March 2014

Pertinacious Pigs and Hooligan Hens

. . . Mar 27, 2014 | posted by Josephine
Pertinacious Pigs and Hooligan Hens

We have been spying on the livestock.  It must be the month of misbehaving because all of our critters are up to no good.  Last week we installed a new waterer for the pigs, one that they can’t just flip over and dump out when the daytime high hits sixty and they are itching for a mud puddle.  It is a snout sized metal trough that connects with valve to a 55 gallon food grade barrel.  The pigs are supposed to press a paddle when they stick their noses in to open the valve and allow water to flow into the bowl.  All week we have been going out and pressing the paddle for them, hoping they will get the hint.  We even slathered it in peanut butter.  And we have been watching and trying to catch them in the act.  But pigs are hard to spy on.  Every time they see us they come running, expecting snacks.  I suggested a hidden camera.  Happily, it seems the pigs have finally caught on and have figured out how to make the water flow.

That is not the only pig problem.  There is also Seth, our wily little boar.  You may have heard the story about Seth’s arrival and how my dad and I spent two hours chasing him over hill and dale finally catching the small coal-black pig in the woods in the dark and by the skin of our teeth.  I pounced on him, and two months later he still hasn’t forgiven me.  You could say there is a precedent for Seth getting out.
Fences, to Seth, are merely suggestions of where he could stay.  Like the velociraptors in “Jurassic Park”, Seth is testing the fence for weaknesses.  It seems that through some super-porcine ability he can sense when we have turned off the electricity to the fence and it is safe for him to dash under.  Randy thinks Seth’s spirited nature will result in offspring with good survival instinct out here in coyote alley.  I think we should call the breeder and see if we can trade him in for one of his more docile brothers.
And then there are the chickens.  We think the problem started with one chicken that was laying soft shell eggs that were already broken and naturally the chickens ate them.  Like every other omnivore in the animal kingdom, chickens find eggs to be delicious.  Either some vestige of evolution from their wild ancestors keeps them from breaking and eating their own eggs or it simply does not occur to them to do so (I’m betting on the latter).  We removed the offending chicken yet the egg eating has continued.  Our hens have tasted egg, and they like it.
Egg eating is not an uncommon problem and like most bad habits it’s easy to start but hard to kick.  The problem is that we don’t know if it is one or two chickens that are pecking and breaking the eggs, in which case we could remove those chickens and the problem would be solved, or if they are all in cahoots.  This is where that spy camera would really come in handy.  Waiting for a chicken to lay an egg is a bit like watching paint dry.  We have built them shiny new laying boxes that are built on an angle so they eggs gently roll away and out of reach of the chickens.  Chickens do not like change, but some of them have started using the new boxes and we are optimistic.
I never thought I’d see the day when our ragtag pack of terriers are the best-behaved animals on the farm.