Monday, 29 June 2015

In North Devon - come and say hi!

Do you fancy experiencing some time with our llamas?

What we offer –  Up to two hours of our time, both Vicki & Kevin will show you around our smallholding, and giving you the opportunity to get up close and personal with some, if not all of our llamas.
  • First, we’ll do a short introduction, including the essential health and safety rules. We’ll give you some history of llamas in general, some useful facts about the way they will behave, and what you should expect from handling them.
  • Next, we’ll bring some of the llamas up to the holding pen, where you can all get to say hello!
  • Here, we will show you how to halter the llama, and each member of the party (one at a time) can groom a llama and have that one to one photo opportunity.
  • Next, we will take two llamas for a short stroll around their field and you can have the opportunity to lead them.
  • On our return, it will be treat time, the llamas will be rewarded and you’ll have the chance to give them their treats.
  • Then, a chance to wander over and see our other llamas, our goats, chickens, and we may even be joined by the cat!
  • A quick, but thorough wash of the hands and it’ll be time to say goodbye!
Who do we offer this to? – We can cope with a minimum of 2 people and a maximum of 6 people. Any child under 16 must be accompanied by a full paying adult!
When do we offer this? – We offer this experience on weekday afternoons, except Mondays, although during the summer holiday period we are happy to do this at weekends. Booking is essential! The experience is, I’m afraid, weather dependent, if it is too wet, neither the llamas, you, or indeed us will enjoy it, so please bring some nice dry weather with you!
How much? –  £15 per person, children under 16 will cost £8 each. Please note that children under 10 will NOT be able to fully participate, they will only be able to groom and feed the llamas from outside of the pen and through the fence, and will not be able to walk their own llama (they can walk with the llama while a responsible adult holds the lead).
How to book? –  Check out our website -
Essentials! – Please come prepared, it doesn’t matter what time of year it is but sturdy walking boots, trainers or wellies will be required – no flip flops or beach shoes – if a llama steps on your foot it will hurt!

We’re ready – are you?
Llama experience

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

14 chicks have hatched so far....

3 weeks ago, I set 24 eggs into my new incubator.

The eggs just fitted in, and here we are on day 22 and we have 14 chicks hatched out.

5 of the eggs were not fertile, a poor showing really by the seller, who I will contact, not that I expect replacements, but at least she will know that I wasn't happy.

14 of the chicks hatched out, so far, with one having juts pipped, so I hope that will be 15 at least.

7 hatched out yesterday, on day 21 and have been moved to the brooder.

You can see 5 of them here, popping out to see the world. The other two are under the brooder (the big yellow thing at the bottom) - this brooder can take up to 20 chicks so, the rest will join them later.

The other 7 or 8 are still in the incubator where they will stay until they are all dry and fluffy. Chicks can stay in there for over 24 hours with no food and water as the yolk is still giving them sustenance and the incubator warmth will ensure that they are kept at the right temperature until they are strong enough to check out the real world.

Those born under the broody - we had two broodies this year, one hatched 3 and the other 5 - would stay under mum for those 24 hours before popping out.

In some respects those born in the incubator have a cosier life than those born under a broody, but at least mother hen knows how to look after them.

The 4 eggs that have not yet pipped will stay in the incubator for another two days to see if anything happens, if not they will be presumed dead in shell :-(

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

RIP Cookie

Cookie, seen here last year sticking her tongue out to the world, passed away yesterday.

She came with us to North Devon as a puppy in 2002, she would have been 14 later this year.

Cookie was a Samoyed - The Samoyed is a breed of dog that takes its name from the Samoyedic peoples of Siberia. These nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with the herding, and to pull sleds when they moved. (source Wikipedia) - who have an average lifespan of 12-13 years, so she was on the upper side of that.

Her back end was wasting away, she had lost most of her muscles in her back legs, struggled to stand, although once stood she could plod along for a walk around our fields. Despite the drugs keeping the pain away, the vet as well as ourselves decided to make the decision for her to be put to sleep. Trust me, it was a hard decision, but we are firm believers in not making the dog suffer just because it would make us feel better. She went very quickly and peacefully and I really do think that she knew what was happening and was quite glad.

She will be greatly missed as she was such a good dog, well behaved and well mannered, she was a good ratter and I think if she had been younger we could have used her to round up the llamas.

Pepper, who is 10 this year, will miss her most as he joined us as a puppy to keep her company after we lost Tasha our previous Samoyed, and he will now have to put up with being the elder of the pack and take on the responsibility of keeping the pups in place (Lladdie & Gizmo) who are now three years old & doesn't time fly.

