Our mailbox has been overflowing with reader inquiries regarding the goose and duck, so we'll get down to business and answer your most pressing questions, interspersed with some random pictures.
Q: Do the duck and geese respond to their names?
A: As you may remember, we named them Enzo and Jacques. They might respond to their names if we ever remembered to call them by their names, but mostly we call them “Hey duck” or “Ow, that’s mean”.
Q: Is it possible to train them?
A: It depends on your idea of training. If you chase them they might happen to jump through a hoop, but they’re not the best runners, and trip over things a lot. They’re not the best flyers either. But they are very cooperative about going into their pen at night and being herded around.
Q: Are you planning to plump them up for a big meal?
A: Not anymore than we’re planning to plump up the dog for a big meal. If anything, she might enjoy them for an impromptu meal, but we’re trying to prevent that.
Q: How does Mooka like them?
A: I’m not sure exactly how she feels about them, but since they’ve arrived she’s eaten more vegetables than ever before. She has a longstanding policy that any food offered must be accepted. She is attendant at every feeding, willingly glorping down all manner of fruits and vegetables, sometimes trotting back to her bed with a leaf of lettuce. Our yard is becoming littered with single, wilted lettuce leaves that she was planning to eat but must have forgotten in her rush to get another one.
Q: Does the duck need water to swim in?
A: They both need water to swim in, the more the better, especially the duck. They are water creatures, and spend a large amount of time swimming and bathing. Sometimes they even take a nap in the water. We use cement-mixing tubs for pools, because they are big and have sloped sides so they can climb in and out of the water easier.
Q: Can you pet them, or do they run away?
A: They run away. The duck is pretty bad-tempered, but easier to catch then the goose, which only makes him angrier. When he’s mad you know about it. I’ll be hand-feeding him the choicest of lettuce, but no matter what, eventually his eyes glaze over with fury, and his head starts trembling with barely contained rage. When he cannot handle your insolence one moment longer, he charges, giving you a nasty rubbing with the rough bottom of his beak, until he reaches some skin to bite. He has a chip on his shoulder, ironic considering his lack of shoulders. It doesn’t hurt that bad physically when he attacks, and I try not to let it get to me. Popsey insists that I’m misinterpreting the whole thing, and that it is just instinctual behavior, or that “it’s just his way of relating to people." Bottom line, if you’re looking for a cuddly pet, waterfowl may not be the best choice.
The goose seems sweet despite all his noisy bluster and bravado. Popsey discovered that it helps to wear an orange baseball hat. I tried it today and they did seem a lot more friendly when I had an orange beak too.
Q: Are they noisy?
A: Duck sounds are wonderful. He quacks in rhythms and it sounds like we have a pair of maracas in the yard.
Geese make a variety of sounds, sometimes soft and sweet cooing, and more often sounds that resemble a hog being slaughtered. Sometimes he sticks his head in a bucket of water and honks, blowing bubbles out of his nostrils.
Q: What do you feed them?
A: Vegetables, fruit and goose mash (a mixture of chicken scratch and waterfowl pellets). Their favorite fruits and veggies are lettuce, watermelon, cauliflower, tomatoes and apples. They have shown a preference for organic lettuce over lettuce from Costco.
One source of food we've found is the local health food market. They leave their unsaleable produce in the back of the store in garbage cans for people to take for compost. Depending when you hit it, you can find them filled with whole heads of pretty good lettuce. Sometimes it's so good we almost wish we had some salad dressing. I know most of our readers would not eat old veggies out of a trash can behind a store, but if you ever find yourself in need, or feel like you’re coming down with scurvy, this could really help. You can thank me later.