Compassion in World Farming

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.

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!