If you follow my blog, you may remember that last month, when we were staying in the Peak District, the farmer kindly gave me three goose eggs. Each one was the size of four chicken eggs. I wrapped them up in toilet paper (I didn’t have anything better) and we drove them home. After letting them rest for 24 hours, I put them into the incubator, and searched online to find out how to hatch geese eggs.
My incubator automatically turns chicken eggs, but these were much too large. Every day I turned them 180˚ an odd number of times (thus ensuring that they were never the same way up for two nights in a row). This is because the embryo can get stuck, and won’t develop properly. I kept them at 37.5˚C, and 50% humidity.
Different birds incubate for different periods. A duck is 4 weeks—though often hatch a few days early. A chicken is pretty much always exactly 21 days. A goose is anything from 28 to 35 days. After a week, I sat in a dark room, and shone a bright torch through the shell. Two eggs had the clear shadow of the yolk, turning as I moved the egg. One egg had tiny threads of veins, and when I turned the egg, the shadow of the yolk stayed still—fasten in position. Which meant I had one fertile egg.
Birds need a flock, so one goose would be lonely. Goose eggs are expensive, and I wasn’t certain that I would manage to hatch them anyway, so was loath to buy more. Instead I went on Ebay and bought some Buff Orpington chicken eggs. They should have arrived the following day, meaning they would hatch potentially at the same time. Unfortunately the annoying seller didn’t post them immediately, so they were about two weeks later than the goose egg going into the incubator (and therefore one week later hatching). But it was the best I could do.
After a couple of weeks, I started to spray the goose egg with cold water—mimicking the mother goose returning to the nest after a swim (not sure what the chicken eggs thought about that, as chickens are not known for their swimming). Only one chicken egg was fertile, so now I had two eggs, and hoped the hatchlings would be friends. After 28 days, I stopped turning the goose egg, and raised the humidity to 70% (which is not great for the chicken egg, but humidity is unlikely to kill it—they are only vulnerable to temperature change, and that remained at 37.5˚C).
After 29 days, nothing. After 30 days, nothing. After 31 days, I decided I would wait until the 35-day mark, and then chuck it away. After 32 days, I could hear very loud cheeping from inside the egg. After 33 days, a crack appeared down one side. After 34 days, the crack was a ‘zipper’ around the egg, and the gosling managed to push off the end and wriggle out. It was a poor little thing, very weak, and a chunk of fluff must have stuck to the shell, because it had a bald spot. It was also enormous!
I left it in the incubator to dry off, but when it started playing football with the chicken egg, I decided it was best to move it to the brooder. (Fancy name for a plastic box in the garage stuffed with hay, with a heat lamp hanging above it.) It had pots of water and chick crumb, and a mirror for company. It spent a lot of time chatting to the mirror. The following day was sunny, so I decided to put it in with the ducklings for a little while. As a social experiment, it was a failure. Even though they were separated by netting, the ducklings (almost fully grown) tried to push their heads through the bars to peck it. The gosling stood up, and raised its little stubby wings in a cute imitation of the scary pre-fight warning that adult geese do. I worried it might decide to go near enough to be pecked/killed, so put it back under the heat lamp with its mirror-friend. I will try again when it’s bigger.
Hoping the chick hatches on time, and grows big fast so they can roam the garden together. I will keep you posted.
Hope you see some friends this week, and that no one makes aggressive gestures towards you. Thanks for reading.
Love, Anne x