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Honking and squawking

The June issue of the basically print-only Richmond Magazine profiles Jean Ryland and her famous Church Hill geese in The Goose Whisperer. The article has some great photos.

Interesting fact: Rafer Hoxworth is 27-years-old (and geese have been known to live to age 70!)

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Lu Motley 05/25/2007 at 4:23 PM

I don’t know of too many things on this Hill as delightful as sticking my head out the door and watching Jean’s incredible geese walking down the sidewalk or across E. Franklin Street happily honking their way behind Jean.They are one of the few things which can stop traffic on that street.

I was recently at The Buzzy’s Beanry with my nephew and his four “youngin’, two who are under 6, and watched as Jean’s creeters enchanted the kids. Now I ask all in this neighborhood: Aren’t we lucky to have such eccentric neighbors? Thank heavens for Jean and her honking babies.

Lu Motley

archie bunker 05/26/2007 at 9:34 AM

I can’t stand those geese. I think it’s because she lets them walk without a leash and they can straggle almost a block behind her. Or maybe it’s becasue when I’m walking my dog, they hiss at her and spread their wings like they want to start a fight with her. Meanwhile, my labrador’s genetic code is firing away telling her that whatever that thing is, she’s supposed to chase/bark at/eat it. In the midst of all this, Ms. Ryland is giving me a dirty look. I’m sorry, but if you let your prey, er pet, wander around off-leash, you forfeit the right to get agitated about my properly leashed predator.

zack 05/26/2007 at 9:16 PM

Well said, Archie. Well said indeed.

Ralph 05/28/2007 at 9:10 AM

The geese have baited my dogs too and her response was to ignore the fact that her birds were squawking at my dogs and instead blame my dogs, which were on a leash.

And her immediate neighbors must love the noise these abnormal pets make at all hours of the day and night.

I love animals and even think these geese are neat, but there are reasons some of then are not kept as pets in urban areas. I am not sure how they have dodged the zoning laws for animals, but if they are enforced capriciously, we might wind up with a cow as a neighborhood pet.

tiny 05/29/2007 at 12:26 PM

Those geese frighten my children. My daughter is right at “bill-level” with those birds and it is terrifying for a little one. I attended a picnic where they bite not one, but two people!

To each his own, but I hate the geese and have yet to meet anyone that doesn’t.

Grrrrrrrr 05/29/2007 at 1:23 PM

Is it too early to bring out my patented “sharpend sticks” commentary?

Clay Street 05/29/2007 at 3:18 PM

God, I hate those geese–my husband and I always avoid them and their owner when we walk our dog. We thought we were alone…
We also recently ran into someone with a cockatoo in a stroller of all things. The bird freaked out and terrified our dog…what’s with all the bird nerds in the nabe?

jo 05/29/2007 at 4:22 PM

i heard that there used to be a fairly large domestic pig living in oregon hill several years ago (perhaps the 90s…the 1990s). and no, it wasn’t dirt woman. or my mom.

john_m 05/29/2007 at 8:17 PM

I remember that pig. It got loose on Pine Street one time back ’93/’94.

There were some chickens living back by us when we first moved up here but they’re gone now.

Waldensian 05/29/2007 at 8:39 PM

These geese are vermin. They hiss at me constantly, and everything else in sight. Here’s a tip: if they ever try to bite me, I’m going to pop a cap in their little goose asses.

Goose Lover 05/29/2007 at 10:10 PM

Not everyone loves your dogs on the sidewalks or in the parks either, no matter how cute, devoted, friendly, etc., etc. you think your dogs are. Perhaps if you showed a little more compassion to all living creatures, you would understand better how amazingly intelligent and perceptive birds are. Having worked in an animal hospital for many years, dogs might be affectionate, but nowhere near as complex and intriguing as birds (including geese).

Clay Street 05/29/2007 at 11:16 PM

Oh boy, you are taking me back—I lived across the street from the Oregon Hill pig in 1994-ish (500 block of Pine). One day, they had had a big barbecue, and there was no more pig. I am not joking.
Foie gras, anyone?

archie bunker 05/30/2007 at 8:31 AM

I don’t expect everyone else to love my dogs, that’s why they are fenced and leashed. I don’t let my dogs approach little kids without the parent’s agreement that it is ok, but those geese wander around freely — and, as tiny mentioned above, they have a history of nipping at people. I don’t care how emotionally complex a freaking goose is, if it frightens kids and nips at people it should be controlled.

If you’re trying to suggest that I shouldn’t be able to walk my dog on the sidewalks or in a park while on a leash, I would say ‘dems fighting words.

