The cockerels survived! If you read an earlier post, you’ll know that the DEFRA quarantine (for bird flu) lasted until the end of February. I was worried that when I released the birds into the garden, the cockerels would think it was new territory (having bird brains, and all that) and would fight. Cockerels fight to the death, even if you try to separate them, so I was worried. I couldn’t find anything helpful online – I’m not sure many ‘hobby’ farmers keep cockerels. I decided I would start to let the birds out just as it was getting dark. They are rigid about their routines, and as soon as it gets dark, they all roost on their perch, all in a set order. I thought that maybe, if it was beginning to get dark, even if they started to fight, the urge to roost would be greater, so they’d stop attacking each other before one was dead.
Well, it worked fine. I opened the cage door, and they all rushed out. No fighting. Excellent. The four new ones have never left the cage before, so they were very interested by it all, the older ones went straight onto the compost heap for a good dig.
One of the new ones is tiny, even smaller than her mother (I bought “large chicken eggs” on Ebay, but one- the mother of the latest clutch – is a bantam. That’s Ebay for you!) She was so excited she started to fly around and sit in the trees, which was pretty cool. I was slightly worried the cats might think she was small enough to catch, as she’s smaller than a rat and they do a good job at keeping them under control. When I released them, the dog and all four outside cats arrived to watch. The cats like living outside, but they’re both nosey and keen for snuggles, so they follow us around when we’re in the garden. I watched them carefully, but whenever they were approached by a hen, even a small one, they backed away quickly. They clearly associate chickens with being pecked rather than with sport/food. Which is good. Always a good idea to introduce very young predators to adult birds – they learn to not attack. My cats had some sharp pecks when they were kittens, and obviously remember.
As it grew darker, the three old birds went straight back into the cage to roost. The younger birds partied for a bit longer; which worried the dog, who was keen to round them up, but I wanted to wait and see what happened, so made her sit beside me. She sat there, nudging me with her nose and whimpering – disagreed with my decision. It was fine, they all went to bed before it was properly dark. That’s the only nice thing about short winter days I think, the chickens go to bed early. When the clocks move forward, I will have to wait until later before I can shut the door, which makes going out in the evening difficult.
The ducks are all laying. There are little nests of eggs all around the pond. I keep finding them, and don’t know how old they are, so am leaving them (would be embarrassing to give someone an old egg to eat). Not sure if they’ll sit, it’s still quite early, but sometimes they do if the weather’s warm. I have enough ducks, so if they do, when the ducklings are full grown I’ll give them away. They’re not far removed from mallards, so can fly and would cope fine on a wild pond. I do hope bird flu doesn’t spread to this area. I like my birds.
The cats are fat. I think they put on extra fat during the winter months, plus their fur is really thick. They are wonderful to cuddle. Sometimes I try to bring one inside, but they’re very unsettled and want to get back in the garden as soon as they can. They all come running when I whistle, so if I have any meat scraps, I’ll call them to the door.
We have sheep in the field next to the house. They’re fat too, so I’m hoping we might have lambs soon. I don’t like walking through the field when there’re mothers and young – sometimes they become aggressive – so we’re having to find new walks. The dog likes this, but I don’t. I tend to walk each day when I need a break from writing, and I like to walk the same way, so I don’t have to concentrate and can loose myself in the story while I walk. Then when we get home, I’m usually ready to write the next part of the story.
At the moment while I walk, I’m also delivering invites to the book launch on 29th. My neighbours all live several fields away, so I rarely see them. There is one house, which has tall fences and gates, down a private track. It has no name, no letterbox. No one (that I have asked) knows who lives there, but it used to be a pop star. If you look on Google maps, there is a big house and a few small cottages. Who lives there? Could be someone famous. Or a Mafia don. Or someone royal. Very interesting. Very occasionally, the gates are left open. If I’m walking past, I shall sneak in with an invitation – you never know, they might like to come to a book launch. If I discover who lives there, I’ll let you know.
Thank you for reading.