Friday 7 April 2006

Biosecurity. Hm.

According to today’s Eastern Daily Press, a Norfolk farmer has stepped up biosecurity at his farm, where he has 24,000 free-range laying hens. Laying eggs that is, not lying down. Whatever could that mean?

He feeds them indoors.

My desk faces the window. This is not altogether a good thing, as it faces east and so the morning sun shines in my eyes, but an advantage is that I can see the garden and part of the drive (so can run away from visitors if I have been foolish enough to start work before dressing). There was a cock pheasant strolling around this morning outside the window.

The house and garden are surrounded by fields so we do have a fair amount of wildlife coming to call. When we moved here there were lots of rabbits and I had to put rabbit-proof netting around the vegetable garden, but myxomatosis (yes, that is spelled right although it doesn’t look it; Word has never heard of the word so I had to stand up – yes, Stand Up; exercise for the morning done – and check the dictionary. It comes from the Greek for mucus apparently. Nice.) put paid to most of them and if numbers go up, foxes move in.

The Sage is very fond of birds. Parent songbirds watch complacently as he goes to their nest to chat to their babies; although in theory they should desert the nest, they relax comfortably while he acts as nanny and gives the chicks aphids and, on hot days, sprinkles droplets of water into their gaping mouths. He has in the past hand-reared baby pheasants – they are not intelligent birds and once he found a brood cheeping dispiritedly by the road, the mother having hopped over a low wall where they couldn’t follow.

This is a particularly handsome pheasant, being lighter in colour than the usual, with a beautiful golden tail. He kept going into the greenhouse last summer; to eat cucumbers I suppose, so I had to be very careful on my approach, as he would career, panic-stricken, into the glass when he saw me. After one particularly terrified charge, he limped for days. He recovered sufficiently to spend the autumn eating acorns that had fallen on the drive and the winter eating the grains of wheat that we helpfully left for him. I wonder if he’ll find a wife this spring. It would be good to have a little flock of golden-tailed pheasants.

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