Crosskennan took a look at the animals around them and couldn't believe the sheer numbers who had passed through their gates that year.
We keep a count of all animals, for general records but also so we can monitor numbers for the year. We have seen large numbers before, true, but when we have had such large numbers in the past we had the financial support of PSNI or Council contracts.
This year we have seen a total (as of the 20th of December) of 61 individual chickens, hens, roosters, geese, turkeys and ducks as well as a further 7 wild birds and pet birds (parrots, cockateils, etc.) recieving help from the sanctuary; via rescue, rehoming and vet care. For comparison we helped a total of 49 birds in 2019.
Of these 68 individual birds, there were ones whose owners couldn't care for them any longer due to illness. There were birds who had been abandoned, unwanted and neglected and there were hens from petting zoos who had to close due to COVID and never reopened.
Little Nell and her brothers and sisters...
They arrived in November as very poorly birds whose owner had been ill themselves and unable to care for them. We moved them into our brand new shed (donated by a supporter) but immediately little Nell had to be moved out. She was listless and struggled to stand or even lift her head. It didn't look good for her and she moved into the cabin for monitoring and care.
The others with a little tlc bounced back, while Nell was slower. We didn't know what to expect from the little bird but she was a fighter and each day her muscles grew a little stronger until she was able to push herself up to a stand and eventually cross her space to her food and water dishes, where before she had to lean over and reach into them.
She began to have exercise in the new shed when her siblings moved up to the blue house. She improves daily and is learning handling while in rehab too.
Meanwhile her siblings have had some health problems, mostly dust allergies which were quickly corrected with new bedding (thanks to donations). They love running about the garden and take frequent walks about the fields with the manager, Lyn, and sanctuary resident dogs Tim and Elva.
Braveheart arrived during lockdown; a squished rooster in a taped up box. Not one of our normal amazon deliveries we are pleased to say; although sadly not the first time we had had such deliveries. He arrived the same week as two bunnies and two ducklings.
Braveheart earned his name, with his unerring ability to escape and seek his freedom. The staff and volunteers gave up trying to reign him in, after finding him repeatedly roosting with the horses and ponies instead of in his own stable.
He started causing chaos when he worked out he could get through the bars of the gates and onto the main yard, one morning causing a rukus over with the other roosters and hens. A solution had to be found for his wandering and so he was moved into Sorley's Place. He got a stable to himself and some new equine neighbours. That same time we had taken in Gabriel, a sickly overweight, heavy wormed, stallion pony. With Gabriel's health and mobility and his stallion status he couldn't be introduced to any of the other equines on the yard.
So Braveheart took up the call to become Gabriel's buddy and they bonded. Braveheart going to far as to roost in Gabriel's hay bucket while the pony tried to eat and to perch on his rather large bum.
Braveheart is an amazing little rooster with tons of personality and has really slotted into sanctuary life. When winter hit his crate was moved into the cabin for warmth and to free up the stable. Braveheart didn't shy from this new adventure and each morning he is let out to Sorley's Place, where he has a new friend in Charles the Stallion, and at night he walks back over to the cabin and climbs into bed.
Zara and Nemo...
Zara and Nemo were two ducklings who are a direct result of lockdown when well meaning parents decided to get a couple of eggs for the kids to hatch to help teach them responcibility and to give them something to do. Unfortunately when the eggs hatched and two baby ducks were presented they didn't know what to do with them.
Nemo and Zara thankfully only spent one afternoon at the sanctuary, with one of the staff members taking them home with them to join their flock.
At the current time we have thirty nine birds in our care. Of these over 80% will probably still be with us by this time next year; reinforcing the fact that a lot of what we do is providing a sanctuary; but this year we have rehomed 22 birds both from the sanctuary and through home from home. We have also rehabilitated and released two wild birds. Most of the birds currently in our care have health issues or are older. We have currently over 20 roosters in our care which can make rescuing other birds extremely difficult whilst trying to keep a balance and the peace. Of these 20+ roosters four are currently roosting together alonside their five hens.
Giles is the head man of this little flock, after arriving with us in 2019 he has come a long way in health and his manners. His second in command is Alfie who was dumped at the sanctuary gates as a sick rooster in January this year; he spent a long time getting well enough to live outdoors and then he had to learn his place within the flock. Alan followed; Alan being one of our older residents with a past. He is a highly territorial male and has a history of fighting; the reason he was originally surrendered to us. For months he was in a run where he could interact with the others until the day came when he got to be in the open with him, there was two squaks from Giles at the invasion and we waited with bated breath to intervene if necessary.
Alan was destined to be put to sleep, dubbed dangerous and a killer; he was given a second chance at Crosskennan; and this year he has been given a family too; with not just sisters but brothers too. Something we imagine his previous home never thought possible, to be honest we had doubted it for a long time too.
The months of introduction seemed to do the trick, and it wasn't long before all three boys were sharing a home with Gile's girls. The boys are in seperate beds at night but during the day and up until everyone is tucked up in bed they are free to explore the garden together. In November a fourth rooster joined the front garden and has begun his slow introductions in hopes that he too will be welcomed in.
Commonly the reccomendations are that you have one rooster for every ten hens. At the sanctuary we are so short of space and so high in numbers (especially males) that that isn't always possible. We have our batchelors, a group of older roosters who live seperately from all females, then we have a few head roosters who live with a couple of hens but no other males due to their personalities.
We have only 16 hens in residence and two of these hens can't be around other birds due to health and mobility issues (Thelma and Little Nell). So while we would love our boys to have some girls of their own, it just isn't possible. We want all the animals to be happy and healthy and for the roosters that can be a challenge. Seeing them pottering around their garden or jumping up into bed at night is such a privledge; and a testament to time and paitence and the intunitiveness of staff and volunteers who watch and match the birds carefully.
Alfie has blossomed into a beautiful rooster. Alfie is Giles' second in command and at the start he kept a clear distance between himself and the older bird, but has grown in confidence and Giles' has relaxed enough that they have been even seen to be sharing a snack together.
Thelma still has her excercise time, just on a limited spec without the more rough and tumble of the other boys and girls.
Giles' brood; Margaret, Lorelei, Dorothy, Natalie (Thelma in the pen) and not in the photo; Alan, Alfie, Natasha.
In the end we want to provide animals with a happy home; one where they are safe, happy and their needs are met; and for some the best home they could ask for is the sanctuary and we are honored to be a part of their lives each day and so grateful that we are able to offer this to them.
You can help support birds at the sanctuary by sponsoring one of our Sponsor Birds -