Monday, 4 January 2016

New year, new livestock and new pecking order


Happy New Year!

New years are always full of promise and expectation. I personally refrain from making 'new year’s resolutions' as such, as they tend to be short lived. Or others have an expectation that it will fizzle out. New Year’s do however create a time frame by which we consciously, or otherwise assess what we have (or haven’t) achieved within that previous year. Or what we could or should do better.

For us, this year it seems more timely than usual. This New Year has brought with it a few new additions.  On Saturday we welcomed Sophia, not that we were in the market for another sow. But when we contacted someone we knew to source a companion weaner sow for someone else who was buying our last girl, we were offered the opportunity to purchase her, as the owner wanted her to go to a good home. Although I am not sure she would agree at present, or at least until she finds her place. Just that the others are trying to assert their place in the ‘pecking order’.

The owner believed she may potentially be ‘in pig’, to be honest I think she had just been spending time with his boar. But if she is that’s great, as the bloodlines would be separate from ours, if not I am sure our boar will let us (and her) know soon enough. She is a very healthy and good looking ‘short nosed’ Berkshire sow and roughly 10-11 months old. And although that would make her the youngest, she is a fair bit bigger than our youngest girl Rosemary (whom is still regaining condition after her first litter)… though she doesn’t seem to be letting that stop her from asserting dominance over the new girl. Yesterday we witnessed Rosemary arch her back and trot stiff legged (as if on tip toes) toward her- making herself appear bigger! On a positive note, Sophia was eating with them yesterday, which is a big step towards integration.

It’s funny as when I have discussed ‘pecking orders’ in the past, I have generally been discussing birds; whether it had been chickens, ducks or turkeys. But the truth is that it is not restricted to bird behaviour. It is true of almost all species.

There is also a little ‘pecking order’ to be worked out in amongst laying chickens too. Having had a poor run of luck since our flock was devastated over the Christmas- New Year week last year. We acquired a couple of older Coronation Sussex in October who had been keeping our remaining Light Sussex girl company. But in December we also acquired another trio of Coronation Sussex (from another bloodline), roughly the same age as our growing Light Sussex pullets. So whilst they had been introduced to these girls, they have all now graduated to the large laying pen and garden… so there is a little bit to be worked out. For us the most positive being we are once again getting a regular supply of eggs. We now have a laying flock of 8 hens of varying ages (and a young roo), allowing us to retire some later on and continue a staggered breeding of replacements. (Hopefully we won’t lose them all at once). This also means that we now have sufficient numbers,  that once the younger ones begin to lay, we can separate a few into a tractor with an Indian Game rooster to (hopefully continue to) breed a few table birds.