Tag Archives: pigs

Pig bribery

I’ve got some rowdy pigs.  Specifically, the female.  She’s a bit of a loner, happy to be apart from the boys some of the time, and she doesn’t respect the fence.  She knows how to get under it, rooting under a post (the bottom strand isn’t electrified), and then tossing it up, where it will flop down on her back and she can charge underneath, getting only a modest shock on her thick back.  I haven’t seen her do this all the way through, but I’ve seen her start into the process very deliberately .   I’ve had it.  I’m out of here (I thwarted her) This all started with a mass escape incident, and watching that happen, I knew they’d be ruined on the fence.  I am counting myself very lucky that it only ruined her on the fence.

Using an electric fence on pigs is a delicate agreement.  They agree they will act like they fear the fence, and you agree to believe it will keep them in, when both of you (I think) knows that if they really want, they can go through it.  If this pretence breaks down, then the pigs are “what fence?”, and you can never relax again.  But the electric fence enables them to have a completely different life than they would if you had to build “pig tight” to keep them in, so it’s a good deal for them.  They get a big sward to root and play and run in, and resemble real pigs.

But now, I have a problem pig, and every so often, she goes on walkabout.  She doesn’t go far.  She just goes and knocks over all the chicken waters and licks their trays clean (the chickens alert me to the invasion).  Then I have to pretend to be friendly Aren’t you clever, let’s get a treat (and she runs after me all pleased with herself), when I feel like beating her with a rope.  She’s pretty good about going back in.  See, the good boys who stayed inside the fence are getting a treat, don’t you wish you were in here now?

Hence, bribery.  I’ve taken to surprise feeds of a bucket of apples and garden scraps, to minimize monotonous downtime that could raise exploratory ideas.  Of course, religious punctuality with regular feed time is essential to prevent mutiny.I appear off-schedule (they are surprised, and come rocketing in!)They try to body block to keep choice to themselves. The apples go first, even sour green apples.  Crunch crunch.Four days so far, no escapes.

Two tone pigs

The pigs were lying in the mud on one side only, so they (two of them) are browned right down the middle like mimes. They look fully mudded, but they’re not. There’s the pink side!

Yesterday they liberated themselves.  I came home, no pigs, and did my usual march all over all the places they could get themselves in trouble with a pail in hand, but I couldn’t find any trace of them.  It was too late to rouse them.  I was sure they’d chosen a place to sleep, and when pigs are asleep, you can walk right past them. Which meant they hadn’t gotten into any trouble, and I expected them home for breakfast.

They were.  They returned right to the place where they’d breached the fence.  They were a pain to get back in. Why should we, when we can just upset the chicken food?  But once recaptured, they were so tuckered out from their big adventure they spent half the day napping in their house.

Later when I was moving their enclosure, I discovered they had been right on the other side of their fence, exactly where I was shifting them to.  They’d gone for a sneak pre-root.  It’s a nice spot.  I’ve been working them over to here.  Now they’re under two big apple trees.  Not a lot of apples, but they can just wait for them to drop.

Moving the pig fence is one of the most nightmarish jobs I do here.  It’s like untangling a big snarl of wool while dragging it through dense brush, with a time limit.  If the snarl of wool were 40 lbs and also snagged on absolutely everything, as did your hair, and it tripped you.  It takes two hours, weekly when the pigs are big, and it’s exhausting and frustrating.  And I’ve got it dialed.  I can even estimate routes that make the fence ends meet pretty accurately.  It’s been worse.  Much worse.  But the results are good;  I’m slowly reclaiming the field, although it’s a multistage project to get rid of the glossy leaf buckthorn.

It’s not exactly a thankless job.  I get this:

Happiest pigs everThe pigs are expressive and clearly joyful.  They have enough room that I can’t even see them from one side to the other.

Full mudface

Finally some rain!    The pigs, who are usually muddy to the eyes, are today muddy to the ears.  They look funny, with their eyes cleanish in the full muddy cones of their faces.By afternoon they had gleefully mudded the whole rest of their bodies until they had single cleanish strips only along their spines.One of the pigs has a predilection for bringing one or more of their rubber bowls into their house.  Sometimes all three are in there, sometimes stacked.   I’ve read that pigs use their bowls as toys if you leave them in their pen after dinner, but these are the first pigs to have played with their bowls.  Here one pig has just dragged one bowl out from under the other pig, and dumped some of it.  Every morning they play food bowl duck duck goose.   They start all with their own bowl, then one inevitably goes to the next pig. You got something better in there?  The first pig exits, and instead of going to the vacant bowl, goes to the next pig’s bowl. What are you eating?  Same thing?  I think I’ll try yours.  That pig goes to the empty bowl and…they do it all over again, every few mouthfuls.

Pigs first move

(David Attenborough voice)

After the new enclosure has been prepared for these lucky piglets, the fence is parted, allowing access to the abundant unspoiled greenery this species thrives upon.But how long will it take them to discover their new freedom?

Their attendant retrieves the food bowls they are familiar with and places them in plain view just beyond the fence opening, filling them with fresh food.The young pigs observe these proceedings with interest, but from a distance.  They are agitated by the presence of the human, and grunt with suspicion. 

As the human withdraws, curiosity and hunger overcome their trepidation, and one pig tentatively leads the way over the threshold!  Its sibling, still  visibly anxious, follows soon after.  To the boldest pig goes the spoils!

 

 

Furtive forest piglets

Three little pigs.  They are not tame at all.  They are wild animals, free and independent.  They observe from a distance.It’s quite nice to not be leaned on and snouted every time you go in their fence, but it will also be nice to play with them and scratch them, someday. They are curious.  They approach, sniffing.   But then one snorts and they all stampede off!  Run away!

