Who said hybrids are dull? I love our very ordinary-looking Black Tail and Goldline chickens just as much as our stunning pure breeds. Most of our ladies are in retirement now and haven’t laid an egg in some time, but while in their prime their yield were second to none. Now they scratch about at leisure and venture way up the garden in search of pastures new. In fact, one of our old brown girls has taken to roosting in Audrey and Margot’s undercover run. We’re not sure why, but wonder if her adventures far and away from hybrid HQ mean she gets caught out when the light lowers at around 3.30pm and simply makes herself at home with the pampered pair who live by our house. Each night James scoops her up and returns her to the perches in the coop down the end of our plot.
Sadly, Marek’s disease continues to take around one hen each week – and there’s nothing we can do about it. Last Saturday, we discovered one of our lovely old chickens had a limp and just a few hours later she had a dropped wing and appeared to be disoriented. That evening, she just lay in the long grass, no longer able to move and so we knew it was the kindest thing to dispatch her. The weekend before the disease claimed one of our black Araucanas and prior to that our beautiful Rhode Island Red. However, our plans to make a mobile henhouse, which would side-step the issue of over-grazed unhealthy wet ground (because we could wheel it up and down the garden) and outwit the rats we’ve had problems with lately (without a permanent site, they couldn’t dig underground – as soon as they started the house would be on the move again) are in progress and should put paid to such ailments. The shed’s arrived and James is just waiting for the wheels and related paraphernalia to come. That may well prove to be a project for Christmas time.
Despite hopes that Bully Pig was becoming as large as Porky Pig, Porky is definitely still in the lead. I witnessed him bat the others out of the way at the trough yesterday in order to hoover up more than his fair share, so we now know why, too. The Oxford Sandy & Black breeders we bought our trio from, Dave and Linda Aldous, have kindly agreed to visit next weekend to take a look and help us decide whether to separate the rotund creature in a bid to slim him down during their last few weeks (James is worried about overly fatty pork). We’re wondering if it tends to happen when you have three rather than two pigs and there’s more competition to eat… If anyone has any pearls of wisdom on this topic, I’m all ears. In the meantime, happy smallholding all.