The Orange Tip

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Tag: buff

A Friend For a Lonesome Cockerel

A couple of days ago I headed up to Suffolk to collect two new Buff Orpington hens to add to the brood (and to replace our sadly fox-eaten hen). They were bought from ‘Henhouse’ (www.hen-house.co.uk), a great family-run supplier of free-reared chickens. The place itself was amazing to visit, with breeds of all kinds mixed together, free to roam the extensive grounds of the property. While there, I couldn’t resist bringing back a friend for my now come-of-age and lonely Thuringian cockerel. It’s been tricky trying to incorporate him into the henhouse along with the other two, as they’d peck him relentlessly, and so particularly because of him being so small. As his mum was the chicken lost to the fox he’s had a bit of a sad and lonesome life so far.

So I found a suitable friend for him in the form of a ‘Silver-Laced Wyandotte’, a similarly coloured but smaller breed, and put all six of the chickens in together. Naturally he fell in love immediately, and hopefully this new found masculinity will put him on the road to top of the pecking order. Once he’s learned how to assert himself over the four enormous Orpingtons..

The Inevitable Mr Fox

It was a sad day last Tuesday when a fox finally braved the fence-line during the afternoon and left it’s trademark trail of destruction. There are fox holes dotted all around the wooded area of the garden, and I’ve seen and heard them on numerous occasions, however this is the first time one has come over the fence into the wild garden in broad daylight. The destruction itself could have been worse, but only a little. One chicken survived, another lost it’s tail (feathers mostly) and the third had to be killed. She was so badly torn up during the fox’s attempts to take her back over the fence with it that there was no possibility of recovery. The saddest part, however, is that this was the hen nurturing our one and only 1-week old bantam chick.

It’s a horrid experience for any chicken owner, but it’s so much of a common occurrence for poultry keepers that it was almost expected. I think our super free-range approach was in the end a little too loose, and although we were always sure to put them away before dusk, we may have become complacent with maintaining some form of presence around the coop. In this instance I had been away for the day visiting this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, and the combination of a tall, protective meadow and the abnormal residing quiet, meant that the fox was able to slip in unnoticed until the last moment.

I have since taken down the meadow in the wild garden (as mentioned in the below post regarding the pond) to expose the area a little more, and am keeping a much closer eye on the remaining two hens.

Survived, and missing tail

As for Chesney, our tough little bantam chick, it’s a case of some optimum fostering and making the best out of the situation. I’ve taken to having him (or her; too early to sex still, but really hoping it’s a him, just to have a little cockerel keeping everyone in shape) out with me whenever I can be in one place for longer then ten minutes, which like most gardeners, isn’t as often as I’d like. He’s already scratching for bugs and even has little attempts at stretching his wings, but always prefers to be in and under my shadow, much like he would have done around his mother. It’s a difficult situation, as being alone, without company and without a parent is very unnatural for any newly born creature and I can’t help feeling a little responsible. At least with incubated chicks the numbers are usually larger, despite not being raised under a hen. Chesney still has to spend the majority of his time alone in a box with water, chick crumbs and a nest, but I’m doing my best to entertain him until he’s big enough to join the others.

Scratching for grubs

Scrupulating diary time

Hatched

Broody Hen

One of our three Orpingtons is sitting. She has been doing so for long stretches of the day and yesterday was the first day she didn’t leave the nest box at all. A friend of mine is posting me some fertile eggs from his collection of bantams in Carmarthenshire, Wales; I hope she remains on the nest long enough for them to arrive.

Meanwhile the other two  are having to make do with eachother’s company.

New Perches

With the shed finally cleared, cleaned and woodstove-installed, I have reached the settled feeling I’ve been after from the start. It took some time to establish the best channel and collect the appropriate piping, and after a day’s grind under an encouraging clear sky, I now have a fire with which to heat, cook and ‘contemplate’. Wasted little time in putting it to use too.

To celebrate, I thought it fitting to spread the air of belonging to my tireless comrades in residence and construct a perch under the log store for the chickens. Man needs a fire, chicken needs a perch.