Thursday, 3 July 2008

Good times, bad times

Listening to: I Don't Want You Now (KT Tunstall)
Weather: Quiet, overcast.
Westray is: a hive of silage-cutting activity
Businessman of the year: orders for four pigs taken already

We have more new arrivals on the croft. Three little black chicks have popped out of their eggs and are cheeping about the hen house.

It came as a bit of a surprise. The hen went broody a few weeks ago and at one stage was sitting on nine eggs. Knowing next to nothing about poultry upkeep we asked around and the general concensus was that six was a good number. So Sal marked half-a-dozen and ditched the rest.

I was sceptical about the whole thing, firmly of the belief that she (the hen, not Sal) should pull herself together and get on with the important business of clucking and pecking around the farm.

Anyway, to cut to the chase, there was a cheeping sound the other day and, sure enough, a totally adorable little ball of black fluff (not yellow - I was surprised too) appeared from under the hen. Two more have arrived since and seem to be doing well, despite the haphazard way we are caring for them. Pic will follow as soon as I can find the lead that connects the phone and computer.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that Sally's Welsh Cob mare Xena has leukaemia and there seems to be little that can be done about it.

Xena was due to come to Orkney this summer. She has been with Sally's daughter Amy - eventing manager at a big yard on the Suffolk-Essex border - for the last year. the plan was she would go to the stallion and come to us in August. That's not going to happen now.

Xena had swelling around her face and failed to respond to treatments for allergies and so on. The vets were mystified until blood tests revealed the worst.

Sal is being incredibly brave, but we're both pretty upset. My relationship with the equine Joan Collins was a little fiery. She always looked at me with the air of vague disappointment Mrs Chamberlain must have had when her only present from Nev's business trip to Munich was a piece of paper.

"But Darling, it promises peace in our time."

"That's no good to me, where are the lederhosen and strudel you promised? Mrs Hitler never has to put up with this."

She (Xena) was particularly keen on biting my backside when I was picking out her hooves - a great laugh, I'm sure you'll agree. I'd respond with a slap on the rump, followed by a quick leap over the stable door to avoid retribution.

After a rocky spell, we eventually got on in a tricky kind of a way and I was actually looking forward to having her here. I like animals to have a character and Xena had that in the bucketful. I'll miss her.


fiwa said...

Ah, that's bad news about Xena, I'm so sorry to hear it. Is Sal going to be able to say her goodbyes in person?

susi said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your horse - it's awful when these things happen and there's absolutely nothing you can do.

I'm not sure but I think that cross-bred chicks may take after their fathers in looks (which could account for your black chicks).We have two chicks at the moment - one looks like a Faverolle and one looks like a Marans (mother is an ex-battery hen who seems to have turned into a bit of a good-time girl).

ziggi said...


hugs to Sal

dinahmow said...

I echo Ziggi. It's a tough one.

Ginni Dee said...

So sorry about your wife's horse. I've lost a few horses in my day and it's hard to lose a good friend like that.

I am happy to hear about your chicks. Do you know what breeds you have? You could have sex-link chicks. If you have a Barred Rock mother and a Rhode Island Red or a New Hampshire as a father, you could get black sex-links. You can tell the gender at hatching...Both sexes hatch out black, but the males have a white dot on their heads. I hope one of my hens goes broody next spring...if they do, I'll buy some fertilized eggs and let her set on them. I'd love to hatch some chicks but can't have a rooster because I live too close to other people.

Congrats on selling 4 pigs too!

Richard said...

Sad horse news. Have been there fairly recently and not pleasant.

This is getting very serious now, Malc. Trading in pigs and now breeding chickens indicates the trainee tag is well behind you. I think you can claim to be at least a novice.

Malc said...


Maybe, but I think we'd both prefer to remember her as she was.


The chicks are from Maran hens, so it makes sense they are black.

Ziggi and Dinah

Thanks - hugs passed on.


Heck, that's starting to sound complicated.

. . . and we've sold 12 now!


Very nice of you to say so, but I've been watching the real farmers getting the silage in this week and I realise just how far I have to go.

mig bardsley said...

So sorry to hear about Xena. Welsh Cobs are such lovely horses too.

The thought of silage takes me right back to Devon and warm grassy mounds of stuff. Also, later, warm soggy heaps becoming black smelly pits. All very mysterious and slightly alarming. Good luck with it :)

Photos asap, please :)

Dave said...

What they all said.

Anonymous said...

I am so, so sorry to hear about poor Xena. That would just kill me. I cannot even imagine Stella beug unwell like that. In the nature of the cycle of life, congratulations on the little babes!

Sian said...

Sorry to here about Xena. Similar situation developed with my old pony when I moved here. Had to make decisions at a distance, which somehow was harder than actually being there. But can understand the wanting to remember her as she was when you last saw her.

Great news on the chicks. I bred from Maran's too and loved the black chicks. This year none of my hens have gone seriously broody which I don't mind too much - after five years the novelty of new chicks wears off!