A duck lover who hatched a gosling during lockdown now turns heads as he walks his new pet around town.
James Cosgrove was handed a goose egg by a colleague just before lockdown – but he had no idea that it was fertile.
Rather than boiling or poaching it, the 28-year-old duck enthusiast decided to place the egg in his incubator.
Around 28 days later, the gosling hatched and James was besotted from the outset and named the chick Phoenix.
He said: “It was a beautiful moment, it was pure love. It was no longer an egg and actually now a life that I was responsible for.
“She came so soon after the beginning of the lockdown, so she has been my lockdown.”
Since March James has nurtured the Embden Goose at his home, which he shares with three housemates.
He washed her in the bath, fed her and even slept next to her, often waking to find his bedsheets soiled with droppings and the fledgling plucking the hairs on his chest.
James, a furniture salesman, said: “That hurt. I had to sleep with a t-shirt on to protect myself. What she was trying to do was preen me. It’s an affection thing.”
After five weeks, Phoenix had grown rapidly, forcing James to build his new pet a home in the garden.
James, of Canterbury, Kent, said: “In bed she’d have a towel, a little bowl of water and food. She’d sleep under my armpit and some mornings I’d find her under my leg; she’d find any hot spots. I was daddy goose.
“Sometimes it’d get it all down my arm and it’d be across the bed. I was recycling four bed sheets and washing them every day. It didn’t worry me. But after five weeks I reached my threshold – there was so much.”
James gathered recycled timber to build Phoenix a hut outside, before paying £120 for a professional carpet cleaner to disinfect the house.
He added: “My housemates were quite relieved when she moved into the enclosure outside, but I barely slept the first night. Every hour or so I would get up to check on her. I couldn’t hear her and I couldn’t see her; I was just worried about her.”
Now nine-weeks old, the lone goose obediently follows her owner as they plod the streets of Canterbury, turning heads as they go.
The animal lover said: “She’ll just walk with us quite happily. The only things you have to watch out for are dogs and cats. She’ll normally be quite happy after about 30 minutes of walking.
“I have been shopping with her twice, but I don’t like to go where it’s too busy to look after her welfare.”
On one outing, a shopper even asked James if he was planning to “eat” Phoenix, to which he replied: “Absolutely not, she’s my pet.”
He began walking Phoenix in search of fresh pastures for her to feed on, due to a shortage in his own garden.
James, who likes to don a straw hat, pink shorts and sandals, said: “I’m not insane walking her. When I moved into the house in February, there was no grass.
“I’d just put grass seed down when she hatched, so as a last resort I carried this baby goose to the field. I’d sit here for hours letting her feed on the grass.”
He added: “Every now and again she does try to eat random things. I’ve seen her eat rocks before; it’s frightening. It just goes straight through her and doesn’t affect her at all, though.”
Phoenix is not the first bird James has reared. The nature enthusiast grew up in a house backing onto the River Stour, where his father has reared generations of ducks whose offspring still return to their garden each year.
James’ upbringing fostered in him a deep love of ducks from an early age.
He said: “As a kid, you’d be asked what’s your favourite animal. Everyone would go, ‘Elephant, tiger, gorilla,’ but I said ducks. I just love ducks. Every day I was able to see ducks, so I was constantly happy.”
James has shared his bed with more than 10 birds at once, but it is the first occasion he has reared a single goose.
He added: “It’s the most time I’ve ever put into a bird. The best way is having more than one, and letting them interact amongst themselves. But with Phoenix, I’m literally the dad. With furlough, you can dedicate time to it.”
Despite the quirky relationship between the two, James stressed that Phoenix is not his “novelty” and that his priority is her welfare.
The nature lover recommended that people think carefully about the commitment required before adopting their own goose.
He said: “Don’t do this as a novelty. It takes a lot of effort. They’re very clever birds and if you don’t give them the right level of love, then they’re going to be very depressed.”
The wildlife enthusiast says he is planning to move to a house with a larger garden in the next five years and to find a mate for the goose.
He added: “Phoenix is just going to be our pet and live with us. Hopefully I can get more geese and she’d actually have a flock then.
“I’ll keep her safe. If anything, I’m her gander.”