Compassion in World Farming

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Why I do it

Some readers of my blogs in recent days may wonder why do I do it? Why do I keep so many animals? It seems to have been one trial after another, one heart break after another. Yesterday the sun was out & as hubby & I took a wander around our little field I took some pictures that I think capture just exactly why I do it.

From reading other people's tales I think I am quite lucky to be able to keep all my animals together in one space, but 99.9% of the time it is a happy, peaceful place. It is my sanctuary, my church if you will. I don't believe in a traditional 'God', whatever that might mean, but I do believe in a Life Force that you sense if you only open yourself up to it. I can sit on the grass amongst my animals & feel at one with Mother Earth. I can feel the breeze across my face & feel at one with the Air. I can watch my ducks happily splash in their ponds & feel the joy of the Water element. The passion I feel for each & every one of my animals stirs Fire in my veins. It makes me feel whole.

If you look in a duck's eyes you can see a spark, if you look closer you can see the intelligence there. You can see a joyful lust for life. There's poetry in the lines of a duck, in the beauty of it's feathers. To see a duck become both graceful & playful in water is to smile with your heart.

To watch a hen is to instantly feel more attached to the earth. To enjoy them happily free ranging in the grass, feed on a handful of grain & then present you with a perfect egg is to begin to understand the bounty that Nature provides. The fluffy, frilly petticoats of a hen & the way she will sit tight on that egg until it hatches makes me feel my own Motherhood more strongly.

To raise a bird from a tiny ball of fluff to a large, powerful, magnificent creature like a goose is to witness life's miracle. To remain close to that bird & know you will always share a special bond swells your heart with love & pride. It is to be treasured far more than any trinket.

To win the trust & respect of a larger animal like a goat is a truly glorious thing. To have that animal look up at you with that trust showing in their eyes is humbling. To be able to run your fingers through their coat & know it calms them & gives them pleasure is in itself surely one of life's greatest pleasures.
I am a Mother, a Wife, a Daughter, a Sister, a Friend. These things are dearest to my heart. But my love of animals is part of my being, my very fabric, & always will be.

Monday, 24 August 2009

An emotional roller coaster!

Followers of my blog will know that I have been having terrible trouble integrating ex-battery hen Jess with the rest of the hens. She was a sad, outcast of the group of 6 ex-battery hens we adopted & had twice been injured by them. We had placed her in the sectioned off area of our little field with Seymour & Daisy the friendly Aylesbury ducks, so that the rest of the birds could see her every day but not get at her. On Friday night I decided to try again & stealthily snuck her into the main hen house under cover of dark. On Saturday morning when I let the birds out Norah, one of the other ex-batts immediately flew at her with beak & claws. But this time Jess actually stood up for herself & started to fight back! Agitated by the scuffle two more ex-batts joined in the fight! What a disaster I thought - I had never seen hens fight like this before! However, clever Jess lay down on the floor & quietly backed herself away. So the three, silly fighting hens were just fighting each other & had forgotten that Jess had been their intended target. Jess happily carried on her morning business of searching for tasty morsels! When the foolish three came to their senses they did look rather embarrassed & quickly set about preening their ruffled feathers! I'm happy to report that Jess spent the rest of the day without mishap. Hurray I thought - we've finally cracked it!

On Saturday evening youngest son & I rounded the ducks & geese up & shut all the houses tightly as we always do. We did a scout of the field for stray hens as we always do. I made a mental note to put the birds away a little earlier the next day as the evenings were drawing in quite fast. On Sunday morning I raced up to let the birds out a little later than normal as I had enjoyed a little lie in - BLISS! I looked out for Jess as I am particularly fond of her due to the close contact I have had with her through her stay in the back garden. She is a friendly little soul & quite happy to be picked up & cuddled (yes, I'm sure some of you are horrified at the thought of hugging a hen, but they are my little friends & definitley not destined for the table!). I said a cheery good morning to my girls as they emerged from the house. But no Jess. I opened the door, thinking she was maybe feeling a little overwhelmed at being in with so many others, but no Jess. I checked all around the field, no Jess. I checked the house again & the stable, no Jess. I started to feel a rising sense of panic. Where was my lovely girl? Had she not gone in with the rest of the hens the night before? Youngest son arrived, wondering why I was so long. Together we did a complete sweep of the field & all the houses, no Jess. Had she managed to get out of the field? I checked our neighbours garden (they are away at the moment), no Jess. I was starting to get a bit tearful by this point. There was nowhere else to look. Had I put my little hen in danger by not checking she was safely away? Had she been left out on her own at the mercy of Mr Fox? After everything she'd been through & recovered from, had I let her down when finally her future had looked rosy? I felt desperately sad, but could do no more but return home & break the sad news to hubby.

