Getting in goosestep: walking the birds: I love going for walks with the geese. These are birds thought to have been companions for at least 7000 years. They are odd characters. Intelligent appearing at times, dumb as nobody’s business at others. Gracious and clumsy, quiet and calm, loud and messy. Always messy. Shitting everywhere, but damn good lawn mowers. Fine company.
When going for walk with the geese, I show them new places to forage, get some grass seeds, drink water from the wetland and their flat feet submerged in the pond. Recently I’ve got even more company on those walks, with Yarrrow, the White Swiss Shepherd, who has moved in. More on him later. Here are the birds, no longer little babies…
The birds get their exercise and we stay in close touch. They don’t walk on to me any more, but they come communing, cleaning me, talking, when I sit down with them.
Quite the journey. I loved feeding them special food when they were babies. Now they sort themselves out. Like human babies, like most babies.
What does the machine have to say about this pastime, going for walks with the geese?
“…The idea of taking geese for walks to familiarize them with fresh feeding grounds, natural water sources, and provide exercise while maintaining the bond that has grown since they were infants can be explored in scientific terms through the lens of animal behavior, cognition, and ecology. Such a practice aligns with principles of ethology and applied animal behavior science.
1. Ethology and Animal Behavior: Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, encompassing both innate and learned behaviors. It recognizes that animals, including domesticated ones like geese, have cognitive abilities, emotions, and social bonds. Walking geese to new feeding grounds and natural water sources leverages their natural exploration and foraging instincts. Ethological principles emphasize the importance of allowing animals to express their natural behaviors in captivity, which can contribute to their physical and psychological well-being.
2. Cognitive Mapping: Geese, particularly domesticated greylag geese, are known for their remarkable cognitive abilities, including spatial memory and navigation. By taking them for walks to various locations, you encourage the development of cognitive maps—a mental representation of the environment. This helps geese understand their surroundings, locate resources, and adapt to different environments.
3. Social Bond Maintenance: Geese are social animals that form strong bonds with their caregivers, often imprinting on them during their early stages of life. Taking geese for walks allows them to maintain social contact with their human caregivers, which is crucial for their well-being. Social interactions contribute to a sense of security and reduce stress, which can positively impact their physical health.
4. Exercise and Health: Regular exercise is essential for the physical health of geese. Walking provides them with the opportunity to stretch their wings, strengthen their leg muscles, and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise is known to improve digestion, reduce aggression, and enhance overall vitality in captive birds.
5. Environmental Enrichment: Environmental enrichment is a key concept in animal welfare and behavioral science. Taking geese for walks introduces novelty and variety into their lives. Different environments, smells, and sights stimulate their senses and cognitive processes. This enrichment contributes to their mental and emotional well-being.
6. Adaptive Behavior: In the wild, geese are migratory birds that travel long distances to find suitable feeding and breeding grounds. By exposing them to various environments during walks, you are encouraging adaptive behavior. Geese can learn to recognize and utilize different resources, a valuable skill for their survival.
7. Ethical Considerations: It’s essential to conduct such activities ethically and with respect for the welfare of the geese. This includes monitoring their behavior and stress levels during walks, ensuring they have access to suitable resting areas and shelter, and avoiding any harm or undue stress. Ethical considerations are central to responsible animal care.
In summary, taking geese for walks to explore new feeding grounds, natural water sources, and maintain their bond with human caregivers aligns with principles of animal behavior, cognition, and welfare. It recognizes the complex mental and emotional lives of geese while promoting their physical health and adaptive behavior. However, it’s essential to approach such activities with sensitivity to the specific needs and preferences of the geese and adhere to ethical standards in animal care…”.