Oh, and I think it is important to point out that I clean up after my dogs, which is more than I can say for the Goose Lady … she lets them crap anywhere and doesn’t even so much as lift a finger to clean it up.

Finally, is it even legal to have farm animals as pets in Church Hill?

Clay Street 05/30/2007 at 8:49 AM

I second the pooping commentary–I religiously clean up after my dog and don’t appreciate goose poop on the brick sidewalks. I am also required to leash, license, and have proof I have vaccinated my animal. If my dog ever ever bit (or menaced) someone, I would expect serious repercussions .
As to the allowance of city-farm animals, there are areas of the city where one may have a certain number of fowl (say, three hens, but no rooster). Neighborhoods such as Church Hill and Oregon Hill are just so old that these things are still on the books. There’s usually a set limit to number and sex of animals. There were goats in Oregon Hill in the 70’s, from what I hear, as well as said pig in the 90’s…

Lu Motley 05/30/2007 at 9:38 AM

When I lived on 23rd, in the 70’s at 411 to be exact, I was wakened by a rooster every morning. I could have screamed about that rooster, but frankly, there was something wonderful being wakened by a barnyard creature in the City of Richmond.

I think to waste “hate” on two perfectly innocent birds is amazing. Come on… hate what we did to Iraq, or what we do to others by ignoring them, or what we allow to happen to innocents who need our help.

To stand outside and be lucky enough to watch a Blue Heron fly over or a flock of Canadian geese is good. What’s wrong with sharing? We aren’t the only creatures in Richmond. Go down to the canal and sit a while.Find some peace.

Lu Motley

archie bunker 05/30/2007 at 10:17 AM

I find peace walking my dog.

That is, I find peace when I walk my dog without being accosted by water fowl with an exaggerated sense of self.

jc 05/30/2007 at 10:35 AM

Put it to rest already. Some people like em some don’t. Now step away from your computer.

Ralph Malph 05/30/2007 at 11:33 AM

I just can not immagine undertaking a pet that can live to be 70. That means kids and grandkids will be caring for these birds. And teh neigborhood, like it or not, will be dealing with them for decades.

I would have never gone out of my way to insult the geese, until I read this praise of them and thought that things should be balanced.

Balance. My dog follows the law. Perhaps your geese should too.

ann 05/30/2007 at 12:29 PM

There’s a rooster still crowing near my other house in downtown Richmond. His elderly owner said that the rooster is all that’s left, that hawks ate the 5 hens some years back. This is right near the intersection of Broad and Belvidere.

rm 05/30/2007 at 6:50 PM

People in this neighberhood get too bent out of shape over tiny things. Let it go. So they aren’t on a leash. I don’t think I have seen a goose attack and kill an innocent child and I don’t think Mike Vick is having company over to watch geese fight in his back yard either. Let it go.

I am a dog lover and believe they should be on a leash when being walked.

Old one 05/31/2007 at 10:14 AM

For those who can’t bear another “bird” story, turn away and don’ot read this note. Also, may I commend the last writer for their common sense.

Again, about a hundred years ago, my Mom was standing up on the back porch of my Pop John’s house when a very territorial rooster went after my poor 18 month old baby bubba. Well, Mom didn’t waste one word, she just picked up a flower pot and threw it at the rooster.

Well, I’ll tell you, that old bird went to Heaven or Hell, whichever, in a big hurry and all enjoyed a tough old bird for dinner.

I’m not writing this to suggest any foolish action toward birds, but to entice the humorless to try to see the bright side. Also, why do we always bring dogs into the fray? They deserve better care.

Old one from long ago…

Mememememe 06/04/2007 at 7:08 PM

You guys are funny. All this talk over 3 geese.

Howie 06/04/2007 at 10:58 PM

its not the geese. Its the rude owner!

zack 06/05/2007 at 8:05 AM

Well said, Howie. That is the issue.

william 06/05/2007 at 8:00 PM


Mike 06/06/2007 at 9:24 AM

“That is, I find peace when I walk my dog without being accosted by water fowl with an exaggerated sense of self.”

Mr. Bunker… that sentence alone has brightened my day…bravo…

Waldensian 06/26/2007 at 9:31 AM

Um, is it just me, or have the Church Hill Hellfowl actually spawned?

My first clue was the PARTICULARLY copious green slimy goose poop all over the sidewalk this morning, complete with buzzing flies.

And then… I saw them….

Look, I’ll keep quiet about the silly geese — all 375 of them — if she just cleans up after them. Why am I a horrible person for demanding that? It’s just common decency. Most dog owners do it, and the ones who don’t are rightfully criticized.

