Four days or so before my birthday, a family member offered to buy me some Indian Runner Ducks if I wanted. So that week a time was set to go to a supplier of geese, ducks and chickens. I think Steve was far more excited about the trip out to buy these ducks than I was. He was like a kid in a sweet shop spending some Christmas money on his personal choices. So this week we came home with another seven additions to our flock. As well as Indian Runners we bought two Welsh Harlequins and two Khaki Campbells.
Last year for my birthday, I bought myself two rabbits from a local pet shop. I was thrilled to re-live my teenage years but more importantly to offer two bunnies, that no one wanted, the chance to live outside with plenty of space. They were given the whole of the chicken run, the full 100mtr squared area complete with hutch for shelter and trees and obstacles, which at times included the chickens.
It wasn’t long before I fell for another older rabbit sitting on her on her own in the same pet shop and a small baby rabbit, because who doesn’t like baby rabbits, right? I managed to get them all together as friends but there was always one out of the 4 that seemed left out so I thought I’d get her a special friend of her own. You can see that I’ve got a strange logic here. I found an extremely cute white fluffy baby rabbit for sale, who bonded with her very well. In getting Heather (thats her name) the social order in the rabbit world changed a bit and now they're all friends.
Over the summer we felt that it was awkward having the rabbits out running free in the chicken enclosure as it meant that the chickens couldn’t come and go as they pleased to the coop for egg laying which they seemed very keen to do. So I had a plan to move them to a different enclosure away from the mess of the ducks and geese. Having bought them a 6x3 metre outdoor fully secure run I was wondering, during the four weeks it took to arrive, that it seemed a shame to waste the ‘air’ space above the rabbits.
So one day after having gone to buy some hose pipe and being unsuccessful at that, I proudly arrived back at the nursery with two baby cockatiels that had been hand reared.
Steve bless him, is very understanding and takes these seemingly regular suprises very well.
Like the time when I’d been contacted by the owner of a giant French lop rabbit…they were struggling to sell her and she still had an eye condition that needed medication. I popped round, collected this giant and figuring it was dark soon thought I’d house her in our back bedroom while I started her medication up again. Our niece came to visit so I took her to see the cockatiels. Steve happened to wander in while I was sitting on the floor on the other side of the bed petting the new rabbit, with ‘that’ look on my face.
Gardening with chickens and listening to the ducks quack as they waddle past us is something very special that has exceeded all of my expectations. On a practical note, the ducks and geese living on site have during the summer months eaten the grass to an even and neat level, that it effectively never needed mowing. The chickens seem to have reduced the bug population. I’m sure the ducks are munching their way through the population of slugs and snails on site as I’ve not found one since. It’s the most enjoyable way to remain organic that I’ve found so far. Sure, we have to protect the plants a bit more as Steve's Chilli crop discovered early on last year. A beautifully sown raised bed filled with young and hard to grow Ghost Chilli plants was reduced to a small row of chewed shoots by three inquisitive geese. And you can’t risk for a moment leaving our fruit or cabbage unprotected but I still wouldn’t do it any other way. I'd have never guessed that owning chickens specifically would be so rewarding. Steve I'm sure will write about them another time as owning chickens was something that he really wanted, and its what has kicked started owning everything else.
We've had our ups and downs with the animals though. From the most sad, losing Josephine to a soured crop that we just couldn't fix quick enough was devastating, as she was such a friendly chicken who actively sought out cuddles and tickles. I cried when we lost her which might sound strange, but she was a particularly strange little chicken with a unique personality to us. To the down right silly such as me spending several hours trying to put the keys back onto the keyboard in the correct order after the cockatiels spent the day pulling nearly all of them off. We've had injuries to deal with, loose dogs to chase down. At every step they've all proved to be clever and smarter than us.
So now I’ll give you the total as it stands as of now, we have four dogs, two cockatiels, twelve chickens, three geese, ten ducks, six rabbits (and a turtle called George). Everything is looked after, cuddled, stroked and spoken to. The dogs are run, the cockatiels are given the space to fly. They all add something to our lives.
Watching them develop and seeing their little personalities is such a treat. They all help keep us sane and organised. Those who know us are aware that our lives can be chaotic at times, but the animals needing our care and attention at several times of the day keeps us organised on a daily basis. They remind you to take a break, to sit with them and occasionally, to pause to watch them while they go about taking a bath or flying about. They calm us, with the exception of Brian who hates me…. And they are good for our welfare both mentally and physically because of that.
For me personally, having had my dad hatch Brian the goose, and bring him up from a chick, it’s disappointing that he seeks me out for attack. With Steve, he is relaxed and will tolerate a cuddle, even seeking him out to stand on his shoulder while he walks around the nursery. I threaten him regularly that I’ll eat him, but to no avail. I guess I’m left with having to buy armoured leg shields.