Feathered foes and furry friends
A-Z challenge – My memories of life on the farm in the nineteen fifties and sixties
Fowls and TurkeysThe fowl shed was - yes you guessed it - sometimes foul. To collect the eggs was usually not a trial unless a hen had “gone broody” and wanted to retain the eggs for hatching. Generally one could put one’s hand underneath a sitting hen and safely retrieve the eggs but sometimes they pecked. We had about a hundred hens, so collecting eggs was a daily chore. Once a week we cleaned and packed the eggs into crates for the market.
Then there was the not so delightful job of shovelling out the hen house once the litter became too deep. When it had dried out it was used as fertiliser around all the fruit trees. Fresh straw was forked across the floor of the hen house much to their delight, they would scratch and scrabble around in it. Sometimes we would catch or tame a hen and tuck it under one arm to carry around. The flock were happy to be hunted back inside the shed for the night.
Turkeys were a different case. Mum bred them for the Christmas market. They roamed the yard by day and every now and then one would see the gobbler chasing after a hen. He could be a fearsome beast with his feathers fluffed and his red neck glowing. It was best to keep out of his way. They were more difficult to herd into shelter, the flock often running madly around in circles. Even though birds were locked up every night, sometimes those wily foxes could still find a way to snatch a live feed.
Cats our furry friendsJust as dogs were an essential part of the farm so too did our cats play an important role. They controlled the vermin; mice, rats and rabbits. Smokey the grey female was once seen dragging two rabbits she had caught for her kittens, one hanging out each side of her mouth. She was a small cat but an intrepid hunter. Sandy the big brindle male was not so friendly. The number of cats we had varied over the years. I had a cat named Norman, a big grey sleek fellow. He was happy to be draped around my neck as I wandered the yard.
Our cats and dogs were outside animals but well loved and treasured. They were fed table scraps and could be seen lurking for well-deserved treats each time a sheep was killed for domestic consumption. The cats also liked to frequent the milking shed on the chance of spilt milk or a saucer of milk still warm from the cow.
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