Compassion in World Farming

Monday, 27 July 2009

A tale of two gardens...

At last I've recovered from the Swine Flu & not a moment too soon because my Mum & Dad's dog Jane arrived on Friday for a week's stay while they are away on holiday. She is a gorgeous black greyhound that they adopted from Perry Barr Retired Greyhound Trust. She had been to visit us on three previous occasions so that we could get our four dogs Polo, Meggie, Maggie & Mabel accustomed to her. Each visit had become progressively less stressful for all involved so we were hoping all would go well!
Mum & Dad's dog Jane

A lovely greeting at the garden gate from Meggie, our lurcher. Polo, our Westie, is in the background
On Saturday it was so nice to have a day of sunshine after all the miserable wet weather we've had lately. In the front garden all five dogs were enjoying the sunshine peacefully together. Well, four of them were relaxing in the sunshine. I don't think Mabel knows the meaning of the words 'peace' & 'quiet'! She was playing with the tortoise, or was it the tortoise playing with her? It was so funny to watch!

Mabel & Jenny the tortoise
I patted the dogs & tried to imagine how the garden will look when our little project is finished. Our 'Home Sweet Home' for the last six years has been our lovely single storey barn conversion. Our bedroom window is coming out & will be replaced by french doors, which will eventually lead out onto a rustic decked area with pergola over, draped with lovely, scented climbing plants. That's my vision anyway. So far, the radiator underneath the current window has been ripped out & a new one installed on the adjacent wall. So three months on we have one very messed up wall in the bedroom (which is what you can see in my previous blog about the Mallard ducklings)!
Talking of the little Mallard ducklings, they were doing so well that it was time to think about moving them outside. But in the back garden was a scene of carnage. Who had broken my plant pot? Who had ransacked my raised bed & eaten all my beetroot, french bean, spring onion & radish seedlings? Who had shredded the leaves of my rhubarb plants?

Was it (much recovered) injured hen Jessica? Surely not. Was it mild mannered Lottie? No way.

Injured hen Jessica with a purple neck from the antiseptic spray (left) & the lovely Lottie (right)

Who could it have been?.......

It was all the work of Kitty, Molly, Norah & Oprah our other four ex-battery hens who had recouped their health & strength a lot more quickly than expected & had run riot in my poor garden while I was sick with 'flu! Still, it has been absolutely fantastic watching them go from very sorry looking birds to hens with all the lust for a free ranging life that they should have. The garden can wait until next year. Because they had done so well & the ducklings needed a place to live outside I took the brave decision to try integrating the four vandals into the rest of the flock, leaving just the injured hen & a friend with the freedom of the garden & shed. This would mean the old rabbit hutch was no longer needed as a hen hospital & would be available as a home for the ducklings. So on Thursday Operation Brown Hen commenced & we sneaked Norah & Oprah into the hen house under the cover of darkness. The next day it seemed that the stealth mission had gone unnoticed & they looked, apart from their missing feathers & ragged appearance, as though they had always been part of the flock! So on Friday night we sneaked Molly & Kitty up. That introduction didn't go quite so unnoticed by the rest of the chickens, four new house mates was obviously pushing our luck, but thankfully no serious fighting broke out & the next day, after a few squabbles, all was peace & harmony again. I took a moment to sit & enjoy the scene. Our little field is full of happy looking birds now & is such a pleasant place to be. Just enough room left now for four little Mallards if needs be.

Oprah (left), Kitty (middle), Norah & Molly (right) join the rest of the flock

Happy birds!

I have emailed the R.S.P.B. to get their advice on what I should do with the rescued Mallards. Should I leave them to them fly away when their wings grow? Will they survive in the wild now? Or are they vulnerable because of their tameness? Should I clip their wings & give them a permanent home? A part of me dearly wants to keep them, but really I just want to do what's best for them. I keep checking my emails in trepidation, but so far no response. So I have just got on with the day to day care of my little charges. Weaning them from chick crumbs onto growers pellets with the occasional treat of shredded lettuce. Giving them a daily splash about in a tray of warm water. Cleaning their bedding daily in a never ending cycle of towel washing & drying. Watching them develop playful little characters. Boo, the smallest, in particular had become rather fond of the game of creeping up behind one of her siblings & pecking them up the backside before retreating rapidly! I have cared for them while I've had 'flu & they have cheeped away to me while I've been lying poorly in bed. So maybe you can imagine now just how attached I have become to them.

My little 'flu buddies

On Saturday, in the sunshine, it was time for them to move into their new home in the back garden.

They were a little scared at first, but only for a short time.

Before long they were exploring their new environment excitedly, cheeping away & foraging in the grass for tasty morsels. I filled two trays of water up for them & soon they were enjoying a splash about & setting about giving their new feathers a good preen. Of the three sets of ducklings we have raised recently they have feathered the quickest. I guess they need to in the wild. They now look like some strange kind of duckling / duck morphed creature, with fuzzy duckling faces attached to mini adult bodies! Their plumage looks to be female, but I have read that the drake only gets his colourful feathers to attract the hen for mating, then moults when the hen is busy laying & goes back to looking brown like her. So I don't think it's possible to sex them just yet. However, two are bigger & their feathering is slightly more advanced than the other two. Are they drakelets? It's exciting trying to guess!

So, that's my news brought up to date & as I enjoy a welcome day's pre-booked holiday from work to recover my strength after the 'flu it's hard to decide which garden to spend the most time in. Five dogs & one fast tortoise, or four ducklings & two hens (not to meantion the 2 rabbits & 3 ferrets!) - never the two shall meet me thinks!!


  1. Wow! Haven't they done well! Bless! Ours are coming asap! Yippeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

  2. I WANT a tortoise!!!!!
    lovely greyhound too!!!!
    nice to have you back

  3. Please do join the memo tomorrow - I'll put you on the list and post more detaills later today.

  4. glad you are feeling better. Can I ask where did you get the fence around the mallards hutch from it looks perfect to fence our runners in when the go visiting (parents have refused to come to us to feed ducks but will have them at theres when we go away).

    thanks! maxine

  5. Hello Mrs Jones! How is wedded bliss? The fence is actually a puppy cage / rabbit run & clips together to form an octagon shape. It has served us well for many purposes! I'm sure I bought it from Ebay & it wasn't too expensive. Hope that helps! Hope the Runners are settling in well.

  6. thanks for that will check out ebay :)wedding bliss is great thanks still in the 'bubble' :) Runners seem to be settling just fine and growing inches daily!!! They are so amusing to watch and we could lose hours out there!

  7. Sara you're bad, why u not tell ur bro you were ill?!! Anyway, glad to know you're feeling better, and all your menagerie are doing so well!

  8. Weaver of Grass - thank you! I'm looking forward to it.

  9. Just came over from Mrs Nesbitt's. Love the dog pics, we have 2 lurchers,who very much part of our family. Nice to meet you all! best wishes Kath