Compassion in World Farming

Monday, 28 December 2009

Some pictures to end the year with

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I spent such a chilly but happy half an hour with my lovely critters today. Friends old & new. What a wonderful year I've had with them, full of treasured memories to keep forever.

As this year closes I'd just like to send HAPPY NEW YEAR wishes to you all. I hope 2010 will be full of love, harmony & happiness & I look forward to sharing new adventures with you.

........... Oooo, and don’t forgot to make a wish on the full BLUE MOON on New Year’s Eve. It's magical you know.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Mother hen's journey

I was talking to my Mum recently about how wonderfully tame & cuddly my little chicklets are. She said it's hardly surprising since they've seen me every single day since they hatched! I realised that's absolutely true. Each & every day for the last 11/12 weeks I have nurtured, watched over & cared for them. I have fed them & watered them, but much more than that I have been surrogate Mother Hen to them. As well as time spent with them during the day, I have sat out with them each & every evening & they have come & cuddled up to me. I have learned their moods & their little personalities. I have a synergy with them. It's hard to explain. I can pick any one of them up & within a moment of holding them I sense how they feel, my grip adjusts accordingly & my fingers know how fast or slow to stroke their feathers. I can sense if they're playful & just want to climb on me. I can sense when they need some comfort & want to be held close. They are far more than just little chicks to me - they are little souls.

From the day they hatched to today I have loved them fiercely every step of the way.



It's been an amazing journey & those little chicklets have given me a very special gift in return. I've learned a lot about myself. This closeness to this miracle of Nature, this very beginning of the Cycle of Life, has reinforced all my personal beliefs & it's helped me understand my spirituality. Being in touch with new Pagan friends has also helped me work out my place in this Universe. Last night I looked up at the sliver of Moon in the sky & knew who I was.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

It's wet & muddy outside....but it's dry inside at last!

Tonight our barn is resounding with the sound of ....... SILENCE. Blissful silence! No more fans blowing noisily away, no more dehumidifiers with their incessant, annoying humming! We're officially dry enough for the machines to be taken away. Which means that the insurance company should be in touch tomorrow to explain what happens with the repairs now.

There should be a shower here.

The bathroom needs putting back together.

New carpets & skirtings need to be fitted.

Walls need to be reconstructed & decorated.

It's amazing how much damage a water leak can do! But I'm very hopeful now that the place will be in a fit enough state for Mum & Dad to come & share the festive season with us, even if things are going to still be higgledy piggledy when Eldest Son comes home from Uni for his Xmas hols this Sunday.

It was also fairly dry last weekend, which meant that I got to spend some time with the new cockerels in our little field. They are coming on really well. Their plumage is getting more & more impressive as they grow bigger by the day. They are still young enough to be fairly meek, but grown up enough to hold their own with the hens now & strut their stuff about the field! What I'm most pleased about is how friendly & gentle they are. This, of course, I can't take the credit for. It's down to the way my friend Andy reared them - with love & kindness. They are hand tame & it's lovely to feed them corn from my hands (youngest son loves it too!). They are certainly more gentle than some of the hens, who shall remain nameless, who fair take your skin off when they come to enjoy a treat (ok it's the ex-battery girls, but it's not their fault. They're not so used to being fed from a caring human hand!).

Here's the gorgeous Merlin, the Copper Blue Maran cockerel, strutting his stuff! His colouring is stunning, shades of grey perfectly offsetting dramatic flashes of copper & gold. Of the four he seems to enjoy my company the most for some reason & is usually to be found close by me.

And here is mild mannered Mr Dorking, a Silver Dorking cockerel. He's a delightful, charming soul. He fixes me with calm eyes that seem filled with wisdom & knowledge - of what I'm not quite sure. I'm sure he will sit down & tell me one day!

This is handsome Snapdragon, showing off the beautiful green sheen in his feathers. He is a Welsummer cockerel. He's a very busy chap, always on the move, running about the place like some kind of action hero. Super Cockerel maybe? He's going to be quite the dandy.

