Compassion in World Farming

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Delightful ducklings!

Now I love my chicklets to pieces. I've loved them since they were tiny balls of fluff & I love them even more now that they're grown up, beautiful, on-the-soppy-side-of-friendly birds. But, in terms of baby birds, there is nothing quite like ducklings!! Alongside lambs, ducklings have to be my all time favourite Spring babies. I'm sure they hatch smiling & each & every day they seek out new adventures & pleasures in life. They are playful, exuberant & joyous! To be in the company of ducklings is to grin from ear to ear & feel your heart swell with love for them.


Daffy, Dougie, Pip, Eve, Orville & Scrummycupcake melt my heart completely. I treasure time spent with them. I can't wait to get home from a day in the office to connect with them again. Because they're hand reared they love being cuddled, & cuddled they certainly are, at any given opportunity! They grow at such a rate that you could almost swear you could see it happen! But each & every day they grow sweeter & cuter as their little personalities develop. They have lovely rounded bellies now, but are so tame that you can indulge that impulse to turn them upside down & blow delicious raspberries into that rounded fluffiness & they don't mind one little bit! It's heavenly!

SAM_2784When you hand rear ducklings it is very important to remember that although they are natural water babies they do not have a Mother Duck to transfer oils to their fluff & waterproof them, so when they are ready to be introduced to water it must at first be shallow & they must be supervised at all times. Their duckling fluff can become waterlogged & it is possible for them to drown in just couple of centimetres of water. So after week one, I decided to let them have their first paddle & hubby bought them a couple of paint roller tray which are absolutely ideal for the job. Can you imagine how excited they were? Well multiply that three-fold & that is just how happy they were to be able to splash about! They had a marvellous time! After their bath time I carefully dried them in a towel & made sure they were warm & cosy. Ducklings can easily chill when they're young. Now, just a few days later, they have out grown their paint trays, so last night I filled our shower tray with just a few centimetres of water for them to play about it. That was just the ticket! But they amused me no end by nosing about in my basket of bathroom products as if to say can we have some conditioner now please mum, oh & some talc would make us lovely & dry! Bless their buttons.



The new chicken ark has arrived for the chicklets & bantams, so this weekend they will be moved from the back garden up to their new enclosure in our little field. I have very mixed emotions about this! It has been so lovely to be able to look out of the kitchen window & see them happily bobbing about. However, it has been impossible to grown anything out there & my poor raised beds have been devoid of the delights of home grown vegetables for a couple of years now. So it does make sense to move them, & of course, I will have the ducklings out there shortly until they are big enough to join the rest of the ducks. Oh & then there will hopefully be some Croad Langshan chicks out there for a while if the eggs in my incubator hatch in a week's time. Then a second lot of ducklings, so lot’s to keep me busy & I guess I'm just being a big baby about it really!

After my Croad Langshan eggs & second batch of duck eggs hatch I have offered to hatch out some Scots Grey & Dumpy chickens on behalf of Caithness Rare Breeds charity which works to preserve native livestock & wildlife of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland. This came about after Stephen from the charity asked via Twitter if anyone knew where to source these poultry breeds. I knew where you could get hold of some hatching eggs, but he didn’t have the means to incubate them, hence my offer. Stephen is just trying to source a good poultry courier now so that we can go ahead. (If you know of one, do please let me know – thank you)

Croad Langshan chickens are sadly on the critical list of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust so I hope to be able to establish my own small breeding flock of these big, docile birds. I’m very excited about this little project, so wish me luck with my first hatching!

In other news, I was pleased to hear from Compassion in World Farming that Morrisons supermarkets had decided that all of it's own brand eggs should become free-range. Encouraging news that will hopefully prompt other supermarkets to follow. CIWF encouraged it's supporters to write to Morrisons to applaud the move, which I did but asked when they would extend this free range policy to all chicken meat it sells & also to it's own brand chilled & frozen ready meals. I was pleasantly surprised to get this response back the next day.

