The peace and quiet of the countryside….. not if it’s feeding time at Argae Cottage!
Early in the morning, all is quiet on the smallholding – only the muffled crowing of a cockerel from within the hen house can be heard.
But as soon as the first human steps onto the yard, ready to begin the feeding routine, our animals begin a contest to see who can shout loudest for their breakfast. This is a good policy, as we pretty much feed everyone in order of the noise they are able to produce.
No-one can really beat the pigs in this competition. If Katy the sow is in the pigsty on the yard, rather than out in the paddock, she definitely wins. As soon as she hears anyone set foot outside the house, she will jump up, plant her front feet on the pigsty wall and begin a deafening squealing and grunting, (accompanied by drooling saliva). If this performance is not rapidly rewarded with a bucketful of food, she proceeds to use her snout to nudge slates off the pigsty roof one at a time, sending them crashing onto the concrete yard below. Ideally we would not reward this behaviour by feeding her, but if we want our pigsty to remain standing, we don’t have much choice!
Once Katy has been fed and stopped threatening to destroy the smallholding, everyone else can be fed.
The younger pigs, out in the paddocks will have heard Katy’s commotion and begin their own chorus of squeals. Unless, of course, it’s a cold, wet morning, in which case the Gloucester Old Spot piglets will often opt to stay snuggled deep in their straw beds, only surfacing when a bucket of food is rattled right outside their door. The Tamworths are out in all weathers, but this litter of Old Spots do seem to be fair weather pigs!
Next come the sheep, mainly because our greediest sheep, ‘Number 2’, has the most irritating baa that a sheep could ever produce, and will be standing right outside the feed room bleating continuously. She sounds like she has a permanent sore throat, and produces a hoarse, but very load ‘bla-aa-aaaaagh’. It’s not a noise you want to listen to for very long!
Heading out with the bucket of food to quieten her down attracts the attention of the rest of the sheep. The whole flock charges across the field towards the food trough, with the ewes calling to their lambs to keep up. After feeding, everyone is mixed up and another loud bleating session ensues as mothers and lambs pair up again and set off back to the grass.
Chickens and cows wait more patiently for their breakfast, so usually end up last in the queue.
Once everyone is fed, peace is restored and most animals will settle down to a day of grazing, or digging holes in the mud, depending on their preferences. Unless, of course, anyone hears a wheelbarrow being moved – in which case the pigs will immediately assume that it contains a tasty snack for them. (this is often the case, as they do get leftovers from the veg garden, and freshly mown grass) The first squeak of a wheelbarrow wheel and everyone is off again, squealing in anticipation. What a demanding bunch of animals we have!