Photo by Audrey Pavia
About a year ago, our next-door neighbors decided to add a couple of feathered creatures to their family of dogs and bunnies. For reasons unclear to me, they chose a pair of Chinese geese. Named PF and Chang, the presence of these birds became rapidly known throughout the neighborhood.
PF and Chang are hard to miss. Not only are they handsome geese, with snow white feathers, swan-like carriage and large knobs on their foreheads, they have very distinctive voices that can be heard for blocks around. The sound goes something like this:
Squeee-yonk! Squeee-yonk! Squeee-yonk!
If I had to guess the decibel level, I’d say 11, to quote one of my favorite guitar heroes, Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap. These birds are loud. And I do mean loud.
PF is the male, and he’s the bigger culprit of the two when it comes to sounding out. Chinese geese developed in the 1800s as “watch geese,” meaning they were supposed to sound out a loud warning whenever they detected someone strange in their environment. Seems Chinese farmers wanted their geese to let them know when a predator or potential thief was in the area. They also wanted these same geese to provide them with a good source of meat and eggs. Fortunately for PF and Chang, their American owners don’t have any interest in the birds’ culinary byproducts.
The sounds of PF’s and Chang’s squeaking honks have simply become background noise for me as I go about my barn chores, or sit in my home office working on my computer. I do have to take special notice of them every morning when I leave for work, however.
Seems their owners have taken to keeping the pair confined to one side of the house early in the morning, right next to my driveway. When I pull my car out of the garage and onto the driveway in the morning and get out to shut the gate, the pair sound off in a fit of honking that must wake up every neighbor from here to the Circle K convenience store four blocks away.
I have tried making friends with the two of them in the hopes they will see me as friend and not foe, and therefore have no need to honk at me each morning. But so far, no luck. They snake their heads at me and bark as loud as they can, sending a clear message: “Get lost.” So until I find some way into their hearts (some kind of Chinese goose gastronomic delight, I’m guessing), I’ll have to start my day to the objections of the very handsome PF and Chang, Hillside Avenue’s resident Chinese geese.
Keeping farm animals in the city can be a real hoot. Follow freelance writer Audrey Pavia’s adventures in Southern California with a yard full of urban livestock, including horses, chickens, a Corgi and an urban barn cat. She somehow manages all these silly critters while working full-time, with no one to help her but her husband, Randy, a born-and-raised New Yorker. And you thought “The Simple Life” was out there?