One of the year’s highlights has been to bring chickens into Avondale’s Circle of Life and see them thrive. Housed in a converted 1952 Dodge truck, our brood of Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Koekoeks and Buff Orpingtons spend their days free ranging and foraging in the vineyards. They’re great at spreading and breaking down the cow manure as they scratch, and at controlling flies by foraging for their larvae. They’re also providing us and FABER Restaurant with fresh pasture-reared eggs.
Of course, free ranging on a natural farm does have its risks. When the chickens were just six weeks old and roaming in the vineyards, one hapless bundle was swooped up and carried off by a Jackal Buzzard, a resident predator. There was a mad dash after it, and happily the Buzzard did let go its prey. She is now fully grown and laying an egg a day.
One of our favourite sightings on Avondale this year can be seen in this video of a pair of striped polecats made by one of our housekeepers as she walked to work one morning. The striped polecat, also known as a zorilla, is a mustelid and resembles a skunk. It’s a carnivore feeding on small rodents, snakes, birds and amphibians. There are two unusual aspects to this sighting of them – firstly, they’re nocturnal and would usually be in a burrow during the day. Secondly, they are generally solitary, only associating with each other to breed or look after young.