Last week I had two geese – Padraig and MacGregor.  This week there’s just MacGregor.  They were both attacked by a bobcat and Padraig didn’t make it.  MacGregor is still recovering from a severe neck injury and I am nursing her back to health.

                                                       Padraig                                                            MacGregor

My I-don’t-know-what-to-call-him-anymore and I got them from a feed store last spring.  They were just a few days old.  We held them in our laps in the evening, put them in a dog crate with a heat lamp for the night, and when I let them out in the morning they followed me around every single place I went.

I totally wasn’t expecting that.  It was seriously the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life.  We took tons of movies of them doing this, but I can’t find any right now.  I also have movies of them swimming in the bathtub from when they were teeny weeny – but I can’t find those either.  When I do I’ll post them here cause they’re some of cutest videos ever.  I do have this great one of them in the pond in our old house.  They loved swimming in the pond.

A lot of people seem to be under the impression that geese are mean and are afraid of them.  I guess that’s sometimes true of wild geese – especially if you intrude on their space – they’re probably being protective.  And geese that are raised in barns on farms and whatnot can hiss a lot cause they aren’t used to people as much.  But these guys were/are so incredibly sweet.  They were a little afraid of strangers, and they hissed at the chickens sometimes – but they really seemed pretty calm whenever someone came around.  There was a brief period when MacGregor got a little bitey – but that didn’t really last long.

For a long time, from the day we got them until they were pretty damn big, we brought them into our bedroom in the evening and they would watch TV with us on the bed.  Here’s a video of me bringing them into the bedroom – it was pretty much like this every night.

I loved watching them eat and walk around.  Sometimes when they walked by they would stare at me and walk slowly it looked like they were floating.  I loved hearing their feet slap the ground when they walked in front of me.  I loved watching them clean themselves and fall asleep standing on one foot.  I really miss Padraig, but I’m glad I still have MacGregor.  I’m not sure if she will make it but it’s nice having her around.

Here’s a few more pics of them as they were growing up.

When MacGregor was injured I really didn’t know if she was going to make it at all.  For two days I tried to keep her comfortable and give her water, but most of the time she looked like she was just about to die.  
I knew her neck was injured, but I wasn’t sure it was broken – and I think this is because of all of the experience I have had with chickens with broken necks (a very hit upon post, I might add – seems I’m not the only one).  All together chickens have broken (or sprained, I’m still not sure which) their necks in my vicinity at least 5 times.  3 roosters – Elvis, Charleston, and Little Pappy, and at least one hen.  Charleston’s neck was broken (or sprained) twice.  Every single one of them healed up completely.  Some of them had a teeny bit of balance problems as a result, and Charleston had a major personality change after the second time (he turned into a total jackass – seriously) – but other than that they were all fine.  So I thought maybe MacGregor could make it through this.
I didn’t take her to a vet right away because I had always read (on Backyard Chickens forum and other places online) that taking a chicken or other farm bird to a vet is pointless.  They don’t know what to do with them and don’t really care.  I also didn’t want MacGregor to suffer needlessly if that’s, in fact, all that was going on.  I called a vet in the closest city, really to find out how much it would be to put her to sleep.  I really didn’t expect anything else.  But on their website they said they treat birds so I took her in.  And even though I still figured they would probably put her to sleep I hoped they wouldn’t.  When I took her out of the car (I had her in a huge bin) she had her head up and I thought – keep your head up like that so they can see that you’re not doing that bad.  
The vet said she really wasn’t an obvious candidate for euthanasia and gave her a cortisone shot and an antibiotic shot.  He stuck a feed tube down her neck to make sure her esophagus wasn’t torn and it was fine so he told me I’d have to feed her with the tube in order to give her a weeks worth of antibiotics.  That kinda scared me.  I dreaded doing it and before I did it the first time got some pretty good advice, so I thought I’d share it here with anyone that might need it.  
So, if you don’t have a goose you’ll probably want to stop reading here, and if you have a goose you aren’t interested in spending a lot of time rehabilitating you’ll probably want to stop reading here.  
But if your goose is your pet or kind of like a kid to you and you want to spend the time and energy to help it get better, this info is for you.  
Nursing a Goose Back to Health w/ a Feeding Tube

