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New Batch of Rescue Hens

new rescue hens

Today, we collected 4 rescue hens from the BWHT.  We last got rescue hens 2 years ago when we moved here.  Last year, we added some young hens along with our cockerel.

Sadly, some of the original rescue hens have passed on, so we decided to get some more.  We drove over to North Somerset (via B&Q, as you do) and collected 4 hens.  This was their first day out of a barn, their first taste of fresh air and the first time they had seem the outdoors.

So what did we do, put them in a box and drove them home.

They were not keen on this and were especially miffed when we went round roundabouts!  One of them laid an egg en route which survived the journey intact!  We were soon home and quickly we took them to their run.  We have two runs that are side by side and the new arrivals were put in with our one remaining rescue hen, Scrawny.  They will be kept separate from the others (for now) otherwise the feathers would be flying.

The new arrivals were pretty calm, all things considered.  Scrawny was a bit put out (hens do not like meeting new hens), but fortunately did not turn violent – just a peck here and there.  The new arrivals didn’t seem to care, I expect they are used to constant pecking in the crowded conditions they have come from.

So, now we’ll let them build their strength up and get to know each other and also new our other hens (through the divide).  Hopefully, they’ll do a bit of pecking order sorting out so that when we merge them all in a few weeks, there will not be too many feathers flying.

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New arrivals in sheep field

new-coloured-ryeland-sheep

Today, eight new breeding ewes joined our flock.  It was something of a reunion as these new ewes were the flock our original three came from.  So our three were reunited with their mothers.

We only have a small trailer, so we collected them in two batches of 4.  We had fun getting them into the trailer, but once in our field, they came out quite happily.  Our 3 were not quite sure what to make of the new arrivals, but unlike chickens, they enjoyed a peaceful introduction.

The second batch of four were most restless when they were left behind and were duly delighted to be re-united.  By evening, they were all happily lying together chewing the cud.

sheep meeting

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The sheep are sheared

newly sheared sheep

Horner Shearing sent us a replacement part overnight and with rain forecast from tomorrow (which probably means it will be sunny), we thought we’d better get the sheep sheared today. You can’t shear them with a wet fleece and also, wet fleeces are attractive to flies. The main reason for shearing them is for their health, the wool is a bonus.

It was a lovely, sunny afternoon (after a fairly breezy morning), so conditions were perfect.

sheared bluemliWe started with Bluemli. She was not happy at all. She considers herself the leader of our small herd and so is used to getting her own way.  Well, I am much better now at getting a sheep to sit and to her surprise, she found herself in shearing position A.  Not for long.  testing my training to the limits (and I spent the early part of the afternoon studying the DVD again), she struggled and moved did everything she could to get free.  Especially when I tried to shave her leg!  She did get a little stressed so we did spend some time calming her.

But, my revision paid off and we had much more control.  Our positioning was also better so we put less strain on the drive shaft.  And 35 minutes later, Bluemli emerged sheared, albeit a bit scruffy!

sheared louiseThen, it was the last sheep, Louise’s turn. She struggled at first, but soon relaxed.  I didn’t do her stomach particularly well which caused problems later on.  Nevertheless, we improvised and soon, she too, was sporting a short summer coat, albeit with some trimmings.

But we are really pleased.  Sheep shearing is not easy at all (my back is most put out).  But they are done, we have three bags of wool ready to be cleaned up and weaved.

The question is, do we do that too, or do we send it off.

Decisions, decisions!

Plus, 75 minutes to shear 2 sheep, the Blue Seal requires you to shear 3 sheep in 30 minutes, unaided.  I think we need a bit more practice.

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Water Voles

water vole

This evening, Nicole was sitting by our pond having a cuppa while I was teaching guitar.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw movement.  Was it a mouse?  Too big.  Was it a rat?  No, it went for a swim underwater.  It was a water vole.  And not only one, there were lots.

water-vole-eatingQuickly, she ran upstairs and got her camera.  Then quietly, she returned to the pond and waited.  She had only counted to 60 when a little head appeared at the entrance to their burrow.  And soon they were scampering about, eating, swimming and doing water voley things.

We are delighted to be able to provide a natural habitat for these wonderful creatures.  A little research has told us these are in rapid decline all across the UK.  Predation by mink is the main problem, but loss of habitat isn’t helping either.

We’ll be doing everything we can to help our water voles.

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Ducks doing well

ducklings

A few weeks back, a pair of ducks moved into our pond.  Though a bit fearful at first, they started to realise we meant them no harm.  The dogs were duly shown that the ducks were higher status and so left them be.

adult ducksThe clincher was our hens, once the ducks saw our hens running round us, they relaxed and soon started to come up to the chicken run to be fed, and also to help themselves to the hen’s food.

One day, they disappeared.  Occasionally, we’d see the female, but not often.  We guessed she was sitting on eggs but we didn’t look for fear of disturbing her.

tiny ducklingsThen, one day, ducklings!  In all, she had 10 of them.  The mother had become a little wary of us, but once again, when she saw the hens, over she came and we soon had tiny ducklings all around.

Sometimes, they disappeared.  We assumed the were hiding somewhere, but it turned out she was taking them to our neighbour’s pond (which was inside their chicken area).  Clever duck, using two ponds and two food supplies.

Sadly, 3 ducklings disappeared over the space of a few days.  We suspect crows, but it could have been anything.  There are plenty buzzards around too.  On the bright side, much better than last year when 12 ducklings disappeared on jut a few days (spurring us to buy a duck house).

Now, the remaining 7 are almost fully grown.  And is it me, or does it look like she has 7 girls?

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Sheep Shearing doesn’t go quite to plan

adrian and nicole shearing sheep

On a warm and sunny June day, we set out to shear our three sheep.  We set up the pens and the shearing equipment and all went smoothly.  Then we gathered the sheep into the holding pan without incident.

Now, we had decided to shear in the field rather then bring them up to the stables. The first problem was that having sat the first sheep down in the holding pen, we couldn’t drag her to the shearing station (as we had done on the course) because the ground was not smooth.  OK, we let her through, sat her down and got ready to get shearing.

shearing underwayProblem two, our sheep are entirely unlike the ones we worked on on the course.  Those had lovely great bare patches on the their tummies and brisket so it was easy to get started.  Ours are completely covered, from their heads to the tips of their toes.

So shearing the tummy are took a bit longer than planned.

Problem 3, there was a slight slope and so we ended up getting out of position rather too easily.  That caused some problems in manoeuvring the handpiece.

However, we worked as a team and slowly but surely we managed to shear her.  On the bright side, with it being hot and having new equipment, the handpiece did glide smoothly through the wool.

nicole shearing sheepBut, those tricky legs and the head were not easy, mainly as we were taking great care not to hurt her.

Now, we got nearly, very nearly to finishing the first sheep when disaster struck – the drive shaft broke.  The actual driveshaft ( the bit that spins) sheared.  That wasn’t the sort of shearing we had had in mind.

So we had to finish off with the hand clippers and abandon the shearing for the day.  Tomorrow, on the phone to order a new one.

And next time, we’ll take a bit more care on getting the positioning right as we suspect we put a little too much pressure on the bendy bit (don’t know the techie term for it).

So we now have one sheared sheep and two still covered in wool.

all sheared