Monday, March 7, 2011

The End of the 'lets and Separatist Chickens in the Snow

Separatist chickens seek the feed bin in the barn

Piglet season for this spring is officially OVER.

The svelte Little Red astounded all, when, miraculously, she started producing milk last Wednesday, not even 24 hours after the giant and obviously pregnant Spot popped out seven little piggies. Turns out she was not three weeks out, as assumed, but Imminent. A stall was hastily constructed for her, and, at 8 PM that same day, I noticed a strange piece of poop in the hay behind her that turned out to be a just-born piglet. She was the first pig that I was able to observe after having only one (Scar had had 4, and Spot, all 7, by the time we showed up), and she seemed a bit mystified by the affair. There was some confused hopping and wary stares on her part, as the little thing staggered around and mewed. Hay was shuffled into protective mountains as Little Red attempted some distance, but the living poop seemed intent on following her. Eventually she put her nose on it long enough to become oddly interested in the survival of such a little, shrill thing, and she let it curl up under her armpit to nurse, although she still made sure to keep her head buried in the hay so it wouldn't bother her too much.

No matter the heat lamp; Little Red's piglets prefer to cuddle, and she prefers to let them.

She also seemed to be more comfortable without a human presence, so we huddled in the house with some stew (it was a -4 night) and watched 80s flicks ("Number Five ALIVE!!!!"), running down to check on her every half hour. For the first couple checks, there were no new 'lets, and we wondered if she had indeed only had one in her petite belly. But a check around 9:30 found 3 more, and the 10:30 check another four, with a ninth completing the brood at 11:30. Nary a bruise, nary a scrape, no help with the birth, and the largest litter with the shortest and calmest labor.

One died in the first night, but it was cold, and they are squiggly little paper ribcages, so we don't hold it against her.

Her eight have now made it past the 4-day threshold of "probably viable beings". Meanwhile, Scar's ten-day-old brood are getting downright plump and mischievous.

Watch the background piglet go nuts 20 seconds in.

Most amazingly, Spot's doomed brood has mostly healed of its chills, listless legs, confusion, bruises and scrapes. The piglet with the stitches is still an iffy little thing, not growing as fast as the others, not healing as fast as we'd like; but the cold piglet, the one with splayed back legs and horrid sense of direction, and the one with the cut on its neck have all recovered into normal little squealers. We are keeping our eyes on her stitches and neosporin and antiseptic spray constantly in our pockets.

Stitches is the small pink spotted pig, Cold pig is the black pig to the far right, bunny feet is the orange-pink pig with the subtle color band in the middle, and the one with the cut neck is the pink one in the back.

Meanwhile, in chicken land, a splinter group has developed. Six chickens have moved out of the coop to haunt the barn and its environs. We are not sure what spurred the walkout, but even when locked out of the barn and thrown back into the coop, during a blizzard, the separatist chickens forged their way back up to the pen behind the barn for the night, and developed little ice cubes that encased their combs until the sun warmed them up late morning. I think it must be some sort of power struggle between the roosters, with the Separatists breaking off with the smaller rooster to start a new colony. All well and good, I mean, we support democracy here on the farm, but we continue to sponsor the coop chickens with our resource drops of feed and water. It does, after all, serve our interests in the region; but we watch the splinter group warily, and with interest.

A lookout Separatist Chicken roosts in a tree at twilight.

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