All creatures great and small!

One thing I love about the farm is learning about the different animals we have – how to look after them, what their job is on the farm and their different personalities! I really enjoy visiting the different animals, feeding them and looking after them – I don’t even mind mucking them out! I’ve found that one of my favourite animals to work with is our chickens – I could watch them for hours just wandering around the field pecking things and ruffling their feathers. I found it fascinating to watch them digging pits in the soil in the summer and then I learned that they do it to have a dust bath which helps prevent mites and helps them to preen their feathers. I love the way they rush over to you when you enter the field and peck food out of your hands – they will even let you give them a little stroke which I would never have thought!! The ducks are a great little bunch – digging through the wet mud with their beaks and waddling around the field. I have learned how to herd ducks which is just hilarious and very rarely necessary to do, but it’s fun all the same! The rabbits and guinea pigs are great escape artists and it has been a real challenge to keep on top of the digging and chewing but they are still super cute. The turkeys are like two old ladies that wander around at a glacial pace keeping an eye on the rest of the farm (they always remind me of Fowler from ‘Chicken Run’!). Sheep are MASSIVE when you get up close to them – especially when they are running towards you for their food! They are gentle creatures though and I’m only a little bit scared of herding them now 🙂 The goats on the other hand have horns. Horns are scary. Goats with horns are scary. Grumpy goats with horns are terrifying. And dangerous. Goats with horns and food however, are fine. The goats are my final hurdle at the farm – I will feed them and muck them out but I do feel nervous the whole time I’m in there and I am always armed with water to protect me (goats don’t like water, especially the grumpy ones). Fred is the grumpiest of the lot and I have many a bruise where he has bashed in to my legs but I am determined to befriend him! However, I think most of that will be happening with a fence between us!

 

Eggciting facts!

Before I worked on a farm, eggs were not something that registered on my happiness radar. At all. But as this blog is all about finding happiness hiding places, I am eggstatic that I have found a new one! Collecting and processing eggs is a big part of our job on the farm and I have been as porous as an egg shell soaking up eggy facts so I thought I would share my learning with you all (aren’t you lucky!).

chickens

Different breeds of chicken do different jobs – our egg layers are Rhode Island Reds which you can see on the left of the picture. Our table chickens (think about it…) are White Leghorns which you can see on the right of the picture. We give them different food to help them do their job and as I am sure you can imagine we keep one a lot longer than the other…..Unlike ‘Chicken Run’ (which is where all of my pre-farm chicken and egg knowledge came from), the chickens do not have their own nest boxes so we have no idea who has laid which eggs. Instead we just keep all of the egg layers for their whole lives 🙂 Also, contrary to ‘Chicken Run’, chickens lay a maximum of one egg per day so there is no competition, no solitary confinement and no chicken pies!
egg grader

When we have collected the eggs in the morning, we sort them in to those that have a perfect shell and those that are a bit crinkly. The crinkly shelled eggs are used in our cafe and pub while the perfect eggs are sold in the shop. The eggs are graded in to small, medium, large and eggstra large based on their weight and we use a grading machine to help us do this. I LOVE using this machine so much – it is so relaxing watching the eggs roll down the different lanes! All of the eggs have a 28 day ‘best before’ date – next time you’re in the supermarket have a look at the ‘best before’ date and it will give you an idea of how old they are!

extra large

A large egg (right) compared to the beast of an egg I found (left)

One day I found this whopper of an egg – that was one brave chicken!!

pullet

A large egg (left) compared to a pullet egg (right)

pullet eggs

I can hold 4 pullet eggs in my hand!

A chicken starts laying eggs when it is around 16 weeks old. Their first eggs are called pullet eggs and they are about a third of the size that they will be when they are fully grown. These eggs are too light to be graded as ‘small’ so on a lot of farms they go to waste. Luckily we are able to use them in the cafe and the pub and we use them for cooking activities in Rural Care – they are very tasty!

bantam

A large egg (left) compared to a bantam egg (right)

There is such a thing as ‘bantam’ chickens – they are like the bonsais of the chicken world! They are very cute, smaller versions of regular sized chickens and they lay equally cute, smaller versions of eggs!

olive

One of our chickens lays olive green eggs – this is because she is a cross-breed of a brown egg layer and a blue egg layer!

I absolutely love learning new things and learning all about the eggs on our farm has been such a joy. I also love collecting the eggs in the morning and following their progress all the way to the shop!

 

Bagging feed

bagging feed

Bagging feed – simple but relaxing!

I find it hilarious that I get so much happiness from simple things – I think it’s because it provides a bit of a brain break and there’s usually a quick return on progress! Bagging animal feed basically involves putting one scoop of feed in to a paper bag, then rolling the top of the bag down, so simple but my goodness do I enjoy it!! I find it really relaxing digging the scoop in to the food, watching it pour out in to the bag and listening to it hit the paper. Seeing all of the bags of food lined up neatly in the box brings me great joy – there’s just so much happiness to be found in tidy organisation!! Bagging feed is also a great opportunity to sit down with other members of the group and have a chat and a bit of banter which always puts a smile on my face 🙂

Next time you go to a farm and buy some bags of feed, just think about how much enjoyment went in to preparing them for you!

New Hobbies

My latest happy thing is my photography. I’ve slowly been taking more and more photos over the past few years. And I have plenty of subjects with all the Brownies and Rainbows! I’ve recently graduated from my bridging camera to a DSLR with different lenses and I’m loving it!

I love the challenge of taking really good photographs and capturing moments and expressions. At the moment I’m really into the wildlife, flowers and animals and nature photography and I’m really just experimenting with different effects etc. It makes me proud as I’ve found something that I truly believe that I’m good at – and that doesn’t happen very often.

I also love the pleasure that other people get from seeing my photos – I’m basically a people pleaser! I’m intending to keep improving and getting better until I get to a standard where I might even be able to use my hobby as a job!

Here are a few of my favourites from my day out today.