It'll take us all a few days to figure out our new routines as we no longer have to take account of the "old girl", but I did miss her greeting this morning as I came downstairs. The other three will make sure I don't dwell too long!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Blooming rats!

A very pleasant evening out in the garden on Wednesday, despite the chilly wind, drinking a glass or two of beer while playing with our dogs, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a creature move along the hedgerow.

I didn't believe it at first but it was quite a large rat - the dogs didn't seem to be taking any notice and I was prepared to just let it go, and then it turned right and headed across the lawn towards the chickens. With 3 young chicks still only a week old it wasn't the wisest thing to let rats get a sniff of them so, come on Pepper, lets go chase it off.

Pepper is our Jack Russell X,
There he is, in a more relaxed mode!

Anyway, it didn't take him long to realise that there was something in the shrubs that needed catching, and it didn't take Lladdie long to realise there was something up either. Lladdie spotted it first as it made a run for the pampus grass, and got to it before Pepper, but dropped it as Pepper got there. The dispatch process was amazingly quick. Both Pepper & Lladdie had a sniff and left it.

Along comes Gizmo the retriever and he picks it up and takes it off up to mum, who wasn't happy.

Lots of fuss made of the dogs for a job well done when Pepper wanders back to the pampus grass and finds another one, 2-0 to Pepper.

Thinking about it, Pepper had dug a few holes along the fence line where we saw the rat and he had obviously sniffed it out before, but no luck on those occasions. A much swifter demise for the rat than putting poison down.

Monday, 8 June 2015

A lame llama

This is Wispa, she's a bit older than this now, in fact she must be around 4 years old now, whereas in this picture she is closer to 4 months old. She is daughter to Willow, and sister to Cola & Llatte.

Yesterday morning she seemed to hobbling a bit, but she readily came up for food at breakfast time as usual, and she could obviously put weight on her foot, so we knew that she had not broken anything and we decided to leave it as we can all sprain a muscle (Gizmo the dog does it regularly) and within 24 hours it is right as rain again, and at tea time yesterday she fair jogged up the field for her food.

But, this morning she was even worse and so we called the vet out. Yes, she has just sprained her ankle, and apart from some antibiotics and some anti-inflammatory pain killer there was not a lot that can be done. She was given a good examination and feet checked for splinters or thorns, and so she is on rest and has been put into a smaller paddock away from the rest of the herd, but with her two sisters as company. She has further pain killing injections to have, lucky me, I get to administer these, 48 hours apart.

Let's hope it's a straight forward recovery!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Something is spooking our llamas!

Llamas have fantastic eyesight, they can see for miles.

They have near all round vision as well, having the ability to see what is going on behind them.

They have a whinnying type of alarm call, which they make when one of them sees something they are not sure of, all the llamas will look in the direction of where the calling llama is looking.

Yesterday afternoon, we heard the calls and decided to investigate but we couldn't see anything even with binoculars, but there is definitely something over there spooking the llamas.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Lucky is giving good voice today!

Lucky is one of our nanny pygmy goats, she is a little over two years old and her two youngsters this year were her first.

Two very healthy boys born and at 12 weeks old now have headed off to a new home here in North Devon.

The boys will be pets and as such are wethers, which means that they will not grow large ram horns and they won't smell during the rutting season, which can be pretty disgusting.

Poor Lucky though is missing her boys and is shouting out for them, in between munching on her hay. It will take 2-3 days before she will fully realise that they are not coming back, by which time her milk will also be dried up.

Although goats can have two lots of kids per year we don't allow that here at Ashwood Llamas and so she will be put back with the billy this autumn and so more kids to arrive early next year.

In two weeks time, we will be saying goodbye to two more young boys but their mums won't be as upset as we will be keeping their girls.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

..and another one goes broody!

Another of our hens has gone broody!

This one though chose one of the main coops to be broody in, and yesterday she was sat on just 5 eggs, today she is sat on 9 - every time she gets up to go for a drink or something to eat one of the other hens comes along and lays another egg in her nest!

So, she had to be moved into her own broody coop, or maternity wing, and the logistics of moving both a hen and her eggs means it is a two handed job.

First up, we made a new nest in the new coop, then I picked her up and Vicki picked up the eggs, all nine carefully moved and re-laid in the new nest, unfortunately she (the hen, not Vicki) panicked and broke one egg when being put gently on top of the eggs.

Still, that left eight, and the egg had hardly developed so I don't feel too bad about it.

She left the nest immediately, which is a worry and it was a good two hours before she resat on the eggs in the proper manner, but I have read that the eggs can be left  to go cold for up to 3 hours with no adverse affects, so time will tell. A short time as it takes just 21 days from being sat on to hatching out, so in 3 weeks time we'll know for sure.