Good Afternoon Mrs Burton,

Thank you for contacting us regarding your concerns about the care and welfare of chickens. Please be assured that we take animal welfare extremely seriously.

We offer an own-brand range of RSPCA Freedom Food accredited chicken. The Freedom Food mark ensures that the chicken has been reared on a farm that meets higher welfare standards set by the RSPCA.

Freedom Food and Morrison’s have worked together for years to deliver the widest range of RSPCA Freedom Food accredited chicken and we currently offer the smallest price difference between this range and our regular own brand range, making it affordable for everyone.

All of our own brand fresh and frozen chicken is British and sourced from reputable suppliers who produce to recognised standards.

We are committed to providing our customers with a wide choice of poultry which is produced to nationally recognised standards, each standard having an animal welfare aspect embedded within it. Our product range includes Organic chicken which meets the Soil Association standards and is identified on pack by the Soil Association logo and RSPCA Freedom Food chicken which meets RSPCA standards and is identified on pack by their logo. Throughout our wide product offering we can competitively deliver on freshness, variety, quality and price.

We are currently working with suppliers to further extend our range of RSPCA Freedom Food poultry products (further information on Freedom Food poultry can be found at:

In addition to selling Freedom Food fresh chicken, 100% of our fresh duck range is free range and is RSPCA Freedom Food accredited, we also sell Freedom Food organic salmon and Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accredited fresh fish.

Our premium range, ‘The Best’, contains only free range eggs in its ingredients as do some other own label products, for example fresh egg noodles. We are currently investigating the feasibility of extending this policy to other own brand products.

I trust this addresses the points you raise and we thank you for sharing your views with us.

Yours Sincerely
C Ruddick
Customer Services Department
WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC’

I really hope that in the not to distant future battery farming of any animal, not just chickens, is a thing of the past.

To celebrate Earth Day on 22 April I joined the Greenpeace Airplot campaign to try & prevent the expansion of Heathrow Airport. I’m now, along with thousands of others, a beneficial owner of the plot of land Greenpeace own on the proposed site for the third runway. Just click on the link in the side bar of my blog if you want to join in or find out more about it.

Well, the sun is shining & I have lovely plants to put into my front garden, so I will love & leave you for now & hope that wherever you are you are enjoying the sunshine & able to enjoy the wonders of Nature’s Spring time babies.

Bright blessings,

Sara xx

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Dear Blog.......

Dear Blog, I am so sorry for neglecting you during March after you provided me with much comfort & joy & brought such lovely new people into my life. When things were busy & chaotic I ignored you for quick updates on Twitter & for that I beg forgiveness. I will make amends now by bringing you up to date with some of the stuff that's been going on in my life.........

Personally I've been on a bit of a journey recently. I 'found' Paganism & embarked upon a solitary hedgewitch path. This has brought such peace & beauty to my life & yet at the same time lots of questions & learning to be done. It has awaken the old activist side of me! I used to be quite heavily into animal rights when I was younger, but having my own children kind of buried all those feelings as the kids became the centre of my Universe. Now my soul has a home in Paganism I seem to feel keenly again all the hurt & unjustness in the world, especially where that relates to Nature & in particular animals. I have been an on / off vegetarian since my early teens but now I have become committed to a meat & dairy free diet, eating only my own free range eggs now by way of an animal product. I have strengthened my resolve to become as green as possible in all that I do. My lovely mum recently bought me some laundry products made by Ecozone that have really helped me on my way. You can read about just how much they reduce the environmental damage caused by washing & drying laundry by following this link - Ecozone - & I can personally vouch that they do really work!

