So, it was only July when Ricky Goose was professing his love for me. He was sweet and cuddly and everything I could ask for in a gander. But I could tell that he was lonely so I popped him in with the turkeys. Things seemed to be going good for a little while and he was keeping those turkeys in line.
Then, there was a sudden change. I was gone for a few days and when I got back, Ricky didn’t want to let me in the pen with him. He went crazy attacking the gate. It was so strange and unexpected. I took OhioFarmGirl‘s advice and started carrying a walking stick to fend off attacks, but it didn’t do anything to stop him. I had never experienced what a flogging was like, but I can sufficiently tell you now that it is seriously UNPLEASANT. My shins have been beaten to death. He’s managed to bite me hard enough to break the skin several times. I know that I bruise easily, but I currently have a bruise on my shin that measures 5 inches in length and is 3 inches across. And that’s NOT from being pummeled by Ricky’s wings, it’s where he bite me really, really hard.
I just didn’t know where all the aggression was coming from or how to make it stop. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I had to protect myself from him. Whacking him with the walking stick didn’t slow him down. Kicking him off me just gave him more space to build up steam. I was seriously losing the battle.
Monday morning I was totally exhausted. I’d gone out for Halloween the night before and somehow been conned into staying up almost all night, “for old times sake.” It was a lot of fun, but I’m just not that young anymore. So Monday morning I went out to feed and Ricky came at me like a mad goose on a mission. I just couldn’t take it at that particular moment and I did the first thing that popped into my mind: I scooped him up, tucked him under my arm and pinned his head to my chest. He was NOT happy, but he couldn’t hurt me and I was pretty sure he couldn’t hurt himself either.
I held him like that for a few minutes then sat him down. He came right back at me, so I grabbed his neck (gently, just enough to keep his head clear of my body) and pushed his body down on the ground. Almost instantly he stopped fighting and just lay there. So, I let him up and he came at me again. We went back and forth about 4 times, each time his aggression getting more half-hearted. Finally, we were both really tired of the game and he waddled off to munch some grass while I waddled off to have a nap in the shower.
That was 6 days ago. In those 6 days, I’ve not had to carry to walking stick in the pen once (well, except to get the turkeys off their roof). Ricky has given me the stink eye a couple of times and started to charge me twice, but a stern word was enough to make him think better of it. This morning he had a bit of an attitude, but he shuffled off when I told him to get lost. My shins are healing nicely with no new bruises to contend with.
I guess I just needed to speak his language. In a flock, the head gander would discipline lower ranking males in much the same way. The message must have finally been clear enough: I’m the boss. I’m happy that I’m not getting the crap beat out of me on a regular basis anymore, but more important is that I can handle Ricky in a way that doesn’t make me feel like I’m beating him up. And it’s really, really nice to feel like I can control him again, because the alternatives weren’t things I really wanted to consider.