Animal updates – December 2019

December 11, 2019 by Siobhan Brown

Hi everyone! I’m Hope, a new volunteer in the communications team who will be bringing you regular updates about what the animals have been up to on the farm.

I graduated from the University of Sussex with an MA in Art History and Museum Curating with Photography, where I specialised in Theatre & Performance. Working across writing, editing, events productions and administration, I have previously held roles at Studio Private, Dazed & Confused, the V&A and Elephant West Gallery. I am currently working at 59 Productions, an award-winning design studio and production company.

Having spent a large amount of my upbringing around farm animals in Essex and having always owned pets they have remained my greatest joy. In my spare time, I like visiting London’s city farms. They make me feel like I’m in the countryside without travelling very far.

Volunteering at Stepney City Farm has impacted my life in a really positive way as it allows me to keep my writing skills up in my spare time and gain insight into the inner workings of the farm. It’s also rewarding to support the farm which does such amazing work providing the local community with the opportunity to experience farming right in the heart of the city.

I’m excited to start updating you on what the animals have been up to on a regular basis.

The change in season has brought about considerable changes to the farm animals and their needs. This has impacted how our Farmyard Manager Tom and animal worker Colin look after them.

Seasonal changes

Due to the time of year and the change in hourly light, the chickens have decreased laying. Even if the winter weather is warmer, if there is not enough light some breeds will slow down laying. This is because more of the chickens’ bodily resources have to go into keeping them warm rather than producing eggs. Due to this, we currently have fewer eggs on sale at the Farm.

The chickens have also been malting, which is also closely linked to the change in daylight hours and the end of the egg laying season. The annual moult is when the chickens shed all their feathers and replace them with new ones.

Our donkeys George and Dunstan now have their winter coats on to keep warm. They are mostly wearing them overnight at the moment but sometimes during the day too depending on the temperature levels.

Donkeys’ coats tend to be longer and coarser than horses and they don’t produce as much natural grease as horses do. Donkeys are more susceptible to rain, wind and snow and less adaptable to the UK weather: this makes coats a necessity in the winter months.

Kat and Mars, our pedigree Berkshire pigs, are also going through some seasonal changes of their own. They are currently split up in different fields so they can spend time apart over the winter period in order to put on some weight which will be beneficial in the colder months.

Hellos and goodbyes

As you may already know, we have had 9 piglets on the farm this year: 3 girls and 6 boys. The female piglets have recently been sold to another farm as breeding stock. The remaining piglets will be staying with us until February when they will go for meat.

We’ve had some newcomers to the farm! The Farm has been donated some more Soay sheep – a young ram (Patrick) and two girls (Beyonsoay and Diana.) The new ram is registered so we will be able to sell his offspring as we have done with the piglets.

Two ferrets, Bobo and Nibbles, have joined the small furries. They have settled in well. They’re quite a bit bigger than longstanding resident ferret Mr Wiggles: he is getting older and isn’t able to store up as large fat reserves as the youngsters can.

Excitingly, our female goats Jazz and Pop recently went to Newham City Farm in the hope of getting pregnant. Fingers crossed we will have some kids running around in Spring 2020.

More space for our animals

Over the winter we are also preparing some of the land handed back to us from Crossrail for two new poultry enclosures and an additional grazing field.


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