And last, but by no means least, is Spicy, also a Welsummer. His nickname is Baby Spice at the moment, because he seems to be the 'baby' of the boys and therefore, it follows, the one I feel most clucky over. I'm sure he doesn't thank me for it, but I keep telling him that one day he is going to be so magnificent that it his nickname will seem ridiculous & we will laugh about it!

It is so lovely to have them as part of our flock and to be able to endlessly chat & share pictures of them with Andy, knowing he won't get fed up with me! Hubby & sons often look at me with that 'yeah, so it's yet another picture of one of the chickens' look.

Of course, certain of our feathered friends have enjoyed all this wet weather and are having trouble understanding why I am not quite so pleased with all the mud they have created!

Daisy & Seymour the Aylesbury ducks have made what they think is a stonkingly good mud slide into their pond! Hmmmm!

Its no good looking so innocent - I know which one of you has been dabbling again!

Something exciting happened at the weekend. Dear Izzy Whizzy, my Cream Legbar hen finally, at nine months old, stayed still long enough to lay me a beautiful blue egg! Hurray! I can now fill an egg box with pretty coloured eggs for my friends.

Every time I write about my critters it makes me beam from ear to ear & reminds me of just how much happiness they bring to my heart. True blessings from Mother Nature, each & every one of them & treasured beyond measure.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

A close relationship.

My youngest son was asked to describe me in his German lesson. He said that we had a very good relationship & that I was funny & generous. Now I was quite chuffed with that! I do have a close relation ship with my sons, but they are all now teenagers & one is away at University. Of an evening Middle & Youngest Son are busy with homework, 'e-chatting' to friends or chilling out with their computer games. Hubby works way too hard, often long into the evening. I'm a very affectionate, maternal creature by nature so a lot of love gets lavished on my animals when family aren't available to hug & squeeze!

Of course, the biggest outlet for my motherly love at the moment is my chicklets. Each & every evening I spend at least half an hour just sitting with them (sometimes considerably longer I have to confess - am I weird?). I definitely have a close relationship with them. They enjoy my company & climb up onto my legs to be close to me. They aren't one bit nervous & have enormous trust in me. Which is all very lovely & sweet - until it comes to cleaning out time! It's an impossible task. They get everywhere. In the dustpan. On the rubbish bag. Under my feet. Inside the sawdust bag. It is both exasperating & comical. I don't know whether to scream or giggle!

After they're all clean I usually take some pics of them to post here or on Twitter. Well, of course, this takes a little concentration & it means I'm not chatting to them. So the little monkeys took exception to my photography efforts this week & did everything in their power to get my full attention! They tugged at my trouser bottoms, they pulled on my camera strap, they perched on my arms & they got up so close and personal that it was impossible to take their picture anyway! Naughty they were, like spoilt kiddies! However, I did manage a few shots:


'Bonkers' my Chamois Polish Frizzle cockerel enjoying a snooze on my knee

Chicklets enjoying some mixed corn

Back of this photo is 'Teddy' who I'm positive is a Blue Silkie cockerel - he's so cute!

The Blue Silkies & the Polish bantams are all happy to be held & cuddled. They love it if I cup them in my hands. They visibly relax & snuggle into the warmth. They gaze up into my face with looks of wonderment - what kind of creature are you mummy? You don't have feathers like us? It's especially moving when the Silkies gaze up with their big, soulful, black puddles of eyes. They completely melt my heart. The pretty Porcelain D'Uccles are happy to be close to me & hop on & off my knee, but they don't enjoy being touched so much. All 3 breeds are totally engaging.

Spending time with the chicklets has meant that I have an incredibly special bond with them that I hope won't diminish as they grow. Spending time with birds when they are youngsters strengthens the relationship you have with them for sure. My Muscovy & Cherry Valley ducks that we've had since ducklings are far tamer than the rest of the ducks who were older when we got them. These are the first chickens we have reared ourselves so it will be fascinating to see the difference in the way they behave around us when they are older compared to the rest of the birds.