In the photo above the orange thing is the feeding tube.  Online I have seen that you can make one out of fish tank tubing – but you have to round the one end with a lighter so that there are no sharp edges.  The big syringe holds 60cc – which is about 1/4 c.  What I do is take some feed and soak it overnight in water, then blend it until it is totally liquid in my Vitamix (I’m sure a regular blender would work if it’s soaked long enough – just make sure it is very smooth) in the morning.  At first I was blending each batch for each meal – but I started doing 2 days worth at once.  If you’re not comfortable with that go ahead and make it for each meal or once a day.  If you do make a few meals worth in advance and you refrigerate the leftovers it is really important to bring the feed back up to room temp before you do the next feeding cause cold liquid feed right into the gullet can make the goose throw up.  That is what I was told – not from my own experience.  But I always make sure it’s room temp and I haven’t had any probs.  I don’t have proportions – but just give different thicknesses a try.  If it’s too thin the goose won’t get as much food in them, but if it is too thick it won’t go through the tube.  Practice pushing it through the tube before you start with the goose though.  It’s helpful to see how it all works.

I started doing this with 5 grain scratch cause it’s all I had and I do not recommend it.  No matter how long I soaked and how much I blended there still seemed to be some husks that were too big and caused the tube to clog – so then I would have to take to tube out of her and try and unclog it and then put it back in – which is not fun.

So…my fear was that I was going to wind up sticking the tube down her windpipe – and it still is.  But someone at the vet’s office gave me some advice that really helped a lot.  If you open your goose’s mouth up (not easy – I recommend protecting your fingers with a cut up piece of t-shirt cause they bite hard) and look inside and at the base of the tongue you will see a hole that opens and closes (this photo on flicker shows is pretty well).  That is the windpipe.  In order to avoid this hole it is suggested that you go from right to left and guide the tube along the left side of the goose’s mouth and down the left side of the neck (I am doing this by myself and usually the directions indicate that you are facing the goose and someone else is holding the goose so I don’t know who’s left they are talking about).

What I am doing is kneeling on either side of the goose’s back, holding the head in my left hand (forcing the jaw open and keeping it open with my thumb that is covered with some t-shirt, wedged in the left side of the goose’s mouth), inserting the tube into the mouth along the left side and slowly easing it down deeper until there is about 3 inches of it left outside the mouth.  Once the tube gets about 3/4 of the way down there is a bit of resistance cause the goose’s neck is probably a little bent, so you just stretch the neck out a bit and the tube slides in further.  The really helpful thing that I was told was, as you are inserting the tube, keep watching to make sure that the goose is breathing.  I look at the tongue to see if it is moving inside the mouth and at the body – but the tongue is easier for me.  I was also told to just let a teeny bit of the contents of the tube out at first if you are uncertain – but I imagine that having this big tube down the windpipe would cause quite a bit of breathing distress.  Still – it’s scary to think of pushing this stuff into my goose’s lungs – so I usually check beyond all doubt that there is tongue movement, body movement, and I go very slow at first.

So, after having done this quite a few times now, I have a few helpful tips of my own.

I put a small amount of oil on the tube just to make sure it goes down her neck smoothly and I just started putting oil on the black rubber part of the plunger of the syringe cause it has been getting sticky inside the syringe lately -maybe cause of being used so much – and oil really helps it go down smoothly – and you need as many things as possible to go smoothly while you are doing this.  Seriously.

The plunger of this particular syringe is sticky at the top – there is a ridge or something – so I get it past that ridge before I get the tube in the goose (filling the syringe and tube is fun too – but I won’t go into that here unless someone asks).  Once I have the tube in the right place (I am still holding the goose’s head with my left hand) with my right hand I hold the syringe at the bottom where the tube connects to the syringe so that the tube does not pop off (very very important – it has happened more than once) and I push the syringe plunger into my shoulder.  I keep holding the tube and syringe bottom with my hand while I push everything out with my shoulder until I see that everything has gone through and sometimes a bit of air too.  If the air goes through you can also hear it sort of gurgling inside the goose.  This is ok.  It’s not like having air in a syringe that’s going into someone’s bloodstream.  It won’t hurt the goose at all.  Then I pull it out quickly and it’s all over.

