Editor’s note: This post is a Care2 favorite, back by popular demand. It was originally posted on May 6, 2013. Enjoy!
Written by Cheryl Bernstein (Gauteng, South Africa)
It was a hot summer Sunday and my husband and I decided to take our two grandchildren with their bicyles for a ride around our local lake. Of course, a visit to the lake wouldn’t be the same without taking brown bread and feeding the multitude of ducks and geese that inhabit the lake and its island. There are probably around 200 geese and ducks at the lake. They are all hungry, surviving only on the grass that surrounds the lake.
Once a year there is a massive cull of these geese, but they soon recover in numbers in the spring. My two grandchilden, armed with their packets of bread, began feeding the geese and were soon overwhelmed as the birds left the water and surrounded them, squaking and grabbing bread out their hands. Then, in the midst of all the noise, feathers, ducks and geese swimming about, swam a tiny, yellow gosling.
He could not have been more than two days old. He was desperate for something to eat and tried to grab a crumb or two of bread from the water, but the adult geese would have none of it. They pecked his tiny head and some even tried to push his head underwater. He tried to get away and climbed out onto a rock. I walked down to the water’s edge and grabbed him. Immediately, he put his tired little head onto my shoulder and closed his baby eyes. He was exhausted. I felt his crop and it was empty. His tiny body was just skin, bone and fluffy down. This baby was starving.
My husband, the children and I decided to walk around the lake and look for other families of geese who had goslings to which this baby may belong. We walked and searched in the reeds for about an hour, eventually realizing this baby was abandoned and alone. We decided to take him home and raise him. I made a gruel of finely grated carrots, carrot tops, celery tops, mashed duck pellets, crushed fresh corn and water, but the gosling didn’t recognize this as food and would only eat tiny crumbs of bread. This isn’t a balanced diet for a water bird.
I had done some years of bird rehabilitation in the past and I knew how to tube feed a bird, so I found the bird hand rearing mixture and tubed him. I then put him in a basket with a hot pad, and he fell asleep, cuddled on top of a fluffy toy I had given him for comfort.
The days passed in a blur of feeding, talking to and raising Goose. I put him in a big wired pen and my other two ducks and my three dogs took a great interest in him. I sat with him for hours talking to him and pointing out juicy patches of grass to him. Goose grew big and stong, started eating on his own and his fluffy down was soon replaced with magificent white feathers. His voice grew from a squeek to a squak and I watched with pride, as he developed into a beautuful bird. The intention was always to release him back onto the lake. But as time passed, Goose fell in love.
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