Meet Spraddles. This American Buff gosling is about a week old now and having trouble with its legs. Spraddle-legs or splay-legs is a condition often caused when a new hatchling can’t get good footing to stand up well. No doubt that’s what happened to this little guy (gal?). It’s probably my fault, too.

Here’s what happened. I checked the incubator as usual before bedtime and noted the tiny cracks where a hatchling had started to peck through a spot in one goose egg. My experience to date with goose eggs is it’s usually a couple of days from that point to total emergence. Imagine my surprise when I awoke the next morning to find an empty shell in that spot and a fluffy, demanding gosling on the other side. It was sprawled across a row of duck eggs and gazing up at me with love in its tiny, beady eyes. I held it and nuzzled it for a while — seriously, who could resist all that soft yellow fuzz and those happy baby sounds? I arranged an old towel across the little brooder box I have for the new hatchlings — terrycloth offers much better footing than newspaper. I tried the usual tricks I’d used with the occasional splay-legged chick before, but let’s face it, a goose is a lot bigger than a chicken, and even a first-day gosling outweighs a new chick by . . . well, a lot. So the early tricks didn’t work.

Still, I can’t just give up on something this cute. Especially when it thinks I’m its mommy and makes happy noises every time it sees me. So a couple times a day, I haul the little fuzzball out to the cow trough for a swim where the water’s deep enough to give those legs a good workout. Physical therapy for the crippled little goose. Sigh. This morning it was just too cold for the cow trough — and face it, the bathtub would work, but then there’s all that scrubbing afterwards. So I had the brilliant idea of just plunking Spraddles into a bucket of warm water for a quick PT session.

Well, you can see how that turned out. The little brat loved that bucket. It hooked its tiny webbed feet on the edge . . . wriggled . . . floated . . . and peeped with joy. It was freakishly hilarious.

So, on to the next experiment. I found a webpage with great pictures for taping tiny chick legs into position to cure splay legs. We’re going to try it with Spraddles. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If this goose survives, it’s going to be one weird bird.