Heather is an Ayrshire cow, an old Scottish breed renowned for their gentle and quiet behaviour. This kind of temperament is essential when we have so many young people and inexperienced handlers attending the Farm.
Our cow is milked twice a day, at 10am and 4pm. Everyone is welcome to have a go! The milk is usually fed to the calves, and any orphan lambs or kids we have at the time.
We have a resident donkey named Mickie (Croajingalong Mickie) who has become best friends with Joe the pony. Mickie loves a scratch on his neck but he doesn’t like having his ears touched at all! (Many donkeys don’t.) His favourite thing is to go for a walk around the Farm and see what is happening in the world outside his paddock. Listen out for his unmistakable hee –haw!
The Farm currently has seven horses all of which are super quiet and very friendly. They are used for the Young Farmer’s Program on the weekends, Rideability during the week and for pony rides.
Currently we have Charlie Benson, a Clydesdale cross gelding; Brandy, a pony mare; Joe, a skewbald Shetland pony; Zac, a Waler cross thoroughbred gelding; Ted, a Quarter Horse X Warmblood; Tyson, an Australian riding Pony; and Harry, a Welsh Mountain Pony.
The Collingwood Children's Farm currently has Berkshire pigs, a breed no longer kept by commercial piggeries. The Berkshire is black with white points (tail, feet and nose/face).
Currently we have three Berkshire pigs; our boar Typhoon, and Greta the sow. We also have two young pigs (gilts), Maybelle and Myrtle, who will be our future breeding sows. Our sows are bred throughout the year, taking turns to spend time with Typhoon, which means there is no particular season for piglets to be born.
The Berkshire was introduced to the Farm as part of the Federation Rare Breeds Display Project, as they were popular at the time of Federation, but are now rare.
The Farm own and manage a small herd of beautifully marked Anglo Nubian goats. This breed is a dairy breed that originated in the 1890s from Indian and African bucks mated to English does. The two main breeds used were the Jumna Pari from India and the Zairaibi from Egypt.
This mix of breeds evolved into a quality dairy goat that copes well with hot weather and continues to produce milk that is high in protein and butterfat on a daily basis, which is of great interest to cheese makers.
At the Farm we have two very different breeds of sheep, the English Leicester and the Shropshire. Both flocks are quite small, with nine breeding English Leicester ewes and four breeding Shropshire ewes as well as a purebred ram for each breed. Although our flocks are small, we are helping to preserve the genetic fingerprint of these two heritage sheep breeds. As they are old English breeds, the Shropshire and English Leicesters only have one breeding season in autumn, with spring lambing the norm.
We shear our sheep on our family day in November, and their wool is spun by members of the Hand Spinners and Knitters Guild of Victoria, and sold in skeins at our farmers' market.
We have a small flock of Chinese Geese at the Farm. The Chinese Goose is an elegant bird, which closely resembles a swan in body shape and in fact used to be called a Swan Goose in earlier times. Chinese Geese are not as aggressive in their breeding season as other breeds of geese, but nonetheless are quite good guard animals.
The Farm keeps three breeds of duck - the Pekin, the Muscovy, and the Indian Runner. We breed our ducks in small numbers using ducks (rather than an incubator) to hatch them! We rarely have any extra to sell.
The Muscovy is unrelated to all other domestic breeds of duck, as it is descended from the Musk Duck of South America while the other domestic breeds were developed from the Mallard. Muscovies are well known for their ability to incubate eggs and look after their babies. Muscovies are unable to quack, instead they hiss or squeak weakly and are probably the only breed of domestic duck that can still fly (females only; the drakes are too heavy).
We have five breeds of chickens at the Farm. They are the Light Sussex, Salmon Favorelle, Black Orpington, Brown and Black Leghorn and Chinese Silky.
Brown Leghorns are the serious egg-layers of our breeds, laying 280 (five eggs per week) large, white shelled eggs per year. If you want lots of eggs then the Brown Leghorn is the breed for you. They are very vigorous explorers, so need to be penned, or are wonderful used in a chicken tractor system. They are flighty birds, and may need their wings clipped, especially while young. Not necessarily a bird for a family of young children who are looking for pets, these birds are terrific producers through spring and summer, rarely going broody.