Not all of the chicklets will be staying with me. My friend Andy is having a couple of the Blue Silkies if enough turn out to be pullets (young hens). They'll have a fantastic home with him. But I know already that when the day comes it will be a wrench. Just as it was for him when I collected the 4 cockerels he had raised. At the moment only 1 of the 6 Silkies is obviously a cockerel (Teddy), so I'm hoping things will work out perfectly.

Until then, I'll carry on being Mother Hen to all of my babies & enjoy every single second of it!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Possibly the cutest cockerel in the world ..ever


Just had to share this photo of my dear Big Bird, perched on my knee as usual, telling me all about his day. Isn't he gorgeous?! He's nine weeks old now - can you believe it? Seems like only yesterday he was just a little yellow ball of fluff.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Is it a chick or is it a kitty cat?

First of all apologies for the infrequency of my blogging recently. I do not have a computer of my own at the moment so have to pinch time on my Middle son's PC whenever I can. As this is often only for a moment or two I have found it easier to 'Tweet' brief updates to family & friends via Twitter.

Well, our little barn is still full of holes, fans & dehumidifiers as work continues to discover the cause of our leak & dry our property out. Chem Dry have taken new damp readings & our moisture levels have gone down from 60-70% to around 20%, so we are getting there. Once the readings are less than 10% the insurance company will give the go ahead for the repairs & thankfully we do appear to be covered for everything that needs replacing - phew! Having seen all the heart breaking images of the flooding misery in Cumbria our problem just pales into insignificance really doesn't it? My only wish is that the place will be in a fit state for Xmas as Mum & Dad are due to stay with us. I don't think damp, noisy conditions will be good for my Dad, who has Parkinson's Disease.

On a much more positive & happy note here are some recent pictures of the chicklets, who have all now taken to jumping up for cuddles & strokes like little kitty cats!



Maybe it was the fetching (NOT!) combination of pink Wellibobs & black yoga pants that attracted them to my lap in this picture, but as soon as I parked my backside my little cherubs came over to talk to me!


First Conkers, a Chamois Polish Frizzle bantam, jumped up. She is most certainly a hen & incredibly cuddly & friendly. She loves it if I cup her in my hands & gently stroke her feathers.



Then 'Bonkers' joined her, together with Blue Silkie 'Patrick'.

I'm pretty sure that Bonkers is a cockerel, as he has darker feathers around his shoulders & longer tail feathers than Conkers. Patrick I am now beginning to think may be a Patricia! It's so hard to tell with Silkies when they are this young. The reason for my change of heart is that only one of the Blue Silkies is showing signs of wattles growing in & I know in Silkies these are much more prominent in the male. So maybe I have one cockerel & five hens? That would be perfect, but only time will tell. If anyone has any tips or advice they could share with me on sexing them I would be most grateful.


After their fusses Conkers & Patrick / Patricia decided my legs would be a nice cosy place to roost for the night! Cheeky monkeys!


The rest of my lovely brood were falling asleep at my feet.

I know that I may be a little eccentric (OK maybe quite a lot!), but I do love sitting out in the garden shed with my babies. Having watched them hatch out of their eggs I feel incredibly maternal & protective towards them. My heart swells with love when they jump up to see me. When they look me in the eye with trust I feel proud. I love the feel of their soft feathers against my skin when they sit in my hands & they enjoy snuggling up to the warmth of my body, just like they would a mother hen. Rearing them has been the most rewarding experience. Watching them emerge wet & exhausted from the shell after their fight into this world & then grow so quickly into fully feathered, self sufficient little birds reminds me of just how amazing Mother Nature & the cycle of life is.

The chicklets are nearly 8 weeks old now. If I am correct in my cockerel count I will be looking for some Chamois Polish & Porcelain D'Uccle bantam hens early next year to make sure I have a sufficient male:female ratio so would love to hear from anyone who breeds them.

