Monthly Archives: January 2011


Sheep worming 2

Well, much much easier this time round. We set out to catch our Ram and the one remaining girl who evaded us last week. Thus time we took it much slower and managed to pen them all first time! Feet trimmed and all wormed, so hopefully we can leave them in peace until lambing.


So, the week continues with another feathery death. Z found Alice, one of our layers, keeled over on her perch this morning :-(. She hasn’t actually looked right for months, much to our bafflement. Physically we couldn’t identify any problems with her and just put her less lively demeanour down to the cold weather andĀ her generally quieter personality i.e. not like Jenny the pig or Helena the pteredactyl. But sadly it must have been something else. We don’t think her and Dominique are linked at all. Just coincidence and bad timing. And possibly the result of a harsh winter taking it’s toll. Hopefully that’s it for crappy things this week.

Joe the Cockerell

So before all of this weekend’s Soay Rodeo and sad passing of Dominique, we had the day off and went for a lovely walk to Zs parents. They are currently the proud guardians of a very beautiful boy called Joe who we hatched last year. He is one of the 4 successful hatched by Tina who were a result of the ventures of our first naked neck cockeral and various of our layers. They wanted him to breed with their 3 Rhode Island Red/Black Rock hybrid layers so they could have a go at incubating the eggs. We took him over there a couple of months ago and he has taken a while to settle in, but is very much now part of the flock and has grown up into a lovely bird.

He is apparently pretty tricky to catch, which makes us think his most likely maternal parentage must be roadrunner Carmen, the fastest hen on the planet…

Dark days for our Geese

On Sunday night we popped out to check the stock and found Domenique ( our goose) dead. I think this is the saddest thing that has happened on the plot so far . Geese are big and intelligent with distinct personalities. They also have a very strong pair bond, so Pierre hissed at me when we picked up her body. Becs and I went in and cried for a couple of hours and then tried to work out what had happened. She didn’t have a mark on her, but she had been eating a plant the day before that I had assumed was comfrey. On closer inspection we think it might have been fox glove , which could have poisoned her.

This very sad event left us with 2 problems. What to do with the mourning Pierre, and what to do with her huge dead body.

For now I wrapped her in a bag and put her whole in the chest frezzer and decided to deal with that problem shortly.

Pierre called for her with a very loud and forlorn honks all evening and then all night on Sunday. At 4am I put notes through to the neighbours apologising for the disturbance and then read up on what on earth to do. The literature says that some geese can mourn for 3 months!!!! We could’nt have him honking all night for 3 months so I vowed to try and find him a new girlfriend.

Luckily I had Monday off work anyway, so I set myself a mission of finding Pierre a friend before the end of the day. I was helped to stay motivated by the loud mournful honking, to be heard all day long.

Eventually I found a nice man in a local village who after hearing my tale of woe, agreed to sell me a goose from his adult flock of 7. I raced over there with a large dog crate in the back of the car and met his beautiful flock. He had a mix of girls, mostly white, but then in the back ground I saw a dark buff coloured bird, and requested her. She is a Chinese cross, so much lighter than Pierre in weight and very pretty.

The next challenge was to introduce them and see if my lonely gander could be rematched. By the time I got her home, it was dark. I released her in to a little area at the top of the paddock and walked down to usher the sad lump that Pierre had become, up towards her.

I began to shoo him up towards her, and because it was dark he hadn’t seen her yet. She made a gentle call, and he suddenly heard it and called back. After that he didn’t need any more encouragement and waddled his way to the top of the pasture cooing and replying until he located her. It was a touching moment as the pair waddled around together like old friends.

Straight away the mourning honks stopped. He still called out a bit later, so we put them away over night to be sure of no noise. This morning they are a little more shy of each other and not quite a ‘pair’ yet, but he is 100% happier and Im sure it won’t be long. We have called her Lucy Lui and are hoping they will have a long and happy life together.

A sad day but its all part of having a smallholding. I found his distress very stressful, as this wasn’t a problem we had anticipated. From what I have read, he may have been able to be re paired as he is still pretty young, things might be more difficult with an older pair.

Sheep worming

Well, what an eventful few days it has been, and not really that great, but I’ll elaborate more on that in the next entry. On Saturday we attempted to catch and worm the sheep. The plan was to catch them all in the catch pen and then worm them, check their feet, trim hooves if needed and then release them. Well Soays being Soays we had to allow plenty of time for this epic.

Soays can jump, I knew this because I had read it in a book, but it didn’t really sink in until I saw the whole flock sail over the fence as easily as if they were stepping over a mole hill. I looked at Becky, as they galloped away up the plot towards our veg patch, and said ‘oh shit’. Luckily our plot has a pretty good boundary fence on it’s furthest periminters, but still.. herding them back into the original paddock was going to be a lark, let alone catching the buggers for worming.

Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details but I took on the role of Shep the sheep dog and Becky stood on the other side of the fence with the view to catching ( in mid air) any that tried to jump the fence. Not sure how successful that would have been with a 40kg ram, but we have to start with a plan.

This charade went on for a couple of hours, and it’s a good job the pair of us are in reasonable shape, as Soays are quick and basically wild. After lots of chin scratching and scheming we eventually moved the catch pen and with much cunning and stealth caught 3 out of the 5.

The worming solution is syringed straight into the sheeps mouth in the correct quantity, this went without a hitch. I haven’t handled them so much before, they have lovely soft mouths like little horses and very sweet faces. I then worked round triming excess horn off the hooves to give a better walking surfaces. Tools I would recommend for the job are hoof trimers, voilet spray ( just in case you find any hoof problems), and a hoof pick. For the worming we used a combo fluid and a smallish plastic syringe. We also used a spray can of marking paint to mark the ones we did. The ram, Mr Darcy, escaped worming, so we will be repeating the whole pantomime this weekend.

Roll up, roll up and take your seats for the Soay rodeo.. Mind you, you’ll have to elbow the goats out of the way, as they seemed to think it was some kind if experimental theatre and spend the whole time with their noses pressed up against the fence gawping.

Outbuilding and drop spinning

Two unrelated topics, other than I am doing one in the other! I have spent some time getting my little outbuilding working as a processing room. The smallholdingĀ produces all sorts of things that need time spent on them before they can be brought into the house. So I have decorated the room, put up some shelves and added a few little touches to make it a lovely place to sit. I have been spinning some of the wool that came off the sheep skin on the curry comb onto a little drop spindle that I made.