Friday 28 June 2013

Dirty Stop-Outs

Ever since we lost that first chicken to a fox back last year because we sat chatting into the evening while they free-ranged till 20:30, we have learned a lesson and tried to get everybody locked up safe by a decent hour. We've done well at this and all the birds have co-operated to such a degree that we have friends on some of the poultry forums and Facebook as well as Mentor Anne, sometimes amazed that we have them "all in bed by 6" or what ever. Everybody else seemed to be struggling to round up last stragglers a good hour or more after we were shut down. I have continued this with the geese and goslings who don't take themselves off to bed, but are happy to be rounded up and shepherded to their 'bedroom' by about 18:30 and are waiting by the gate when I go out to collect them. They all waddle straight in the 'back door' and I shut it behind them, then nip round to the front and give them a handful of grain and rolled barley. So far so good.

It's been a bit of a shock, then to take on these new Cuckoo Marans who are not interested in early nights at all. They are dirty stop-outs by comparison. As I type this it is ten past 9 at night and I have only just this minute persuaded their two reluctant rumps into the wooden 'goose' house and bolted the pop-hole. They are safe enough in these bright, sunny evenings, when the sun doesn't set till 10 p.m. but they don't want to be stretching it out any more, or our little red furry cunning friend will be having them for his supper. We have seen enough foxes to know that they are always about and are famous opportunists.

It was quite amusing tonight to watch the rooster, William, trying to round them up. They have settled in well here and I now release them from the orchard once they have both laid eggs, so that they can go free ranging, meet William and mix it with all the existing flock. It is good to see William now parading his 3 white Sussex Pontes and two grey/black Marans around as a group. But William is one for his early lock ups and generally heads for his roost about 7:30 p.m and then crows vigorously calling his ladies home to roost, till they are all accounted for, generally by about 8 p.m. Tonight at around the 7 p.m. mark we were sitting by the pond and could see right across to the trees of the 'Secret Garden'.

We watched William fretting up and down that bit of sheep fence, moving 6 feet towards 'home' and then doing his excited scratch-the-floor 'dance' to try to draw the Marans closer, then moving another 6 feet and so on. The Marans would seem to be drawn, but then would drift back further away, so he had to back-track and collect them again. Poor William was losing his mind, especially as the Sussex girls had got bored by then and made their own way 'home' without him. It seemed to us that he was desperately inviting the Marans 'back to his place'. We let him off the hook eventually, rounded up the Marans to the orchard and then shepherded William 'home'. He'll get another chance tomorrow. He seemed relieved to no longer have that responsibility. We then had the hour and a half of abortive attempts to drive the Marans to their own house before they finally went willingly at 9 p.m.

The Marans, mean time have decided to get a bit creative with their eggs. After a succession of plain mid-brown eggs, we suddenly got this lovely speckled one. Perhaps the late nights are fuel to the creative processes. Talking of 'creative' Liz has been getting on very well with my jumper and is now almost there, working her way around the 'band' which has buttons one side, goes round the back of the neck and then has button holes the other side. (Sorry - probably haven't given you the technical terms - knitting is not actually my strong suit!). This long band has involved 'picking up' around 370 stitches, so Liz has had to invest in a 'circular needle', a continuous flexible loop of needle running from the hard point in her left hand to the one in her right. It's all looking very professional.


mazylou said...

Hens are crazy. At least you will get to eat them.

Anne Wilson said...

Unfortunately foxes are just a likely to strike during the day time as in the evening, our birds are now heading for bed at about 10.20 I think Simon would have quite a job getting all sixteen of our houses to go to bed early, we depend on the electric fence and Tess on patrol to keep the birds safe. The one occasion we forgot to put the fence on after the birds supper the fox knew and took two ducks.