LAST month’s new arrivals, Scratch and Sniff the Tamworth pigs (picture of an example of the breed at the top of the page), are settling in well. They scoff down pig pellets and crushed barley like there’s no tomorrow and are rooting about in the woodland, so hopefully they are making the proverbial bacon.
Training them to the electric tape was nail-biting. We fenced off a wee area and after five minutes of almost continual squealing (from them) and ‘ooh, aah, ooh, ooh, that must hurt’ (from us), they gave in and stood miserably in the middle, figuring that if they kept clear and stood still the pain stopped.
Within the hour we’d rigged up a large area under the trees for them and they immediately respected the fence while having a whale of a time turning over the ground and occasionally going beserk and chasing each other round a tree trunk. Piggy heaven.
Having bought the tape, posts and energiser, we realised that a super-nippy 10,000 Volts would be delivered by this new rig, as opposed to the gentle tickle of the 4,000 volts of the electric chicken netting. Would roast chicken be on the menu sooner than planned?
About half an hour in, and the question was answered when an advance posse of turkeys and chickens approached their new neighbours’ enclosure.
In a smart maneouvre my wife hadn’t seen since those girls’ games with long lengths of knicker elastic in the primary playground, the chickens hop-stepped over the low top tape unscathed. Not so the larger, less swift turkeys. I have never seen one roost in a tree yet, but Sally almost managed it in broad daylight as she leaned over the tape and performed a vertical take-off worthy of a Harrier jump-jet.
As a result, the turkeys stay well clear while the chickens can’t resist a hop and a jump to investigate where the pigs have been rooting.
At last the ground is softening up, and the days are lengthening, which also means that the chickens are starting to come back into lay in earnest. Even some of the hybrids had a moult, after one of the Sussex pure-breeds suddenly dumped almost all her feathers seemingly overnight.
The surprise of the month has been the three Cream Legbar x Wheaten Marans hens we bought at a poultry sale at Longtown mart in November. Totally the wrong time of year to buy hens, we know now, as they came to point of lay, then passed it, then totally lapped it, and still no eggs.
However, this week they started to lay beautiful, shiny eggs the colour of cocoa – something we have wanted but not been able to get – an unexpected and welcome bonus which lifts the spirits on these cold, dark, muddy days.