This is an annual event, last year we had three hens go broody, two were moved and both hatched out some nice baby chooks and I am sure we will get quite a few from this hatching!

Oh what a mess!

Last month, I fired up the incubator to hatch some new chooks!

We keep a few hens, we have 11 at present plus a cockerel, we are getting 6-8 eggs a day which is quite good, we sell what we don't eat to friends & family, and that just about pays for a bag of feed every month, but hens get old and need replacing.

Of our 11 hens there are two real oldies that are probably not laying but I am not one to cull, I am quite happy for them to enjoy the rest of their lives with us, we also have 3 or 4 that will be oldies next year, and we have 5 youngsters who were hatched out last year.

To keep the supply of eggs coming we do need to add new hens and that is where the incubator comes in. Another disaster for us this year, a crow has been nipping in to the workshop and eating the cats food, and on day one of the incubation the crow had a go at getting to the eggs and smashed them and did its best to break the incubator.

The incubator is fine albeit very messy with eggs inside the workings and as it is an old incubator I am not sure it will be re-usable. The good folk at Brinsea have sent me instructions on how to take it apart and put it back together again, so another chore added to the list of things to do.

Thanks to nature though, we did have a hen go broody, and she is much better at the job than I am, and we have 3 very healthy baby chooks running around in their little pen.

I think you can just about see them!

Monday, 1 June 2015

A right old ding dong!

Over the weekend we moved our llamas around.

Firstly though, it is over a month since my last blog and that is just not good enough, other work commitments seem to have taken over to the extent that blogging was very low down the list of priorities, and so my apologies, those commitments seem to be behind me now, so time to start blogging again in earnest.

Our llamas are normally in 3 groups, the girls, the mums & babies and the boys.

Once the babies become teenagers (well around a year old in llama years) it is time to start integrating them with the older llamas. Last year we had two cria (name for baby llamas), a boy and a girl and we deal with each a little differently.

Mum Tallara and her daughter Guinevere were the easiest pair as they went straight out to join the girls, they integrated very quickly and settled into the bigger group with no problem.

Mum Clara and her son Gallahad were a little different. Gallahad would not be allowed to join the girls for obvious reasons (he was getting to be a big boy now and we didn't want any accidental cria turning up) and so we brought down first Wilbur & then Buster to join the pair of them. Wilbur had a week by himself and then Buster joined for another week or so before it was time to take mum out and for her to rejoin the girls.

She was treated like a long lost friend and she settled into the girl group very quickly.

We therefore had three groups still, two lots of boys and the girls, so what to do with the three big boys.

Our stud boys had both had "the operation" a while ago, and although they were living together (that is Nazca & Llancellot, there was an uneasy truce in the field. Llancellot is a very head shy llama and would be no good as a walking llama (our walking llamas are all well trained to have a halter and to be walked down our country lanes with paying guests) and so it was decided that we would let him join the girl group as they also did not do any walking.

So, Nazca & his older brother Cusco, both of whom are old hands at walking were to be brought down to join the other boys, and once they were together the girls would be moved as a whole group to join Llancellot. The plan being that our llamas would be in two groups going forward - our working, walking boys and the girls with Llancellot.

So, Cusco & Nazca were haltered and walked down the lane to meet the three boys Wilbur, Buster and young Gallahad. Well, that's when the right old ding dong started.

Nazca took a dislike to Wilbur (they have never really been mates but they have tolerated each other in the past) and beat him up, no damage done although Cusco got a fat lip for his pains in trying to split the fight up.

Buster, bless him took Gallahad off to a corner of the field and kept well away from the action.

So, Nazca couldn't stay with Wilbur.

As I said earlier both Llancellot and Nazca had an uneasy truce, so we thought (somewhat naively) we would put them back together, but of course Llancellot was surrounded by girls, oh whoops, and I mean a big whoops. Although both boys had been castrated they both knew what it was like to be a stud and so only one could be in with the girls - luckily no damage was done but seeing two full blooded males screaming at each other in the field was a scary sight, unfortunately we didn't have time to take any pictures or videos as we had to split them up!

Nazca, being the one that could be haltered and walked, was surprisingly easily persuaded to leave the scene, and was put into the field vacated by the girl llamas which is where he still is and sharing it with our young lambs.

So, he is on his own for a short while, or it could be a long while. We are sort of hoping he might take to being a guardian to the lambs, five of which are going to be long term grass mowers. He can still see the other llamas, and appears very calm in his environment.

We will keep a careful eye on him, and make sure that he does get plenty of attention - a job for me will be to walk him a little on his own, and maybe we may, just may put a couple of girls in with him to keep him company, but which ones.

Plenty to think about!