Gijs the Goose finds a place of his own at Miller Björn’s
Björn den Ouden found the gosling in March, stranded out on the yard of Nederwaard Museum Mill. All alone. Now, less than a year onwards, Gijs the greylag goose is all grown up, and he doesn’t look like he’s planning to leave the Kinderdijk miller’s side anytime soon.
At Kinderdijk UNESCO World Heritage, any visitor passing the gate leading to the yard of mill number 1 is in for a friendly welcome by the ‘goose of the house’. The kind greeting consists of some friendly honks and gaggles, beaked face pointed upward in amused curiosity. There’s not a hint of aggression in the goose’s behaviour. “He wouldn’t hurt a fly”, promises his ‘owner’ Björn den Ouden. “In fact, I’m not even sure whether it’s a boy or a girl. I just thought Gijs the Goose had a nice ring to it.”
In March, when the youthful visitor couldn’t have been more than one or two weeks old, Gijs was seen scampering around the crowded millyard of the Nederwaard Museum Mill. Mum and dad were nowhere to be seen. “Sure, I could have decided to let it fend for itself, but in the end, Gijs got the sympathy vote. So I took him back to my mill and put him in a cardboard box with some water to drink”, Den Ouden recalls. Gijs thrived on his improvised diet: a highly nutritious mix of chicken feed made sure he kept putting on pounds at record speed. The miller recalls feeding Gijs using a syringe at first. Soon enough, however, they could frequently be spotted lying on the couch watching television together, under the suspicious gaze of the two cats and the dog Siem sharing their windmill home with the feathered newcomer. For months, Gijs used the miller’s barn for his sleeping quarters.
By now, Gijs has swapped the cosy confines of the living room for the greener pastures of the millyard, which contains all the fresh grass he could ever need. On one occasion, the youthful animal wound up at the Visitors Centre while exploring his surroundings. Gijs was soon recognised by some of the catering staff, however, who returned him to the mill on the back of a bicycle. Den Ouden: “I always figured that he would just fly off someday once he was all grown, you know, joining a group of fellow geese. Well, it’s December now, and there’s hardly any geese left around Kinderdijk while mine’s still here, haha.”