Poultry Paradise in Scotland – Backyard Poultry

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Keeping animals on a remote Scottish island.

Photo essay by Clare Pussey

THE DEVELOPMENT OF Callanish Alpacas (more aptly Callanish “not just” Alpacas) has been an unexpected adventure.

In 2016, a series of unplanned events (including our small campervan catching on fire twice while on holiday here!) led me and my partner to impulsively move 700 miles from a large city in South Wales, U.K., to a tiny
community on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.

The remote island is the furthest northwestern point of Scotland (and the U.K.) and is 2.5 hours by ferry from the mainland. The weather is a constant challenge. As the island is on the Gulf Stream, it doesn’t often drop below freezing, but the frequent storms from October to February mean that even a 4-ton stable has to be sunk into the ground and strapped down. Last year, the wind topped 106 MPH.

Proud Seramas: Amar and Aisha.
A colorful cluster of Mandarin ducks. Our Carolina (Charleston and
Florence) and Silver Carolina ducks (Jackson and Charlotte) are
equally stunning.
Call duck, Daisy, in the foreground with White Mallard, Gwyn. His
name means “white” in Welsh.
Topaz, Lazuli, and Chickpea — Topaz (peacock)
and Lazuli (peahen) with their cute little peachick
we’ve called Chickpea.
The bachelors. A quartet of Indian Runner drakes (Inky, Pingu, Sputnik, and Daffodil)
hatched from eggs we bought on eBay.

Crofting is a way of life in Scotland, particularly on the islands. A crofter will typically have a relatively small number of sheep, cows, pigs, and chickens raised to go to market. We have 9 acres of land and fulfill the criteria for diversification of crofting. We’re a charity and don’t charge anybody to come on an informal guided tour of the animals, as we consider them to be our pets and love to share them. None of our animals go to market, in keeping with our poultry paradise in Scotland.

In August 2017, the first four alpacas arrived, and things have escalated considerably since then. Before this time, I’d only ever owned a hamster!

Callanish Alpacas drew visitors simply because the alpacas were so unique on the island. We regularly found people in our back garden. To our continuing surprise, we now have a vast international following and many thousands of visitors each year. We encourage and are very flexible about visits by schools and a wide variety of specialized groups.

Some of our adult alpacas (Aurelia, Carla, Pandora, Alice, and Petula)
with the 2023 cria (Lily, Loki, Odin, Thora, and Zeus).
Fennel (Pekin) standing guard for Ping (Polish Crested) who only ever
lays her eggs in the food bowl even though she knows she shouldn’t.
Four-horned Hebridean rams Leo, Raleigh, and Dewi may look
fearsome, but there’s nothing they like better than a cuddle.
Humpty the Pig. Not shown is Humpty’s sibling, Dumpty.

We currently have 11 adult alpacas and 5 cria who were born this summer. We also have 14 breeds of chickens, 10 breeds of ducks, 2 peafowl and a peachick, 12 rare-breed sheep, and 3 Kunekune pigs. Many of the animals are unusual or rare breeds, and about a third of them are rescued or re-homed. The total number of animals exceeds 150 and all have names.

We have many visitors from the U.S. every year; please do pop in if you’re over here! https://www.callanishalpacas.co.uk/

Follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/callanishalpacas

Originally published in the Feb/Mar 2024 issue of Backyard Poultry magazine and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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