Compassion in World Farming

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Light & dark

Crumbs - it's been ages since I posted on my poor neglected blog & so much has happened! Some sorrow, some joy & lots of blessings.

Now I hope I get this in the right order of events:

First of all we had a new arrival. Sadly for my friend Andy, Mulder, the cockerel he was desperately hoping to keep, started crowing very loudly at all hours of the day, sadly not acceptable where he lives, so I offered him a home with his 'brothers'. Mulder is a special bird, not just because of the touching relationship he formed with Andy, but because of the unusual way that he grew. You can read about it on Andy's blog. It doesn't matter one jot to me - he's just a much-loved member of my wonderful chicken family. He's certainly a character, that I can tell you! When Andy & his partner David brought Mulder down to us it was also time to say goodbye to two of the Silkie chicklet girls as I had promised them by way of a thank you for the gorgeous cockerels. This affected more than I expected it to. So, although it was just fantastic to meet up with Andy & David again & for Andy to see how well his other boys were doing & where they were living, it was a bitter sweet day for both of us - Andy being parted from his beloved Mulder & me waving goodbye to my babies.

Because of the exceptional, close & cosseted relationship Mulder had with Andy I knew that winning him over would be a challenge, as I thought reintroducing him to his 'brothers' after such a long parting would be. This first point I was correct about, but after a week or two of constant attention, praise & admittedly bribery with all manner of good things to eat, Mulder decided that, although I wasn't Andy, I'd do! The second point I needn't have worried about one jot, because amazingly Snapdragon, Spicy & Merlin seemed to remember Mulder! It was really moving to see this in cockerels, who can be quite fearsome when introducing a new male to a flock. They showed no aggression to him whatsoever & I was able to integrate Mulder from day one.

So, after Mr Dorking's recovery from illness & the successful introduction of Mulder, I was in heaven watching the boys grow more & more handsome each day. Then, suddenly & unexpectedly, 3 weeks after Mr Dorking's illness Merlin fell sick with the same symptoms. I wasn't too concerned as I had caught him while he was still relatively strong, eating & drinking & on his feet, but I brought him indoors in the warm & gave him the same TLC as I had Mr D. He fell sick on a Sunday, but I felt sure he would be fine until I could get him some antibiotics from the vet the next day. The only thing I didn't do, as he seemed a lot less sick than Mr Dorking had been, was leave our central heating on for him overnight. It was, therefore, an awful shock when I found him dead the next morning! I was devastated! I cradled him in my arms as though I could warm his body & bring him back to me, but he was long gone. I cannot tell you how sad I am that his life was so short. He was the first of Andy's cockerels to befriend me & he was such a vibrant, zesty character that it does not seem fair that he's no longer crowing his heart out or busily run around our little field. I miss him terribly.

At the same time, poor Andy had hen troubles of his own with an egg-bound girl & a girl with a nasty abscess . He was quite exhausted with nursing them, so I just felt that I couldn't break the bad news to him at the time. It wouldn't have been fair.

Now, in the meanwhile, young Katherine chicklet dismayed me by crowing! So Katherine was quickly renamed Alfie, but it became apparent that we had a chicklet problem with 6 roosters & only 5 pullets. My original intention in hatching the chicklet eggs was to sell any excess roosters & then buy in unrelated hens so that I could begin to sell my own hatching eggs. So after much agonising I made the sensible decision to part with one of my Silkie roosters, Alfie & one of my Poland roosters. To soften the blow of parting with them I successfully bid on a gorgeous trio of Crele Pekin bantams in an online poultry auction that I could also sell hatching eggs from. Everything was planned. It all made sense. But I should have listened more carefully to my heart. The tears I shed over parting with my 2 Silkie chicklets even though they were going to a wonderful home with Andy should have told me this was never going to work in practice. One afternoon, hubby found me sitting with my chicklets with tears in my eyes & gently said to me that he thought it would be a shame to part with any of the birds we had hand reared. He suggested we could section off an area of our little field for them. He is also fond of the chicklets you see, but more than that he knows how much they mean to me and he's a wonderful hubby.

I put a message out on Twitter explaining that I needed more hens to keep my chicklet boys happy & lovely blogger Jess very kindly offered me 3 Silkie x girls! How lucky was I? That's so very sweet of her. I also discovered a local chicken breeder with bantams for sale so on the following Saturday we went & picked up 3 new bantam girls to begin to even out the boy:girl ratio. They are Minnie, a Barnevelder, Clover, a Buff Orpington & Florence a black Pekin with a pretty gold 'necklace'. The new girls are adorable & settled in straight away.

