Helping You Care For Your Poultry

Hygiene in sheds is important. They need to be cleaned out regularly and treated for red spider mite, lice etc. Perches should be thoroughly sprayed. Jeyes fluid is a good all round disinfectant and special sprays can be obtained for lice etc. Louse powder is available for dusting birds.

Scaly leg is another problem which birds suffer from, especially older birds. They can be treated by rubbing with methylated spirits or paraffin. Grit should be available, even to free range birds, to help with digestion


The Orpington originated in the United Kingdom, it was developed in the nineteenth century by William Cook from the village of Orpington. Croad Langshans, Minorcas, Langshans and Plymouth Rocks were used to create this new breed. The original breeding objective was to come up with a chicken with excellent laying capacities, and this was successful. The first Orpingtons were black, followed at the end of the eighteen eighties by White and Buff. An Orpington from that period did not look the same as the present breed. The modern Orpington can no longer be compared with any breed whatsoever. The Orpington is a big heavy breed with a profusion of rather loose feathers. One of the most frequently bred Orpington varieties is the Buff. This is a beautiful warm light yellow colour, but it can soon fade because of the sun and the rain so it is important to protect the birds with a run with bushes and trees for shade and covered area to shelter them from the rain.


The Welsummer originated from the Netherlands, named after the village of its origin, Welsum on the river IJssel and was a mishmash of “mongrel poultry” and standard breeds, the Orpington, Malay and Brahma are mentioned. In its country of origin, the breed is found only in the red partridge variety, which is considered to be the true colouring. Welsummers are renowned for their beautiful large dark brown speckled eggs. They can be kept in a closed run, but thrive wandering around free, foraging for themselves, gathering most of their own food.

Avian Flu

Following cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) in wild birds in Dorset, on 10 January 2008 a Wild Bird Control Area and a Wild Bird Monitoring Area was declared around the place where disease was confirmed. On 5 March, the Wild Bird Control Area was lifted and as of 27 March the remaining Wild Bird Monitoring Area and associated disease control restrictions, including housing have been lifted. However, all keepers of birds should remain vigilant and practice good biosecurity.

Defra Helpline 08459 33 55 77

Storing Fruit & Vegetables

Beetroot and Carrots Pack in slightly damp sand without touching each other in a frost free outbuilding…….will keep until May

Solid Cabbage & Main Crop Potatoes Pack in dry straw not touching in frost free building…..will keep until April

Apples Wrap each one in newspaper and store in a shallow tray .Do not store next to potatoes … will keep until March

Marrows and Pumpkins Cure in the sun before storage and store in suspended nets in an unheated room in house. Will keep until April

Onions Cure in the sun then tie on to a string and hang up,or use old stockings or tights tied at the toe and knotted between each one. Start using from the toe end…will keep until April


Hoolets In The Hayshed

When we first came to Lanternside the local expert told us we were too high up to get barn owls but we soon saw them along the roadside at night in areas lying higher than our place. Then two years ago we were approached by National Parks, advised by the same expert, to see if we would agree to having a barn owl nest box installed as they had a successful campaign in hand to increase the population by removing the limiting factor to their expansion, namely the lack of suitable nest sites.

They came with a nest box and it was decided to put it on a tree away from the buildings as we sometimes use rat poison. The box was erected facing away from the prevailing wind, overlooking permanent pasture with an unobstructed flight line. The team returned in the spring to check the box and confirmed that it was home to a pair of jackdaws as we expected. Their excuse was that the box had been put up too late in the season so that barn owls had not had a chance to occupy and defend it.

Next spring when they returned for their inspection we joked that they would again find black owls in the box. They returned to say we were wrong and there were a pair of white jackdaw’s eggs in there. At a second visit we helped them ring a beautiful pair of barn owl chicks, male and female.

Now our hayshed is decorated with barn owl pellets and droppings as they regularly hunt our rats and mice there so we hope there will be no need for poisons this winter. We intend to try another box at the far end of the farm as we think there may be enough territory to support two pairs.

Julian Philipson

The Future of Barn Owls in Britain

In 1935 it was estimated there where 12,000 pairs of breeding Barn Owls in Britain.). A survey in 1987 revealed a further decline to only 5,000 pairs in the whole of the British Isles, of which only 3,000 bred every year, 2,700 breeding sites were identified.