It is still very wet & windy here & this coupled with the darker evenings has meant I haven't been able to send nearly as much time in our little field with my bigger birds as I would like to. However, although clearly fed up with the miserable weather, all the hens are fit & healthy & the young cockerels are growing bigger & more handsome every day. Poor Mr Dorking got blown into one of the duck ponds the other day as he was taking a drink from it! He came to no harm because we have breeze blocks in them to help the ducks get out, but I'm afraid his pride was rather dented. He looked around sheepishly to see if any of the hens had noticed his little accident. I don't think it helped that I had to suppress a giggle at the sight of him soggily stalking away across the field! The wind soon blew him dry & in no time his feathers were back to their magnificent best, lovely fellow.

On the other hand, the ducks of course are revelling in this weather. No matter how I tut at their muddy faces, they happily continue dabbling in the big puddles that have formed & turning our little field into a quagmire! Their tails wag as they greedily gobble whatever tasty morsels are brought to the surface.

Talking of ducks, Mayo, a lovely gentleman who reads my blog regularly has had his rescued Muscovy stolen from him. I know how devastated I would be if I lost Chalk or Big Cheese so please keep him in your thoughts & pray that by some small miracle she may find her way back to him.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

New arrivals ...and new friends

You know when you really seem to click with someone online, but wonder if you would really get on with them in 'real life'? Are we seeing the real person in online posts or just a false persona? After all it is often easier to find the right words to say when you are not face to face with someone.

Well the time had come to drive up to Yorkshire to visit my Twitter friend 'spicycauldron' and collect some cockerels from him & yes I was feeling a little nervous about meeting him in the flesh. I so wanted to feel the same warmth towards him in real life as I do online. I also wanted him to feel comfortable that I was going to give his boys a good home as I knew he had put a lot of himself in terms of love and care into rearing them & would miss them dearly once they'd gone. You know, I needn't have worried. Andy is just as nice in real life as 'spicycauldron' is online! I got on as much as I hoped I would both with him & with his partner David. They made hubby & I feel so welcome & at ease & were just the nicest people to sit & natter to.

Andy is what I call a proper animal lover, in tune with the needs of his animals & giving them the absolute best in care & attention. Anyone who knows hens will understand what I mean when I say that happy hens sing. They don't make the usual clucking or more agitated bwuck - buck- buck noise, they sing gently & contentedly, almost purring like cats. And they will happily gather around your feet to tell you about their day & give you the latest coop gossip. Andy's hens sing. Andy's hens clearly enjoy his company. He has an amazing empathy with them - a definite chicken whisperer!

As soon as I met the boys I was in love with them! I was so excited! I had to stop myself from literally jumping up & down with joy out of respect for Andy's feelings, because I knew how much of a wrench it was going to be for him when I left with them. Unfortunately he's not able to keep cockerels where he lives & he had a high ratio of boys from the batch of eggs he hatched. However, things have turned out OK really. He has enjoyed the magic of seeing them hatch & grow to 14 weeks old & although he has had to say goodbye to them now, they have found a good home with me & I will be able to keep Andy posted as they continue to grow & develop.

So after a very enjoyable visit it was time to pop the boys into their carriers & drive home with them. They were incredibly calm on the journey, perhaps because it was getting dark by this time. Hubby & I chatted to them as we whizzed down the motorways & they would talk back to us in a sleepy kind of way to let us know they were OK. When we arrived back home it was simply a case of popping them into the hen house in the darkness & leaving well alone. I didn't sleep much at all that night - I just couldn't wait for morning to let them out & see how they reacted to their new companions & their new surroundings. Despite the fact that the weather was miserable for their first day, with heavy rain sweeping across our little field, the four cockerels were soon out with the hens looking as if they were very much part of the gang. That first day the hens were quite raucous & behaved like little tarts around the handsome new boys, showing off & ruffling up their feathery skirts. Some of the older hens gave them the odd quick peck every once in a while just to remind them of their place as newcomers & Pop the gander made sure to 'introduce' himself & make it very clear that he was the top bird around the field! But other than that the young cockerels have been accepted very well. They have done remarkably well to cope with not only new surroundings, but new creatures in our geese, ducks & goats. That I'm sure is down to the confidence of having been raised so well that they have no reason to feel anything other than safe & secure in this world.