The day wore on & I went about my chores with a heavy heart. I couldn't bring myself to go up to the field all day, but come evening I knew I would have to as the hen house needed cleaning out. I managed to put it off until about 7pm but then had to just buck myself up & get on with the task in hand. I took up some chopped courgette as a treat & almost by way of an apology to the rest of the hens. As they were enjoying it something caught by eye over by the goat's woodpile. A flash of purple stained feathers, just like Jess had. I looked again. There was a hen that looked just like Jess pecking about in the wood. I looked again & this time my brain woke up. Oh my goodness - there was Jess, as large as life right in the middle of the field! I was astounded! I ran over to her, grabbed her up to my chest & hugged her hard. 'Jess, where have you been? Oh, I'm sooo glad you're back' I choked through my tears of joy. Poor Jess looked up at me with a most bemused look on her face. After a moment of just holding her & feeling her warm feathers against my skin I popped her down & tore down to the house, shouting 'She's back! Jess is back!' Well, hubby & the lads were as amazed as me & so happy at seeing my beaming face. Straight away eldest son & I went back up to the field to gently clip Jess's wings to prevent any further possible escape. We only wished that that we knew where she had been!

I spent quite a long time on Sunday evening just sat among my birds, feeling happy & at peace. I was about to pop back down to the house to grab a cup of tea before it was time to shut the birds away, when something caught my eye in the wood pile. Feathers? I looked again. Sure enough as I got closer there was a little brown feathered hen's bottom just visible between the logs. So that was where she'd got to! Mystery solved! I let her be while the other hens got settled, then later I gently rescued her & placed her inside the hen house with a gentle kiss. 'Night, night' I whispered & vowed always to check more carefully for loose hens every evening!!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Hurray - I have my garden back!

This weekend wonderful, long suffering hubby fenced off a section of our little field so that I could do a strategic move around of the birds & reclaim the back garde100_1675n before it got totally trashed by scavenging hens & ducks! Twice injured ex-battery hen Jess had healed up again & re grown some neck feathers, but I wasn't feeling confident enough to put her in with the rest of the hens. Puddles the Khaki Campbell duck was much recovered from the unwanted & rather rough attentions of Seymour the Ayle100_1687sbury, but it was pointless putting her back in the field with him still on the prowl. The rescued Mallard ducklings had adopted Puddles as surrogate mum, so where ever she went the ducklings would want to go. What was best to do so that every bird's welfare was catered for? Well, after a bit of head scratching 100_1569a plan was hatched, birds were caught & after a few ruffled feathers & surprised squawks a slightly puffed out eldest son & I had got it all sorted. Seymour was moved into the sectioned off area with his own mate Daisy so that poor Puddles could safely go up into the field with her duckling charges. Injured hen Jess, being quite used to ducks, was moved in with them making her visible to the other hens but safe from any aggression. This tactic will hopefully mean that a further attempt at introducing her to the flock might be successful, fingers crossed.

When freed back into the field Puddles immediately wad100_1669dled over to rejoin Donald the Khaki Campbell drake & seemed to completely forget about her babies, so they looked bewildered & vulnerable to start with. However, lovely Chalk, my special Muscovy duck, soon arrived to investigate the new arrivals & seemingly sensing that they were only youngsters immediately took up position as th100_1666eir protector, seeing off some hens who flew at them rather aggressively. So with their unusual bodyguard the ducklings explored their new surroundings & companions. Pop, the gander, headed their way, head down, & for a moment I thought they were in trouble, but he was only making his presence known as top bird & king of the field.100_1678 After just a few minutes the ducklings looked quite at home & were busily foraging for goodies in the grass. I knew that one discovery would make them extremely happy - the ponds! Sure enough, once they discovered the water they were happy little fellows happily swimming & splashing about. All four can fit into one pond, which is quite sweet to 100_1686see. One of the Mallards (the one we call Ibbity) has a complete set of feathers now, but so far has shown no interest in flying away. I have stuck to the RSPB's advice & not clipped their wings so it is a case of 'will they' / 'won't they' fly off. They seem pretty contented at the moment anyway.

