Today was moving day on the farm. No, The Pastor and I are not going anywhere. Today was moving day for all of the livestock. We practice something called pasture rotation. This is when you move your animals to new pastures frequently to maintain the health of the land. This also helps prevent parasites.
Want to see The Pastor really squirm? Start talking about parasites.
Moving day is not the most fun on the farm. It is not like getting new goats. As a matter of fact, it is pretty much the opposite of getting new goats.
If you’ve never moved livestock before, let me explain. Imagine you live with fifty roommates. Your roommates have zero short term memory. They are completely void of all logic. The one thing that they do have is lots of suspicion. They are all pretty sure that you are trying to kill them, and while murder may be your end goal, it is not your immediate goal so it seems a little ridiculous to you. Now imagine you got evicted from your old apartment and have to move all of your stupid suspicious roommates to a new apartment. Without movers.
Yeah, the total opposite of getting birthday goats.
Today started with moving pigs. We were moving pigs to the pasture right next door. This should be easy. This should be super easy. Just open the gate between the two pastures, watch the pigs walk through, shut the gate. Right? I mean, the pigs love me. I bring them bananas for goodness sake. They love The Pastor. He sings to them every time he sees them. These pigs seriously love us.
Except today. Today they were pretty sure we were out to get them.
We tried all of the tricks. Last night, we didn’t feed them. That way they were a little hungry today. Not too hungry, just hungry enough. Then we let them watch us fill the pig feeders in the new pen. Then we opened the gate.
The pigs weren’t falling for it.
The Pastor and I spent forty-five minutes to an hour in ninety degree heat trying to chase pigs through the gate. We got four out of seven pigs through the gate.
The good news was that the four that we did get through the gate had no interest in going back. They realized that the new pasture was pretty much pig heaven. The problem was that there was no way that the last three pigs were going through the gate. These three pigs were absolutely convinced that whatever was on the other side of that gate was a fate worse than death. Never mind that they could see their four friends on the other side, eating pig food, digging in new dirt, munching on fresh grass. Nope, they were just sure that it was all a trick. Finally we gave up. The Pastor went to get some reinforcements (children) while I sat there and glared at the pigs.
As soon as The Pastor was out of site, I kid you not, the three naughtiest pigs in the whole world casually walked through the gate. Like they had been waiting all that time to go. Like the only thing that was preventing them was my actual effort.
As The Pastor returned with a group of children, I was closing and locking the gate.
“Wait,” he said “you got them in?”
“Uh-huh!” I said cheerfully
“All by yourself?” he asked.
“Of course!” I said, like I hadn’t just been mentally swearing at those pigs, “No problem!”
And then I walked away. Because any chance I get to look like an expert, I take. Even if it is all just some big accident.
Next came moving the chickens. The chickens were moving to the pig’s former pasture because pigs carry a lot of parasites and attract a few flies. Chickens are experts at solving both those problems.
Now, I wanted to move the chickens after dark. Here’s why. At night, chickens pretty much just turn off. You can literally just walk up to a chicken and pick it up at night with absolutely no fight. Also, at sunset, a chicken will usually return to wherever it was when the sun came up that morning. My idea was that after dark we would shut the chicken coop with all of the chickens in it, use the skid steer to move it to a new pasture, and tomorrow, the chickens would never know what happened. Easy peasy.
The Pastor did not agree. You see, The Pastor is all into something called “safety”. He thought that driving heavy machinery in the dead of night with nothing but an almost full moon to light the way was a bad idea. I may or may not have then suggested that the birds were not the biggest chickens on the farm, but in the end, I do not know how to drive this particular piece of machinery so we moved the coop in the afternoon. My plan was then to lure the chickens to the coop at sunset using grain. Easy peasy.
First, we moved the coop. The Pastor picked up my rather large chicken coop with his machinery and drove it all the way across field number one, around the machine shed, across the old pig pasture, and set it down next to the barn so that I could plug it in and it would have light. This was more complicated than it sounds so I was actually a little happy that we were not doing it in the dark, not that I will ever admit that to The Pastor.
Next, at sunset, I grabbed a bucket of grain and walked into pasture number one. There were all of the chickens. They were standing in the exact location where their chicken coop used to be, looking confused.
Remember those stupid suspicious roommates we talked about earlier?
“Here chick chick chick!” I called, shaking the grain.
All of the chickens ran up to me. I started to walk across pasture number one, calling the chickens and shaking the grain. The problem was that I couldn’t get more than three feet without half the chickens getting distracted by absolutely anything they might be able to peck.
“Oh look! A bug!”
“Oh look! A grain of sand!”
Oh look! A blade of grass!”
After about twenty minutes of calling and luring with food, I had crossed pasture number one with all of the chickens. Then I started going around the machine shed. This is when the panic set in.
Suddenly about half of the chickens decided that I was probably actually trying to lure them to their death (maybe they had been talking to the pigs) and returned to the safety of their home. Which was not there, but it was probably still safer than where ever I was trying to bring them.
I was trying to bring them to their home.
I decided to not worry about the not so brave chickens and concentrate on getting the remaining half of the chickens to their chicken coop. Slowly, slowly I lured them around the machine shed. This is when about half of the remaining chickens got suspicious and ran back to the safety of home. Not their actual home, but the empty spot where their home used to be.
I kept going. I still had the rooster and nine hens with me and I decided that if I could get the rooster to the new location, he would call all of the other hens over and everything would be okay.
Slowly, slowly I lured them across the old pig pasture and to their home. I turned on the light in their chicken coop, the same chicken coop they have always lived in, and dumped out the grain. The ten chickens gobbled it up and started exploring their new (old) home. I walked back through the pig pasture, around the machine shed, and across pasture number one.
There were the remaining thirty chickens. They were standing in the exact location that their home used to be, looking at me as if to say Excuse me, please make our home reappear so that we can go to bed. I sighed and went back inside to wait until dark. When it was dark I could just carry the remaining thirty chickens to their coop.
It doesn’t get actually dark here right now until about 10pm.
At about 10pm I went out to pasture number one. Do you know what I found? I found forty chickens huddled up where the chicken coop used to be. Forty chickens. Do you know what that means? That means that those ten chickens actually left their home to go home when it got dark out.
I may have said some not so nice words about the intelligence level of chickens. Then I carried 40 chickens, two by two, across pasture number one, around the machine shed, through the old pig pasture, and put them in their new home. Which is actually their old home. But they don’t know that because they are chickens and at no point in history has anyone ever said “as smart as a chicken.”
If anyone ever does say that to you, slap them. They are insulting you.
So moving day is done. The land is getting healthier, the parasites are disappearing and The Pastor is squirming because I am talking about parasites again.
Also, chickens are stupid.
That is all.