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New arrivals – the lambs!

The lambs have arrived, Spring is definitely in the air! Our first pair of lambs was born during a sunny lunch break at the start of this month and the other ewes soon decided to follow suit. We’ve ended up with 7 new arrivals in total (three sets of doubles and one big burly single). With the help of our Junior Volunteers they’ve been christened Edgar, Eleanor, Audrey, Anne, Grace, Galileo and Martin. 

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At Deen City Farm we keep a flock of Poll Dorset sheep, which lamb every year around late February/March time. If you ever see a breed or animal described as a “poll” or “polled” it means it doesn’t have horns – the Poll Dorset sheep is descended from an old English breed known as the Dorset Horn, which as you can imagine from the name, is well recognised for it’s rather impressive, large curly horns. We’ve got a soft spot for our Poll Dorset sheep, not only do they have a great personality (even our ram, Herman, is a gentle giant) but they make exceedingly cute lambs. Judge for yourself! 

If you want to try your luck with telling them apart, the stock marker letters on the side of all the sheep will definitely help out. The ewes can tell which lambs are theirs from their smell and calls, but for us humans it’s a little bit harder. Every sheep (apart from the boys in their separate field) has the first letter of their name on them – with the lambs, the names begin with the same letter as their mothers name, and the letters in blue are girls, and any in green are boys. Simple!  

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Amelia & Penelope on TV!

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If you were watching TV this week, you might have spotted some familiar faces on BBC2’s Further Back In Time For Dinner. Aside from Adam Henson, our two lovely pedigree Oxford Sandy & Black girls, Amelia and Penelope, and their friend Maurice from Merrist Wood College had their moment in the limelight! 

Our little group of pigs was helping to cover the topic of Pig Clubs during the World War, though it looks like they were largely happy to be fussed and have a chance to laze around in the last of the summer sun. You can watch the episode on iPlayer, we’re at around half an hour in.

 

Goodbye old Aviary

The yard is looking very spacious at the moment!

With our new aviary finished (housing our quail, canaries and finches) and all the birds moved across we were finally able to start disassembling our old one. The old aviary was originally built in 2002 and has certainly stood the test of time for a while. In fact it’s been there for so long that none of the staff really had any idea what might be beneath it (turns out, just a lot of soil and concrete).

After 15 years though, it was on its last legs, especially with all the mesh taken off and strong winds forecast over the weekend, we decided to help speed up the process of getting it down with some help from staff, volunteers and a bit of elbow grease.

In terms of what will happen to the space, we’ve got some grand plans for what might happen in the main yard, but for now we’ll be busy shovelling out soil for a while yet!

[youtube height=”360″ width=”640″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGN8weEgvEY[/youtube]

Year of the Rooster!

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Today marks the beginning of Chinese New Year, and this year, it’s the Year of the Rooster. Of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals, this is one we can definitely get behind. Whilst we might not have any amazing Lion dances and parades, it does seem like an opportune moment to talk about our most vocal member of the farm!

Whilst the Chinese term is a bit more generic, and refers to any kind of farmyard fowl, male or female, in English, rooster (or cockerel) is used exclusively for male chickens. We have three permanent cockerel residents, one of each of the different kinds of breed we keep, living with their respective hens.

The large, orangey brown chickens are the Buff Orpingtons, the small dainty black and white chickens are Silver Spangled Hamburgs and the brown, faintly barred chickens with the majestic looking cockerel are the Cream Legbars.

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Unlike some of the other animals, when it comes to chickens the males and females are easy to tell apart – the technical term for it is sexual dimorphism. Next time you’re down at the farm, have a look in each enclosure and see if you can tell which one’s which. Cockerels are often identifiable by looking at;

  • Their size – they’re usually bigger and bulkier then the hens.
  • Their comb & wattle – one of the first things you might notice is the bigger red bits on their heads. The combs sit on top and the wattle hangs below their beaks.
  • Tail feathers – though not always the case, the cockerels will often have bigger, longer, fancier looking tail feathers.
  • Spurs – with older, well established cockerels, have a look at their feet. You might notice a big, extra claw on each leg – this is a spur, they’ll use them for fighting!
  • Different colour feathers – as with the tail feathers, sometimes, but not always, the males might have slightly different colours, patterns or even look completely different!
  • Listen – the cockerels will crow, they can be very loud when they want too!

 

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There’s only one cockerel in each pen, the reason being that they can be very territorial and strict with their flock hierarchy or pecking-order! If there’s more than one cockerel they’ll often fight to find out who’s the boss – not particularly enjoyable when you’re in an enclosed space with nowhere to hide, so to keep it simple and safe, we have one cockerel to multiple hens.

