Backyard Poultry: Volume 3 number 3: June/July 2008:

Too many geese!

To many geese…….

We have something new over here in Holland which I personally like very much. A lot of cities have large geese populations in their parks and ponds. People complain about the noise, the large amount of droppings and that they eat from their plants/scrubs and grass in their front gardens. The geese sometimes also create dangerous situations for the traffic. As these geese are used to people, as some people feed them bread, they lost their natural fear for people. Not all people like this and are afraid of them. I do know in a city close by were they have a population of 200 domestic cross breeds near a canal. Also about 33 geese in a pond in the middle of the city. My mother lives in that lane and she looks out on that pond. She sees those geese as her geese but unfortunately some of her neighbors think different about the geese. We only had companies over here who caught the geese and killed them but since a few months we have a much better solution over here.

Martin Hof from the company Hofganzen, 23 years of age and crazy about geese since he was 7 years of age, makes arrangements with cities who have too many geese. First he goes to that location and observes the geese so he knows which ones are pairs and which geese belong to certain families. He knows very well that it’s awful to split a pair of geese and in the worst case the geese can die because they miss their partner. After he has observed the geese he tries to find a new place for them with people who live in the country or in a different area in the city. He doesn’t take away all the geese but that many so the ones left won’t cause any trouble any more for the people who live there. The people normally don’t want all geese to leave but just a few as there are too many. You can blame the counsel for that as they never took away the eggs or put the eggs in a natural oil so they won’t hatch. They just let the geese go on having offspring and in the middle of a city it’s asking for problems. After Martin has observed the geese, which takes him a few days when it’s a very large population, he catches some pairs or a complete family of the geese out of that flock. If he doesn’t have a new house for them right away he takes them home. He has a very large area with several barns and pens where they can stay until they go to their new owners.

My neighbors asked me several times if they could have some geese from us but as they don’t have a night house for the geese it doesn’t work with ours, we think, because they are used to be shut up during the night. They also don’t have the time to spent with the geese as we would like so I suggested them some geese from Martin. Those geese are used to stay outside, to take care of their own, and these geese would get a great home over there. As I e-mailed Martin to ask how he would handle it at my mothers place we both noticed we had a lot in common. The love for geese! Well Martin came over to meet and brought four geese for my neighbors. Geese happy, Martin happy and my neighbors happy. It couldn’t be better! We talked all day about geese and…. still have a lot to talk about. He’s going to split the group of geese at my mothers place next week and I’m going to see how he does that. And make pictures of course. He already has a new place for these geese. Most of the geese at my mothers pond are crossbreeds from Africans and White Chinese . These geese are very tame and go to a farm where children who are autistic have day care. A beautiful solution I think.

As far as I know Martin right now, we talked about geese for six and a half hours and the things we both do, he’s very fond of all kind of geese and especially domestic and cross breeds. It’s so great to see the glance in his eyes when he talks about them and I recognized a lot… He’s an expert in observing geese to find out which ones are pairs, families and who’s the leader of a flock. As he doesn’t live near his shelters for his geese he knows a bit less about housing and keeping geese around the house as we do. Maybe I have to formulate it a bit different. Maybe he doesn’t knows less but more that he doesn’t have the experience with having geese around his own house all day as we do. We can help him with that. I like to help people who love geese as much as we do. You might say we’re going to help each other. I’m going to help him write a paper for the new owners of his geese how to house and take care of them and as Martin loves or books about geese he going to promote them. We also get e-mails from people who like to have geese but who aren’t suitable to have ours, like a couple who lived on a boat, but who would be very happy to adopt some geese from Martin. We tell them to contact Martin. He’s really doing a great job!

Martin also takes care of a very large flock of geese in a park in his own home town. He does that since he was 7 years of age. A very old geese called Laura who is probably over 35 years of age is one of his favorites. Every day, it doesn’t care how late it is he has to visit “his geese” in the park. He first has to cuddle his Laura before he can go home…..

Last Thursday (march 22nd) I went to see how Martin caught/split the flock of the geese where my mother lives. He had the help of two friends and they worked very quickly building up the fence and the area the geese had to be driven in so Martin could catch them. It took about an hour or so to set the fence and in the meantime they were building I spoke with the man who also takes care of these geese. Same as my mother he wasn’t happy with the fact that 20 of the 33 geese had to leave. When you know it’s a very large pond and a very large area 33 geese isn’t too much over there but unfortunately a neighbor thought different and complained a lot the last few years. That neighbor also wanted all people to sign a petition that they wanted to get rid of the geese too. Of course my mother didn’t sign it. While I was talking to Hans Smulders who takes of the geese a lot of neighbors came running outside asking if they wouldn’t take all the geese away and Hans and I got a bit upset. Especially when also that certain neighbor came proudly outside thinking that he had won….
It took me less than a three minutes to make him shut his big mouth. Guess I was getting a bit angry when he started with his ridiculous arguments.

