Archive for July, 2008

The New Pig System

July 31, 2008

G’day, it’s Caleb here with my first post.

I thought I’d just give some details on the new system we’re using for the smaller pigs. They are now allowed to free range within our permanently fenced acre, which I think is excellent – and I think they agree with me.

Having scared away a turkey, Pigachu goes about grazing

Having scared away a turkey, Pigachu goes about grazing

Their day now follows a simple routine. They wake up in the morning in their house – they mostly seem to be using the Villa del Porko, which Mum included a picture of in an earlier post. They go out and hopefully finish eating some of their leftover dinner from the previous night while they wait for me to arrive with breakfast. I come with breakfast, and open the gate to their pen, allowing them out into the paddock. They eat for a while, then go out and enjoy themselves foraging (and ploughing the ground for us). Come dinnertime, I show up again with food, and they follow me back into their small pen, where they eat dinner and I close the gate. They then have a pleasant night’s sleep in the Villa.

Dinner Time

They certainly seem to be enjoying it. And everything has worked out with remarkable smoothness. Our temporary fencing was initially very difficult to operate as a gate, since we had to re-tension it and retie our knots every time we wanted to open it up. But then we hit upon a pair of plastic handles, with springs inside and hooks on the end. So now our gate looks like this:

To open it, I simply need to grab the handle and move it across to this pole:

And then repeat the process with the other handle, to leave the gate open:

And putting it back is just as simple. There’s no difficulty herding the pigs at all, either. They are creatures of habit, and have very quickly become used to following me into their pen when I show up in the evening with dinner. The only trouble I have is keeping my feet around a trio of pushy pigs.

And do they, indeed, plough the ground? Do they ever. Here’s a couple of photos of what they managed to do after just a day on the full acre.

So overall, I’m very pleased with the new system. The pigs seem to be enjoying every moment of their time rooting out in the field, and the level of labour is very low. The only question is what to do when they run out of ground!

Pigachu, Bold Explorer

Pigachu, Bold Explorer

Egg Candling

July 27, 2008

We candled our eggs tonight and took some photos to show how they look.

Candling eggs is where you use a bright light to look through the shell into eggs that you are incubating to see if they are fertile and developing.  We find it fascinating.  We do not have any fancy equipment but simply take a torch and hold the flat bottom of the egg onto the torch top and look at them in a dark room. This is adequate for our purposes, which is to satisfy our curiosity about whether they are growing or not, and to remove any infertile ones.

The egg below is unfertile.  It has been incubating for 2 weeks.  We thought it was infertile when we checked after 1 week but as we are very inexperienced at this we decided to leave it for another week to make sure.  We removed it tonight and will let one of the pigs eat it.

Below is a fertile egg has been incubating for 1 week.  You can see the dark dot roughly central in the picture.  That is the developing chick.  If you have good eyes you can even see blood vessels spreading out through the egg.  The chick is usually against one side of the egg, so you need to rotate the egg around until you find it.  It jiggles slightly around inside the egg as you watch – its ALIVE!  

The egg below has also been incubating for 1 week.  The chick in this one seems much bigger.  It is strange but it does seem that some grow larger more quickly than others, it could just be the angle that the chick is being viewed from or perhaps the breed?  The lighter area you see at the base of the egg is the air pocket.

Now on to one of the eggs that has been incubating for 2 weeks.  The air gap is larger and so is the chick! It can still be seen to move around a bit but just basically looks like a big dark blob from the outside.

The next photo is just to show that different eggs have different amounts of darkness in the shells, which does  not relate at all to whether the egg is white or brown.  This is a fertile egg of 1 weeks incubation and the chick is about 1/3 of the way down towards the right.  However it is much harder to see as the egg shell is so dark.

We are excited to see the chicks growing, and are holding our breath to see if they actually make it all the way through to hatching, hopefully we have the incubator set up well enough.  It is wonderful to see a life growing so fast.  We stand in awe of God’s brilliant design.

Livestock News

July 27, 2008

I took some more photos of Sweetie today.  She managed to squash the little pigs’ A-frame shelter on her first day.  We were busy up the house building her own nice big shelter, but she obviously got tired of waiting and tried out the little shelter instead.  When we carried her nice big house down to put in her pen, the poor little one had popped at the seams and the floor was broken.  She was very pleased to have her own shelter instead and immediately set about making a nest out of straw in it.  She is settling in well, although I have to admit that a big pig can be a scary thing.  The others look so tiny beside her.

She has this way of coming up to the fence and huffing deeply at us, then she opens her mouth a bit in a sort of a piggy smile.  I think it is supposed to look friendly but it tends to come off a bit threatening instead – don’t tell her that though, we don’t want to upset her feelings.  🙂

We have found that she generally settles down after she has had a chance to sniff our hands.  Perhaps she is just assuring herself that we have no hidden food.  Alternatively it might just be a pig thing as they like to sniff each others noses when they meet.

We are a little wary of her as she has swung around a couple of times and bitten at legs, but she respects the fence very well so that gives us a good feeling of security.  We let her out to range in the paddock at first but have now decided to leave her in her own sectioned off area until we are all more used to each other.  She likes to follow us around if we are doing anything nearby, but mostly she likes food!  As much as she can get, and as often.  We gave her a whole pumpkin today and all stood and watched as she demolished it with relish.

I promised a “day after” photo of the little pig’s area and this is what it looked like.  They just love to root up the grass and get at grubs and things underneath.  We are currently letting them out into the paddock during the day and locking them up in here again in the evening.  They are loving it!

Josiah’s gobbler has started to display now.  He thinks he is very beautiful, and goes around to each of the chicken domes to make sure that all of the chooks get to see how wonderful he is too.  The turkeys have been free ranging in the gardens during the day but hopefully this week we will move their shelter out into the paddock and they can range out into the bush and grass there instead. I want them out of the gardens before spring comes or I will get no veges growing.

Lydias cross breed hens are laying well, the chicks that she raised started to lay on her birthday which she thought was a nice present, and my hens are laying some too.  Lyd now has a breeding trio of Barnevelder chooks as well, bought with her birthday money.  We can also report that the eggs in the incubator appear to be growing as they should so far.  We were given some eggs when we picked up the Barnevelder’s and decided that rather than eating them we would put them in the incubator too.  It will be interesting to see what they come out being (assuming they do hatch) as there were Light Sussex and Dorking chooks running around that farm as well as the Barnevelders, so they could be a mixture of any of those.  Now we have to build a brooder, assuming that the chicks will hatch.

I believe that the task for this coming week is to build a greenhouse.  I’m not sure how long it will take to make but it will be lovely to have somewhere good to raise seedlings.

Church is going well, the fireplace is working well and makes a lot of difference to the old hall.  We really enjoy helping out the old folk and getting to know them.  They have lots of interesting stories to tell of life in the past, and are full of fun.  I hope I can be as active as they are when I am that age!