The Ley

On the Farm – February 2017

Wheat growing in The Ley

The farm is looking a little drab at present. Back in the autumn, the wheat germinated and the fields turned from bare brown earth to a glorious green but now some of the fields are turning brown again. Look in one direction and the field is green.

rabbit damage in wheat field

Look the other way and the field is distinctly lacking wheat plants. The bare patch where there’s no green wheat started at the edge of the field next to the country park and each morning it gets a little larger.

The problem is rabbits. The expression ‘breed like rabbits’ is not without foundation. A rabbit becomes sexually active at four months and a female can produce 20 young in a year. That multiplies into a lot of rabbits over the year and given that seven rabbits can eat as much as a sheep, you can imagine the size of the problem. The rabbits causing us problems live in the neighbouring country park where there are plenty of undisturbed areas with banks of earth and tangled undergrowth. It must be heaven for them to have a sheltered burrow with just a quick hop across to a field of tender green wheat shoots.

The obvious (if expensive) solution would be to rabbit fence along the field boundaries but we’d have to leave gaps where the public footpaths and bridleway lead out of the field and as many people feel they have the right to walk wherever they like (which they don’t) they would soon trample the fencing. Instead, we have a team of pest controllers, who come out at night time to shoot the rabbits and Bill sets baited rabbit cage traps. A trail of carrots (cut lengthwise because that’s the tastiest way) lure the rabbit into the cage, whereupon the door closes behind them trapping them in the cage. On the plus side for the rabbit, it gets a final meal of tasty carrots but on the minus side, it’s humanely despatched in the morning.

Ducks in the garden

Ducks in the garden Spring 2016

Meanwhile, in the yard the hens, ducks and guinea fowl are still shut in as there is an Avian Influenza Prevention zone across the whole country until the end of this month. The ducks used to spend daytime on the pond or wandering about and at night were shut in an outside run with a piece of curved corrugated tin serving as a shelter in the worst of the weather. Under the rules and regulations of AI Prevention, this couldn’t carry on so we adapted the old pig shed for them using copious amounts of chicken wire to keep out wild birds. The ducks call out plaintively to anyone who passes them, they’re off their food a bit and they make an incredible mess with their water. They aren’t happy. I’m not happy. But they don’t have bird flu.

The hens seem less perturbed, though they dash for the door every time I go in and as for the guinea fowl. Who knows? They’re shut in with the hens and rush around putting everyone in a bit of a flap, with the hens jumping for the safety of the nesting box while the cockerel just stands looking perplexed.

Sometimes, I know how he feels.

20 thoughts on “On the Farm – February 2017

  1. homeslip says:

    It is so difficult growing and producing food and yet we take food for granted. I do hope you get on top of the rabbit problem and the wheat recovers. If it has been nibbled to the ground will it regrow? I had a delicious dish of pottted rabbit topped with rabbit liver pate the other day. At my allotment site deer have overtaken rabbits as the number one pest. The local butcher used to shoot the rabbits but now we have horsiculture on the land behind the allotments this is no longer possible.

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      The wheat should regrow but yields will be lower. I hope you find a way to deter the deer at the allotment site – they can do serious damage in no time.

      I’m going to try potted rabbit topped with pate – sounds good.

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  2. Robyn ware says:

    We really feel for you, do you have the myxo virus there? Even so many rabbits are becoming immune to it here. (Australia) wish we had a solution.
    Regards
    Robyn

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  3. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial says:

    Oh dear, it’s hard to be free ranging when you have to be locked up by law! I hope it passes soon and you can let them out, but as you say, at least they don’t have bird flu. Surely rabbits are delicious? I hope you’re stocking up your freezer! 🙂

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  4. kaydeerouge says:

    Interesting post – but I have mixed feelings about one of the solutions to your problem! We live in old farm buildings and the fields all around are farmed by another farmer – all winter crops, and lots of rabbits. I don’t think they cause as much damage as you’re experiencing as the fields are still pretty overall green. But he too has resorted to night time pest control and I don’t like it all – I’m very uncomfortable about meeting people prowling around at night with guns! And I worry about all our cats … guess with us it’s the clash of the farm work with residential living. Tricky …

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  5. rusty duck says:

    Rabbits really took hold in the garden last Spring. It was chicken wire world for a time. Hope we manage to avoid that this year. But I fear not. Frustrating for me, a different matter if your income is at stake.
    I hope the birds get let out soon. Poor things. You can’t explain to them it’s for their own good.

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  6. arlingwoman says:

    A fellow gardener once called our rabbits ‘little spawn of Satan,’ which I continue to think is both hilarious and apt. Glad you’re eating some of them. Rabbit with prunes in cream sauce is particularly delicious, but I don’t have the recipe…Sorry about your poor ducks. I hope the scare is over soon.

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  7. croftgarden says:

    We have a rabbit problem too. I don’t mind them eating the grass as long as they stay out of the garden but the little blighters seem to have second homes, we have an epidemic of digging!
    However at least we don’t have a deer problem and I can tollerate the greylag geese. Fortunately all three species are good to eat.

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    • Anne Wheaton says:

      The restrictions are in place until at least the end of February so they have a few more weeks cooped up. Wherever you live there’s always something ready to eat the crops whether they’re in a field or garden. At least we don’t have possums too.

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