Only a very, very rude and inconsiderate person would parade animals around crapping on the sidewalk and not clean up after them. It’s disgusting.

Clay Street 06/26/2007 at 2:47 PM

My husband called me this morning from his car to give me the heads-up. In his words, “It looks like she got seven more of the f—ers.” He also said she looked “defiant.” Granted, they are goslings, and I’m sure they are cute as hell, but don’t give me a hard look when my dog acts like he wants to chase your “neat” birds walking down the sidewalk. And please clean up the disgusting crap. Babies are cute too, but I wouldn’t throw my baby’s poop on the sidewalk.
That is all.

golden wasp 06/26/2007 at 3:09 PM

I am constantly amazed by our ability to innovate…..the following link may be the answer…..

Zoning 06/26/2007 at 3:35 PM

Its hard for me to believe that she is not breaking some sort of zoning law. What exactly are geese clasified as anyway? Even if I liked geese, I still would be worried about the precedent being set by allowing one resident to house a whole zoo in an urban home. How can law enforcement punish the poor person with too many dogs or cats, or heaven forbid, a farm animal if they turn their heads and ignore somone with a flock just because they are white and well to do?

j 06/26/2007 at 5:22 PM

Please. I am tired of race being brought into every argument.

john_m 06/26/2007 at 5:32 PM Reply
hmmm 06/26/2007 at 10:12 PM

Agree with J about the race thing. The residents who own the geese have lived up here for upwards of 30 years and are not wealthy.

The gaggle of geese that seems to have appeared recently is disconcerting. Animal hoarding?

And old outdated, ancient ordinance that allows farm animals to dwell in our neighborhood is the law. Apparently, many people are not happy about the law, so the course to take is to change the law.

Organize, lobby, work it! That’s how you get things to happen.

As for the poop all over, the article in the Richmond Magazine talks about how the owner deals with it. She {paraphrase) grinds in it to the bricks with her sneaker.

You want this taken care of – go after her in a way that is procedural and legal. Don’t just complain on a blog page.

Short quip: At an Alley Rally many years ago, the goose lady was walking her gaggle during the event. Being November, one of the volunteers looked at the geese and declared “Oh yum, Thanksgiving dinner!”

hmmm 06/26/2007 at 10:32 PM

Speaking of old-timey stuff up here, does anyone remember the fishmonger and vegetable man that went around in their old, beat pick-up trucks and would shout “Gitch ya fish…” and “Come on out..” I miss that.

The geese? Well, part of those by-gone days whose hour glass has run out.

Nordy 06/27/2007 at 9:02 AM

More Geese? How selfish can this lady get. A flock of pets that can live to be 70 inflicted on her neighbors and her family. Seriusly, if I owned a dozen dogs, the city would intervene. And, she would be at the first of the line complaining about my dogs barking at her geese.

Somebody needs to up her meds or something.

Mort 06/27/2007 at 9:06 AM

Hey, if she can raise geese, I am going to start a pig farm on my property. My back yard is already muddy enough as it is.

Old Fart 06/27/2007 at 10:15 AM

Frankly there is a gaggle of folks I would much rather leave this neighborhood than the Geese. Also, has anyone of you looked in the dictionary for the defination of “Gaggle?”

Old Fart 06/27/2007 at 10:16 AM

Also would you please correct the spelling of definition???

Lu Motley 06/27/2007 at 12:07 PM

Did anyone notice the destruction of the old Oak tree at the corners of 21st and East Franklin on the NE side of the street? It was literally chopped to pieces by Dominion Power.

Dominion said the tree was leaning. The truth is that they needed to put in power lines to accomidate the Health Club across 21st street, which is now being restored since it’s been found an historical building.

Why was destroying that wonderful old Oak which has given much shade for years, the only answer??? It was not leaning!!

Lu Motley

Lu Motley 06/27/2007 at 1:10 PM

How in Heaven’s name do you confuse a tree with geese? A tree sways in a breeze and makes a very pleasant sound. Also, as mentioned before, a tree gives shade and nutrients to the air we breathe.

Geese honk and squawk and eat grass, still Jean’s geese are delightful.

Who’s minding the store???


Mean Ole Mrs T 06/27/2007 at 7:27 PM

Dear Lu,


Mean Ole Mrs T 06/27/2007 at 7:31 PM

wait…now we’re talking about the church hill market? perhaps the delightful geese are minding it.

Lu Motley 06/28/2007 at 8:39 AM

Dear Ole Whatever. Huh is the appropriate comment when I write about a beautiful Oak which has been felled at the corner of Franklin and get the usual
diatribe about something I haven’t written about. I suppose I should adopt an uncaring attitude about so much uncaring, but that tree had been there for years, providing shade and grounding through Isabel when the whole hillside below Richmond Hill and Bellview almost washed away.

