bignoseduglyguy

Update Two: The Animals

One of the attractions of moving to a smallholding is being able to keep animals. While we have no desire – and are far too lazy – to be self-sufficient, we are keen to build up our husbandry skills, get involved in the local farming community and know a bit more about the provenance of our meat & eggs.

Oddly enough, it was ‘Harriet’ the hedgehog who greeted us on our first morning on the smallholding.  When she wasn’t bustling her way around the back garden, she’d retire to the large, over-grown rosemary bush where, I suspect, she continues to live. 

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Meanwhile, we prepared to bring our first livestock home and, as SWMBO has wanted to keep chickens since forever, this entailed building up a chicken coop we bought online. After Maisie and I had completed that job, I fenced off a portion of the home paddock to provide an enclosed run for the much-mooted chickens.

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A week or so later, the local A&P (agricultural and pastoral) society’s showgrounds hosted the annual Auckland Poultry Show and we went along to have a look-see.  I have to say that I wasn’t aware that so many people were so passionate about breeding, raising and showing poultry and game birds and we were staggered by the variety of fowl on show.

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Beyond the showing cages, we found a sale room full of poultry for purchase and spent an hour or so wandering up and down the aisles, nodding sagely and trying to look like we knew what we were looking for.

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Though we had already made tentative arrangements to start with some chicks later in the spring, we were keen to do all we could to build up our bird husbandry skills and we left the show with three mature laying birds and a scrawny-looking Silkie rooster packed into the back of the car.

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Since then, the chooks have settled in well and starting to lay the occasional egg, with yesterday seeing the height of production thus far when Wendy returned from chook duties with three clutched in her hand.

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We are blessed to have our good friend Johnny and his family as neighbours.  Johnny has lived on his farm all his life and his willingness to share his knowledge and help us in a 101 way has blown us away.  Whether it has been a cooked meal on the day we moved in, the ‘permanent loan’ of a chainsaw or hours of hard labour to get a job done, Johnny and his family have never once been anything other than a blessing.

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A couple of weekends back, we climbed aboard a stock trailer behind Johnny’s farm bike (quad) and headed up to the top of his farm to watch him work with his two dogs.  Each day, he and the dogs split off the ewes with newborn lambs from the flock and move them to fresher pasture so as to provide richer feed for the lactating ewes.
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Therefore, it was perhaps inevitable that I return home one evening to find, rather than the usual dog greeting me at the door, an orphaned lamb being fed in the kitchen. Poppy, as she has been named, was abandoned by her Mum (possibly as she was lame in one of her rear legs) and Johnny brought her over for us to bottle-feed and wean.
 
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Three weeks on, Poppy is doing great.  The lameness seems to have been caused by septic arthritis.  After refreshing my subcutaneous injection skills (acquired through legitimate purposes, I assure you), I gave her a shot of antibiotics and the leg has now improved to the point where the lamb is now skipping and gambolling about quite happily.  Johnny also helped me ring her tail to dock it and I got another chance to practice my hypodermic technique with a tetanus shot.
 
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Our existing pets (two cats who came with us from the UK seven years ago, a deaf white cat we were gifted and our Jack Russell/Maltese cross, Abbie) had little trouble adjusting to the smallholding.  For Abbie, the acres of space to explore, the masses of cow pasture mud to roll in and the new livestock to befriend are heaven-sent.  Like Abbie, Olive the deaf cat has become chums with the lamb, sees the smallholding as her very own safari park and has spent hours honing her skink-hunting prowess, dragging many a carcass into the house for proud inspection. As for the other two cats, if there’s a patch of sun on a couch or a recently vacated warm bed, that’s where you’ll find them.
 

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