Three little pigs

As usual, the new piglets are super shy.  She threw me over her shoulder, and I won’t forget.  I peed on him, hee hee.They snort and dash away to the farthest part of their yard when you even get close.  This is kind of a nice stage, when you can stay clean going in to feed them. In a month or two they’ll be nosing my pant legs and jostling me at the trough.

They’ve been working, though.  They were here for minutes before they had their faces in the dirt, and dug up an impressive swath of it in their first hour.They’re a tiny bit more reluctant to run away when they’re in their house, and man, do they love hay.  They act like they’ve never seen dirt or hay (I’m sure they have), and they burrow right under it, sleep away the afternoons.   They’re so pink. I don’t see any black Berkshire in there at all, except in the personality.

Do we have to get up and run away?

It’s HUGE!

The pigs’ latest move was especially exciting.  We made a two-fence loop (two lengths of 100’+ electric net fence, connected for one extra long circle), which makes their space, just Huge.  Good for us, they’ll last a little longer in there before we have to move them.They were extremely excited.  Didn’t see them all day, they hardly touched their lunch apples, they were finding so much to eat underground.  With the two fences, you can’t see the whole space at once.  It loops into the brush and also into the pasture.  They can get a good sprint worked up with that length.  Can’t see where they are most of the time either, except they come out to say Hi.    Hi.

Fall in the mud

Having a mud bath late afternoon at this time of year?  It’s not that warm. They’re into it, though.And after a good restful mud flop, it’s time to go ruffle up one’s hay bed.And then get food stuck in your forehead hair. The Colonel got into the greenhouse today, laid down the law.  I left the door ajar while I was cleaning coops, and then there was a kerfuffle inside, and then there was a bigger kerfuffle outside, as the Deputy seized the moment and tried to seize the Colonel’s hens while he was otherwise occupied.

Funny, I tried and tried to get the Colonel to go in the greenhouse a month ago and fertilize the GH hens, but he wasn’t having it then.

Back to coop training: Well, that looks exactly like yesterday. The Silkie chicks are all This is what we do, we huddle up in a pile on the floor, and the Chantis are cramming themselves in the broody box.  I’m sure Mom loves that.  She’s still got her mud dreads, I see.

Coop training.

The skycoop has been reinvented as a starter coop.  Since a guinea got snatched off of it  (owl), the guineas have abandoned it like it was the center of a sexting scandal.  So I took the legs off and we put it in the emptying greenhouse, to stuff the chicks into.  They need to start sleeping in a coop, to make them portable.

And to keep them safe.  Sleeping on the ground isn’t good for chickens, and the greenhouse is not totally secure.

They’re kind of looking grown up.  Still miniature though. After dark, I went chick snatching.  The first eleven chicks took about three minutes to grab, one or two at a time, and pop into the coop, where they instantly went silent.  Oh, dark and cozy.  Oh, everyone’s in here. 

Some were feisty, some were mild.  This is the first time I’ve ever handled any of them.

The twelfth chick took about 20 minutes.  After everyone else mysteriously vanished, he/she ran around distressed, chirping, unwilling to settle down.  It took forever.  Finally she figured out where everyone else was, tried to crawl under the coop, and I got her in.  Taking wagers on how many go in the coop on their own tomorrow night.

I lifted the box off the broody hen, to check on her, and discovered:henS.  What’s going on here?!  They’re competing to sit on the eggs.  This broody hen gets no peace.  Interlopers, chicks piling in the box to sit on her…

Love what you’ve done with the place…

The pigs have arranged the hay bale to their specifications, and I couldn’t have done better myself.  They packed hay into the drafty edges and made two sausage slots, which they use in two ways:Day time nap formation – tail to tail L shape.And nighttime pigs in parallel.

Note the pet rock in the first picture.  It’s been placed on top of the arranged hay.  One of these pigs likes to keep toys in the pig house.  A beet, and a turnip, has previously been the toy of choice.  I’m not going to eat this turnip, but I’ll bring it into my house. 

Pigs.

Pig plowshares

“Pigs plow a field with their face.  If that doesn’t seem remarkable to you, try it sometime.” – Forrest Pritchard, Gaining Ground

It’s really laborious to move the pigs right now, at least a morning’s work.  It’s really three jobs at once: moving the pigs, clearing alders,  and cutting firewood.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

I’m trying to win back some of the field, and using the pigs to do it.  I’m moving them along the edge of the present field, which is a good 50´, maybe more, grown in from where the field used to spread.

I certainly wouldn’t be pegging away at it like I am unless I had these greedy little snouts pressuring me.  They LIVE to root.  They will wait to eat fruit, if there’s some fresh rooting to do.  They’re in the ZONE rooting, focused, concentrating, pretty quiet.  Trouble is, they turn over a patch so fast I feel like I’m constantly working for them, to give them new space.

To create a loop that the fence can be set up, that encloses some “trees” for pig shade, a swathe needs to be cut out for passage.  Then after the pigs have been through and killed every sprout and twig, their shade needs to be cut down and cut up, and then the nicely tilled, though lumpy, ground seeded.

Before
Fence corridor cut out
Pigs attack
After

The alders stretch out long arms before they grow up, but still, they’re easier to deal with than the buckthorn, which tangles, and tangles, and tangles, so you can cut loads of it, and it’s all still standing up, because it’s so tangled together.  Mix them together, the sideways swooping alder, and the straight, thick branched buckthorn- wow.

 

An amazing volume of material comes out of even a small space that didn’t seem so dense when it was all standing up.

The nightmare buckthorn at least burns nice; it’s a hardwood, dries fast, doesn’t need to be split.