, a personality conflict with the geese may be at the heart of the issue, I get that. Especially when they have sheep (even more if they have a ram). You get use to treating a grass muncher a certain way, which doesn't work with geese. I made the same mistake with my first geese - I hate to say this, but I ruined them to the point that they were a danger and had to be eaten. It was with good intentions, but I still regret how things turned out.

With my first geese, I was very affectionate with them as goslings. But firm about certain behaviour like nibbling on hands and such. As they grew, I treated them with a Tough Love For Rams approach, but customized to geese. On top of that, we found out later that the pasture the geese were in, bordered somewhere where someone walked by them every day and beat them with a newspaper. All this together made the geese identify humans as aggressors that needed to be subdued... Also one embden gander kept climbing my back and making wet deposits in the back of my hair, which drove the other geese into a rage.

So I did just about everything wrong the first time, but I recognized that there are very few animal issues that are caused by the animal's innate nature - except cougars, their innate nature is to eat my sheep, we don't get along. I realized that the geese were responding the best they could to how they understood the situation. But we have too many visitors to the farm and the geese were too aggressive, that we decided the kindest thing for everyone would be to give them a gentle end and use them as an educational tool for a living display of life in the 14th Century that I participate in each year.

The second lot of geese, I gave total space to when they were young. I was always near them, but didn't cuddle the cute balls of fluff. As adults, I again spend as much time as I can near them, but don't touch them except in extreme cases. Except for this one goose that won't go to bed each night without a hug from both her humans. On the whole they are so well behaved. They adore their humans, and not just as a source of food, but also seem to identify us as honorary members of the flock. They aren't aggressive towards us, EVER, and recognize people we've introduced to them as friends. However, they do threaten and corner people who come onto our property that they don't recognize, or that we feel nervous about, or who wear perfume (our friends know it's a scent free farm, so perfumed humans are obviously 'others' and not flock members).

I digress... but basically my experience has shown me that, as with most livestock, the behaviour of the human has the largest influence on the goose's behaviour - although once that behaviour is set, it's very hard to retrain the human (and the animal).

This is very much my opinion: I feel that even if I have a personality conflict with an animal, it's no excuse to neglect it. The animal is just acting according to it's nature and it's understanding of the situation. If for some reason I cannot provide it the care it needs to thrive, then I have no right to keep that animal. We have had a few rescue animals that were just too far gone, that they could not be trained not to attack humans. We tried, but the moment an animal attacks a human who isn't me, it's an automatic one way trip to the freezer - except for animals trained to guard, like the llama and these new geese, who threaten the unwanted humans, but understand not to do permanent injury.

The reason they give for not giving them back is that there is one goose that will not come anywhere near them and just has learned to keep her mouth shut and they think that somehow they will train all the other geese to be like that one.


That doesn't sound like normal happy geese behaviour to me.

I've seen some pretty aggressive geese come around to humans, but that took constant care and attention. Being near humans with good energy just about 24/7, for a year, and allowing the geese to set the terms of the interaction.

My feelings for your friends are that if they are hoping to train their geese to be better behaved, then they need to realize the human behaviour is a big contributing factor to why the geese behave 'wrongly' now and that it is the human behaviour that needs a drastic overhaul. Since they have dogs, maybe you could broach the subject that way. There are TV shows that claim to be about dog training, but they are all about human training... maybe talk about that with them, then innocently ask, 'so, how's your human training going with those geese?'

Do let us know how it goes. It is a tough situation for everyone. Here's hoping that the geese can come through it okay.
 
Bini Spisak
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I would agree that there is a personality conflict. I got one more of them back last night for a total of three of them. They aren't mean, but boy are they terrified of everything! They practically jump out of their skin if I go near the pen just to give them more food and water. Other than having to catch the one to treat her abscess I have been pretty much leaving them be and not forcing the issue with how close they want to be with me, plus they seem to be very confused as to why the other geese aren't afraid of me. I did get a few pictures of them this morning, although they aren't great.
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