Hill Farming

Puddle-duck Investments!

There is a story that farmers tell all over the world – it goes something like this:

‘a farmer had a family so he bought a cow to provide milk but it gave more than they could drink so they made butter and cheese to sell at the farm-gate but this left them with lots of buttermilk and whey so they bought some pigs to drink the buttermilk and whey but the pigs produced lots of muck so they brought a pooh-digester to produce gas for green energy but they got too hot so they built  chicken sheds to heat with all the green energy but the chickens produced loads of guano so they bought a pelleter and sold the guano pellets as fertilizer and used them on the farm to boost production of root crops but the supermarkets wouldn’t buy the misshapen ones so they bought some sheep to eat the swedes and parsnips and mangle-worzels (which they added because they liked the name) but the sheep produced meat and wool (and a lot of gas) and they were left with the sheep-skins so they opened a tannery which needed lots of water so they build a dam which made a big lake and it seemed a shame not to keep some fish so they stocked it with trout and people came to catch the trout and in hot weather they wanted ice cream so they bought an ice cream machine but they didn’t have enough milk so they had to buy another cow…’

We bought two ducks and since last October they have produced 280 eggs which is more than we can eat (we have two hens as well) so we’ve opened a farm-gate shop.

Welsh Eggs


Here it is.



Like all businesses it has to be promoted.

Rustic slate signs — farmers in Wales use anything that is available.

Our friends down the lane did the same with their hen’s eggs and business is so good and demand so great that they have already had to buy more chickens.

We sold our first six eggs yesterday and within an hour we had a telephone call (our egg-boxes carry all the require traceability information) from the purchaser wishing to bestow unsolicited praise upon our product!

We fear this may be the start of Puddle-duck Investments — a global agri-industry (see above – farmer’s tale).

Hill Farming, Small Holding

Chicken Fiasco

We live in the Northern Hemisphere, that means, as I write, it is autumn.


In Britain we do something very strange in autumn.  We turn back our clocks an hour, to give us more daylight in the morning and less in the evening (is that right?)  It started in the war when someone decided to put the clocks forward in the spring giving us long balmy summer evenings in which to ‘dig for Britain’ and increase agricultural production.  Ever since we have been moving the clocks back and forth and generally confusing ourselves.

Last week-end was the time designated to move the clocks back (we are all supposed to do it at the same time) —  not that  the hours of daylight are impressed — they have continued to dwindle along their inevitable celestial way, getting shorter and shorter, leaving less and less time for the farmer’s chores, and we have to cope with the disturbance in our routine wrought by the hour change — waking too early, hungry at all the wrong times,  confused animals, missed liasons, getting to the dentist at the wrong time and general discombobulation.

I blame this for the chicken incident.

Speckled hen

Last week-end we went to Rutland for a wedding and Alan (who is thus culpable) noticed a sign saying

‘Point of lay chickens for sale’

Now anyone who knows anything about chickens knows that they stop laying in winter, which in the Northern Hemisphere comes shortly after autumn.  The purchase of chickens at the point of lay in autumn is pointless — they, the chickens, will quite likely be eaten by hungry preditors during the long, dark, eggless winter months and you will never see the fruits of your investment.

Note to self — buy chickens in spring.  But sometimes one just wants to do something extraordinary.

Meet our new chickens:

Hens and ducks

Those astute amongst you will have noticed something strange about two of them.

We did not lose our powers of reason entirely in Rutland — we noticed the huge pile of eggs on a box in the corner of the strangely muddy yard — duck eggs.

‘Oh yes,’ said the lady, ‘very good layers — our ducks, and they go on laying through the winter’.

So instead of four hens, we drove home with two grey hens (a Speckled and a Bluebell) and two Khaki Campbell ducks, shut in the boot of our camper-van.

We learned something new almost immediately as strange smells emanated from the rear of the vehicle unsettling the dog — ducks, unlike chickens, do not evidently switch off automatically when placed in the dark, they can see in the dark and they can squeeze through surprisingly small holes.

When we got home we had two chickens but no obvious ducks.  After the removal of several panels, the mattress, and parts of the bed we found them, gone to ground, between the water tank and the chemical toilet (obviously not liking to pooh on the plastic sheets and newspaper that we had put down for them in the boot).

This week, while I shampoo the camper van carpet, Alan (partly culpable) has been constructing a new pen and coop for the production of the most expensive eggs known to man.

Meanwhile I have a nagging worry about the ducks — raised commercially from day old chicks in a yard with only shallow trays of water and small puddles and without the benefit of proper parenting, we may well have to teach them to swim.  Life is full of new challenges…

Just now the chicken alarm went off — clucking wildly because two buzzards were making a low reconnaissance flight over the temporary poultry pen — I, but not the dog, was out there in my pyjamas in a trice.

Where had I got to?  Getting to know ducks.  They have laid 9 eggs in just under a week and are very meticulous with their ablutions taking a good hour to do what Granny called ‘a stand-up wash’ every morning  then they flap around drying their wings.

They are very easy to herd, which is good, and although they are not supposed to, they put themselves into the coop at dusk with the chickens, even though they don’t seem to like them very much.

Once the new coop is finished we will start on the floating pontoon for the duck-house…   If they can swim!