Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Automatic Feeder.

Posted on | March 11, 2012 | 9 Comments

It’s not that hard to create a monster.  I should know.  I do it all the time.

I thought it was cute that Luna knew where the dog biscuits were kept in the pantry.  “Oh, look!  Luna went to get her own biscuit.  Ha ha!”  It was actually only cute for the first week.  Now, any time you forget to close the pantry door (even if it’s just while trying to unpack the groceries) you see this:

Not so cute anymore.  Although, in her defense, with the fashionable IKEA shelves of cinder blocks and boards, she’s probably thinks she’s just in the garage instead of our family food storage area.

I also thought, after my furious and ferocious fight to have a dining room (as opposed to a fancy table used as a dumping ground), we should make good use of it.  At least 3 times a week we eat in the dining room.  With china plates and cloth napkins and lit candles.  In my stupefying ignorance I thought it would be cute to let the children set the table and light the candles.  Now, before our relaxing and family-bonding meal, the children fight to the death over whose turn it is to light the candles while waving lit matchsticks and steak knives around.

Mostly a bad idea.  Especially since this month’s centerpiece involves Easter grass.  Probably highly flammable Easter grass.

So it was not surprising that I turned a sweet and innocent piglet…

into a squealing monster at meal time.

Because he was sickly when we got him, I supplemented his pig pellets with fresh, warm goat milk at feeding time.  Boy, did he love his cereal!

He loved it so much that he started squealing as soon as he heard the deck door open in the mornings.  He squealed as I entered the barn yard.  He squealed the entire time that I milked.  He squealed and squealed and squealed until he got his hot cereal.  Even in the evenings when the rest of the barn yard was quietly settling in for the night.  Even on the mornings when I milked at 4am.

I had to start avoiding the poor neighbor that shared a property line with Papa’s pasture.  If the neighbor was out getting his mail, I had to turn off the road, haul a$$ up the driveway, jump out of the car, and rush into the house looking too busy to entertain any sort of neighborly commentary.  Commentary like, “Hey, what the heck is that I hear getting murdered in your yard every morning at 4am?”  If he happened to see me out doing barn chores and approached the fence line, I was forced to drop whatever I had in my hands and cower in the kidding barn until Bruno gave the all-clear.

You probably think I’m exaggerating.  That’s because you’ve never heard a pig squealing at 4am.  I’d like to share a video of it with you.  But I can’t.  Because you can’t hold a video camera and cover your ears with both hands at the same time.  Luckily some people at MasterSoundEffects have recorded a squealing pig.  I’m not really sure why.  Unless they sold it to the government for painful PSYOP torture.  In any case, here’s what it sounds like:

pig squeal

Please note that no pigs were harmed during that recording.  They didn’t have to be.  Their breakfast just had to be later than they would have liked.

Normally I enjoy my milking time in the barn.  So I had to find some way to address this issue.  I know what you’re thinking:  Feed the pig first, you moron.  But remember that I used the milk from the morning milking to put in his pellets.  And if you gave him dry pellets he just went right back to squealing.  If I heated milk in the house, carried it out, and tried to feed Papa first, the entire barn yard was in an uproar.  Bruno barked frantically (he gets fed first!), CC tried to break into the grain room (she gets fed second!) and the goats toppled everything in milking room (they get fed third on the milking stand!).  Like I mentioned earlier, Papa is not actually the first or only monster I’ve created.

Fortunately, this was one of the few times in life when money could solve my problems.  For a mere $70 (ack!), I purchased an automatic pig feeder at my local feed store.

This lovely item stores up to 50lbs of feed and allows the pig to lift the flap at the bottom of the feeder to access it.  Whenever he wants to.  When he first wakes up.  All day long.  And right before he finally stumbles off to his house for bedtime.  Because of the flap, guineas and chickens who had been sharing his food in the past, could no longer get to it.  Which makes me happy because, really, the poultry is supposed to be foraging for their own natural food, not eating pig pellets.  It also makes me happy because once Papa figured out the flap, he was too pleased to have free access food to worry about not getting milk in it.  After the first day he was way too stuffed to do much squealing.  He mostly did this:

Or this:

Maybe this:

And sometimes this:

Good Pig.

Of course, there were some problems that needed tweaking.  Always secure an automatic pig feeder with some bungee or twine to a large object.  An object large enough that a greedy pig cannot push the feeder over and climb inside.  Trust me on this.

Also, don’t believe anyone who tells you that pigs are the only animals smart enough to figure out the flap.  While it’s true that the goats bypassed the easier access of the bottom flap, they weren’t afraid to use it as a step ladder and go in through the top.