I also found out just how much I love my children! Eldest Son contacted me from Uni to let me know that he had been mugged! Now fortunately he wasn't hurt & all that was taken was his mobile phone but clearly this would shake anyone up. Then it transpired that he was having health issues due to stress & anxiety caused by the pressure of his degree course & the fact that he wasn't sleeping at all well due to sharing with noisy, late night partying house mates. He was having some quite scary symptoms like nose bleeds & heart palpitations & his blood pressure was very high. Now he was dealing with all of those things very sensibly & had been to see the Welfare Dept at Uni about getting one of his work deadlines extended & had registered with a local Dr to get his physical symptoms dealt with, but I cannot tell you how much it broke my heart. I was OK when he told me as I was being strong & giving out sympathy & mum's advice, but the next day at work I just could not stop crying. I would have done anything to take the stress & illness away from him & to have erased his nasty mugging experience. The pain in my heart was more intense than anything I had experienced through troubles of my own. I just wanted to be able to fix everything for him! He's going to be just fine now I think. He's on medication to reduce his high blood pressure & he's at home for Easter at the moment enjoying some time out, some good sleep & of course, shed loads of TLC. Just his exams to get through & then it will be the long Summer break. He had already decided to part company from his current housemates & has a new house lined up for his final year with a new & hopefully much nicer, quieter crowd. The current year of his degree course is known to be the most intense so hopefully next year won't be quite so stressful for him. I know that no matter how old & grown up he is I love him right through to the very core of me & that come what may I will always be there for him, as I will be for my other 2 lads.

In animal news, lots has been happening! George & Mildred turkey are thriving and have totally wormed their way into my heart. Mildred has just come into lay & George has started 'displaying'. Now some people say turkeys are ugly, but if you get to know them they are really quite beautiful! They have the biggest, brown, soulful eyes for a start. When George displays he fan out his tail feathers like peacock, drops his snood down over his beak, puffs out his chest & stands proudly as much to say 'look at me, aren't I just so magnificent?'! He really is quite a sight to behold.

The 2 Silkies that my friend Andy collected both turned out to be cockerels can you believe it?! Silkies are such a hard breed to sex accurately! So Andy came down to visit again with another of my Twitter friends Jo (@amethysdragon) who is just such a lovely lady with an immensely warm heart & I was so glad to have met her. We had a wonderful afternoon together nattering & exchanging chook news & stories. Andy got to see how his cockerels Spicy, Snapdragon, Mr Dorking & Mulder were doing & Jo got to meet my infamous mad chicklets! Time passed all too quickly & soon it was time to exchange Amy & Patsy #1 (who are now named Patrick & Charlie!) with Amy & Patsy #2, my remaining confirmed Silkie girls.

So this left a huge dilemma with my beloved chicklets. I now had Teddy, Patrick & Charlie - Silkie cockerels. Alfie & Heathcliffe - D'Uccle cockerels. Bonkers & Big Bird - Polish cockerels. And not forgetting Rumpelstiltskin the Crele Pekin bantam that I had bought in a weak moment. With my lovely, lovely boys I only had my 3 Polish chicklet hens Conkers, Tiny & Cassie left & the other hens I had bought in - 3 Pekin girls Florence, Tilly & Tabby, my Buff Orpington bantam Clover & Barnevelder bantam Minnie. YIKES!! 8 cockerels with only 8 hens! As Patrick & Charlie had been happily co-existing at Andy's I decided to house them with Daisy & Seymour the Aylesbury ducks & George & Mildred turkey. This seems to have worked. Daisy duck loves the boys & can often be seen sat beside them in a maternal posture - very sweet! The boys were initially wary of the huge, scary looking turkeys but soon realised they were gentle & harmless. Some of my big hens hop over the divide from the main enclosure to admire & flirt with Charlie & Patrick so there are girls available to the boys if they can pluck up enough courage to woe them! However, they both seem content with their own company. They have a very strange relationship. Patrick is much bigger than Charlie & by far the more dominant of the two. Charlie is almost hen-like in his behaviour, although definitely a cockerel. So, due to this charming relationship, this housing arrangement is working a treat.