Seymour & Daisy didn't seem too perturbed at being separated from the rest of the ducks, but Tom & Cherry, the Cherry Valley ducks, were quite confused by the fact that they could no longer follow Seymour about in the hero worshipping manner they have humorously adopted. Silly billy Jess managed to get herself over the fence into the main field & was immediately surrounded by unwelcoming hens & had to be lifted back to safety! No injury this time though, so some slight progress I feel. She hasn't tried again since!

This afternoon all looks peaceful, with Tom & Cherry sat at the fence gazing at Seymour, the Mallard ducklings sat with Puddles, who seems to have taken up position of mother duck again, & everyone else just going about their business as usual. So I think I might dare begin tidying up my garden & plan some planting. However, Hubby says he has a sneaking suspicion that it won't be too long before some other rescued or orphaned creature will take up residence again. I can't imagine what makes him think that!

To finish here's picture of my gorgeous Muscovy drake Cheese, just because he was posing so nicely!


Monday, 10 August 2009

My fabulous, furry, four legged friends!

Things have been fairly quiet over the last few days with our ducks & hens, apart from the sad loss of hen Chicken Licken after a short spell of illness.


Even though we have had quite a few chickens come & go now it always saddens my heart to lose one.

Puddles is much recovered & is doing a wonderful job of playing foster mum to the rescued Mallard ducklings. Jess is all healed again & seems content with her ducky friends for company, so for now she remains is the back garden happily digging & shredding & uprooting things she shouldn't!

The weather this weekend was glorious & sunny, so I decided to make the most of it & spend some time in the garden with the dogs. I feel that I haven't properly introduced them yet, so here goes:-

The youngest at 2 years old is Mabel, an impish Jack Russell/ Yorkshire Terrier cross. She was looking a bit scruffy so I got the brush & comb out together with the scissors only intending to trim the fur from around her eyes. She was being so unusually good about being groomed that I decided to trim a bit more off here & a bit more off there, until - oops! - I had managed to just about trim her from head to toe! It was the neatest of cuts but I thought she looked gorgeous when I'd finished, just like a pup again!

100_1447 Before....

100_1653 and after!

Mabel is diminutive in proportions, but she has that big terrier attitude, believes she is indestructible & will kill anything that is smaller than her given half a chance! On our dog walks she has been known to kill & then drag a rabbit home with her, then spend the rest of the afternoon crunching it up in the front garden with blood & gore all around her chops! She has also been known to disappear down rabbit holes & not come out for more than an hour, once getting stuck & having to to be dug out, so now she is strictly on the lead on our daily countryside walks & the rabbit population is much safer for it! On the flip side, she is a loving little thing, me being her favourite person in the whole wide world & being curled up on my lap being her most favourite place in the world.

Our oldest dog at the age of 10 & looking like she needs a hair cut herself is Polo, our Westie.


Apart from brushing her I leave her grooming to the experts at the grooming parlour. She enjoys having a bath & loves the hair dryer, but isn't so good at being clipped! She especially hates having her paws touched by anyone - a bit bothersome when it comes nail clipping. I don't know how they placate her at the grooming parlour (& it's probably best that I don't know!) but here is a picture of her looking much prettier after a haircut:


Gorgeous, isn't she? In 10 years she has been through a lot with us & that makes her very special. She is faithful & fearless but even at 10 can be very wilful & when the crops start growing in the fields will, if not watched like a hawk, disappear after rabbit scents & not return home until she is quite ready! She has never caught a rabbit & in fact is completely trustworthy with our own pet rabbits, preferring to kiss them on the nose rather than savage them as Mabel might, but does love a good scent trail to follow!

At 6 years old our next oldest dog is Maggie, my beloved Border Terrier.


Maggie is my constant companion, a beautiful girl inside & out! She is playful, fun loving & affectionate. She gives the love she is shown back ten-fold! She is the type of dog who feels your moods intuitively & knows what her response should be to make you feel better. I can't imagine what life would be like without her by my side, so I hope we will enjoy many more happy years together.

