Tuesday 10 September 2013

A grumpy rhea and delightful blackcurrant eating soay sheep live next door

Mr Angry
Brenda tells me I am a grumpy old man! She says living with me is like living on your own but different. We really do have a grumpy old man next door. He’s called Spike.
Spike has taken a dislike to me. When he sees me from across Cathi’s field he puffs his feathers, doubles his size and charges. Fortunately the squared wire fence stops him in his tracks. He angrily attacks, tries to swallow the fence, eventually threads his long neck through the gap, all the time hissing and viciously pecking. He can stretch a long way! It’s getting quite weedy alongside the fence now! Anyone who wears a cap gets similar treatment. He thinks it’s a beak.
I have to be honest with you. His mind is starting to go. He might be regarded as just a little senile. He has not improved with age. He could be described as somewhat dotty. Rather like me.

Spike is not pleased to see me
Ten years ago Harry and Cathi bought three rheas as pets, two male and one female. They came from a deprived home but got lucky when our neighbours found them. Sadly after some years Phylis died. She did live long enough to raise a family! Actually with rheas it’s the males that do most of the hard work rearing - although in this case most of the workload fell to Harry!
When Phleas came to his new home our friends named her Aphelia. When they discovered she was a he they amended the name. Quite appropriate really, for when Phleas arrived he was covered with fleas. In their loving care the fleas were soon gone.
With minimum help from the rheas, Harry and Cathi hatched two delightful chicks and raised them in their garden, not in the field where they might have been trampled. Frilly was pure white. Her brother was named Sausage. They were particularly sweet when no bigger than hens they played with the hens! The chicks were quite an attraction on my Open day two years ago. As they got bigger they inappropriately fertilized the lawn!
Sadly last year Frilly died. Cathi now has three males Spike, Phleas, Sausage and no eggs! They are all loved dearly. Even the grumpy old man twines his neck lovingly around Cathi!
Cathi has promised to dig into her family photograph album and let me have some pictures of the children as they grew up. I will post them soon.

Eyes of Phleas 
Mr Gentle

What a shock!

Soay sheep.
This hardy breed is very low maintenance. Calling the vet is a rare occurrence and they do not need shearing, the wool just drops away and for a while in Spring they look a little tatty. Kept as pets they will never be eaten. They presented Cathi with a new lamb this year.

The sheep help in the garden! I recently pruned Cathi’s black currants. They  eagerly devoured the prunings extracting every ounce of goodness from them. The other morning when I approached them they looked quite crestfallen and walked away sulking. They thought I was empty handed but as soon as they realised I had some willow prunings to give them they scurried back. Willow bark contains salicylic acid, a precursor of aspirin. I am not sure what is the opposite of having a headache!
Its better than Ribena!

Better have an aspirin for the hangover


  1. Ahhh, what lovely neighbours you've got. I love that photo of Phleas. I've never heard of Soay sheep, it looks like they've got very thick wool.

    1. They need to have thick wool Jo, they live wild on a very windy Scottish island (Soay, I think)
      Although they don't need shearing Cathi had them sheared this year and they are much smarter than usual

  2. Have you tried a crash helmet? Maybe the sheep were on an aspirin high - hope they didn't end up with stomach ulcers in their stomachs

    1. I would look like Darth Vader!
      I think stomach ulcers are usually in stomachs Sue. I would do a smilie if I remembered how!

    2. Are you nit-picking by any chance :) I'll have to get some more stories from your brother-in-law!!!

  3. A lovely story about the rheas. Phleas looks adorable and Spike is just fun. Pretty sheep too, I never heard before of Soay sheep. It is just a bonus to have these animals as neighbours.

    1. Yes Spike is fun, but not when I am in my own little world and I suddenly hear an angry hiss!

  4. Rheas are a funny bird. They look so gentle, it is funny ready about the grumpy one. They have very pretty eyes too! The sheep are new to me too. I never see them here with horns.

    1. Hello Donna, good to hear from USA Niagara,
      I am not sure about how gentle Spike would be with me!
      Yes with the sheep both the boys and girls have horns!

  5. Been away and nearly missed this post! They're brilliant Roger! What fun living with such exotica! I'd love to see a baby rhea, I'm guessing they are ever so cute!

    1. Thanks for the compliment Poppy.It gets better, I have just looked in my dropbox and Cathi has sent me some absolutely fantastic pictures of the babies taken by Harry. They are some of his very best. I will post them on Sunday.

    2. Hi Roger. I shall look forward to that post!


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