29 March 2009

Hen with seventeen chicks - this is a record number of chicks for us!

Hen with seventeen newly hatched chicks
Hen with 17 chicks, première mise en ligne par hardworkinghippy.

We heard cheeping from the hay bales yesterday and found this hen with 17 chicks!
We moved her and her brood to the hen house where they'll be safe from magpies for a while.

We've another hen who has started sitting in the past few days, a large black Marans hen. She's chosen a shotgun powder barrel which is what we offer our hens for egg laying. We get the barrels from a neighbour who works in an armoury and they're an ideal size and shape for some straw, the eggs and the hen. We cut the plastic lids to make a lip to hold the contents in.

When we know the hen's sitting, we move the barrel gently into a big cage inside the chicken shed so that she can be left in peace and not disturbed by the other hens, who often creep in beside a sitting hen to lay.

If we don't control this, the chick inside the egg doesn't get the necessary 21 days to hatch and dies inside the egg. If the hen is a particularly good mother and waits until all her eggs are hatched before moving from her nest, the older chicks go further and further away from her and are very vulnerable. Once the late chick hatches and leaves the nest, he's expected to join in with his older siblings, just can't keep up and often dies.

Yesterday I got a lovely present of a dozen really dark big Marans eggs. I wanted some pure Marans eggs this year because our Marans have been crossed with our last cock George who was a Bramah and of course his offspring don't lay the dark brown eggs which are so pretty.

In this photo you can see the difference between our red hens' eggs - that's the light egg, our cross Bramah/Marans - the spotty egg on the right and the pure Marans egg - a dark chocolate brown. The next time we've a hen who starts sitting I'm going to practice our own form of genetic engineering and swop her eggs for the Marans.

24 March 2009

RIP ... Our lovely Border Collie Max

Our dog Max died this morning.

He was a beautiful faithful dog and a great worker who really earned his keep. I loved him so much and we're going to miss him.

He's not really been himself for about a month, he'd become deaf and it annoyed him and I think when Pyewackett our new Border Collie came he just decided to give up. He had an epileptic fit last night and never recovered properly. Fabrice took him out for a pee early this morning and had to carry him back in.

He died peacefully with Fabrice looking over him. He would have been 14 in October. This is my favourite photo of him taken three years ago in the garden at Bourrou.

Max at 11 years old 2007

Nettie from The France Forum posted this poem for us, and for Max.

Burying a dog

There are various places in which a dog may be buried.
I am thinking now of a Setter, whose coat was flame in the sunshine, and who, so far as I am aware, never entertained a mean or an unworthy thought.
This Setter is buried beneath a cherry tree, under four feet of garden loam.
And at its proper season, the cherry tree strews petals on the green lawn of his grave.
Beneath a cherry tree, or an apple, or any flowering shrub is an excellent place to bury a dog.
Beneath such trees, such shrubs, he slept in the drowsy summer, or gnawed at a flavoursome bone, or lifted his head to challenge some strange intruder.
These are good places in life or in death.

Yet, it is a small matter, for if the dog be well remembered, if sometimes he leaps through your dreams actual as in life, eyes kindling, laughing, begging, it matters not at all where that dog sleeps.
On a hill where the wind is unrebuked, and the trees are roaring, or beside a stream he knew in puppy hood, or somewhere in the flatness of a pasture lane where most exhilarating cattle grazed, is all one to the dog, and all one to you.
And nothing is gained, nothing is lost if memory lives.
But, there is one place to bury a dog.

If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the grim, dim frontiers of death and down the well-remembered path, and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they shall not growl at him nor resent his coming, for he belongs there. People may laugh at you who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall...who hear no whimper, people who never really had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth the knowing.

The one best place to bury a dog is in the heart of his master.

Bonnie and Didi saying goodbye to Max

Bonnie sat outside at Max's grave for two days.

Bonnie stayed where Max is buried all day

9 March 2009

Announcing the arrival of our new Border Collie Mr Pye or Pyke or....

As you'll know if you're a regular reader of our blog, we've been looking for another Border Collie to work with Max. We tried a mating using Max as the sire which didn't work unfortunately, so we've kept looking out for suitable pups, spreading the word that we were still looking.

This dog is from the same bloodlines as Max. He's big boned and long-haired and of course a Blue Merle Border with one brown and one blue eye - which is taking a bit of getting used to! (Correction, I've just discovered he's a Black Merle! More details later...)

His presence is so like Max's that we thought it would be worth a try to train him to work with our sheep and goats. He's almost a year old. His previous owners kept him in an apartment and that just didn't work out so we decided to take him and give him a job.
We've also changed his name to Pyewackett as someone (Who shall remain nameless!) said recently that our animals were all our "familiars".

Pyewackett can be shortened to something easier to use when he's working but we'll wait and see what that turns out to be when we get to know him better.