Sunday, 18 July 2010

Birthday Girl

We were very lucky to have the help of a wonderful German WWOOFer, Greta and she was celebrating her birthday whilst she was here with us. We wanted to make her birthday as special as we could by way of a 'thank you' so we baked a Black Forest Gateau and got out some champagne.

The Flock Increases

The 15th saw the arrival of another 3 goslings and R has taken over as chief bird-minder. We got some more for two reasons. The first is fairly simple in that they are our ecological lawnmowers and the grass in the orchard, especially in the Spring, needs as many nibblers as possible.

The second reason is more about animal welfare. When we had four geese, Phillipa and Gertie were a 'couple' as they were the remaining two of the original three, and Nora and Nibble were a pair, each looking out for and protecting the other. After Gertie died, Phillipa went into mourning for quite a few weeks but as she came out of it she began bonding with Nora who looks quite like Gertie. This left poor little Nibble all alone and she was failing. So we got some more goslings in the hope that she would find a new interest. Happily, she has indeed taken to the goslings tremendously well and looks after them like a mother goose. Phillipa and Nora are not so bothered. In fact Nora is sometimes downright nasty to them and pecks them if they get in her way but Nibble rushes over and protects them. It's sweet to watch. Once again these birds hold me captivated.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Race Against Rain

We have been haymaking again. Our current two WWOOFers, Danny and Sarah have helped me to scythe down another of our fields and turn all of the hay for drying. It's a gentle task, though a very hot one at the moment as temperatures are reaching into the 30's. We therefore can only work the fields in the early part of the morning and sometimes in the evenings if it has cooled sufficiently. It is important that the hay is properly dry as it seals in the goodness of the grasses and plants and prevents them from going mouldy. This afterall will be part of the winter feed for all our animals except the hens.

Yesterday rain was forecast for the evening so we had to make the most of every minute to gather the laid out hay into the big hay stack. It was all hands on deck but we achieved what seemed at the beginning like a massive task by 9pm and happily retired to await the badly needed rain... that didn't come again! Sigh.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Broody Hens

So here is Neige, 3 weeks and two days into being broody. She continued like this for another week before I took action. She had no eggs under her but day after day continued to sit, sit, sit. It's a hormonal thing. I had to lift her off the nest each day to make sure she had a drink and something to eat but as soon as she'd had a wee peck she went straight back to the nest. Her comb began to lose its red colouring and became pale so I knew that I had to intervene or she would lose so much condition that she would die. So I put her in an empty cat cage for 24 hours, still in the hen house but with air circulating under her and no cosy nest. It felt so mean but it seemed to do the trick as the following day when she was let out she went off with the other hens ... for two hours then she was back on the nest again. So in the cage she went again for another 24 hours. Out she came, off she went, two hours later back on the nest. So I took the entire nest box with Neige in it outside, sat her next to the cat cage, told her that she'd be back in there if she didn't buck her ideas up. She listened, squawked then fluffed her feathers, got up and didn't get back on the nest again to be broody anymore. Phew.

We live and learn. I hated doing the cage thing. It really brought home the vile practise of caging hens for commercial gain and I really felt sorry for all the battery hens that are caged like that all their life just so that folk can have cheap eggs. The next time we will get fertilised eggs for them to sit on and hatch (we don't currently have a cockrel to fertilise ours). That would ensure only a 3 week sit and then Mrs Broody will become a happy mum.