Posted in Chickens

Ava’s proud moment

 

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Little Ava

More than six months on, the new girls Little Ava and Mabel are settling in and contributing to their keep with an abundant supply of fresh eggs.

The first time Ava laid an egg was a morning of concern.

Now, most hens have a small comb on the top of their head when they’re not laying. But Ava, for some reason, has always prided herself with a vivid red comb. Much bigger and brighter than the other girls.

Okay.

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But then one morning I heard what sounded like a seagull in the garden. Crawk, the loud noise went.

I didn’t remember hearing anyone making that type of noise before.

I opened the coop door and saw Ava looking at me and making that raucous noise again.

Bright red comb. Squawk. Squawk… An unusual noise, unlike the other girls. Was it a squawk or a crow?

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Little Ava

Either she was going to lay her first egg or… What if she was actually a cockerel and they got it wrong at the farm?

I felt a tinge of foreboding. I had warmed to Ava and didn’t want her to go but if she was male, she might be too noisy for my neighbours…

Why would the farm get it wrong? The chickens were 12 and 14 weeks old when I adopted them, surely the farm would know.

Yet I had heard mistakes can be made…

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… And that female hens can turn into roosters.

Had I lived in the countryside, no problem, but unfortunately there were neighbours around who probably wouldn’t like a wake-up call at 5am every morning.

I brooded on this as young Ava went up into the indoor section and back down again. She seemed as confused as I was.

About 20 minutes later, I headed out again. It was nearly time to go to work and this matter must be left to one side for now.

Fortunately, events had reached a conclusion.

The result for the scarlet head, triumphant seagull sound and general confusion was that Little Ava had rather an eventual morning. She was proving she was definitely a lady with the egg she had just laid.

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Thank you Ava, I had never doubted you!

As for Mabel, she has proved to be a hard working member of the team, producing many delicious eggs. She is a little gutsy and always eager for an adventure. She will try to edge her way through the gate when I open it and I have often the need to tell her: “No, Mabel, you’re not going through the gate, stay in your own garden with your friends.”

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Facts of the Day

1. According to Andy Cawthorne, of Country Smallholding magazine, November 2016, ‘Hetty can become Henry overnight’ when ‘there is a part change of gender within a hen’. Thankfully – for those of us who have small gardens and neighbours nearby – this is not a regular happening.

2. A hen ‘will no longer lay eggs. Her comb and wattles will develop, her feathering and feather structure will become more male in appearance and she will even begin to crow’. She still is genetically a female though.

3. Andy says in his article that this phenomenon is caused by stress or illness and only occurs ‘in hens with one ovary’, the other remaining as a ‘regressed male gonad’ which can take over.

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Posted in Environment

Early spring flowers

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One Sunday in early March, Simon and I went for a countryside wander and it was cheering, after the winter, to see the early spring flowers starting to bloom. We saw snowdrops (above), which start to flower from February, and daffodils (below).

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A flowering elm tree was also spotted. This was an interesting find as many of Britain’s elm trees were wiped out by a strain of Dutch Elm Disease, caused by bark beetles. In 1967, Rock elm logs were imported from the USA. No one knew the timber harboured the virus caused by bark beetles. By the mid-1980s, 25 million elms had died. So an elm tree these days is a much rarer sight than it once was although, over the years, there have been attempts to repopulate the elms.

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´┐╝Periwinkle (above) and common dog-violets were also spotted. Dog-violets flower from March to May and sometimes from July to September. They are seen in woods, hedgerows (where we saw it), and heaths in Britain.

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Fact of the Day

Did you know that there is an area and tube station called Seven Sisters in London? It derives its name from seven elm trees which were once planted in a circle in that area.

Posted in Environment, Environmental issues

Our World: The Road to a Healthier Earth

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I was at my book club a few months ago and they had a charity book sale. Amongst the books, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I had watched the dystopian film some years ago and fancied reading the novel.

And I picked up Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo by Michael McCarthy.

It was only later I thought, oh, how strange, two books by two authors with the same surname. It was much later when I realised that the apocalyptic novel and the nature book had something else in common.

The Road, in my view, is a great novel.

Although if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it’s best to avoid.

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It is grim.

But it is hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

It tells the story of a father and son who are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world. There are blood-thirsty cannibals (some of the scenes made me squirm in horror), there are remnants of meat or drinks in scavanged tins or cans or long abandoned kitchen cupboards.

There is no nature.

All the trees are dead.

It isn’t clear what caused this miserable world, a nuclear incident is my imagined belief, judging by what is said.

