Flirty bantam runs off with a cockerel to live in the orchard

The rain persists, despite Government pronouncements that we are in a drought situation. It is surreal. The gang booked to do more fencing for us have called to say they are not coming in the near future as their machinery would churn the ground into a quagmire. But because the ground is so wet, where John struggled to hammer the fence and stretcher posts in without specialist machinery, he can now easily pummel in the posts with a tractor loader.

In fact we are starting to run short of straw for bedding up in the foldyard. From being in a situation a few weeks ago where we had excess to sell, keeping the cows inside has meant we will now have to buy straw in if the herd have to stay in much longer.

The drama over the cow that had gone down with milk fever last week persisted for a few more days. She then took the decision that we had spent sufficient money to justify her existence on vets’ bills and prescription, and died. We were surprised to see how old she was when we handed over the relevant card from her passport and payment to the ket man to take her away. Just a month short of thirteen years.

Probably the oldest cow we had. So when you consider that she had been part of our dairy herd originally and then stayed on in the suckler herd, she deserved some TLC. Well she got it. In lumps. By the end she had her own pen created from stack bars in the foldyard. Was regularly being hoisted onto her legs to see if she could stand. Feed and water brought to her. It put the NHS to shame.

Meanwhile her calf is thriving. Blissfully unaware that he is now an orphan, he is in a pen, next to the twin calf being raised without Mum. With them both are a clutch of chicks that have also been left motherless.

These chicks had hatched out under a bantam and been the subject of intense, indeed ferocious, maternal care. And then one day last week one of the cockerels chanced to wander into the yard where the calves and chicks were housed.

He immediately began an intense flirtation and subsequent seduction of the bantam hen. As a result of which she abandoned her chicks and left them to pursue a life of pure hedonism in the orchard. At first the chicks did not know what to do, where to go, where to roost. The first night I found them all piled up on top of each other in a space between the big straw bales. Probably half of them would have suffocated by morning. After several nights of catching them under large fishing net and putting them back in their pen, the chicks found a pair of foster Mum/Dads. The calves. The chicks spend all day in the calves pens and snuggle up to one or other of them at night. Ahhhh.

Mrs Downs Diary