The conclusion is that the population of this beautiful owl has fallen by a staggering 70% in the last 50 years. Changes in weather patterns and farming methods have now been identified as the two most important factors responsible for the Barn Owl’s decline since the 1940’s. The decline has been caused mostly by the reduction in the availability of food, which means the Barn Owls have not been in good enough condition to breed or, if they have, then there has been insufficient prey to feed their young. Severe winter weather in itself does not seem to cause high mortality, but prolonged periods of snow cover limit their ability to find small rodents which are their staple diet. Continuous rain and drought also seriously affect breeding success.

More intensive farming methods (combine harvesters, prairie farming, high levels of livestock and silage-making etc.) have resulted in larger and larger fields, with the consequent loss of hedgerows and field margins – the rough grassland of which was the favourite hunting ground for the Barn Owl. Even where small areas of suitable habitat have been retained, the fragmentary nature of the resulting countryside has isolated small Barn Owl communities and restricted their ability to expand into the surrounding farmland.

Another major killer is road traffic. Between 3,000 and 5,000 Barn Owls are killed in this way every year. There are now believed to be about 2,000 pairs of breeding Barn Owls remaining in Britain and the bird is now nearing the point of no return. Breeding and release programmes, plus the erection of nest boxes is simply holding ground. Only the restoration of rough grassland can save if for posterity.

Taken from the World Owl Trust site

Famous Cattle – The Durham Ox

How many have seen a pub called the Durham Ox? ( How many have been in a pub called the Durham Ox?)

The Durham or Teeswater Cattle, native to Northern England and Teesdale are now called “Shorthorn Cattle”.

The Durham Ox was born in 1796 and was first exhibited at Darlington Market when three years old. In May 1801 the Ox was bought by a Mr.John Day. It then weighed 27 hundredweight (almost 1½ Tonne if you are metric). Mr Day then took this huge beast on a tour of Britain. It travelled in a specially built cart pulled by four horses. If the going was heavy an extra pair of horses hitched up. The tour started in Rotherham in May 1801, travelling to various places up the east side of England, they reached Newcastle on the 26th October 1803. After a two week stay they moved on to Morpeth where they stayed for 3 days before moving on to Alnwick for 11 days, no doubt a welcome break for Mrs Day who travelled in the cart with the ox!

They then travelled up to Edinburgh through several places in Scotland then by Glasgow and down the west coast of England by Manchester down past Wales as far as Somerset then headed east again, ending at Oxford in February 1807.

It was at Oxford that almost six years of travelling came to an end. On the 19th February the Durham Ox dislocated his hip and despite strenuous efforts to save him he was slaughtered on 15th April 1807. At the time of his death he was reported to weigh 1ton 14cwt (nearly 1¾ tonne for the metrics among you! )

He was butchered by a team of three butchers and records show he yielded a hide weighing over 10 stones while his heart weighed almost a stone.

A sad end to a remarkable beast, but at least Mrs. Day got to live in a house again!!


Could Mull become the Noah’s Ark for the Red Squirrel?

The recent discovery of pox virus in grey squirrels in the Scottish Borders is bad news for Scotland’s remaining red squirrel population. Red squirrels once occupied most of the lowland woods in the UK but today, the only remaining populations of any consequence are in northern England and Scotland.

The larger American grey squirrel was first introduced into England in 1876 with tragic consequences for our native red squirrel. The foreigner quickly made itself at home and spread across the country, displacing the red squirrel as it went. Grey squirrels displace the red squirrel through food competition and by upsetting the delicate social system of the red, the red breeding success declines and the greys take over the territories. But displacement takes place 17 times faster when grey squirrels carry pox virus, benign to greys but fatal to reds. The greys advance through northern England and Scotland is unstoppable and the reds could be extinct in 25 years.

So what has this to do with Mull?

Mull is an island which greys cannot reach. It might therefore be a secure refuge for the Scottish red squirrel. A recent survey of Mull habitats has confirmed that it would be possible to establish a pilot population on Mull. With care and co-operation of woodland owners, red squirrels on Mull could in time become self sustaining.

Scottish Natural Heritage does not presently favour such an introduction on the grounds that red squirrel are not native to Mull. (But then the greys aren’t native to Britain). So as greys advance, the proposal for Mull to become a refuge for reds may warrant more serious consideration.

A Ticking Timebomb In The Countryside

You should be aware that Tick numbers are on the increase, as are cases of Lymes disease from their bites. Ticks are active from March to October in rural locations. They are second only to mosquitoes for carrying disease to humans. People most at risk are those participating in outdoor activities, trecking,, hiking,, climbing , cycling and camping etc. There are 800 species in the world and females lay up to 3,000 eggs at a time.

How to remove a tick

Remove as soon as possible by grasping firmly and close to your skin. Do not squeeze abdomen but in a steady motion pull the tick body away without jerking or twisting and making sure you get the head out. Save in a container in case you later develop symptoms.

