Archive for February 6th, 2009

Piglets, please!

As regular readers of BmS are well aware, my attempts thus far to get at least one of the sows in pig have been with gales of laughter but absolutely no success.

If you don’t know what I’m on about, see here and here.

First, before I tell you what’s been going on this time, it has been pointed out to me that the pigs’ names and locations and pen-partners leave everyone but me struggling to keep up, so here’s the backstory:

The players:

In one pen, we have:-

  • Bailey, the boar
  • Brini, the gilt who won’t get knocked up despite being with Bailey since July

In the second, there is:-

  • Scrumpy, a sow who had piglets in September (not Bailey’s)
  • Tia, another sow who had piglets in August (again, not Bailey’s)

At the start of the week, Tia and Scrumpy were showing every sign of coming back into season and I was wondering how on earth I could arrange things to get one of them in pig without going repeating the events of last time.

And then it happened. I had a bit of a brain wave.

Rather than swapping everyone around, why not make a love shack and put Scrumpy or Tia in there with Bailey, let them do the deed and put Himself and Herself back in their original enclosure with their original pen-mate? If nothing happens with one girl, put the second in. If nothing happens, try again the following day! Repeat until successful!

So on Wednesday, I carefully rearranged Bailey and Brini’s electric netting to make two temporary pens: one for Brini and one for Bailey and his new flame.

I wanted Scrumpy to have the first go so used some bread to get her to follow me over. That was the easy bit. I put her in, Bailey bit her bum, she burst out through the netting and ran screaming back to Tia.

I quickly righted the netting, ran after her and using yet more bread, got her to follow me most of the way back. And then she saw Bailey and once again turned tail and vanished.

To her relief, I didn’t make her follow me again but instead put her back and got Tia out. Despite Scrumpy’s very vocal warnings about the dangers that lay ahead, Tia happily followed me and joined Bailey in the love shack. Apart from the occasional exchange of obscenities, they ignored one another for about half an hour before Bailey showed me what he thought of the whole venture by barging through the netting and making his way back to Brini who greeted Her Man with delight.

I put him back with Brini and put Tia back with Scrumpy. Four happy pigs, one disgruntled owner.

Yesterday, I tried again. Having remade the Love Shack, I put Scrumpy in first and then got Bailey. And then switched the fence on! They both tried to get out – and failed. So they spent the next hour hating one another.

When I could no longer feel my feet thanks to the snow falling all around me, I gave in and opened the “gate” to let Scrumpy out.

However, instead of turning right to head back to Tia, she turned left and ended up outside Brini’s pen.

They sniffed noses, they grunted. Scrumpy refused to move, even for the tempting rattle of the bucket.

Hmm, what to do?

I hesitantly opened up the pen and in went Scrumpy.

They sniffed again, grunted, said lots of swears. They barged and pushed and butted. They grazed. They swore some more. They ignored one another. They started pushing again. And then out came the teeth and Scrumpy proceeded to beat the hell out of poor Brini. It didn’t take long to establish that Scrumpy was Boss Pig and after that they went to separate corners and stood puffing, glaring at one another.

I used the break to whisk Bailey over to Tia. The poor boy didn’t know what was happening – and neither did Tia when he said hello. The pushing and shoving started and ended quickly and it was soon clear that they were intent on ignoring the other for as long as possible.

So I ran back to Brini and Scrumpy, to discover the latter looking longingly over at her previous pen and pen-mate, while Brini was lying down in the mud, looking very sorry for herself.

I put the pen back the way it should be and Brini shot into the ark. I followed her in and checked her over. It was mainly surface scrapes and cuts, easily cleaned and treated. But in the scuffle, she managed to lose one of her piri-piris! Poor girl. I spent ages with her, rubbing her belly and scratching her nose, and once she had relaxed, I checked Scrumpy (who was sulking but physically fine) and then went to check on Tia and Bailey.

Every so often, Bailey would chase Tia round the pen but, for the most part, they had nothing to say to one another – though both pleaded and begged me to put things back the way they were before.

Feeling mean, I told them to blame Scrumpy.

Making sure the electric fences were well and truly switched on, I left them to it, watching from afar using the bincoluars and staying alert for any tell-tale screams that might indicate trouble.

But, thankfully, all was calm.

They were all miserable when I turned up to change the water and feed them but I hardened my heart and told them all to Grow Up and start acting like Big Pigs.

They didn’t like that!

