Friday 28 April 2017

Mazy Lou and Airy Fox

Happy chickens out in the sunshine.
In celebration of the lifting of the avian flu restrictions, I bring you a post full of pictures of happy out-door birds, scratching in the dirt, pecking at the grass and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs. This is as it should be and in my humble opinion the Ministry's avian flu restrictions had absolutely zip, zero to do with the welfare of 'our' free range birds and was all about protecting the livelihoods of the commercial, factory-farming, (not very) free range boys.

Suzy's Six gather round the sheep feed trough.
In our own flock an interesting dynamic has developed. Friends of the Blog will know that we have been nurturing 6 youngsters since Storm Doris (24th Feb), given to us by our friends Sue and Rob. Back then we chose the 6 from one of her big rearing cages, trying to pick out the ones which looked like hens, though sexing birds before 21 weeks age is notoriously tricky. We had great hopes that all 6 might be female and that the new group, called "Suzy's Six", would neatly restock our depleted (by the fox) flock. Also that the two which are good Cuckoo Marans colouring would fill the gap left by the deaths of Bubble and Squawk.

Cuckoo Marans, but are they female?
Well, no such luck, it seems and our success with sexing birds has taken a thorough knock - we think that almost certainly five, and possibly all 6 are roosters. As they come of age, various of them have crowed, squared up to one another with capes flared, grown upright, iridescent greenish tails and started strutting around like lads. More recently they have taken to trying to jump Galdalf's ladies, sometimes more than one at once. Enough, we say! Time for a rooster cull. Good for the freezer but not a lot of fun.

Herme, our 'sex change' hen/rooster. 
One rooster my be given a stay of execution. Our friends Con and Niamh from archery are in need of a rooster and rather fancy one of our "grey" ones (the Cuckoo Marans. The other "grey" is the chicken we hope is a hen - 'she' has quite yellow legs which can be a sign that the bird is starting to build up yolk proteins in her body prior to laying eggs. Ah well. It will all come out in the wash, I guess.

Our five ducks.
Our existing hens, who now number only 7 fit and well, will certainly be relieved. 7 on 7 is not a good ratio. Hens like their 'manly' attention diluted down to about 1 on 7. We are also pleased that the restrictions have been lifted because that means the local poultry sale is also now back in action and we might be able to go and buy some genuine hens. We hope there are either Buff Orpington or Cuckoo Marans available.

Left to tight, LIz, Mazy and Airy
You may recall from my previous post that we were 'between visitors' awaiting the arrival on the Friday of our most excellent chums from the UK, long term Friends of the Blog, Mazy-Lou and Airy-Fox. Originally Internet friends, these ladies have been part of our story for almost as long as this blog has been running. They currently live in Dorset and this would only be their 2nd visit each.

Rhubarb Pavlova
It was, as expected, a lovely visit and we thoroughly enjoyed the company and 'doing' the hospitality. Liz created marvellous food with, on the second night, the help of Mazy who is also a brilliant cook.  First was a superbly tender roast pork - it was actually "steamed" over a shallow bath of beer under a little tin-foil "hood" to keep the flavour in.

Gifts from Dorset - local cheese and a jar of, new one
on me, "bacon jam". A delicious relish. 
The joint-effort second night was a chicken-based curry with a rather good dahl (lentil) and sag (spinach) veg course plus a cooling bowl of mixed yogurt, cucumber, mint and coriander-seed. The chicken was boneless, skinless, cubed up breast which had been marinaded 24 hours in spiced up yogurt. The whole was served with poppadoms and flat breads. It was all really good. Huge thanks to both chefs.

Naturally a little drink was consumed (only a little. We are very sensible these days) and the chat flowed the way it does in such lovely companionship. One little aspect which amused us was that Airy voiced that she would rather like a dog, specifically a Beagle. Mazy is currently holding hard to the 'No Dog' line but her guard may be beginning to crack. At one stage she asked 'how many' dogs should one have if dogs were, after all, to be part of the picture? We have 3, of course.

We DEFINITELY don't want dogs.
Of course, our dogs were happy to get their wooden spoons out and stir this brew on Airy's behalf, climbing onto her lap and schmoozing Mazy up shamelessly. Time will tell on that one. It may take a while. The girls departed Thursday morning headed for Dublin Airport, where they needed to drop off the hire car by 1 pm. The remainder of their tour they will do sans car. Good luck you two and safe home. It was lovely having you.

That was it for visits in this burst. We now have a bit of a break till mid May when we get three more 'sets' of guests.

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