Visitors to Alde Garden will be well used to the sights and sounds of our feathered friends accompanying their holiday with us. Our free-range chickens, ducks and geese are part of the furniture in our wildlife-friendly campsite. But did you know that hens are well known for their calming effects on humans? They’re even used by some as therapy pets.
As well as them being our beloved pets, we think they’re a big part of what makes Alde Garden campsite so relaxing for visitors looking to recharge their batteries. So we thought we’d dedicate a blog to our flock.
We currently have 5 chickens (including one cockerel), 13 ducks (including two drakes) and one goose & one gander.
Some of our hens don’t yet have names, but our cockerel is called Manyala. He was named by a friend’s 3-yr-old, whose word for chicken was ‘yala’. So he – of course – is a Man-yala!
Our chickens are bantams so much smaller than regular chickens. Our current cockerel hasn’t fathered any chicks, but in previous years we have been over-run with them. There was one year when we had over 40 chicks hatch at pretty much the same time. Of course they were from several different Mums! Hens are clever, and will hide their eggs in the bushes (there is LOTS of undergrowth & wild patches in our garden) and emerge 4 weeks later trailing a line of little fluffy chicks.
Our geese are called Franky (the greyish boy) and Rhoda (the female – buff coloured). They are a couple, go everywhere together, and they have a communal call. A bit like a tawny owl’s ‘twit twoo’ which is actually a female call and male response. The geese will make a ‘call and reply’ shout which almost sounds like just one sound. It’s pretty amazing to hear!
Our ducks are mostly Indian Runner Ducks – hence the upright stance. They are flightless – but can use their wings for assisted running. We also have two Khaki Campbell ducks – again flightless. They’re a friendly flock & well-used to featuring in guests’ photos and social media feeds. Our ducks are good layers. In fact we leave their eggs in the shelter for guests to help themselves to. A charity collection pot is there in case folks want to donate for the eggs – the money goes to PACT Animal Sanctuary.
At the moment we have a couple of poorly ducks. Poor Stripey has an injured wing and Winnie has had a very bad respiratory infection since March. Thankfully she is on the road to recovery now. They have both been given antibiotics and various other treatments to help them. Generally, though, our ducks enjoy a relatively stress-free life and get to live to a ripe old age. We currently have two ducks who are 10 years old!
The ducks and chickens share a pen, where they are fed morning and evening, and during the day they wander freely through the garden. Luckily, they are scared of going indoors – so you won’t find one in your tent! At night they are shut in their respective huts to keep them safe from foxes.
Guests who’ve stayed with us over the years may remember previous characters amongst our feathered flock. Quickly; a big white goose with bad legs. He was a tad grumpy and so had to be kept in a pen on his own and away from the campers!
Posh – a miniature Appleyard duck who was very noisy and was able to fly. Sshe would noisily take off, do a lap in the air and land pretty much where she took off from.
Daisy – who was the ‘spokesduck.’ She spent a lot of time interacting with guests and owners and was always the one to tell us it’s suppertime.
Worm – a tiny bantam hen who was born with a deformed leg. She never went very far from the pen (except one day when some children decided to take her on an adventure to the bell tent area) as she wasn’t very good at moving about.
And Maude was a firm favourite with lots of our guests. She was a very gentile duck who had a bad back and so was fond of a good sit down.
Our guests enjoy the company of all our animals – and often comment on how much they have loved having them around. Whenever we’er tagged in guests pictures on social media, you can bet there’s always one or two of the flock in their collection!
If you sit down outdoors you will soon be joined by a few ducks, a chicken or a pair of geese. There’s something very relaxing about watching a small group of ducks having a snooze – or splashing about on the pond. You can even feed the ducks and chickens – a pot of duck food in the shelter is there for this purpose. We’d rather they didn’t eat bread though – and don’t try and feed the geese!
One memorable day a mother and her son were having a picnic under the apple trees and the little boy had a slice of pizza in his out-held hand. He was concentrating on what he was saying to his mum and didn’t notice why she was laughing so much – our cockerel at the time (Tolly) was nibbling gratefully at the pizza in the lad’s hand!
We love seeing your pictures of our chickens, geese and ducks during your stay and hearing stories about things they get up to in the garden!