Saturday 22 June 2013

Geriatric Cuckoo Marans

The Summer Solstice and we have the range lit in the evening. In this picture the two cats are enjoying a bit of warmth sleeping on the table. To be fair it's not actually THAT cold but Liz is feeling a bit under the weather and thinks she is 'coming down with something'. I find her sitting at the table knitting at 5 pm with a hoodie on with the hood up. She's actually off that evening, all glammed up, for a choral evening in Balla-D. She is going with Simon - neither myself nor Mentor Anne 'do' choral stuff so that seemed like the best solution.

Our mini-horse owning friends, Carolyn and Charlotte have decided that they really want to keep just their horses, rabbits (Charlotte currently has 39 with the babies!) geese and ducks, so they are running down their chicken collection. They had just 4 left last week, with homes for the two younger ones, leaving them with two "Cuckoo Marans" variety hens who sounded from the first descriptions, as if they might be the geriatrics looking for somewhere to see out the autumn of their years. We can give them grass, sunshine and quiet space.

We volunteered to take them off C+C's hands and it was agreed they would deliver them today. In fact they are not that old, being 4-5 years (probably fairly ancient in 'commercial poultry' terms!) and still in good health and good lay. The only problem, probably resulting from age is that one has grown quite a big bright red 'bubble' among her facial fleshy bits (wattles, comb etc). We are assured that this is not any kind of disease which our other birds might catch, it is just that she is not as beautiful as she was in her youth, and who among us can say they are?

The 'Marans' breed is a French general-purpose (eggs and meat) breed commonly kept in French farmyards, Marans being a town in Charente-Maritime down on the west coast of France near La Rochelle. They come in a variety of colours, the black/grey barred ones, known as 'cuckoo' because they resemble the breast feathers of the cuckoo, being probably the most common. They lay lovely dark, chocolate-brown eggs which I will photo for you when they 'start' for us. Carolyn tells me these are in lay but sometimes the upset of a move like this can knock them off lay for a day or two. Liz has named them 'Bubble' and 'Squawk'. When you ask her whether the "Bubble" is a reference to her facial 'thing' Liz will just look at you inscrutably. Bubble and Squawk it is. They have arrived and got some grass under their feet and feed into their bellies. They look to be settling in well and we hope they get a comfortable night's sleep in the house I built for geese in the orchard and which the geese have pretty much ignored.

Here is a picture of my new ladder-perch arrangement in the new chicken house, here being cheekily tested out by the 8 'Young Ones' (well, 7 of them - the white La Bresse cross prefers to sit in the wood shavings at the bottom.) This is quite handy, because we want these 8 to now move into this house at night, so it is good that they go in voluntarily and enjoy the perches. Tonight's the (first) night for this experiment. We hope the Lovely Girls will not beat them up in the night. Look very carefully bottom right at my block of three nest boxes, and you can just see the white of one of the Lovely Girls's breast; yes we have a broody again. We think this is not 'Broody Betty' but another hen but what ever, we do not want any more hatches of chooks this year, so we will just have to keep evicting her and stealing any eggs till the mood goes off her.

Finally some good fruit set on some of the orchard trees, this one the Victoria Plum. We have just one or two on several trees but we are more than happy with that. This year is all about the trees settling in and consolidating their root system, so we don't actually want them putting too much energy into fruit. Generally these trees have done very well. I am a bit concerned about a Braeburn tree which looks a bit sick and has lost a branch through die-back but I have cut that branch out and we hope the remaining tree will recover. Braeburn is my favourite type of apple for eating.

1 comment:

Mr Silverwood said...

The chicks are looking big