So that left 6 bantam cockerels with 8 bantam girls down in the back garden! Tensions were starting to show between the cockerels & although they weren't hurting each other skirmishes were breaking out more & more frequently. Fortunately, Jess over at the lovely Lavender & Thyme blog had very kindly offered me 3 Silkie cross hens. Phew! I really didn't want to part with any of my bantam boys, especially my chicklet boys. As a bonus it provided another opportunity to meet up with another virtual friend! So hubs & I tootled off down to Jess's place last Saturday to collect the new girls. What a treat it was to meet Jess. I can honestly say she is absolutely as lovely as she comes across in her blog & I really hope we get to meet up again. I could chat away to her for hours & hours & hours about all things chook! And it was all I could do to stop from stealing her gorgeous dog Alfie (the under gardener!) away with me! I even got to meet Syd the Muscovy duck that regularly visits the field opposite for his afternoon feed. He's a darling character! After tea & cake (yummy homemade carrot cake!) it was time to pop up to Jess's field, meet all her chickens & collect the Silkie cross hens. Jess had such a generous surprise waiting for me! Not just 3 Silkie cross hens, but 4 with my name on!! I was so grateful & they were such pretty looking things that I instantly fell in love with them. Seeing Jess's cockerels made me realise that my young cockerels (from Andy) still have a bit of growing to do. Jess has the most gorgeous & humongous Light Sussex sussex cockerel named Ben! Now he really is a magnificent boy!

So here's a little peek at the new girls on the block Snow White, Ginger, Cinnamon & Nutmeg. They have settled in very well & instantly the atmosphere between the back garden boys has become calmer! They all swooned over the new girls. So a 2:1 cockerel to hen ratio is much better, but I still really need another 6 bantam hens to ensure that the peace remains. It's a hard life! ;-)

As Spring arrived the incubator that had been stashed carefully way in the loft started calling to me. How could I resist? 6 Cayuga duck hatching eggs caught my eye on Ebay & arrived in the post before I could stop them! It seemed only proper to pop in a few of our own duck's eggs with them. 2 of the Cayuga eggs turned out to be infertile but I patiently waited for 4 Cayuga eggs, 1 Daisy & Seymour Aylesbury egg & 3 unknown duckzilla crosses to hatch. And I waited..... and I waited..... Day 28, hatch day, came along. Nothing. So I waited & waited, not so patiently! The tension was unbearable, but finally some of the eggs started to rock & I could hear ducklings tapping away on the inside of their shells. Then came cheeping! After lots of time spent on my hands & knees cheeping encouragement at the incubator, finally on Day 33, 2 tiny black Cayuga ducklings hatched! I think ducklings are one of Mother Nature's sweetest Spring babies along with lambs. Right from when they hatch they are delightful! They are inquisitive & full of the joy of life beginning. What struck me straight away was the difference between these ducklings from domesticated breeds & the little wild Mallard ducklings we rescued last Summer. The ducklings that hatched were instantly trusting & calm, something that moved me to tears & made me vow to be the best Mother Duck I could be to them. A further 3 agonisingly slow days later another 3 ducklings hatched, 2 of our own duckzillas which I suspect are Cherry Valley / Muscovy crosses & another duckling broke free from what was supposedly another Cayuga egg. But it was immediately apparent that this little duckling was definitely NOT a Cayuga. It's colouring & markings were so different. After contacting the breeder it turns out that he must have mistakenly sent me a Silver Appleyard egg in my half dozen! I wasn't complaining - Silver Appleyards are very beautiful ducks. Unfortunately at this stage I had to discard the 4th Cayuga egg & also our Aylesbury egg as they showed no sign of life. So one egg remained. It had externally pipped but was making slow progress & the humidity in the incubator was proving difficult to maintain. So eventually I gave this last little duckling a bit of a gentle helping hand by moistening the shell membranes that had stuck to it like glue & removing a small piece of shell to assist it's immense battle to fight it's way out into this world. Finally on Day 38, our last duckzilla duckling hatched! This one I'm not at all sure about in terms of it's parentage. I don't think it's a Muscovy cross as it's much smaller & darker than the other 2 duckzillas. I think it will be a case of wait & see as it grows. Whatever it's breeding it's incredibly pretty& very sweet natured. All 6 of the little munchkins are doing very well. They are as bright as buttons & full of exuberance. They crave our company & recognise my whistle from the hours I spent cheeping at them in the egg & quite literally throw themselves against the wire sides of their brooder to see me. They love being cuddled, which has meant a very special bond has grown not only between me & the ducklings, but also between those little cuties & my lads & hubs. We are all sharing in their incredible journey!