Hans Smulders is now taking care of the eggs so no goslings will be born anymore. As Martin says those crossbreeds keep laying if you collect the eggs they now treat the eggs with maize oil so they won’t hatch and the flock won’t grow any more. Maybe a nice thing to tell what they did last year over there. They gave the geese an injection for birth control….. It didn’t work as they injected mostly the ganders as the counsel didn’t know which ones were males or females and they started to early so not all geese were fertile at that moment. So the flocks in that city still had goslings. The costs were over 10.000 euros last year for birth control……. Unbelievable!
Back to Martin Hof and the “geese catching”. As the fence and the netting were ready Martin drove al the geese in the water and then we would take a break so the geese who were breeding would go back to their nests. As Hans had treated the eggs with the maize oil they went of into the water. The couples who were breeding already would stay at this place so they didn’t need to get into the trap. Also the little boat would be put into the water. And then it went very quickly….

Al the geese got together and as they saw that boat and swum directly to the fence. Patrick who had to put the boat into the water had to rush to get on the water and we had to run to the trap to direct the flock so they wouldn’t slip next to it. I didn’t get the time to make proper pictures so quickly it went and even the photographer from the local newspaper came too late…. She was very angry with Martin that he hadn’t called her on time but as he had called her telling her he would get the geese on the water and would wait a while he couldn’t have guessed the geese would just swim right to the trap. It just happened in a few minutes. It was great and no stress for the birds. All geese except one female who went back on the nest got into the trap.

Martin exactly knew which ones had to be released and also Hans knew which ones were breeding. Also Wammes, a white gander who lives together with some ducks, was in the trap. Wammes is probably raised alone with some ducks by people as he doesn’t behave like a goose. After the fun was over the poor bird was released in a pond in another part of the city. As poor Wammes was bitten very nasty by a dog Hans took him home to take care of him and then released him at this pond. Unfortunately Hans hasn’t got the space where he lives to keep Wammes. Wammes could stay with his ducks so he was taken out the trap first. Three very old geese which had difficulties walking and have some serious leg problems were taken then out. They stay together with their partners at Martin’s shelter for the rest of their lives. Then the ones who would stay at that pond were taken out. It was nice to see how a gander reacted when his female was released and he still trapped. He shouted very hard so it wasn’t a difficult job to get the right pairs together. Al the others who had to leave were put in the horse trailer but after Hans had cuddled them for the last time. Poor man, the tears went over his cheeks.

Martin caught the geese very slowly and quietly, Patrick watched none could escape and I opened the small door at the side of the trailer so Hans or Daniel could put them in. It went very well until 15 geese got out and the remaining ones got a bit restless. They started to jump and tried to escape so Martin didn’t want to upset them more by catching them by hand. He then took a small kind of fishing net with a handle, which he slowly put over a goose and then pulled the goose gently towards him. All remaining geese just stood quietly as they were waiting for their turn. At a certain moment Hans brought a goose to the trailer and after a last kiss he put her inside. You won’t believe what happened. He gently put the goose down and she turned around in a flash and got her beak tightly into Hans his jacket. I tried to get her beak loose but it was impossible to do so I told Hans she didn’t want to leave him. Hans didn’t know what happened to him and became all quiet. I then called Martin we had a small problem and told him what had happened and he agreed with me that goose also had to stay. As she was one from last year she didn’t have a partner yet. She held on tightly to Hans his jacket until all geese where caught and then Hans could release her back on the pond. She just didn’t want to leave Hans and made that very clear at the very last moment…….

While Daniel and Patrick removed the fence and netting Martin and I walked around the pond to see how the remaining goose behaved. They were all very quiet and already washing them selves. Puff Martin said…. We took the right couples out as none was searching or shouting for his or her partner. It wasn’t very difficult at this location he told me as those African/Chinese cross breeds had very particular marks but can you image how it goes with a flock of 50 or more white geese he asked me. A lot more difficult I told him. He told me he always makes lots of pictures of the geese and couples when he observes the geese before the catching and decides at home which couples can stay. I had to admit to him that I was also very curious how he would do this and therefore wanted to be here today. When I put all our geese together inside a barn I can pick out the couples in a few minutes but with strange geese…..so I told him I had some doubts if he could do that with geese he had only seen a few times. Yes I noticed last Friday you had some doubts and had to be sure I could do this and therefore I’m so glad you came today to see for yourself he told me. I also got an invitation to go and observe a flock with him. When it’s not too far from here and after the breeding season I love to go with him to observe a flock I told him. I’ll let you know how that went.

After cleaning up, closing the holes where the fence had been so the remaining geese wouldn’t break a leg and saying goodbye to my mother and Hans they left. My mother had asked Martin if it was possible he could leave a very large gander and his female at the pond as she was very attached to them. When he said goodbye to my mother he told her, her gander which he had named Jonathan, was still outside……

It’s very quiet out there now. Only 13 geese left and both my mother and Hans already called me to tell me they miss the geese very much. Although they both know they went to a very good home it’s very difficult for them. My mother always had more geese as we have until yesterday morning. A neighbor complained about the noise the geese made but when you know a train comes by that place every 7 to 10 minutes it makes you wonder what the real problem was…..

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