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Ne'er cast a clout till May be out

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

We've certainly had some weather extremes this month - gorgeous sunshine and a still day to get the polytunnel sheet on, snowing in the second week, 50+ mph winds collapsing the polytunnel 2 weeks later...

I now have ArcGIS up and running to keep tabs on the state of the dyke, new collapses and repairs. In time I hope to be able to use this to keep volunteers updated with the dyke they've rebuilt.

Dyke condition survey from 2019

I have been working on some sections between Quoybanks and Neven this month. It's been nice working my way along the dyke, rebuilding and ending up with a nice stretch of good dyke. It's very quiet working on this part of the islands, but there is a haul out of seals nearby who sing throughout the day.

This week Olly has been away in Shetland doing an introduction course to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service. I have been a bit overwhelmed with keeping all the animals and plants fed and watered on my own, but we're all still alive after the first week, another week to go!

Our latest additions are 3 Scots Dumpy chicks, which we hatched in an incubator. I was really excited to get chickens when we moved here, but have had to be patient for spring to get hold of any eggs to hatch. Inspired by the native rare breeds that I have worked with, I looked into native chicken breeds to Scotland, 2 of which still exist: the Scots Grey and Scots Dumpy. Both are, as you would expect from a Scottish breed, very hardy. We have got the cuckoo colour variety - which will have lovely mottled feathers.

As the name implies, Dumpies have very short legs, hence they waddle from side to side. Dumpies have also been called Bakies, Stumpies, Dadlies, Hoodlies and Creepies. It is a very old breed, of purely Scottish extraction. The origin of the breed goes back well into BC times. They have very acute hearing; legend has it that when the Roman Army moved north of the border, the Picts carried a type of poultry similar to today’s Dumpies as guards to warn off strangers approaching the camp.

They are good dual-purpose birds, early and prolific layers even in cold northern climes and with a lot of meat on their small carcasses. They are quiet and placid birds and suitable for free ranging, in most cases, the hens are wonderful sitter and ideal mothers.

We have some more hatching eggs on the way shortly, I'd ideally like 6 hens, I think we have 2 at the moment. Who knows, maybe next year we'll start breeding and help the survival of this rare breed!

To find out more on keeping rare breed chickens visit the Rare Breed Survival Trust's website

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