Stop! Lambing Time – Meet the Whitefaced Woodlands

Spring is in the air. The flowers are slowly pushing up through the hard earth, the weeds are rampaging across the beds, and the grass needs cutting.

I’ve been watching the birds flying in and out, picking up twigs and bits of straw that the chickens have discarded, carrying them off to their nests. Outside the kitchen window the hedge is a hive of activity, sparrows are frantically building their nests in the dense, green high-rise.

Over at Norland it’s lambing time. The Whitefaced Woodland is a vulnerable rare breed, a beautiful robust hill dweller – living in the heart of the Fens! I was very happy to meet Nancy and her two boys, Albert and Arthur.

Nancy has such a lovely, soft face, and a kind demeanour. She didn’t try to keep me away, she just kept an eye on me the whole time I was there. Albert and Arthur ran around looking delightfully gangly.

I was reminded of the pet lamb we had when I was little. I don’t know where it came from, my mum got it from somewhere, she’s very resourceful. I don’t even know if it had a name, but I do remember that it fell over a lot. “Mum! The lambs fallen over!” we’d call, and she’d come and prop it back up again. She’d stand there feeding it with a baby’s bottle, whilst her ankles got bitten by gnats. It’s funny the things you remember! I don’t know where the lamb went – we definitely didn’t eat it.

Norland don’t just have rare breed sheep and lambs, they also have rare breed chickens – many, many beautiful chickens! This is where our hens Sasha, the Crested Cream Legbar, and Margaret and Belinda, the ginger twins (Buff Orpingtons) were born. They also breed excellent examples of Marsh Daisies, Cuckoo Marans and Ixworths.

Those chickens in the background there, they are Light Sussex, like our Sandra, but with smarter markings. Sandra has been getting out a lot lately, she’s made friends with all the neighbours. I don’t know how she gets out, but (luckily) she doesn’t take the others with her – it’s a solo mission. She’s been to visit Jonathan, Mary and Colin this passed week!

In other chicken news, Ginger Margaret has been broody, sitting on everyone else’s eggs and staying indoors all day. I came home from Norland with five fertile eggs, (two Marsh Daisies, three Cuckoo Marans) and tucked them under her.

Although all of the eggs are fertile, I don’t know if they will all hatch, or if we’ll get any cockerels (I hope not!) One of the Marsh Daisy eggs has already been kicked out of the house, pecked and destroyed, so we are now down to four eggs – it’s like a game of chicken roulette!