The big dig

We’ve a scrubby piece of land at the bottom of the garden where we intend to raise some pigs one day in one area and have a pond in another. Ever since I visited Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetland Trust I’ve hankered after some Chiloe Wigeons simply because they’re the cutest ducks I’ve ever seen, though of course, they’re purely ornamental and we’ll probably end up opting for a good layer such as the characterful Indian Runner duck.

Chiloe Wigeons, which originate from South America
Chiloe Wigeons, which originate from South America

I digress! Anyway, it struck us the other day that the simplest way to let the flock of hybrids free-range is to let them out into this wilderness. Fenced off from the rest of the garden, this rather unkempt area of ground is defended from our rather excitable German Shepherd Darcy, who we don’t trust 100 per cent around poultry. So both canine and chickens roamed at will – without our having to keep a watchful eye and go about our business of starting to clear some of the logs we’ve stored down there to dry them out under the lean-to at the back of the house.


The hens were in their element and seemed to enjoy themselves, digging so ferociously that I remembered why their run is like a mudbath these days (and why chickens always need a far bigger space than you realise!) even more than when we allow them out onto the lawn. I soon twigged why: this environment resembles the wooded areas in which the ancestor of domestic chickens, Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) originally enjoyed.

Still no pale-blue eggs from the Araucanas – the resumption of laying is a good fortnight overdue. They’ve officially achieved pet status! I’m going to have a gentle word this weekend and see if they can rustle something up for our breakfast.

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