And last, but by no means least, we have Meggie, our Border Collie / Whippet cross lurcher.


Meggie came from the Dog's Trust, Evesham, & is a special, but complicated girl! After being rescued from the streets she did not get on at all well with kennel life at the Dog's Trust, but was thankfully taken on by a wonderful foster mummy who looked after her for about 2 months before she eventually found her forever home with us. When we first had her she was clearly frightened of men & it took quite a long while for my husband & 3 sons to completely gain her trust. She had some strange habits due to her deep insecurities & would steal all sorts of objects from food packets, to glass bottles to cuddly toys & hide them all in her bed. She would panic if any strange males came to the door & would cower in the corner of the kitchen & wet herself. She was also a terrible food thief & we quickly learnt that anything edible must be kept out of her reach. Right from the start though you could look into Meg's soulful eyes & know there was something special that just needed reaching & with lots of patience & love we have unlocked a beautiful, loving dog with an awful lot to give. She is just the softest, cuddliest of girls & I can't imagine how anyone could have been cruel to her. I often wish I could climb inside her mind & erase any unpleasant memories she has so that she is no longer haunted be an unhappy past. Look at her here with middle son:


She loves her cuddles that's for sure!

We still have a little way to go with her. She can be unpredictable with dogs & people she doesn't know, especially men, so we have to muzzle her for safety's sake when we go for walks. Now she has her confidence back she can make herself big & scary when she feels threatened as the Parcel Link delivery man will tell you!! But taking on Meggie has been a rich & rewarding experience & when I look at her sprawled out on the settee with all four legs in the air & that lop sided grin I that know it has all been worth it!

So know you've met them properly & I'm sure there will be lots more doggy tales to follow...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Don't worry - it's friendly!


I'm a huge fan of Bokashi. Bokashi is a Japanese word for a well fermented organic product. Pictured above are the results of my first Bokashi bran bucket. It might look yucky but it is actually very friendly & very good for the garden. This mixture is now going to be popped into my compost bin to decompose & is full of effective micro-organisms that will improve the quality of my compost & help to suppress diseases & pests in my soil. To read more about effective micro-organisms & the ways they can be used The Recycle Works own website on the subject is very interesting & informative.


One advantage of using a Bokashi bran bucket is that you can add kitchen waste that you normally wouldn't put onto a compost heap, like meat & fish. Because the waste is fermented & not rotted it retains more of it's energy & nutritional value which means more of the goodness will be added to your garden. It's simple to use. You need a bucket with a tap at the bottom & a perforated plate to pop your waste onto. You then add your kitchen waste, chopped into small pieces, with a handful of Bokashi bran, compact, close the lid & then just keep repeating this process. A liquid will accumulate in the bottom of the bucket & can be tapped off to use diluted as an excellent plant feed, or can be poured undiluted down your sink where the effective micro-organisms will help to clean your pipes. It's brilliant! The bucket can be kept indoors because with the lid on there is no smell at all. When you lift off the lid, instead of a getting an offensive, foul, rotting odour all you get is an inoffensive, slightly sweet pickled smell.

Why not give it a go? Your plants will receive more essential growing energy & will be more resistant to harmful bacteria & funghi. You will enjoy the satisfaction of being kind to the environment.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

No love....Rough love....Mother love

No love....


Remarkably Jess fully recovered from the very nasty neck wound inflicted on her by some of her fellow ex battery hens. She just willed herself to get better I think because she so loved her new free life! So it was time to introduce her & mild mannered Lottie to the rest of the flock. As usual we used the trusted stealth technique of popping them into the hen house under cover of dark. This has never failed for me so I was expecting all to go well. However, when I let the hens out the following morning after just a couple of minutes ex-batt Norah flew at Jess. I left them to it for a moment, thinking it may be just a bit of harmless bickering, but the attack grew in ferocity & it was clear that Jess was in serious trouble. I had to quickly wade in & rescue her. Not a moment too soon either as Norah had partially reopened her neck wound! Poor Jess! I don't understand it! She is a very sweet hen & not the least bit aggressive herself. She's not the obvious bottom of the pecking order of the 6 ex-battery hens either, being larger & more feathered than some of the others. I hugged Jess to me & she quickly calmed & looked up at me with that oh so trusting look. I must admit to shedding a tear for my little girl.