Leghorns originated in Italy as an egg-laying chicken and were the most popular breed of fowl in the 1900s in Australia. They come in a range of different colours including black, white, buff, blue, blue-red, gold duckwing, silver duckwing, cuckoo, exchequer, mottled, partridge and pile. The brown and black Leghorns are rare colour varieties of the Leghorn chicken. These chickens are more highly strung than the Sussex varieties. The rooster is a splendid bird with magnificent plumage.
The Light Sussex Chicken originated in England at the time of the Roman Invasion (AD43) making it one of the oldest known breeds. It comes in a variety of colours including brown, buff, light, red, speckled, silver, coronation/lavender, white and golden. It is a large, easy going breed of chicken that is good at foraging for its own food. They are good layers, producing about 250 (4-5 per week) large cream coloured eggs per year, without going broody.
Black Orpingtons are beautiful rounded chickens who are excellent for the backyard in that they are docile and friendly and make great pets, are steady layers of large brown eggs, and have a tendency to go broody, so you can hatch out chicks under them. They lay about 180 (3-4 per week) eggs per year, and lay into the winter months as well. They like to have some space to scratch around, but do not fly, so are well suited to a suburban block.
The first Orpington fowl to appear was the black colour in 1886. It was bred by William Cook of Orpington in Kent, England. Eventually there were seven varieties: black (1886), white (1889), buff (1894), jubilee (1896), spangled (1900), cuckoo (1907) and the blue (1907). In Australia, only the black, white, blue and cuckoo varieties are seen.
Salmon Faverolles are quirky birds who take people by surprise with their fluffy beards and feathered feet. Underneath the pink frills they are very docile and inquisitive birds who easily become pets. They lay medium sized, creamy/pinkish eggs well into the winter, averaging around 150 eggs per year (3 per week). They also are good brooders, and good mothers.
Favorelles do well in small spaces, despite being a large bird, and aren’t inclined to scratch around a lot. Because they are so submissive, they need to be penned carefully with other birds or they may be bullied. They have five toes, not the usual four, which marks them as a very old breed.
They originated from the village of Faverolles in Northern France, the breed was developed from the Dorking (where it gets its fifth toe from), Houdan, Cochin, Brahma and several French breeds, to be a dual purpose bird. It was particularly prized for its meat and first imported into Great Britain in 1886, where it was crossed with Sussex, Orpington and Indian Game. The best known variety is the Salmon, which appeared in 1893 in England.
Silkie chickens are bantams, meaning they are very small, or miniature breed of chicken. This, combined with their endearing personalities, docility, and fluffy, silky feathers, make them fabulous pets for children.
They lay about three eggs per week (156 per year), and lay most of the year. The eggs, while small, are slightly shiny and usually tinted.
They are happy in small spaces and don't fly, go broody regularly and make excellent mothers. Silkies have a long life span (8-9 years) and are surprisingly robust. Interestingly, they also have five toes (rather than the usual four), black skin and blue earlobes.
We have five cats at the Farm. They are Maggie, a black and white female; Oompala, a tortoise and white female; Toki, a grey and white female; Pebbles, a tabby female; and Mash, a grey and white tabby. Their main job is to keep the rodent population down to a manageable level!
The guinea pigs at the Farm are kept for their small size, unique appearance and gentle temperament. They like to have a quiet chat and a cuddle. Remember to take in some freshly picked grass or dandelion leaves for them to nibble on!
Twenty-five metres along the bike path from the Farm entrance, an apiary of bee hives is managed by beekeepers from the Victorian Apiarists Association Inc (Melbourne section). Farm visitors can visit the apiary on the second and fourth Sunday of each month from 10.30 am to 3.30, and watch the bees and the beekeepers opening the hives from a protected viewing caravan. If they wish, visitors can borrow protective clothing and join the beekeepers next to the hives. Photos and descriptions of the apiary can be viewed at here.
The bees collect nectar from the Farm and surrounding gardens and bushland which they make into honey. The beekeepers remove the honey and honeycomb from the hives which is then sold at the Farm reception and at our monthly farmers' market, usually during summer and autumn.
The earthworms are of the red and tiger varieties, and are housed near the pig pens in their own worm farm. They are used to process our food scraps and to develop worm castings, which we then use on our gardens and to sell to the public for their home gardens.