Sunday 2 June 2013

Kindling and Horse Play

June the 2nd - due day for our two 'pet' rabbits, Ginny (pictured here, grey and white) and Padfoot (lop eared black and white, 2nd time around Mum). Both of these girls were taken off to Charlotte's rabbit collection for mating with two different bucks, on the same day that she came to collect our "buck", Buck Rogers. Rogers, you will recall, turned out to be an on-heat female, so we hurriedly changed 'his' name to Ginger Rogers. Charlotte took her anyway and mated her to yet another buck and she has now 'kindled' (given birth).

These two were due today but, as is the way of these things, you see very little and if you are wise you don't go looking. Anxious mother rabbits will quickly eat their young if put under stress, while they are still at the new born, pink, naked, blind stage. You are best off leaving well alone for 2 weeks and waiting for any tiny, fur-covered, baby bunnies with eyes open, to emerge from the nest. All you might see is fur in the grass - the rabbit will pluck some of her own fur to line the nest and we have seen this fur in both the females' runs. Any babies will be detectable from about the 16th by which time our big doe, Goldie, may also have kindled.

Now a part of the post which you might want to miss if you are an experienced horse owner (or even if you own these particular horses, Carolyn and Charlotte). You will either be laughing fit to bust or horrified at our cack-handedness, and especially mine rather than Liz's. I admit I do not know horses and I expected them to be biddable and steerable like sheep. I also do not know electric fencing and I expected it to keep the horses 'in'. Big mistake which resulted in some fun and games but, let me add quickly, no injuries or loss of life!

We have borrowed this electric fence and I had deployed it to give the horses access to the 'Primrose Path'. I tested the fence with the back of my hand, as you do and got a decent jolt off it, so I knew it was working. The horses were let out of their field and grazed happily in the new space for a couple of hours. Then Liz went out to wash some spilt fruit-squash from the front step and spotted Cody calmly grazing in the middle of the front lawn. Not a bother, Liz went for a head collar, got it on him and walked him back to the fence where-upon he happily ducked under the fence-strand as if it wasn't there! Fence too high on the posts? We lowered the fence in the escape zone but judged it to be OK for the rest of its length.

A little later I spotted that Cody was back out again, this time apparently having ducked under again but at the lane end of the lawn. I walked over to him, gently grabbed a hank of mane and steered him gently back to the fence thinking he'd just duck under again. Not this time - he stopped dead, rooted to the ground. At this point I am afraid I become an incompetent idiot. I let go the horse and nipped down to turn off the fence so that I could make a gap to let him back through. Instead of him going back through the other horses trotted up and piled through the gap. I now had 3 horses loose on the lawn, heads up and an excited look in their eyes. I yelled for Liz. Cody and Romeo got into a canter and headed for the woods. They weren't about to be stopped by me calling 'whoa' or doing any of my sheep-steering hand gestures. Our only saving was that the road gates were all closed.

Liz grabbed the Polo mints and got Bob's (The Shetland) attention, so he , at least, wandered over and was amenable to having a head collar and lead fitted, so Liz was able to get him back into the field while we tried to catch the other two. Not a bit of it. They were straight way galloping round the whole place, all fired up at the new freedom. The charged through the woods, scattered the geese and chickens, thundered past very close to our new pond (Argghhhh, No! Visions of ponies galloping through shallow water in cowboy films!) and down into the allotment where they, thankfully, ran down the path-ditches, not across the raised beds and crops. I thought I had them cornered but 2 excited horses are not anything you can corner, and they raced back up the allotment, along the dog-wood path and, luckily into the orchard field where I could at least close the gate on them and contain them in a small area.

Here the galloping turned into play-fighting and then, as far as we could see, to a proper fight. They raced in circles around the orchard doing 2-footed high kicks on each other, biting necks and legs as if to try to make the other guy fall down or sit down. The rabbits in their runs had never seen anything like it and were racing about all over the place trying to take cover. The horses avoided hitting any trees but were careering into fences and at one stage clunked the big goose-house to one side. It was a hot day so we thought it might run out of steam, but Liz suggested fetching a bucket of cold water to throw over them. I got Romeo a direct hit and this did seem to slow him up. Both horses stopped the running-battle and stood, panting hard with nostrils flaring. I was able to get head collars on the pair and Liz and I led one each back to the field where we bolted them in and sat back to draw breath. What a relief!.

In the afternoon we had to go out, but when we came back we thought we'd better lower the fence strand all along the length and let them out again. I noticed that the 'jolt' from the fence was by now very faint, so perhaps the batteries were going flat and Cody had spotted this. Things went OK in the afternoon session. With the fence lowered none of the horses challenged it and when it was time to go back into the field, the carrot-bribe worked as normal. Charlotte is possibly coming round to check the gear out. We might stick to the tethering for now, till we are sorted properly.

We have, sadly, one piece of bad news to report, which is the loss of one of the 7 goslings. We do not know how or why; the most likely reason being a snatch-raid by a hooded crow. When the goslings are as tiny as ours, the crows can swoop down, grab one by the head and nip off even with the parent birds standing guard. Anyway, by what ever method, we know we had 7 goslings this morning till about lunchtime, but by mid-late afternoon we could only count 6. We did a thorough search of the garden in case the little mite had simply been left behind in the various wanderings of the family. Ah well. These things happen.

All 8 chickens are still with us and now at almost 6 weeks of age have formed a nice little tight-knit group who move around together independently of the grown-ups. Broody Betty has little to do with them now and has re-joined the main flock and William.

With the pond now almost full after 2 days of hose-pipery, we have been able to start doing the edges and, in particular, our flat-stone 'beach' and some of the surrounding stone edging. Tomorrow we should be able to play 'bury the rubber edge' under the bits where we want grass edges. It is all starting to look rather good. We are very pleased with it.


Mr Silverwood said...

LOL, funny, have learnt myself that when horses want to do something they are big and strong enough to go and do it if they think they can get away with it, pond is looking good, have the Geese had any more attempts at it yet?

Sorry about number 7.

carolyn said...

Thanks matt I needed a good laugh, miniature horses are very cheeky and I have to say ours are very bold :-D