Crossing my fingers that they would all spend the night in the right ark (or failing that, any ark!), I made my way home once it was dark and tried to avoid worrying.

This morning, I nervously checked on them and was delighted to discover that although he still tells her off, not only were Bailey and Tia standing next to one another while they were waiting for me to bring their breakfast, judging by the mud on her back, Bailey has most definitely covered Tia. And since the mud is over the rear half of her back, not the neck area, he actually managed to do it properly this time!

As for Brini and Scrumpy, they were both fast asleep in their ark, lying next to each other 🙂

Brini is still terrified of her new pen-mate and follows me about like a lost puppy, but they’re doing ok. No more biting!

So keep your fingers crossed that this time Bailey will successfully manage the Deed and that in 16 weeks, he’ll be a daddy.

The alternative is not one I want to dwell on.

But I have made a decision.

I got Bailey and Brini at the start of July.

If, one year on, there are no mini-Baileys (or signs of their imminent arrival), I will be forced to acknowledge that Bailey has run out of lead for his pencil and if I’m not in a position to keep him and Brini as pets, I’ll try to find someone who can.

If not …

More on Moonlight

When we moved down to south Wales, we were able to bring the pigs and the chickens, not to mention the cats and dogs. Moonlight, sadly, has been forced to stay put at mum’s as the field really isn’t suitable for a mare and foal.

Jo and Moonlight - 6 February 2008

Jo and Moonlight - 6 February 2008

It occurred to me as I was writing yesterday’s post about Moonlight that in reality, even though she is my pony, I have spent very little time with the mare. I got her in February and other than spending some time with her each day, we thought it would be best to let her settle in and find her place with Mum’s herd of Section A mares without too much interference from us. Things like feeding her but not them would lead to severe jealousy and some major arse-kicking and she couldn’t come down to the house because the stallion, Ted, was stabled and the last thing he needed was a mare to distract him.

Thanks to that, it was until the end of March, when Ted rejoined his harem, that I was able to bring Moonlight down to the house. Typically, I had just started bringing her in each day to handle her and teach her about being groomed and having a rug on, when the builders, contracted to repair and do up the house, decided that now was the time to start The Work. (Ha, only eight months late then!)

Minor distractions such as the dumper truck parked outside the stables, the roofers ripping the roof up, the builders knocking things down with sledgehammers etc brought about the swift decision that Now Is Not The Time and Moonlight’s training (and our bonding) came to an abrupt end. I tried in the field but her companions in the field were a young mare, Hope, and her surprise foal who was born in mid-autumn. I say “surprise” because Hope wasn’t even two when Ted had his wicked way with her so she foaled as a two year old: the equine equivalent of a very young teenage pregnancy. Still, she was a fantastic mum and we chose her to keep Moonlight company so that we could wait until late spring before putting her in foal again. Bless!

Anyway, to get back to the point, Hope is very timid and having been at the bottom of the food chain her whole life, Moonlight suddenly discovered what life at the top was like and her dam’s personality (that of a total thug) began to shine through. So, handling her in the field wasn’t such a good idea because it simply reinforced her newly conceived idea about being Special.

But… by the time the builders finished and we got the yard back, it was time for Madam to meet her new boyfriend, Monty the 3/4 Polish Arab at a friend’s farm nearby. There, she was turned out with Himself and about thirty other mares (who never once let her forget she was back at the bottom) so although I visited her quite often, again it wasn’t the right time or environment in which to handle her.

And then, by the time she came home, we’d moved out …

So although she is technically my mare, it doesn’t really feel like it at the moment.

One day, one day, we’ll find a way to own our own smallholding with enough room for Moonlight (and a companion!) as well as the pigs and chickens. Until then, Mum adores her so she’s in good hands.

Now that’s what I call an egg!

When hens start laying, either for the first time in their lives or after a break for winter / moulting etc, they can often lay super-duper giant eggs, that quite often have a double yoke inside. Once their bodies get used to laying, things get back to normal.

Amongst the four eggs I collected yesterday, such a giant egg dominated the nest box:

The egg on the top left is a normal large egg and to its right is the Uber Egg. The one on the far right is an egg from the day before. The two in the front row are from the Bantam and one of the Silkies.

The egg on the top left is a normal large egg and to its right is the Uber Egg. The one on the far right is an egg from the day before. The two in the front row are from the Bantam and one of the Silkies.

Needless to say, this egg will not be for sale!