Now for introductions:

In the top photo is Merlin, a Copper Blue Maran. He seems to have taken to me the most at the moment. It's funny how you often develop a particularly strong bond with some birds.
Middle is the delightful Mr Dorking, a Silver Dorking, who was probably the most attached to Andy of the four & the one I felt would need the most TLC in his new surroundings. However, he is doing very well & is perhaps the most confident of the boys. Also perhaps the most popular with the ladies! He already seems to have acquired a group of admirers amongst the hens.
Bottom are Spicy (named after Andy, of course!) & Snapdragon, both Welsummers who, although not joined at the hip, do seem to pretty much stick together & are quite comical chaps - a comedy double act you might say!



All four are already quite stunning birds, but when they are fully grown they are just going to be magnificent. None are crowing yet. I can't wait to hear that wonderful noise again. It's one of my favourite sounds of the countryside - so vital & life affirming. Ask me again after the four of them find their voices & start crowing early in the morning & I'll tell you if I still feel the same!

So my advice is, if you feel you get on particularly well with someone online & get the opportunity to meet up with them then be brave & give it a go (in safety of course). You may well be as pleasantly surprised as I was & find you really do have a friend in that person. I'll be eternally grateful to the forces that be for bringing Andy into my life. We have arranged to meet up again early next year, when he will hopefully be collecting one or two of the blue silkies in return.

Talking of which, to finish here's a recent picture of the little chicklets, growing up big, strong & healthy. :oD

Monday, 2 November 2009

Especially for Max....

Here's a little clip of Big Cheese, my now grown up, magnificent Muscovy drake. See how he wags his tail as he enjoys rooting about in the mud & then raises his quiff when the hens come too close! The other duck in the clip is my sweet Cherry Pie.

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It was the Muscovy ducklings that began my Blog adventure. Since then we have had lots of new arrivals, but my Muscovies will always be very, very special to me :oD

A quick peek at the new arrivals!

Aren't they handsome? Can't wait to tell you about them!

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Guilt free snacking!

I've found a great way to enjoy healthy snacks & avoid the evil temptation of the chocolate & crisps in the tuck box at work. The lovely people at http://www.graze.com/ have given me a code so that friends can enjoy one box free & another 1/2 price, so I thought I'd share it with you -
N4K6Y62N
Someone gave me a similar code & I enjoyed my first graze box today :-D
As an added bonus for each one of you who take up the offer I get to donate £1 to the Rainforest Alliance!
HAPPY SNACKING!!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Full of beans!

Things have been hassle, hassle here. We have a leak in the house so it's been a case of painful, long winded communications with the insurance company & plumbers. We have bits carved out of various walls & still no-one seems to agree the cause of the leak. Hey ho! In the meantime the clocks have gone back which means that everything has to be done in a rush before it gets dark. Maybe because of the hassle or just because of the time of year my fibromyalgia symptoms have been niggling away at me. In all of this pickle I have had to put off meeting up with Mum for one of our famous trips to Webbs of Wychbold (you know - one of those lovely shopping trips that involves lots of nattering & not just lunch, but afternoon coffee & cakes too!) So you might expect me to be feeling a little down in the mouth.

Not when I've got this little bunch of munchkins to watch over! Their playfulness & cheekiness makes me grin from ear to ear. So if I share with you I hope you will grin too!

I have discovered that they do love a treat of salad leaves fresh from the garden, but although I toss in plenty to go around they always want the bit the other one's got. One little fellow will grab a leaf & run off triumphant, but just when it thinks it can savour the treat in peace another chick will pop up & literally whip it from it's beak! It does make me chuckle. Some are finding their wings & manage to flit up onto the edge of their enclosure, wait just a moment & then dive bomb some unsuspecting brooder mate, seemingly relishing their startled reaction! They really do seem to have a sense of fun & mischief.
If that doesn't make me smile I only have to look at the little Silkies who have grown little fluffy pom-pom tails that they seem able to wag at will just like little puppy dogs. It is starting to bring their cute little character's to life.
If I'm feeling particularly out of sorts I only have to pick up my special Big Bird & that quizzical, trusting look he fixes me with just completely melts me. I'm particularly fond of him, & if I am right & he is indeed a cockerel I hope he will maintain he's sweet nature. He's a total darling!


