Garden birds are bringing their fledglings to feed at our bird feeders (I keep the feeders stocked with mealworms). On the lakes, the mallard family has six well-grown ducklings, and a pair of Canada geese has a brood of tiny goslings that dart about too fast for me to count.
Turkey hen still has her one chick -
That would be the small brown dot above and right of the turkey.
I let the pair out of their sheep trailer home every morning, and turkey takes her brood-of-one for a walk around the garden. Turkey is happy to stay out in the open ground of the orchard, but the pheasant chick is cautious by nature and keeps to the shadows - patches of weeds, clumps of grass, or the hedgerow for protection. Turkey will sit down and let the chick warm up under her, and she's very talkative.
It's certainly been a more successful fostering than I expected. So is the chick a turkant? Maybe a pturkey, where the p is silent.
We had our biggest hatch yesterday, including pheasants, partridge, and some quail - the last as a favour to our underkeeper's mother. (She who sends the homemade farmhouse cakes, rules the world.) I made a little video: it's a box of partridge chicks boxed and ready to go into warm sheds, and we're helping the last few stragglers out of their shell -
It's school vacation so the little hands belong to a local lad who's been helping us pick up eggs every day. The "payment" for helping with the hatch is a cup of tea, biscuits and some homemade cake with the last of the rhubarb from our garden. All served on the tailgate of the truck, of course.
Yesterday's hatch filled the stone shed. The shed was once a lambing barn, but it's been converted for raising pheasants. Kitty's shelter is built into the side of the stone shed, so she watches the flurry of our activity between tearing mouthfuls of grass in her pasture -
Pheasants hold little interest for Kitty. If she can't eat it or scratch her butt on it, it's not worth her attention.
It's an oppressive heat inside the sheds if you're a person, and perfect if you're a growing chick. Mike is decanting the chicks from hatching room boxes into the little rings where the precocious chicks will start feeding and drinking almost immediately -
The pheasant chicks will stay in here for a few weeks, then be let out during the day in protected runs for sun and fresh air. They can't all have turkey moms to care for them!
The partridges go into freestanding sheds, delivered and knocked together at a mad pace by some very kind Polish builders at the same time we were hatching the chicks to go in! I supplied the builders with tea and cake from our tailgate cafe to keep their energy and morale up, and they got it done-
Without a lot of the infrastructure here necessary for pheasant production, we have had to adopt a "build it and fill it" approach. We're only just keeping ahead of ourselves, but we knew we were in for a tough first year.
It's been a quieter day today, just checking on chicks and performing our daily ritual of collecting eggs. The elderflowers in the hedgerow are just right for picking, and I managed to start a batch of elderflower cordial, now currently steeping on the stovetop-
And I dug out a secret stash of sloes from my freezer to make sloe gin. It needs to be started now, in order to mature by autumn. It's a traditional eleven a.m. shoot or hunt day tipple. Gin, sloes, and sugar go together in a pot (in this case, an old jam tub) which needs to be shaken once a day for the next month to dissolve the sugar. I leave in the cupboard where the teabags are kept. With the amount of tea I brew, I'm sure to see it there and remember to give it a daily shake-
What spring jobs have snuck up on you?