Keep the Blighters at bay

Use insect repellent that’s effective against ticks and avoid shorts in rural and wooded areas Tuck trousers into socks and cover all exposed skin. Drawstring and elasticated wrists help prevent them getting inside your clothing. Inspect your skin regularly and get a companion to be your tick-buddy to check areas you can’t see!!! Avoid unpasteurised milk which can carry tick borne encephalitis in endemic regions.

Some infected people show no symptoms, however first signs are pink or red spots with a small scab at site of bite. A red rash can appear within 3 -30 days and expand steadily forming a “bullseye” rash, other symptoms are headaches, tiredness, joint pain and flu like symptoms and could need a course of antibiotics


Going Back To School

On a raw February afternoon a group of Smallholders made their way to a Newcastle primary school. We had been invited to put on a display of country crafts to a class of 6-7 year olds who had spent the previous week exploring the use of natural materials. Neither group in this arrangement knew quite what to expect, but as soon as we walked into the school it was sunshine and smiles all round.

The excited children were ushered outside while the Smallholders set up their displays for spinning, wool and woodcraft, complimented by posters of sheep and other wool producing creatures. Ros commandeered one corner with her spinning wheel, while Billy and Dave squeezed behind tiny desks at another with their fine array of wood turning, sticks, horn and tools. Margaret and Eve were the back-up team.

When they came in the children were given a brief introduction to the crafts, then they were free to ask questions and investigate the samples. This produced much fun and amusement. The children were fascinated by a Lazy Kate and a wool-winding umbrella, and impressed by the spinning and wonderfully wrought sticks.

Although there were one or two anxious moments for the Smallholders (stick pole vaulting springs to mind), the children behaved well and showed a happy, intelligent interNeedless to say the highlight was when they were given hands on experience of the woodworking tools.

After a big thank-you from the children and staff, the Smallholders came back to Eve’s for tea where they could relax quietly and discuss the session. We agreed it had been a heart-warming experience, and although we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, there was absolutely no way we could spend 5 days a week confined to a small classroom with all its demands and noise. Hats off to those dedicated teachers who do!

When the children came back to school after half-term they produced a lovely card to thank us for our visit.

Eve Morgan

Northumbrian Quality Meats

On Sunday 22nd June we visited Steve Ramshaw at Monkridge Farm who showed us around his premises where he runs his business Northumbria Quality Meat

He sells his meats at farmers markets several shops around the area and they have their own butchers shop in Fenwicks

Monkridge is an organic farm of about 750 acres of hill land and is managed on a traditional basis as it would have been centuries ago.

We had a walk around the farm(the weather wasn’t very kind to us) and saw his sheep, Scottish Blackface and his cattle Aberdeen Angus and Galloway.

We thanked Steve for a great afternoon and headed off to George and Ina Dents for our usual pool tea.

WARNING!! Horse Thieves Operating In Our Area

Some of our members have been warned to watch out for horse thieves operating in our area so we thought we’d pass on the information so you can keep an eye on your own animals.

Information given was that a white transit van was seen taking photographs of horses in fields and later seen with a horsebox and some of the horses photographed went missing.

A mare and a foal in the Seaton Deleval area and 2 horses from the Guide Post area are ones we have been told of.

We ask that anyone who sees anything suspicious should get in touch with Northumbria Police to pass on their infomation. The number to contact is 03456 043 043.


Hedgehog Alert

Looking after hedgehogs is not as easy as the TV adverts lead us to believe.  Over two days during this warm November we retrieved two very small hedgehogs out foraging in the garden.   We’d heard the current advice that such creatures needed rescue, so we set them up with meat cat food and water in individual leaf-filled hutches in the shed.  Fortunately I took the precaution of checking with hedgehog rescuer Chris McLaren whether this would be OK.  And it wasn’t.

These hedgehogs weighed in at 10oz rather than the 1lb 6oz necessary for over- wintering.  This meant they were a late litter, too small for hibernation and likely to be infested with worms which although easy to treat if caught in time would kill them if not.  The liveliest hedgehogs are the worst infected. Being without a car I rang the RSPCA for a collection and delivery service.  Big mistake.  The driver didn’t arrive till the following evening, and by the time he delivered them to Chris the morning after that, both hedgehogs were suffering from hyperthermia.  One died, the other was treated for a heavy worm infestation, and even Chris was dubious about his chances.

This was a sorry outcome to the best of intentions, but we have learnt our lesson.  Take a taxi if need be, but get those hedgehogs to the rescue centre in time.

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