In this picture is my little angel's gift Cassie (top), a reminder of how I am blessed to have her here on this earth. Below is one of the Polish bantams who have the frizzle feathers. Hubby unkindly says that they look as if they've swallowed a hand grenade. I, of course, think they look adorable.

Are you grinning yet?

There is nothing quite like spending time in the company of baby creatures to revive & revitalise you. It somehow makes you remember what it is to see the world through the eye's of a child - the wonderment of it all & the pleasure to be found in little things like kicking through piles of scrunchy autumn leaves or searching for prize conkers. It's just magical!

The house will get fixed up, I will manage to catch up with mum & in the meantime it's this weekend we are due to go & collect some cockerels for our big girls from my lovely Twitter friend. I am so excited! It's not been the same around the hen house since Rodney, our bantam cockerel, passed away. Oh & then it's time to carve the pumpkin & light the candles for Halloween. And in case hubby reads this blog I'm sure I don't have to remind him it's our wedding anniversary on Sunday ;-) I'm a big silly goose for allowing myself to get stressed even for one little minute. Life is definitely too short to waste a single moment that could be filled with happy thoughts or actions!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Besotted with my bantams already!


Above is an up to date pic of my little chicks - growing fast & feathering quickly. They are all very cute, but it's the little Polish bantams that have completely stolen my heart. They are very inquisitive, friendly, cheery little souls & of all 3 breeds are the ones who seem to really love my company. When I climb into the pen with them it is always the Polish who are first to come & see me. Here are the 2 with frizzle feathers (who are now named Bonkers & Conkers!), together with Big Bird (right of pic) at my knees. Big Bird will happily hop onto my knee for a cuddle & a gossip about what they have been up to all day, which is mostly playing like little imps, chucking as much food around as possible & getting as much sawdust into their water as possible. Little monkeys!



Here's Big Bird telling me all the day's news:



See how much he's grown since my previous picture of him:

I'm pretty sure he's a cockerel, which is fine as I'm OK to keep them here. Good job too as I've become very attached to him & to our daily chats.

All 3 breeds get on very well together & are at their cutest when they sleep together in a chick bundle, heads against one another, all breathing in unison & no doubt dreaming pleasant little fluffy chick dreams.

In the middle of this Silkie bundle is the amazing little Cassie, it's hard to believe she was at death's door last week:



The 2 Porcelain Barbu D'Uccle bantam chicks are by far the prettiest, with feathers of the palest dove grey & cute feathered boots growing in. They are the most skittish of the breeds, but calm quickly once I have them in my hand & then sing to me in the sweetest of chick twitterings. I can't work out if they are hens or cockerels, but they both look alike whichever sex they are.

The 6 Blue silkies are just bundles of fluffy gorgeousness! They have yet to really develop little individual personalities, so at the moment it's very much the bantams that are my favourites. (Although of course I wouldn't tell the Silkies that for fear of hurting their feelings!)

I'm incredibly clucky over my brood & watch over them proudly as day by day they grow bigger & stronger.

Someone else I feel clucky over is my lovely hen Jess (if you remember she was the poor little ex battery girls who was bullied & injured). I haven't mentioned her for a while, so here is a happy snap of her (left) alongside fellow ex-batt Kitty with the floppy comb. All my ex-battery girls are looking splendid now with a new set of feathers following their moult. No more bald patches! Hurray! The rescued Mallards haven't visited our little field for a few days now, but in the evening you can hear ducks quacking loudly down on the Wildlife Trust reservoir & I smile to myself knowing that it is our little rescued friends I can hear.

So after a few upsets last week, Mother Hen is happy clucky again & all is well in our feathery world :oD