Compassion in World Farming

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 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 -
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!

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

Monday, 12 October 2009

Some sad news ... and a little miracle

Well despite feeling under the weather with a cold & hacking cough I took perfect care of my lovely little chicks like a proud Mother hen & they seemed to flourish. By their 1st week birthday I felt sure they would all survive into adulthood. But I learnt a lesson in how fragile they can be the hard way. For no apparent reason we lost 2 of the Porcelain D'Uccle bantam chicks. It was absolutely heart breaking. Because I incubated the eggs & saw them hatch out I just felt so responsible, despite having been told to expect to lose a couple along the way. It really was a wretched experience. Of the 3 sets of eggs they did have the lowest hatch rate with only 4 out of 6 chicks emerging. The eggs were muddy when they arrived via the post, but as per the seller's instructions I didn't wash them. I'm wondering if the chicks were maybe weak because of dirt/bacteria entering the shell. I just don't know & no matter how much I wish it was possible I can't bring them back. On an even sadder note Beaky, the first chick to hatch, was one of the 2 we lost. Why, oh why? However, on a more positive note the remaining 2 D'Uccles seem to be healthy & are growing to be very pretty little things.

By Thursday my awful cough had brought on my CFS / Fibromyalgia so I was feeling quite miserable, but to sit & watch the remaining chicks playing, squabbling & learning together would instantly bring a huge beaming smile to my face. On Friday morning I checked in on them at about 7am & I didn't notice anything wrong at that point. I took out their water container & filled it with fresh water. In the time it took me to do that & take it back to the chicks one of my little Chamois Polish Frizzles was laid prostrate & motionless in the sawdust, away from the main huddle of chicks. Instantly my heart fell. I touched it's little body & it felt cold. I just felt desperate. Not another one! I couldn't bear losing another little life. I gently picked it up & held it's completely limp & lifeless body in the palm of my hand high up under the heat lamp & gently massaged it's back. It was barely alive. It's beak opened & closed helplessly. I just wanted to give it a peaceful exit from the world so I kept gently stroking it. I whispered a prayer to the angels to draw close to my little chick. Youngest son came to find out where I was & I explained that I thought we were losing it. As I spoke it became completely motionless & choking back the tears I told youngest that I thought it's life had slipped away. But something made me keep rubbing it's back as if I could somehow bring warmth back to it's body again. I can't explain why. Something told me not to stop, not to let my little chick go. To my utter amazement it made a small movement! It was still with us! I told youngest that I needed to stay with the chick & so to just carry on getting ready for school without me. I summoned up all the love in my heart & breathed it into the little chick's feathers & just kept on rubbing & rubbing the warmth back into it. Slowly but surely life crept back into it's body. I could tangibly feel it, but it was still so limp that I really had to tell myself not to build up my hopes. But again, something drew me on. As limp as it was I gently placed it's beak into water & incredibly it took a little sip. Then I dared to believe that there was hope. It managed another little sip & then I went back to massaging it, holding it safely against my chest so that my own body heat would warm it. I now had a dilemma. Although I had already informed the office that I wouldn't be at work because I felt so poorly I had youngest son to get to school. What was I to do? I couldn't put the little fellow back amongst the other chicks in this pitiful condition. So I did the only thing I could. I popped the little chick inside my top so that it was nestled safely against me & then drove youngest to school just hoping upon hope that the little chap wouldn't die. Youngest said a farewell to the chick as I dropped him off. As I drove home I started to feel little tickly movements against my skin & I just felt elated. 'Come on , little fellow I know you can do this' I shouted inside. Then as I drew nearer to home it began to cheep! When I arrived home I carefully extracted my little miracle & dropped a gentle kiss on it's feathers. I managed to sort out a little box for it positioned close to the heat lamp & carefully laid it inside. As poorly as I felt I didn't leave it's side. I kept helping it to have sips of water & gradually, bit by bit it regained some strength. Enough to hold itself upright at first. Then enough to take water on it's own. Then enough to show some interest in some chick crumbs that I scattered at it's feet. Incredibly by 10.30am the little fellow was eating & drinking by itself & cheeping at me every time I had a coughing fit. I think adrenaline just kept me going. I stayed crunched up, feeling poorly & in pain with that little baby because we had a special bond now & there was no way I could leave it's side. Every time it felt sleepy it would cheep really loudly until I picked it up & nestled it back against my chest. Then it would sleep for short periods, comforted & safe. The love I felt towards my little miracle was strong & determined. I cheeped & chatted to my other little charges, who cheeped & responded to me & to little sick chick every time they heard it cheep out. I felt incredibly maternal towards them all & made a solemn promise to them all that I would be the best substitute Mother hen that ever was. So the minutes & hours ticked by with me watching over, comforting & nursing sick chick and would you believe it, by the time youngest son had returned home from school collected by hubby it was back in with it's fellow hatchlings as if nothing had happened at all. I thanked the angels for bringing it back to me & tears of joy just tumbled down my cheeks. It was one of those moments in which you just feel incredibly humble, as if you've been touched by something 'holy'. To some it would be just a chick that I got to in time, but to me it was an emotional, spiritual experience. Something that moved me deeply. Something that reaffirmed my love of Mother Nature & my belief that there is a powerful, life giving force in the Universe.