If you’re keeping hens yourself and just want to be able to collect eggs, you don’t even need to keep a cockerel. Hens will lay eggs regardless of the presence of a cockerel at all, however they won’t be fertile, meaning that you’ll never be able to incubate them to hatch chicks. If you’re just after laying hens for eggs though, that’s no problem at all! At Deen City Farm we use our own eggs for our Incubator Schemes, so it’s important for us to have fertile eggs (otherwise we’d have a lot of very disappointed school children!).

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Re-homing Chickens

Sadly every year, without fail, we have people asking if we’ll re-home their unwanted hens or cockerels, or even worse, illegally dumped on our site. We are not a re-homing or rescue centre, we’re a working farm with  – first and foremost – our own poultry and animals to care for.

If you are thinking about rearing chicks or hatching your own chickens, please do consider the (very likely) eventuality that you will wind up with cockerels, and that they will fight with each other and will crow from dawn until dusk! If in doubt, it’s much safer to buy point-of-lay hens from a respectable keeper.

Chickens can make a wonderful addition to any garden and can be fun animals to have around; as with any animal you take on, you have a duty of care towards it, so it’s important to think long and hard about it before you make any decisions!

The new Aviary

Anyone who’s been visiting us will have noticed over the past two years, there’s been quite a few changes at the farm. Amongst other things, one of the larger and more obvious changes has been knocking down and rebuilding our old chicken area (once upon a time, christened as Chicken Village!). The old chicken area had been around a while and its age was starting to show, so a fresh start was required!

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We’ve been slowly be surely adding to it, when time and money permits. As of the end of 2016 we had 4 fully completed pens, housing our lovely Buff Orpington, Silver Spangle Hamburg and Cream Legbar chickens as well as our Bronze and Royal Palm Turkeys (also known as Pied, or Cröllwitzer Turkeys). The most recent enclosure to be fully completed is our brand new Aviary! This week we’ve moved all of the birds from our main yard aviary across, so they’re all busy settling into their new house.

There are four different types of bird living in our aviary at the moment, two types of quail, canaries and one lone zebra finch male. The quail are easy to tell apart as they’ll be on the ground. At the moment we have one, small Chinese Painted Quail who can often be found hiding underneath the larger Japanese Quail. Out of the flying birds, there’s one zebra finch (who’s easy to tell apart from the canaries – he’s got a very bright red beak, rosy cheeks and lovely zebra striped tail feathers) and everything else is varieties of canary.

As you can see from our aviary alone, canaries can come in quite a wide variety of colour types. There’s your typical yellow canary, all the way through to solid white, patches of different colours and shades, bright orange and some with yellowy-green feathers and markings. The birds we keep in aviaries are not wild, they’re a domesticated form of the wild canary, a type of finch. They were originally bred in captivity in the 17th century, and are still popular to keep today – as well as being quite pretty to look at, the male canaries are amazing singers! You’ll almost certainly be able to hear them trilling away from their perches, hoping to impress some ladies!

 

The old aviary still remains, for the time being, in our main yard. Currently housing two of our handsome cockerels, it will eventually be destined to be pulled down. It was originally built in 2002, so being almost 15 years old, it’s on its last legs anyway!

We have some grand plans to go in it’s place, but they’ll be a while off yet!

Barry and Faith at the Royal Institute!

If you were watching TV over the Christmas period, and in particular, the Royal Institutes Christmas Lecture, you might have even seen some familiar faces! We were fortunate enough to be invited down for a small section of filming for the 2nd of three lectures. It was a bit of an adventure, and a good laugh! Barry and Faith were on the best behaviour for the night (as were Alice & Tom), much the delight of not only the lecture hall, but all the backstage staff!

You can see us on BBC iPlayer here, or have a search online for the Christmas Lectures with Saiful Islam. If you listen carefully, you might realise that Barry is introduced as Bonnie… we forgot to change the name for Saiful, sorry! Barry was her stunt double for the night!

 

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New things at the Farm!

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Our new rare breed poultry enclosures were opened by the Mayor of Merton, Cllr David Chung today!

A massive thank you to the many staff and volunteers who have worked around the clock to get them built, as well as the Grange Farm Centre Trust and the Charlotte Heber-Percy Charitable Trust for helping to fund the project.

More enclosures will be appearing over the summer as we continue to redevelop the area, so why not pay us a visit and see the chickens enjoying their ‘free range’ home!

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More enclosures will be appearing over the summer as we continue to redevelop the area, so why not pay us a visit and see the chickens enjoying their ‘free range’ home!

And, as if that’s not enough, we have also installed a new hand washing point at the Farm.

Funded by Circle Housing Merton Priory, the new sink is located in the picnic area, near the play ground, making it even easier to wash your hands after feeding the animals!

 

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Good Stuff at The Farm!

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We were delighted to welcome Angelica Bell to the Farm recently to film some short videos about city farms for Munch Bunch.

Here’s one of them. See how many of our animals you recognise!
[youtube height=”HEIGHT” width=”WIDTH”]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cx0zNQJ4zs[/youtube]