But whatever happened, there is now no nature – nothing to grow, nothing, it seems, to hope for.

I had given Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo to Simon, but from what I gather, that too is about the threat to the natural world.

So maybe the surname isn’t the only thing thing these books together?

The environment isn’t a particularly ‘trendy’ issue but it’s an important one. It affects us all, our planet is our home and every time we mess about with Mother Nature, we increasingly make life more difficult, if not for ourselves, for the future generations.

Even if we don’t believe in climate change being affected by humans, the evidence is there that humans are cutting down rainforests, driving other animals to near extinction and destroying wildlife habitat. We are to blame for plastic pollution, air pollution, water pollution…

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Photo by Emmet on Pexels.com

And I believe that all this vandalism of Planet Earth will impact on our health, mentally and physically.

Personally, I don’t feel as if I am doing enough for nature. I need to do more, much more, such as looking for palm oil ingredients, stop buying so many unnecessary items, stop driving so much, making my garden more wildlife friendly… The list goes on.

But politicians and big businesses are the ones who really could make a difference.

Oh, how I wish the powers-to-be in this world were wiser and thought more of the long-term, of nature, wellbeing and health, rather than worshipping at the altar of Profit.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Posted in Pets

Tribute to Loco

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Cosy Cottage was saddened by a bereavement recently when Loco, a popular boar, passed away, probably because of old age. How old was he? I do not know except to say I adopted him more than three years ago and I have no idea what age he was then.

He first came to Cosy Cottage with his companion Bugsy, from a Pet Adoption section at the pet shop, Pets at Home. The boys already had their names and were apparently looking for a new home because there were two other boars at their last residence and they didn’t get on together. Personally, I think the easy-going Loco would have got on with everyone but Bugsy – well, that was a different story entirely…

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Loco and Bugsy had a rather argumentative relationship, Bugsy doing most of the quarrelling. I thought at first that maybe contrary Bugsy didn’t like his partner but if they were separated for short periods of time, Bugsy would look around and whistle for Loco.

He missed him.

On the other hand, Loco didn’t seem to mind being away from his temperamental friend!

Last year, around this time, Bugsy passed on to the Dandelion Paradise where all good – and mischievous – ┬águinea pigs go, possibly because of age but I suspect more due to a horrible freezing cold spell (nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’).

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It was then I realised how much the companionship meant to Loco when he slowly deteriorated. Yes, he was still eating, still drinking, but his energy levels had dipped. I would leave his door open and he wouldn’t go out and explore. He acted as if he was deaf. As if he was blind. Or maybe it was simply that he was not as interested in life as before.

It looked like he was grieving and missing his friend.

He might get over Bugsy in time, I mused. Otherwise I would have to go through the ‘boar bonding’ ritual, where introducing one boar to another takes time and patience otherwise fights could break out.

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But one day, I came across an internet appeal from my book club friend Liz. She was looking for a new friend for her recently bereaved male pig Blaze. I got in touch and agreed that if it didn’t work out – that is, if they didn’t take to each other – Blaze would go back to his original ‘pet parent’.

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Blaze was small, dark and handsome – he was also calm, relaxed and tolerant. Following a week of careful introduction, they moved in together and, apart from a mad parsley-related moment from Blaze, all went well. Although there were a couple of ‘disagreements’ over who was to get that last slice of apple.

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They would play Follow My Leader in the living room, Loco usually being the leader while mild-tempered Blaze would follow.

Food was Loco’s greatest love. A talented beggar, he would demand parsley and lettuce from what he viewed as his human servants. Simon was Dandelion Man, who would bring up tasty dandelions (although he also insisted on cutting the pigs’ nails so Loco had mixed feelings about Dandelion Man). The sound of chopping meant carrots and, once again, Loco would loudly insist on being given a choice morsel.

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Another of Loco’s friends was Teddy, the Jack Russell, who would go and say hello. Loco would always go to the bars to see him. Loco may have trusted our Ted but I certainly didn’t and would always take Teddy away from Loco’s surroundings.

Loco was a big lad, after all, he loved his grub. But towards the end, he became thinner and became fussier about what he ate. He would beg and then leave the once tasty morsel behind, looking for something else. But somehow that wasn’t quite what he had in mind either.

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I truly believe that, without Blaze, Loco would have gone months ago. Blaze was a real comfort to him and gave him a reason to live after his first companion died.

But one day, as will happen to us all, his time came to say goodbye to his loved ones. I like to think that there is a little part of heaven reserved for guinea pigs and it is full of dandelions and parsley and old friends.