Special chick is now called Cassie, or maybe Cassius if it turns out to be a cockerel, after Cassius Clay due to it's amazing fighting spirit:

Three days on & my 13 remaining charges are growing at a rate of knots. The 2 chicks that I helped from the shell have shown no signs of problems which is a huge relief to me. Now that they are feathering the 2 of them look as if they will have the frizzled feathers - so cute! Hubby has built an extension to their brooder box which they have explored with excitement. I still pick up Cassie every day, drop a motherly kiss on the top of her head & whisper how special she is. Please, please, surely now they are safe? Let's hope so.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

More cute pictures...

Getting used to eating from the feeder

This little fellow took a nap on his back...

... but usually they just go face down in the sawdust! Wouldn't you just love to be in the middle of this sleepy pile?

It's amazing how quickly they are developing. If you look closely you can see that their wing feathers are growing already!

This is one of the Blue Silkies. Curiously Silkies have 5 toes.

This is 'Beaky', a Porcelain D'Uccle bantam & the first chick to hatch

Youngest son has named this Chamois Polish Frizzle bantam 'Big Bird', because it looks like it's just stepped out of the set of Sesame Street!

I'm feeling a bit under the weather at the moment, hence the picture update & no gushing post about the joys of Mother Henhood as you might expect from me! More to follow when I'm feeling better...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

....and then there were 15!

We now have 15 little chicks in the brooder!
Yesterday, one little chick was having trouble finding his feet & was just flapping about in the sawdust. It's motion was attracting it's stronger brooder mates & they were pecking at it's flailing feet. So last night I sat in the shed gently giving the little fellow some 'chick physiotherapy' to get it to flex it's feet & straighten it's back. I was very gently & the little chap looked up at me with a look in it's little eyes that somehow made me feel as if I was doing the right thing. When I popped it back down it managed to take a few steps! Then it plopped down again. So I let it take a nap & then again gently massaged it's feet & back. The second time I put it down I knew it was going to be just fine. It wibbled & wobbled a bit but it managed to stay upright! I wept tears of joy as it teetered about, standing up tall & no longer looking vulnerable. Today it looks as strong as the rest of the chicks that hatched at the same time.
There is just one more little chap I'm worried about now. It seems weaker than the rest, but have managed to get it to take a sip of water & when I checked in on it just a little while ago it was definitely looking a little better. It is managing to get to it's feet & is cheeping well, so I have a much better feeling about it. Of all the eggs it has been the Chamois Polish Frizzles that have been the most problematic. I have to confess to helping 2 of the chicks hatch, despite lots of people telling me not to intervene in any way. However, the book I've been following suggested it was OK to assist a little providing the chick had pipped & they had both managed to make a good sized crack in their eggs. However, no progress had been made for some time & I could see that the membranes & feathers looked very dry & I guessed that the chicks were dehydrating. So I carefully took them out of the incubator, dripped warm water onto them to help moisten the membranes & release the feathers that had become stuck to them. Then I gently tore a little more of the now softened membrane & chipped a little more of the shell until the chicks rallied & began cheeping at me. Then I popped them back into the incubator lying against some moistened kitchen paper & let them do the rest. They both then managed to make it out and I was so relieved & happy. But it's one of these chicks that I'm worried about, so I'm hoping & praying I didn't do the wrong thing by intervening. I will find it hard to forgive myself if I have brought this little scrap into the world just to die a little later. It's so difficult to know what is the right thing to do when you have incubated artificially & you feel that those little lives are completely in your hands.
The rest of my little darlings are eating & drinking & looking more & more adorable by the minute. Despite the little worries, I'm in a perfect place right now - feeling full to the brim with joy & wonderment!

Saturday, 3 October 2009

More arrivals!

This morning more little miracles!
Now we have 9 chicks in total safely in the brooder box...... 4 Blue Silkies, 4 Porcelain D'Uccle bantams & 1 Chamois Polish Frizzle bantam. They are so teeny!

6 more chicks are drying out in the incubator!

3 eggs have yet to hatch, but I won't give up on them for another couple of days.

At the moment I am too stunned to put into words how this experience has made me feel - normal words like amazed & happy just don't convey how intensely moving it has been to watch these little chicks struggle into this world. Elated is the closest I can get!

Here's a little clip of the first 5 hatchlings finding their feet in the brooder:

Today they are sure footed, alert & responsive to my voice. They are eating after I sprinkled some of their chick crumbs onto a piece of kitchen towel for them. They have found their water & have explored the imitation 'Mother Hen' I made which is hanging in one corner (strips of fabric tied in the middle to make a kind of mop head affair for them to hide underneath). They truly are a wonder!

Do you think someone was jealous of all the attention they were getting? Mabel jumped onto my back every time I knelt down to check on the incubator!

Friday, 2 October 2009

Cheep! Cheep!

Something amazing is happening inside here.......