Monday 18 April 2016

Free Range

Currently AWOL, our turkey hen, Barbara. 
Tonight, one of the downsides of fully free range poultry came and paid us a visit - that is the ability of hen birds (in this case the turkey, Barbara) to go and hide up to go broody under a hedge somewhere. You are lucky if you see them sneak off, and even luckier if you can follow them and discover their carefully hidden nest site. There is no bird-proof (or fox proof!) perimeter fence here, these are fully free range birds. They are here because they want to be - we obviously have the best food, housing and TLC around.

"Full House" from the geese - 4 eggs from 4 birds. 
Barbara had come into lay at the start of the month and produced 4 eggs that we had found - she scatters them all over the gaff - but had then stopped (as far as we knew). Then she started to go missing during the day and 3 days ago had us out searching all around the neighbouring fields looking for her quite dark and well camouflaged shape. To no avail, that time. We gave up and came back 'home' only for Barbara to suddenly re-appear in the yard mid afternoon. We had seen tracks in the mud just outside our NW corner but not enough to follow her.

For 2 days she stayed put (again as far as we know - we don't watch them all 24/7) but tonight at lock up, she is AWOL. We have searched the fields again, but no sign, not even of follow-able fresh tracks. She may wander back in - I am patrolling round every hour to see if she has arrived back and is trying to get into the (now locked for the night) coops but that is not very hopeful by now - it's 9 p.m. and quite dark.

Chestnut "sticky bud"
We are looking at a 28 day period of incubation when she could easily be snatched by a fox or, by some huge miracle of good fortune, successfully hatch the chicks and then bring them the marathon hike back home. We can only wish the girl luck and pray that we see her again with or without babies. Her husband Tom seems oblivious of all this and struts around the 'farm' displaying at everyone and strutting his stuff as if it has not yet dawned on him that she is gone.

Early sunrise breakfast for the flock
Meanwhile, not all our baby birds are living so dangerously, nor our broody 'Mum'. The latter is the first of our 4 geese to tip over into broodiness. She's been very clingy to the (indoor, safe) nest the last few mornings, sitting tight till gone midday before "asking" to be let out to join the gang in the orchard. Then just today she sat there all day and got quite stroppy when I went in to gently offer her a bowl of grub. In previous years this has been the sure start to a broody session, with geese being 28-33 days at it. I think she is sitting on last night's 4 eggs. She may be joined by other geese and they may also try to drop more eggs into her nest. We have a rather confused time with our goose breeding as regular readers will know. This mainly because we don't actually WANT to breed geese, but our efforts to steal all the eggs as soon as they are laid do not work out 100% towards this time of year.

The ducklings get a first feel of grass and sunshine.
The little clutches of ducklings and chicks are now at the stage (just under 3 weeks old and part feathered) where they get little try-outs in the yard in rabbit runs when it is warm. They get to feel the grass under their feet and the sun on their backs. If our judgement or the weather forecast calls for it, they are rescued back up in the early evening for another night indoors.

The chicks
Both groups seem to be loving it. The ducklings in particular have become a loud and clamorous gang of demanding 'gannets' who peep-peep loudly for food as soon as either of us show our faces at the back door. The chickens do not want to be left out, so they kick off too, but 4 chicks cannot compete noise-wise with 6 ducklings. They are all getting a good mix of chick crumb, cooked rice and finely chopped veg peelings/grated carrot offcuts and they are all wolfing it down. Thriving, they are.

Electricity pole covered in ivy.
Finally, I am now pretty much through my archery beginner's course. It was going to be ten weeks at 1 hour a week, shared with up to 5 other students but regular readers will know I got lucky. Not only did I get one-to-one tuition but also some weeks we carried on after the hour into the 2nd hour of club time in that hall. The instructor would have been well within his rights to say, nope, you had your hour... now I am off to 'play' my own archery. So, 6 weeks in I have ticked all the boxes (literally) and my form has gone into the national club to win me my membership card and number (and insurance cover) and I have been measured up and assessed to see what size and draw-strength bow and arrows I need to be buying. 62 inch bow, 29 inch arrows and a 40 lb draw, for those who are interested. Off to t'internet then and Quicks Archery of Honiton (Devon) to select £315 (nearly €400) worth of shiny new equipment. That will help distract me from waiting for Barbara to return.


Mr Silverwood said...

Barebow, bowhunter or Unlimited? Sights or not in otherwords? Is it IFAF or Archery Ireland you are becoming a member of, just want to know if you are going to be at any of our shoots, they are great fun, JM and R are justing finishing their course now so we all will be members of IFAF.

Matt Care said...

Must confess I am a bit bewildered by the national club thing and I am not sure whether I am not now a member of yet a third club, the IFA. We are definitely "field" anyway and I am bare bow and no sights, what they call at our club "instinctive". Most of our members shoot traditional looking bows and longbows, though a couple of lads sport those bows festooned with anti-recoil dampers, balance weights, clickers, retracting arrow rests, sights and all that malarkey - €3000 worth of bow in other words. I did my earliest training (stance, breathing. technique etc) with sights but have now moved on to unsighted where I am now trying to get back to as good consistent and close pattern!

Mr Silverwood said...

lol, there is actually a few different organisations in Ireland, you can normally shoot at each others events once qualified anyway, bow looks nice by the way, I'm looking at a new bow myself now, traditional recurve, so we may be shooting in the same category. Look online for target ideas, there are some very ingenious ones out there, you know the one we ended up getting which the club is currently borrowing as we moved to a new hall, just waiting on some new targets to arrive, but they can end up getting fairly bloody expensive.