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On The Fence

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

The majority of practicing husbandry boils down to how well you can build a fence.

Whether it be a chicken run that keeps predators out, an aviary net for big birds, or electrical, pallet, or paddock fencing for larger livestock, a farmer is only as good as his fence.

You can certainly do a lot with chicken wire, and pallets are pretty magical objects - they can become so many creative things! However, even the best fencing isn't always fool-proof. I was once asking someone about keeping a particular type of livestock, and their first comment to me was, "well, first of all you have to be completely foolish to think you'd want to keep them, but if you do, then welcome to the club". You have to be a little crazy to do this, but I like to think all the good ones, are.

Recently our male pig, the boar, has decided to push his boundaries and take a pasture through the barnyard. There is nothing quite like seeing a big black boar roaming loose around your backyard - that will certainly get your heart pounding! Now, you may be thinking, "Again?! They already had pigs get out!" - here's the thing - pigs are mischievous. They are "pig-headed". They are stubborn, and have one-track minds. When they want to do something, they do it. And, ours are not the only ones that have escaped - the Homestead Husband has participated in some pig wrangling for a few other folks in the past.

We - the pigs and ourselves, had gotten comfortable. Which is a dangerous place to be when you keep livestock, because they do have a mind of their own. The pigs were trained with an electric wire fence when they were piglets, and then a pallet/wood fence was built around that to contain them. They learned quickly not to get near the hot wire, and once they had that down pat, we were able to turn it off (save on that electric bill just in time to turn on the coop heaters!). We went with electric over solar as there is also a lot of risk involved with solar power - while it may have been a cost savings, if you get a week of rain, you probably won't have a very strong fence. Now that the pigs have matured, strong fence or not, they are a bit more curious and adventurous.


So - how do you catch a pig?

It's kind of like throwing yourself into a wrestling match blindfolded. You don't know what the pig will do - they are unpredictable. The only thing you can count on is that, fat as they are, they can boogie. Pigs are speedy critters so the best advice we can give is DO NOT CHASE. The more you chase, the further they will run. You have to be stealthy, and wait for the perfect opportunity. You also need to take your time. Pigs are skittish, so if you rush and spook them, they will try to take off.

The Homestead Husband (HH) began by getting the pig feed bag and jostling it around - a sound the pig has gotten accustom to when it is feeding time. He spread some cracked corn out on the ground, which enticed the boar to stick around and snack. While the pig was distracted, HH made a clear opening to the hog hut.

It was time to make our move.

With any escaped livestock, you have you make yourself the alpha - "make yourself big", he tells me. So, he did his power stance, head on with the boar. This act of physical challenge caused the boar to return the same behavior. He too, braced himself and sized up HH while his bristle-back hairs stood up on end.

This time we got lucky - HH was intimidating him enough, where Mr. Boar took a step back, turned himself around, and flew back into the hog pen. PHEW! HH did his touch-down victory dance while ultra securing the fence for no more field trips!


Now, with free range birds, these same rules don't always apply, but the end result is kind of the same. The most natural lifestyle you can provide for keeping birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks) is to allow them to free range, if your land is reasonably safe from predators. That being said, we have had run-ins with fox, hawks, and we know bears are close by.

You do accept some amount of risk by allowing your birds to live life that naturally. Our chickens do have a covered run as they are smaller and a bit more fragile, and easy to nab than our larger birds. We do let them free range when we are home however, and able to keep an eye on them. You hope that the free rangers are content enough with their home to stay, and roost in their same places at night, and you accept that you may loose some as that is part of the circle of life. It does not mean that we are uncaring or irresponsible - it just means we are trying to give them the happiest life they can have, that allows them to explore, eat bugs, and live a healthy life. Given our choices, we think we've done well as all our birds return home every night.

They are well fed, have clean water, clean and warm shelter, and companionship. There is a bond of trust that is formed. Similar to the pig, he knew where his home base was. So instead of attempting to rush a pig back in, or capture a goose with a 4 ft.+ wing span, your best bet is to be calm. Be patient. Be kind. With a little help, and guidance, you can usually work together and get the critters back to where they need to go. Nothing teaches patience and trust building like farming.



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