Welcome to The Garden Farm at Pontshill near Ross-on-Wye

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I am a part-time pet portrait and wildlife artist living in the deep dark forest between the Royal Forest of Dean, Herefordshire and the Welsh border. A beautiful and inspiring place to live and create pet portraits and wildlife art.
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Sunday, 25 July 2010

Chicks Galore

Well I introduced one of our muscovy ducklings in my last post, and here are some of our chicks which have recently hatched. We've had a good year for chicks but awful for our pheasants for some unknown reason. Above are our red jungle fowl chicks, we've managed to hatch 11 of these and touch wood all are still going strong with the exception of one with a bad leg, needless to say it is growing and is a nimble as all the others so we have let it be.
All over the garden we have various pens full of chicks, some have been hatched by the rescue hens, these are cross bred birds, specially 'engineered' to lay large eggs daily but supposedly to breed out the broody aspect which obviously hasn't worked at all and we have two who have hatched and are looking after over a dozen chicks between them. We put our fancy chicken eggs under them and have some bantom silver sussex, bantam salmon faverolle and speckled sussex chicks thanks to these two hard working mums.
These above are just hybrids laid by one of the garden hens in the tractor shed. Unfortunately all but one are males but we have an excess of hens anyway so they will just be absorbed in the growing flock. By the way did you know a group of chicks is called a peep?
These are the only pheasants we have hatched and raised to this stage this year. These are reeves pheasants and once fully grown their tails grow up to 6 foot long. Thier adoptive mother is a silver appenzellar hen.

And finally the other rescue hen with her brood/peep of chicks. These little ones were so small to begin with they could hop through the wire. Luckily mum was alert she rounded them up.
Friday, 16 July 2010

The Latest News

At long last the first of our little feathery babies are arriving. This is a muscovy duckling, he looks a little cross-eyed but after just breaking out of a shell, it really is no wonder!

This is Mummy muscovy and she still has more eggs to hatch. For the third year running she built her feathered nest in the chicken house and has spent a few weeks being guarded by three drakes to ensure her brood is kept safe. We've now shut down the hatch so any little ones don't get out and squashed in the main pen but they will be released with the main 'herd' when they get a bit bigger.

And, our now infamous Butt, who is definitely living up to his name. He regularly tries to floor Ronnie but luckily so far he has resisted me and lets me pass by unharmed. Probably because I give him bunches of his favourite hazel leaves every time I see him, I'm not telling Ronnie though as I'm waiting with baited breath for him to be knocked on his backside by Butt and I'll laugh myself silly!!!

Nut has fully integrated himself with the chickens and I do think he will eventually try to fly. They are both ignoring any form of goat food and gorge themselves silly on layers mash. When they've eaten everything, they take to battering over the feed bins and every day we have to tidy up behind these two bashful boys.
Anyway, this is the Biggles shot. They are always pleased to see us and readily come when called. as they have long fur, it tends to fly about in the wind and I'm torn between Bo Derek running on the beach in 10 or Biggles with his scarf fluttering in the wind as a more apt description!!!!
Sunday, 4 July 2010

Chicken news

We have a new hatch of jungle fowl this week, a further 5 healthy little chicks have hatched out and we are hoping to replace the cock killed by the buzzard last week. Thankfully the buzzard has not reappeared and our fowl are safe for the time being.

This is Harriet who was let out for a run around the garden as she has been sat on eggs for a couple of weeks now. We have found Harriet to be a less than perfect Mum, she keeps eating the eggs!!! She now has only 3 left which we would like to remove and place under another bird, however they all are very busy sitting too and we are keeping our fingers crossed that Harriet gets fed up with the eggs and will hopefully leave the few remaining eggs alone!

Meet Bob, our rather ancient guinea fowl, by our calculations he is at least 8 years old and is one of a group of 4. Despite his age, he is most definitely the boss and chases the others around at such a pace.

Willow lies dutifully on the lawn as we collect the eggs. She does try to steal the odd one or two along with the other dogs and between them they get all the mishapen eggs we cannot sell.

And finally, this little doe was hiding in the foxgloves in a local wood and I managed to snap her watching us!
Monday, 28 June 2010

Another hairbrained idea!