So it was a case of more antiseptic spray & a return to the back garden for Jess. There were no such problems for Lottie so I have left her with the rest of the hens. I've been given a couple of ideas by fellow seasoned poultry keepers - one is to coat Jess in a special tar & the other to spray her with a foul smelling liquid called Ukadex to deter further pecking. So I'll let her heal again & persevere. If not it looks as though she is destined to be the garden hen that none of the others loved. Good job she's got big soft me!

Rough love....

My ducks are all confused! Apologies for this rather indelicate subject, but although each of the drakes has a mate of his own kind it would appear that none of them aside for Harold the Crested duck fancies his own mate. Donald the Khaki Campbell is besotted with Daisy the Aylesbury & regularly 'services' her without a single protest from her mate Seymour. Donald also has a thing for Little Wing the Indian Runner, however she is far too fast for him to catch!. Big Chief the Indian Runner drake keeps going after Jemima the Khaki Campbell. Donald rigorously defends Jemima though, so her honour is intact. The biggest problem in every sense is Seymour the Aylesbury drake. He is a handsome but cumbersome duck & he only has eyes for Puddles, our other Khaki Campbell. When I was in our little field at the weekend I noticed that Puddles was looking a bit sorry for herself & closer inspection revealed the damage that Seymour's advances had done to her.


The feathers on her back were raggedy & slightly blood stained. She also seemed to be limping. So I gently caught her & checked her over more thoroughly. Under her wings her back was red raw. Her legs both seemed OK though, definitely no serious damage. So it was down to the garden for Puddles! Our back garden seems to be becoming the sick ward for our rescued & injured birds. I sprayed Puddle's raw skin with antiseptic spray & put her in the penned off area with the little rescued Mallard ducklings. They are funny when faced with anything they are not sure about. The all run for cover under the old hutch. Then because they are ducks & ducks are naturally inquisitive, their curiosity gets the better of them so they choose a 'volunteer' among them & unceremoniously push this fellow out into the danger zone! If no horrors become this duckling the others will cautiously venture out.


After going through this funny routine they decided that Puddles was friend rather than foe & carried on with their dabbling & preening.

I'm very happy to report that Puddles is looking much better & that because she & the growing ducklings needed rather more space than the enclosure would allow, today they were given the freedom of the garden.




Injured Jess seemed happy to be joined by her ducky friends & they all enjoyed foraging in the wet grass together. It was such a heart warming sight.

Unless any readers of my blog can suggest a solution to this muddle, Hubby is going to pen a section of the field off for Daisy & Seymour with their own house & pond to prevent any further rough love!

Mother love....

I received my own dose of Mother love when we dropped Mum & Dad's dog back to them on Sunday. It's something I need on a regular basis! Today & tomorrow I have days off work so I can shower my lovely lads with big doses of my Motherly love. Even though they are teenagers now I can still get away with hugging them & loving them & squeezing them, so long as I don't do it in public & definitely not in front of their friends!! Unfortunately the rain was back so our plans for a picnic went out of the window. Instead we had a bake in. Youngest made Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb Topping, middle son made Victoria Sponge, eldest son made Chocolate Chip Cookies & I made Fruit & Nut Flapjacks. The kitchen was filled with the most delicious smells!


If we get to go on our picnic tomorrow at least we'll have plenty of goodies to take with us. I was reading one of my favourite blogs A Life Full of Blessings & how amazed the author is at the way her love for her young daughters just keeps growing & thought how true that is. I can remember at each birthday & milestone wishing I could freeze that perfect moment in time because I could not possibly love them more. But there have been many precious moments since. More reasons to feel proud. More times when they have amazed me. More times when my heart has been so full it could burst.

Sometimes Mother loves pops up in unexpected places. This evening I was kind of dreading trying to round up the rescued Mallard ducklings for bed time now that they have the whole garden to hide in, but my sons & I found them with Puddles & as we quietly guided her into the garden shed to join Jess the injured hen they followed along behind her & popped into the shed with no problems at all. I recognised the look in Puddles bright eyes - it was Mother love towards those little ducklings! What a sweet duck she is.