Compassion in World Farming

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


  1. How lovely! It is heartwarming to read of so much love and attention for the cockerels, and to know they have gone from one good home to another!

    (I'd love to hear the 'singing' noise of happy hens!)

    If you ever came to Necky Knoll House to visit our family, I'm sure you'd find us exactly as we are on-line! :)

  2. I am so happy our boys are enjoying life as I knew they would. I had no doubts about that whatsoever, and your kind observations of our ladies, and the boys' sense of safety, are very... gratifying? They only knew gentle care here, and had no reason to think people can be cruel or cold towards them, and now of course they need never experience that thanks to you and yours adopting them!

    Mr Dorking is going to be mighty. He may well weigh in at 11lbs but I am firmly of the opinion he will continue to be wonderfully curious and surprisingly gentle.

    You know, I never once did wonder why our hens never made that raucous sound. I knew ours sang but I never made that connection outlined in your blog entry, that this is because they are content. Thank you for giving me that realisation.

    You didn't mention that momma hen Hepburn gave you that peck! She was away from her kids for a few weeks by the time you came to visit, but as you say, it was almost as if she was 'marking your card' and telling you "best take care of my babies". She never pecks normally but she is our bossiest hen after the ex-bats. It was a funny moment for all of us.

    We had a lovely day, tinged with sadness of course, but lovely. And I am not sad about the boys going any more, how could I be? If they'd gone elsewhere I'd be thinking their lives could be grim, and I could never could have been a commercial breeder - I get way too attached.

    I got everything I wanted, you did too, and we made new friends in the process. I call that a mighty fantastic bargain! :-)

    We will definitely come to visit in the spring, to see our boys all grown-up, to meet your other animals and, of course, to do our own collection of new family members.

    David and I were both delighted to meet you and yours.

  3. people that love animals cannot be at all bad!!!

  4. I agree, people who love animals always seem to be lovely - yourself included, of course! :-) Don't think David has a blog but he's on Twitter as davidhh1979.

  5. Sara . . .

    What can I say . . .
    An entire blog dedicated to me.
    A first :
    Of course :
    Needless to say.

    I am, at the same time, very moved and deeply flattered

    Thank You Very,VERY Much.

    Alas, I didn't manage to get to Dumfries and Galloway to house-hunt; the arthritis kicked in the day before I was due to leave.
    Not At All happy about saying goodbye to almost £500 in unused hotel rooms. Usually Travelodge's cheap deals are perfect for me.

    What can I say about your musks. Just sooooooooo beautiful.

    I really MUST apply myself to learning how to post pics.

    My rescued Zoomie gets prettier every day... Completely black except for one white centred breast feather, and caruncles getting deep redder every day.
    I Promise I will show , chronologically, how Barbary/Muscovies develope, so others with baby 'Musks' will know what to expect daily and weekly from birth.

    Can't express powerfully enough ; my admiration for the work you are doing : just wish we were closer.

    VERY best regards,




  6. What a shame we didn't meet up! Next time eh?


  7. I love Mr dorking he's proper 'andsome.


  8. Alas, the saddest of news . .
    which is that Zoomie was stolen from my garden the day before yesterday. I was at the hospital when my neighbour saw a man walk into the front garden and take her from the front door step - where she had waited for me on the couple of occasions when I went out and didn't want her to have to wait a long time in the car.
    By the time the neighbour got to the front of the house, man and duck had disappeared.
    Her wings weren't clipped, so a Very faint hope is that she may fly home if she has the opportunity.

    Must admit to feeling very deprived after being with her for 24hrs a day for nineteen weeks.

    Best regards.



  9. Mayo - I'm so very sorry to hear about Zoomie, you must be beside yourself! My heart just broke when I read your news, but I will hang on to the same hope you are - that she will find an opportunity to fly away. If she does I am sure she will find her way back to you. I will say a little prayer to the angels for you & for Zoomie. Big (((HUGS))), Sara xx

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  11. Hello Sara.

    Thank you so very much for your kind thoughts.

    Being a big, butch, bearded bloke, I've surprised myself at having to fight back the tears every time my hand goes down to my knee and finds it unoccupied!!

    I've spread posters around the locality with a pic, and the offer of a £100 reward ; which might prick someone's conscience, or appeal to their baser instincts.
    I suppose it very much depends on whether she was taken as someone's pet for life ; or just for Christmas . . . .

    It's such a sad end to Zoomie's story, especially as she had to fight so very hard for survival for her first few weeks.

    Thanks again.


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