Friday, 14 May 2010

Marriage and Children

"Since we finished early, I might go out with my rifle and see if I can get those deer in the pen. But I have to be back in time for the vicar. Do you want to come?"

Underkeeper Pete's due to get married in a month's time and even a visit from the vicar to plan nuptials doesn't interfere with gamekeeping duties. This was a culling mission to deal with maurading deer so two rifles are better than one, and I might help get him home on time. There's plenty of time to make your wife mad at you after you're married.

The deer were in their regular spot on the side of hill. I picked one up in the scope: a roe doe. She was an easy shot, 50 yards away. I couldn't pull the trigger.

Roe does are out of season as they are starting to give birth to their fawns now. Under special license we can legally shoot any maurading deer causing damage to a commercial enterprise - in this case the pheasant shoot. But it's an emotive issue. I could see she wasn't heavily pregnant, but that doesn't mean she didn't have a young fawn nearby. It was unlikely but not impossible. I simply didn't want to kill her, so I left her to her maurading ways.

I think all the hatching has put me in a birth frame of mind, not a death one. I feel sympathetic for all mothers in springtime.

The buck was another story - a small two-year-old, perfect for culling even if he wasn't doing damage. Roe bucks are in season now. I couldn't get a shot at him, but Pete did.

He'll go in Pete's freezer, and I took the liver home and cooked it up for the dogs' breakfast.

I took the pan out of the oven and thought about how the liver was only doing its job just half an hour ago.

We've just been around and checked our traps - one magpie, no crows, one squirrel tonight. I fed the crows with the squirrel and the magpie with cracked pheasant eggs. The dogs had the leftover eggs for dinner. Feeding time is more like a game of musical chairs. Tonight we're the ones left without a seat and we're forced to make a trip into town to the grocery store for basics like butter and rice, things that we can't fish or trap ourselves.

When I got in from checking traps, this little surprise was waiting for me in the incubator -

She's drying off and warming up under Susan now.

Yes, I'm definitely all about the babies this time of year.


Poppy Cottage said...

What a lovely post.

martha in mobile said...

I'm all about the teenagers - my old hens nailed one of my pullets so I am doing Chicken Wound Management. I'm rinsing her head wound with saline, then hydrogen peroxide, then iodine tea. She's mad as...well as a wet hen. I know you're very busy, but what do you do for chicken wounds?

Kerry said...

I admit that most of your life is completely foreign and fascinating to me, however, the baby fever is plain nuttiness. Just remember: babies are the grown-ups you'll want to kill in the future.

Paula said...

What does the roe in roe buck mean?

Jennifer Montero said...

Colette - I'm glad you enjoyed it. Don't forget the kettles's always on here.

Martha - Chicken gang violence is so common, we've had it here too. Some sign of weakness in the victim seems to set them off. Or was it a new chicken you introduced? Is she noticeably different in size than the others? Has she been ill?

I assume they went for the head and your pullet's comb is bloody, maybe eyes swollen shut? Often head injuries and shock kills the wounded bird.

If your hen has survived the first few days, she'll probably be OK. I do as you do - sponge the wounds with saline. Flesh wounds on chickens heal pretty well even without much intervention.

Keep her quiet and separate from the others. Any sign of blood wil encourage the chickens to keep pecking at her. You may still have the bullying problem when she's better. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for your little hen!

Jennifer Montero said...

Kerry - You have the heart of a gamekeeper: shoot them both now and save yourself time and the bullet next year. Mike wants to know if you want a job.

Paula - Roe is a species of deer, like white-tail. We have 6 species of wild deer in the UK: roe, fallow, muntjac, sika, red, chinese water deer. Our estate has roe and fallow primarily. I don't know the etymology of the word 'roe'

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

So, what gives, Jen, that you're not growing your own rice or churning your own butter? You are SUCH a slacker.

I love the musical chairs feeding!

Jennifer Montero said...

Tamar - Flooding part of the garden to make a rice paddy is on my To Do List, right after I finish the laundry and vacuuming.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

I'm confused about the purpose of crow and magpie traps. Initially I thought you were killing these animals, but now I think you're keeping them for some reason.

(In truth, I'm not sure I want to know the answer, because I have so much respect for corvids. I think people hate them because they share human traits of intelligence and cunning.)

Jennifer Montero said...

Lisa & Robb - The corvid issue is an emotive one. We also love watching the crows, magpies, and ravens on the estate.

However, they're too successful around here and decimate small native birds by raiding their nests for chicks and eggs. We cull some using the traps, to readdress the balance, as there are no predators to do it for us.

As a consequence, the sparrow population in particular in our area is staging a successful comeback.

We don't trap any ravens - they are protected. And we don't cull corvids because of the pheasants, they co-exist fine and corvids soon work out how to get a free meal from the pheasant feeders.