“HAVE you got any goslings” came the message from a friend in our village. Well we have several potential goslings, but they are all still in their shells and rocking back and forth in an incubator.

Turns out that a gosling has turned up in his garden, and despite taking it back to the pond he thinks it came from, the little bird keeps coming back. And as this neighbour keeps two rather feisty dogs, he is concerned they may kill the orphan. So later in the day, a piping gosling was deposited, in a carrier bag, in our postbox. A strange delivery.

Just a few days ago one of my broody hens successfully hatched out four ducklings. I had set half a dozen eggs under this hen, laid by our resident small flock of ducks. These ducks were, I was convinced, drakes. I had originally bought a dozen ducklings and subsequently gave away several to a friend who had four drakes but no hens. Confusingly female ducks can also be called hens. Anyway, shows how much I knew when three of the “drakes” started laying eggs a few weeks ago. At first I found the eggs floating in the pond in our paddock. But now the ducks helpfully lay them in the hen hut and, as we had a surplus of duck eggs and an obliging broody hen, they have made a good match.

But would this hen be willing enough to add a gosling to her brood. Meanwhile, to settle this new addition John had put together a makeshift coop, stringing up a heat lamp to keep the little bird warm. The gosling was not impressed.

I rushed up to Jo’s bedroom and from granddaughter Sophie’s bed, brought down a white toy duckling to put in the coop. The peep peeping shushed.

To aid the success of the adoption he threw an old blanket over the hen's coop and, once the hen had settled down, slipped the gosling beneath her. No indignant clucks. No ruffled feathers. Was this a success?

Unfortunately no. Once the covers were removed and the hen recognised the deception, she took immediate, near lethal action. If John hadn’t stepped in and whisked the gosling out of the pen, she may well have killed the little bird.

So now the gosling is back in its lonely pen with only a toy duck for company. But I have a plan. In another coop is a hen sitting half a dozen duck eggs. She has been sat for a fortnight and, with any luck, might be persuaded to think she has hatched a rather premature duckling. Fingers and feathers crossed.