Apparently a goose can take 120cc into it’s gizzard or gullet or whatever – but I only do 60cc cause it seems like it would be impossible to refill the syringe with the tube down the goose’s neck (pulling the plunger up pulls the stuff back into the syringe) and it’s really not that much fun for the goose to get the tube down the neck once, let alone twice in one sitting.  If you have the opportunity I would suggest getting two syringes so that you can give the goose more food and all you would have to do is disconnect the tube from the first syringe and quickly attach it to the second.

UPDATE 8/6/12: I got a second syringe and it is really worth it.  The last 2 days I have given her almost 120cc twice a day and I think it’s really helping.  She seems to be getting stronger (and unfortunately that means she struggles more when I feed her) and her poop is getting really firm.  Yay!

After I do the tube feeding I give her some water with the little syringe you see up top.  It’s really small and has a curved neck that makes it easy to shoot the water into her mouth – cause early on she didn’t drink on her own very much.

I do this twice a day.  You can do it more than that if you want.  I am running out of antibiotics tomorrow and am going to find out if I need to give her more.  I will still have to feed her like this though cause she won’t eat on her own yet and I might do it more often the stronger she gets.

This is how she has progressed from the very beginning

After the attack and for the whole next day she laid on her side and had very labored breathing.  There were moments when she sat with her head up but not very long at all.  We gave her water with a container that is like a soy sauce dispenser.  That worked well for pouring it into her mouth.

After I brought her back from the vet she was way better – I guess the cortisone was really helpful for her.  She sat up the whole day and drank a bit of water from a bowl and we still poured water into her mouth.  Her breathing was still labored off and on and still is today – off and on.  I think her windpipe was slightly damaged.  Not punctured or anything -but maybe a little smooshed.  It seems like it is something that can heal though because most of the day she breathes with her mouth closed now and only sometimes has to breath through her mouth.

She also had incredibly smelly diarrhea – very watery and green – from the very beginning and the antibiotics have helped with that.  She still has it off and on now – but things are firming up a lot.

At first she could barely hold her head up and now – just over a week later – she can turn her head in both directions to the side and can almost turn it around.  She still can’t clean her feathers and can’t stand up on her own – but she is getting stronger every day.  This next stuff is what I do for her since she can’t  – and for people who aren’t home all day it may be hard.  I don’t know how I would take care of her if I had a job – but I guess it’s one of the perks of being unemployed.  I can devote myself to my goose.

So, one of her obsessions is cleaning herself.  That is pretty much what geese do all day long – apart from eating.  They constantly clean their feathers.  And she has a tendency to flip herself around in the bin I have her in periodically if I don’t stand her up and scratch her feathers for her.  Ok – actually she does flip herself around and that is when I know I have to pick her up and scratch her.  I either hold her up against the side of the bin to steady her or take her out and sit on the floor and let her chest rest on top of one of my legs while she supports herself with her own legs.  I want to make sure she keeps some strength in her legs cause she is sitting most of the day right now – and I know she wants to stand too.  Then I just start scratching her all over and pulling at her feathers – cause that’s what they do to themselves.  It seems like it works for her cause sometimes she gets all dazed and other times she moves her head around like she’s the one that’s actually doing the work.  I also started rubbing the oil from the oil gland into her feathers with my finger.  At first I was all “eww”, but it’s really not that weird.  It’s just a very fine oil and it washes off.  I can tell by the way she moves her head and butt that she really wants it done and I wasn’t sure if the oil gland could get clogged from not being used – so I just started doing it and it seems to be going well.  I’m sure I don’t get as good of coverage as she does when she does it – but it’s better than nothing.  I wind up doing this scratching thing about 4 times a day.  It usually lasts about 10 minutes – so it’s not too bad – but it makes a pretty big mess.

So right now – I fed her a little while ago and put her in the bin and she is splashing her head around in a dog bowl of water I have in there for her.  So even though her neck isn’t totally healed yet – she is already able to move it around in the water.  She mostly just sits in the bin or on the floor in the room I’m in throughout the day and either sleeps or just spaces out, and I think that’s normal for the whole healing process.  It’s really easy to fall into that space where I stare at her to see if there’s something wrong or think that it’s all taking too long – but I just have to be patient and know that whatever happens happens.

So, hopefully this will be helpful to someone – especially since there is so little info online about taking care of a goose with an injured neck.

The vet told me that geese are really strong.  That he has seen geese that were mauled by dogs and were in really bad shape that recovered – and that made me feel a lot better.


I can tell that MacGregor is really strong and stubborn – and that’s gonna help her a lot.