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Nick’s Birdland

Yesterday we had our final unveiling of a new sign and plaque for our finished duck area. This marks the completion of the long labour of love with rebuilding our chicken enclosures, aviaries and new duck pond, a project which started in early 2015. 

Our old chicken area was just about clinging on, but with many years of bodges and improvised repairs, it was starting to suffer a bit to say the least, so the plan was to demolish the whole thing, plan a new layout and make much better use of the space. Ultimately we’d end up moving all the aviaries out to the front as well, including Edna the owl and our canaries and finches! 

As with many things, and especially being a small charity, funds is always something we have to be aware of. It was during one such appeal for help that we were contacted by Brian & Sally, who have been of immense help during this project. They got in touch wanting to contribute to create a lasting memorial for his son, Nick, who passed away in 2000. His love of animals and their input has helped shape the latter half of our re-build.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NICK’S BIRDLAND

Our son Nick died in 2000 following a long battle against testicular cancer. He was 23 years old. In the years following his death we have looked at different ways of creating a lasting memorial to him and have waited to find the right opportunity.

Then in August 2015, having seen an appeal by Deen City Farm for funds to create a new duck pond area, we met with the Farm managers and agreed to sponsor the development. We also funded the new aviary, additional chicken enclosures, Edna’s owl house and the chick hatchery which are next to the new duck pond.

This wonderful area represents Nick’s love of animals and the musical notes in the mural on the back wall of the duck pond speak of his great interest in music.
We have called the area NICK’S BIRDLAND and we hope all visitors to the Farm will appreciate and enjoy this special place.

We wish to thank all the staff and volunteers at the Farm for the tireless commitment and effort which has brought this project to fruition.

Brian Dillon

 

 

Incubating with Netmums

Easter’s over, now if only the sun would come back and warm everything up again, brr!

A big thank you to everyone who came down to visit, it was a very busy two weeks. All the animals (and staff I’m sure) will be glad to have a little bit of calm before May half term. During Easter, as well as our popular Hug A Lamb with Edgar and Eleanor (who are now back to living with the rest of the sheep, their work is done!) and Animal Handling in the marquee we had some new chick arrivals!

If you happen to follow NetMums on Facebook, you might have seen a familiar logo on an incubator during one of their live streams a few weeks ago. We had started incubating some of our chicken eggs to test everything before we begin our School Incubator Scheme next term, when NetMums got in touch wanting to broadcast it on their Facebook page. Given that we already had some on the go, it made sense to go with it!

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Out of the 10 eggs, only about half of them were fertile. And of course, after saying how good chickens are at hatching on the dot on day 21 of incubation, most of them decided to hatch a day early, leaving us with one lone egg on live stream day! If you want to watch the hatching process, you can see the video on their Facebook page here. The hatching process takes a long time, so if you want to skip to the interesting parts, have a look from 1:30:00 onward. 

The chicks are now housed in our Incubation Shed – the newest part of the renovations to our bird area at the entrance side of the farm. They’re still a bit too small to go outside, so have to stay with a heat lamp for now, but hopefully in a few weeks and when the weathers warmer they’ll be able to come outside properly.

On the topic of incubating though, in the next two weeks we’ll be starting our School Incubator Scheme (which is already fully booked for this academic year!). In another month and a half we’ll be welcoming back all the chicks that various local schools have hatched, so there’ll be plenty to see! If you’re interested in buying chickens to keep, whilst we don’t have any for sale at the moment, we will do in a few months time! 

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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!

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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