What else has happened? Well........

As well as being lucky enough to meet up with Andy, Jo & Jess I also had the opportunity to meet another 2 animal loving Twitter friends Rebecca (@vegebexy) & Jeni (@seren9) last week at Rebecca's invite. Mum has also joined the World of Twitter & came along with hubs & I. I was in heaven at Rebecca's place. I adore pigs! I would love to have a couple one day when we have a little more room, but for now just enjoy patting our neighbour's pigs through the fence. Bex has about 70 of them!! Mostly rescued pigs & all different shapes & sizes. Many were roaming free & everywhere you looked a happy piggy face was to be seen! I think that maybe I squealed more than the pigs that afternoon. It was just a fab day. The sun shone, we were in beautiful surroundings, in great company & chatter & laughter flowed freely. Bex & Jeni are both the loveliest of people & I'm sure we will be meeting up again. It is so thrilling when you get to meet someone in person with lots of hopes & expectations & you are not one bit disappointed! Oh, & Jeni & I swapped duck hatching eggs before we left!

So I have the social media of Blogland & Twitterverse to thank for bringing Andy, David, Jo, Jess, Rebecca & Jeni firmly into my life, along with friendships that I am sure will last forever. I think I've said this before, but if you feel a particular affinity with someone you meet online it might just be worth being brave & meeting up with them in real life. Just do it with safety in mind. Of course, you don't have to meet someone in the flesh to develop a meaningful friendship with them online. One of my favourite ladies to Tweet with is @scrummycupcake. She loves chooks & totally understands how daft I get with over my chicklets. We get on famously! When I had my last fibromyalgia flare she so very kindly sent me a set of aromatherapy oils which she had blended herself! It was such a thoughtful gesture & really touched me. The oils were gorgeous too & I burnt lots of the relaxing blend when I was waiting for those naughty ducklings to hatch! When she bought a 3 egg incubator of her own she sent me & Jeni some much cosseted Pekin Frizzle hatching eggs out of 6 she had bought, & some from from her own hens just after her beloved Crele Pekin Dave had sadly died, in the hope that we could hatch a mini Dave between us. Unfortunately my eggs didn't make it as I had to put them in makeshift incubator made out of a converted plant propagator because I didn't want to disturb the duck eggs. It was such a shame. But then shortly afterwards she sent me 6 replacement Frizzle eggs that the breeder had offered as compensation for what had been an overall low fertility rate of the original eggs. She's truly one of life's angels! The friendship she has shown me has been a bright light in my life recently & I treasure her kindness & online companionship enormously.

So in my incubator now are the 6 replacement Frizzle Pekin eggs from @scrummycupcake, 6 duck eggs from Jeni & also 6 Croad Langhan hatching eggs that I bought. I have chosen black Croad Langshan chickens as a bit of a breeding enterprise. They are a rare breed & I love the fact that they are big, yet docile birds. Due to the late hatching of my ducklings the Pekin & Croad Langshan eggs had to be stored much longer that I would have liked, so I'm keeping everything crossed that they will still be fertile & viable.

And that Dear Blog, just about brings me up to date. I promise to bring more cute duckling pictures soon & I leave you with the thought that is keeping me warm inside .....

As much as my heart feels the pain of the Goddess at the harm that mankind is doing to the planet & the suffering that is caused to animals, I also feel hope that things are beginning to change for the better because there are so many people who really do care & want to make a difference. As I make my pledge to make a difference I know lots of other people across the globe are doing so too, including those with a lot more power & influence than me. Let's hope the tide is turning!

Bright blessings

Sara xx

Friday, 9 April 2010

Sneak preview....

I can't believe I didn't blog at all in March! It was a month of much personal discovery & I finally feel able to share..... however, just for now I'm a little busy with this little lot! Cute aren't they?

Be back soon xx