Trio Salmon Faverolle bantam chickens

Pair Silver Sussex bantam chickens

We sell quite a large quantity of eggs from our little trolley by the gate and we've amassed a good customer base. We are on speaking terms with many as they ask questions about our hens. I have a little sign on the gate explaining how the hens (and two cockrals believe it or not!) have been rescued from an egg laying farm in South Wales and I now feel the need to expand.
We have already discovered one of our regular customers is in the process of hatching some of the eggs from our layers and as we have so many rare and fancy chickens it seems sensible to branch out into hatching eggs. We have sold them previously on Ebay, our toulouse dewlap geese eggs fetched phenominal money and silver appenzellar eggs went over to France but it is obvious the eggs will have a better chance of hatching if they are collected locally so they are now also for sale from my little trolley.

So far I have only collected from 2 breeds (shown above) but as soon as I can I will be adding more. Maybe I'm being overoptimistic but you never know until you try!

Also a big thank you for the jam jars and bread, both were appreciated but the bread in particular went down very well with our feathered friends (plus Nut 'n' Butt stole a bit too)

Also, talking of Nut 'n' Butt, they managed to stay within the pen today, I was slightly worried they would disappear off down the woods but thankfully they decided home sweet home was best and were asleep under the pear tree when I got home...phew!

Anyway, here they are out and about. I'm hoping to collect a slide for them to play on soon but I'm still looking out for a playcube too so I'll be keeping my eyes peeled!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Nut 'n' Butt

Meet Nut 'n' Butt, previously known as Parsley and Pepper. These two pygmy goats have only been with us a few days and are already making their presence felt.
So far they have escaped from their own pen to the main area and they run around happily with all the chickens, ducks and geese. However, today they have managed to escape the main pen (which is larger than a football field, how much more space do you need!) and were making their way up to the house. The first time I was relatively unconcerned as we had left off the electric fence and they trotted back with me to the hen house after enticing them with some brown bread. The second time however was a different matter altogether. They completely bashed through the electric fence with it on, and it does have a mighty kick but they also refused to go back to the hen house. Luckily we had visitors and it took all four of us a fair effort to get them back where they should be. Oh dear, tomorrow I fear we have a huge fencing operation about to begin to stop them from getting out and roaming around our local woods!
Saturday, 26 June 2010

Buzzard Removal

Well it's been an action packed week here at The Garden Farm. I was woken by our chickens and guinea fowl making a mammoth racket in the early hours of Tuesday (3.45am to be exact) and found a buzzard perched on top of the electricity pole in the orchard surveying the chickens, ducks and geese as they panicked below. I managed to frighten it off and the drama was over, or so I thought. Unfortunately unbeknown to me at the time, the buzzard managed to fly into one of our pheasant pens and killed our red jungle fowl cock. It took a concerted effort to remove the buzzard as there was still a pair of fowl left plus a nest of eggs to protect and with myself chasing the fowl back into a corner rather than into the talons of the buzzard, Ronnie managed to catch the buzzard for release.
Monday, 21 June 2010

The Garden Farm

Welcome to my new blog!!!!

It all started when we began to sell eggs outside our house laid by our rescued hens. We sell quite a quantity of eggs, which is amazing considering we live in the middle of a wood on the edge of nowhere, but we have now gained quite a large customer base and due to these customers' questions and visits to see our garden and in particular to see our animals, I think it warrants a blog for them and others to keep up to date with all the goings on in our smallholding/tractor restoration/rescue/animal adoption centre

We have rescued 80 hens over two years from a farm in South Wales where they were used for egg laying. They had been destined to be used for animal feed as they were too old at 16 months to be put into the human food chain. In all honesty, these hens were probably well treated in comparison to battery hens, however they did arrive mainly bald and completely green as to how chickens behave. We tried to release them into their new pen (larger than the size of a football pitch) but they absolutely refused to leave the refuge of the truck so we had to literally force them out. Once released, they spent the next week and more hiding in their new shed simply because they weren't used to the outdoor life.

Now, 3 months later, they are fully feathered and laying some on the biggest eggs I've seen. Some are so large the lids on egg boxes can't be shut properly!