Lu Motley

archie bunker 06/29/2007 at 9:38 AM

Mmmmmmm … paté.

Mike 06/29/2007 at 9:44 AM

In Virginia you need a permit to “possess” geese. Native migratory birds are protected by law. (The fact that the follow her around and she feeds them fufills the “possess” requirement)

If they are that much of a problem and the Owner refuses to do anything about them call the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, they will give them a nice home in thier native habitat.

Nacho 06/29/2007 at 9:57 AM

…these are domestic barn yard geese. As such, they do not require a permit to possess and their taste is less gamey. “Possess” usually refers to the number of animals you can have in possession, i.e. bag limits. Please don’t bother the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They have enough to do.

Ornithologist 06/29/2007 at 10:48 AM

I think these geese are a kind of domestic French goose, something outside the state law cited.

And with all the other sh*t on the sidewalk (including human) in this neighboorhood, I can’t believe all the people giving this goose woman a hard time. This post has 45 hits, most anti-Mother Goose. Isn’t Church Hill the kind of community that embraces the eccentric?

GRRRR! 06/29/2007 at 3:28 PM

french geese? Has someone notified Homeland Security?

I doubt that most people here hate geese per say. They just are frustrated by her “I am right you are wrong and my precious geese can poop anywhere” attitude. Sort of like a parent who thinks their kids can do no wrong but in reality the kid is a menace. She antagonizes law abiding dog owners and never seems to apologize. Plus, the addition of more geese puts her in the realm of the crazy cat lady.

Lu Motley 06/30/2007 at 11:26 AM

And with latest entry from a typically unnamed one, I give you all the bird.

Lu Motley

VCS 07/02/2007 at 9:28 AM

So here’s a question. If the tiger I keep in my backyard (b/c Goodness knows I don’t want to scoop their poop from the sidewalk)was to get out and eat one of the geese and poop it out, do I have to scoop it or does Mother Goose have to scoop it??
Happy Monday and Safe 4th to ya!

archie bunker 07/02/2007 at 11:45 AM

VCS — You just have to grind it into the sidewalk with your shoe, of course.

thepinch 07/09/2007 at 6:33 PM

i dont know if this is the right place to ask or if anyone will know the answer but are goats allowed in fairmont. i used to have one in california a long time ago and would like another. thanks for any info.

Amy 07/09/2007 at 9:55 PM

you can look on for all the do’s and don’ts re: animals in Richmond.

bill 07/10/2007 at 12:17 AM

if “thepinch” gets a goat i would be interested in a day lease arrangementto keep the growth down on the lot next door to me.

hmmm 07/10/2007 at 2:06 AM

Here’s the city code for keeping fowl. The goose lady is keeping fowl against the law. This is a class 4 misdemeanor. So who’s going to turn her in?

Sec. 10-88. Keeping and running at large of hogs, pigs and fowl.
(a) No hog or pig shall be kept on any premises or allowed to go at large within the city, provided that hogs and pigs may be kept at the Maymont Park as educational exhibitions.
(b) No person shall keep, place or maintain fowl on any parcel of real property in the city which contains less than 50,000 square feet in area.
(c) All fowl shall be kept in securely and suitably fenced areas, and no fenced area or pen for fowl shall be permitted closer than 500 feet to any house or other building used for residential purposes by anyone other than the person maintaining such fowl or such person’s immediate family.

Rabbit 06/11/2009 at 11:35 AM

I can’t believe you people are so mean!

Find someone else to pick on and leave the poor Goose Lady alone. With all the things that go on in this city, and in our little village…who cares if her goose hisses at your dog or if it makes droppings on the sidewalk like any of the other birds do? I couldn’t care less.

Rhetorical tigers, barnyard animals and the inevitable racial accusation- heaven forbid we have a conversation without that- none of this has anything to do with the Goose Lady.

I for one, like a little eccentricity. It adds local color.

David 06/11/2009 at 1:12 PM

There are the peafowl who live off Southampton rd off Huguenot.

Ramzi 06/11/2009 at 8:27 PM

I love the geese! I think it’s cool to see them when they’re out and about. Where else do you get to see that? I think the new little ones have moved on BTW.

Rabbit 06/12/2009 at 8:58 AM

Oh and BTW, my neighbors on Grace have chickens. Fancy chickens mind you, but I hear them from time to time, and we even had an escapee up in my tree. Doesn’t bother me at all.


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