We have a varied group of poultry and wildfowl. Our most precious are the Sebastopol geese, with their distinctive bright white fluffy coats. We had our first goslings last year (see picture further down page) and we hope to repeat the success this year. We were told that Sebastopols are not always good mothers, so we popped a few fertilised eggs into our incubator, and then managed to hatch five.
When the mum had her other goslings we simply slipped them in alongside when she wasn’t looking – she instantly became their proud mum and rounded them up with the others. Magic. We’ll trust her to do the full job next time round. Please call if you are interested in buying some Sebastopol geese or fertilised eggs.
The other birds we have incubated from eggs include some very rare Shetland ducks and four very noisy guine fowl. The Guineas have the run of the farm, but choose to roost above the chicken pen in the woods at night. They could fly away but they choose not to. They join the chickens for breakfast and afterwards just wander around the whole farm pecking at bugs and curious at everything.They just love going into the barn to join the cows in search of seed spilt from their straw – the cattle just ignore them.
Guinea Fowl don’t do half as much damage to your ground as chickens and in fact they peck and eat the bugs from the ground rather than grass or the plants themselves. Their eggs are lovely to eat but the problem is finding them!There’s a lovely little book called “Gardening with Guineas” which tells you all about Guineas and their funny habits. If you want to keep some, you need to know they make a heck of a racket when there’s an intruder nearby, including foxes. That’s not so bad for us being a mile away from our nearest neighbour, but their noise could invite complaints if your neighbours don’t like them. They utter a kind of high-pitched scream and has to be heard to be fully appreciated.
Unfortunately we had three drake Shetlands from our incubation exercise, so we are now on the hunt for some mates. We have an unusual selection of rare breed ducks including the beautiful Mandarin, but the fox (plus maybe a mink) took toll of our stock last year. We have found that electric netting to be the best defence but that does not guarantee youwill not lose some birds. You can see from the photographs that we have various rare breed chickens – our favourites are probably the Salmon Faverolles. They originated in a village called Faverolle in Northern France.Bred for their excellent egg laying and good table qualities, they were then imported to Britain in 1886.
” . . . our favourites are probably the Salmon Faverolles. They originated in a village called Faverolle in Northern France.Bred for their excellent egg laying . . . “
They lay eggs throughout the winter months (unlike many other breeds of chicken), and typically will supply you with 280 to 300 eggs a year. The eggs are of a good size and usually a creamy / pink colour.
But our true favourite – apart from the Sebtasopol geese pictured right with their first goslings – is a little buff Orpington bantam, that we have had from the start. She’s survived all the fox attacks, a few beatings from bigger birds and several stressful moves of pen. We had two French agricultural students staying with us a few years ago, and she took a fancy to one of the young guys, following him around wherever he went on the farm, even jumping onto his shoulder when working in the workshop. She still provides us with a few small eggs in the summer.
There’s still nothing quite like eating your own eggs in the morning – yolks of eggs from free-range birds are so yellow – orange even – and they taste fantastic. We have eggs for sale in the summer, but as we don’t put artificial lights in the chicken houses, they are in short supply in the winter.