A new watering method had to be found, too.  The cute little automatic waterer that held 2 quarts of water had always been sufficient for the poultry and the bucks in that pasture.  But that wasn’t enough for a pig with free access food.  By midmorning he had stopped it up with his thick slobber and food bits.  If I was lucky, it just stopped working and I came out to find a hot and thirsty pig that kept trying to knock me over as I cleaned it out and let it refill.  If I was unlucky, Papa had flipped the waterer over so that the sludge came out and the water could run out freely.  So freely that it saturated the pasture and created a lovely wallow:

Bad Pig.

I salvaged a rubber tub that we kept on the deck for raising tadpoles and carried it to the pig pasture.  Although it doesn’t automatically refill, it does provide enough water for at least one full day.  And there’s a hose spigot right above it for easy filling while I work on other chores.  Plus it sits over a rocky area so that it can be drained without creating too much mud.

But don’t feel bad for Papa.  He hasn’t been relegated to a neglected life now that he doesn’t get brought cereal and milk twice a day.  He has a personal mister service on warm days:

He gets a bowl of scraps from the kitchen at least once a day.  Like these brussel sprout trimmings, salmon skin, leftover macaroni and cheese, and pecan bars of which no one could eat one more bite.

Or the last remaining piece of crab quiche alongside a duck egg that had to be sacrificed because we found it in the yard and weren’t sure if it was developed or not.

He’s quite happy with whatever he gets in the scrap bowl.

And the chickens and guineas clean up whatever he leaves behind.

Although I have a feeling that they may not be doing that much longer.  Because yesterday when I went to fill his scrap bowl I found that it already had a scrap in it.

Yep, that’s a guinea leg.  A fresh guinea leg.  We looked everywhere but there wasn’t anything else left.  Not a feather, piece of wing, sliver of skin, bone, or gristle.  Nothing.  Just a leg that he left in his bowl for us to find.

Several people told me when we were considering pigs that they would eat anything.  Including any free range poultry that strayed into their pen.  Perhaps Papa was not so much sharing in the past….as he was leaving a trap.  Huh.

Smart Pig.

Well, at least I stopped the squealing.  Now only the guineas have a monster problem.  Good luck, guineas.


9 Responses to “Automatic Feeder.”

  1. Andrew
    March 11th, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    I spent much of my childhood summer holidays on a pig farm. You think *one* pig is loud? Try a few hundred.

    I’m not sure about a pig eating a guinea hen though.

  2. Jill
    March 12th, 2012 @ 3:24 am

    How does one hire a personal mister? 🙂 Very well done. Love the pix. If you’re not getting paid to produce these wonderful blog posts, it’s a crime. Miss u.

  3. Lisa D
    March 12th, 2012 @ 7:42 am

    My cats went WILD over the squealing pig link 🙂 They are obviously city cats.

  4. Caitlin
    March 12th, 2012 @ 9:15 am

    I love when you post, they literally make my day! I can vouch for the pig squealing we were doing some Ag in the Classroom and we had two full grown hogs that started fighting, let me tell you those were some scared 4th grade city kids!

  5. Janet Smart
    March 12th, 2012 @ 5:21 pm

    We used to have a dachshund and she loved snackies. One time we heard a rustling noise in the kitchen and went in to find that she had found the bag of snackies and was helping herself. I remember when we had pigs when I was a kid and we used to put just about anything in the ‘slop’ as we called it. There was always tomato plants growing in the pig pen. We used to feed them coal, too. For some reason, it was good for them. They made a loud noise crunching it.

  6. lin
    March 13th, 2012 @ 6:05 pm

    He ATE the guinea??? EEEK!

  7. Carolynn
    March 13th, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    This post had me chuckling all the way through…until I got to the murderous pig part…

    Thanks for stopping by my place and leaving a recommendation for my next potato chip fix. I’m not sure we get that particular flavour up here in Canada, although Lay’s is my current favourite brand. I’ll be scouring the shelves for it.


  8. Shannon
    March 19th, 2012 @ 6:58 pm

    Thank you! This was my first post read…and…unlike a few others…I nearly fell out of my chair with laughter when I came upon the leg! There are times in life when you think…”things like this only happen to me.” Not so…we are all linked in a crazy cosmic way that you just can’t make up! It’s wonderful. I’m a recent farm owner…not to be confused at all with being a farmer…and an even more recent (last night kind of recent) proud mother of 4 baby chicks. Outside my dear friend (a conditioned hen owner), Kim from England, who recommended this site, I have little experience with livestock of any sort. I hope at the end of the day, I have the ability to laugh at all that happens…life is what you make…you made mine better…thank you!

  9. Crystal
    March 25th, 2012 @ 5:05 pm

    Love reading your posts….wanna get together and bring my kids by sometime since the weather is now nice!

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