Saturday 14 June 2014

Telling Them Apart

Mapp delicately samples a small wedge of apple.
When our pigs arrived, apart from being totally unfamiliar (our first ever pigs), they seemed as alike as two peas in a pod. We wondered whether we would ever tell them apart. Even the ear tag numbers (371 and 372) are not visible from the front, so are no use when a piglet is nervously checking you out face to face. 9 days on we are starting to get to know them better and they are getting a bit used to us. I spotted that although Mapp (371) has a full 'pelt' of bristles across her shoulders, her sister (Lucia (372) has a bit of a threadbare patch between her shoulder blades.

Sometimes all you can see is two ginger backs
among the buttercups and grass!
Once separated, we could start to see differences in their little personalities, especially as they started to come up and eat food near to us. They are currently on a commercial pig-ration ("pig nuts") which they quickly recognised as edible, and we are introducing new things to try them out; so far mainly apple and tomato. Banana, carrot and pear were all declined.  We started with them sharing a bowl but they started to squabble over food, so we've moved up to separate bowls.

'Greens' for the keets - chopped grass and cucumber.
Mapp seems to love her fruit and piles in to that first, leaving the pig nuts till she does not have a scrap of apple or tomato left. Lucia, in total contrast, concentrates on the nuts and leaves the fruit till last. If I'd had my camera with me this morning I'd have taken a clear picture of this - ten minutes in you could see the shiny, nut-free bottom of Lucia's bowl and 8 intact wedges of fruit, while Mapps had no fruit and a complete layer of pig nuts. Sometimes, Mapp will suss that Lucia may have fruit left and abandons her 'ration' to try to a sneaky bit of piracy but Lucia, who is possibly slightly 'alpha' will usually butt her away. She's not that bright and sometimes will grab the one slice of apple and dart away as if saying "No! It's MINE!" leaving the bowl, of course, completely undefended. Mapp is then in there like Flynn!.

The roses are doing well in Liz's "Rose Walk".
As I said, they are slowly getting more used to us. I sat in there on the grass for a while yesterday and one of them came right up and butted my shoe, but then sprang away nervously. I have not yet got to being able scratch their ears and backs yet. Patience is the thing, obviously. We are, as I said, only 9 days in and these are still very small and nervous babies. They have met the dogs through the orchard fence and were happy to graze 6-8 feet away from the 3 whimpering, excited, bouncing, tail-wagging, would-be-hunters. They seemed unconcerned, but were not taking any chances with closeness.

They got me again - one gooseberry bush defoliated by
gooseberry saw-fly larvae. 2 others untouched.
No such differentiation is possible between the Hubbard youngsters, 'poults' now rather than 'chicks'. They are all white and fully feathered. The only differences are that 3 or 4 of them are developing the bigger, redder wattles that make us think 'rooster' rather then 'hen' and we have seen pairs of them squaring up to one another. They are on day 45 today and all growing well. Our friend Simon tells me that he has found the same as us, they seem to be a far healthier group this year than last, as if some work has been done to improve the strain. We had no lameness this year and the legs seem sounder all round. I am sure they are gaining weight faster too, but I did not take any detailed records last year. These birds are hand-reared. Last years were under our 'clocker' Broody Betty. Hen or 'roo' does not actually matter this year, they all face the same fate come July or August.

Does Min 'know' these are her babies? She is quite often
hanging around, pacing up and down and peering in.
In the guinea fowl keets we have 3 distinct colour types and one poor little soul who is very easy to tell apart with his/her unfortunate scrunched up toes. My experts on the web forum tell me that our hen bird 'Min' would be called 'Lavender' for the purple tint in her cape feathers. Henry was "Pied", with his white chest and underside, so the babies, still in chick-fluff and just starting to feather up are either fully brown and stripey (They will be the Lavenders), brown-stripey with white chests and neck-fronts (Pied) or fully silver-grey. The latter (2) will presumably come out white like our brief resident "Blondie".

Last year's lambs continue to yield well -this huge leg of
'16A' - a big lad, fondly remembered!
In the lovely sunny weather we have been letting them out to feel the grass under foot and the sun on their backs and on one warm night, even to let them sleep outside, shut into the 'bedroom' bit of the rabbit run. On cooler rainy days we rescue them to indoors, the crate and the Infra Red light, all be it the latter is so far up above them it must feel like a distant sun! They are doing well and we are very pleased with them. They have a very amusing way of zooming up and down the run, flapping their tiny wings and managing short flights 3-4 inches above the grass. I need to build them their big aviary. Apart from anything else we will need the rabbit run for Goldie's "kits" - 5 weeks old now and soon needing to be taken off Mum as she stops lactation.

Pulmonaria (lungwort)
Soon something a bit different. We are off to 'spring' niece Em-J from her 3 week session in the Irish speaking Connemara, just to take her out for a picnic. She could not have chosen a more remote bit of Ireland if she'd tried - she is in Baile Lar, way down in the bottom left hand corner of Galway, on a headland surrounded by Atlantic.

Well done Lidl! One of my favourite
'foreign' beers is on special offer!
I am secretly hoping that it is the kind of Atlantic that might have the trad wooden sailing work-boats 'Galway Hookers' nipping about but whatever, we will surely enjoy the time with Em-J and the beautiful scenery. More on that when we're done and back.


anne wilson said...

Clearly your pigs, being pure bred have more superior tastes than ours who will eat anything with relish, preferring their fruit and veg but all fruit in preference to their cereals.
Did you try the rhubarb leaves under your gooseberry bushes? Maybe the sawfly came in on the bushes when you first got them.

Matt Care said...

Ha ha! Maybe so (the pigs being 'superior'), but I suspect they are just smaller, younger and have not yet tried these things.

We did try the rhubarb but had very few leaves. What leaves we got down soon shriveled till there was more gap than leaf, and then the chooks got in and scratched it all away. Is only one bush though, so next year I may try some other physical barrier and a ring of vaseline round the 'trunk' low down.