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.
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.
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.