It was then that Merlin's illness hit & the excitement of having the new girls quickly turned to sorrow at losing him. I think having the new girls to watch over was certainly some comfort in the days after his death. Seeing Mr Dorking starting to blossom again was also good medicine. When the time came to tell Andy of Merlin's death because his hens were thankfully well on the road to recovery he was, of course, very sad. But he was very kind to me & this was also a great comfort.

I watched Mulder & my other chickens like a hawk for any signs of illness in the days to follow. After Merlin's death I had telephoned my Vet for advice as I wondered if I should give all my birds a course of antibiotics. She strongly advised against this course of action as none of the other birds were showing any symptoms. Fortunately Mulder remained healthy & strong over the next few days & I allowed myself a sigh of relief. In fact, all of the birds looked incredibly healthy despite the awful weather & the extremely late moult of some of my hens.

Something exciting then happened - I found some turkeys for sale very cheaply at a farm quite close to us. Hubby & I have always wanted turkeys & in a very weak moment I put us down for one! And, of course, there was still the Crele Pekin trio to collect (although after deciding to keep all the chicklets this clearly had not been a very good purchase after all!). Then Eldest son asked to come home from Uni for the weekend, so we travelled up to Leicester to collect the Pekins, down to Birmingham to pick up eldest son & then homeward with a detour to collect the turkey. Now I had been mithering as to whether it was fair to keep just one turkey, even with ducks for company & a telephone conversation with their breeder confirmed that it would be better to have a pair. Fortunately hubby was in agreement so 1 son, 3 Pekins & 2 turkeys came home with us! It was a wonderful weekend.

Typing all this out I realise how mad it all was! And how understanding my hubby is! And that maybe I have a poultry addiction! Hmmmmmmm.

Anyway, to bring everything up to date, we now have 4 cockerels and 22 hens up in our little field with the ducks & geese. We have George & Mildred the Bronze turkeys in with Daisy & Seymour, who seem quite taken with their new companions. And last, but by no means least, we have an assortment of 17 chicklets & bantams in the back garden. All are doing just fine and dandy. That's going to be it now for a while. Oh, except that we still need to increase our hen numbers in the back garden to keep the little roosters happy ;-)


  1. i had NO idea there were so many dif types of pekins, wait till i tell lil (my pekin duck:)

  2. nice to have you back sara.....the turkeys will capture your heart believe me! two nice norfolk bronze ?

    be careful for yellow poo from the turkeys.............especially if they are on the same land as your chicks!!

    my be blackhead starting

    great to see your pics

  3. Hi John! Thanks for missing me! The turkeys are brother & sister from show quality Bronze breeding parents & are the most delightful characters. I love their big brown eyes & their placid natures. I wormed all my chooks with Flubenvet twice before they arrived & they are in a seperate area with Daisy & Seymour duck, so I hope I've taken enough precautions against the dreaded Blackhead. Thanks for the tip on yellow poo & I'm sure I have lots to learn from you on keeping turkeys so any hints & tips would be most welcome. With love, Sara xxxx

  4. My goodness what a emotional time of things you have had...but so glad that things have balanced themselves out, mother natures circle of life.
    You sound very happy now and you are in deed going to be happily very busy with your new chickens and turkeys! It will be so wonderful keeping up with their progress!!
    Love Jane xxx

  5. Hi Jane! Thanks for your lovely comment & thanks for your recent Kreativ Blogger tag :0) I will complete it shortly - how exciting!! Hope things are well with you at the moment. Much love, Sara xx

  6. That's a lot of drama. Poultry can be quite addicting, I think. We only have a half acre, and at one point we had 63 chickens counting hens, cockrels, and chicks. We had to sell some off because we just had too many! But they are a lot of fun, eh! We do have a field behind the house that belongs to a farmer friend who lets the chickens hunt and peck when there aren't cash crops back there.

  7. Randy -

    63 chickens = my idea of heaven :0)

    Sara xx

  8. Absolutely love your pictures. I have 40 free range hens laying so that I can sell their eggs on my farm. They cluck about everywhere!

    CJ xx

  9. I love our gals they are out rummaging as we speak! The way they provide such gorgeous eggs is so adoreable. Their favourite food is egg noodles!
    What's your hen's treat?