Lately my husband and I have been fighting over stale bread crusts, banana skins and potato peelings.

It's not that we are starving or anything, but it can get quite heated when one of us goes to the scrap bucket under the bench and finds it empty.

With his two - large and increasingly greedy - pigs to feed, and my chooks and my worm farm, there's an unsightly rush at feeding time to see who can get to the food scraps first.

In the mornings, he has the advantage of being an annoyingly early riser, so the pigs win and by the time I surface in a sleepy grump with my hair all backwards my poor chooks are left with pellets and some raked up feijoas off the lawn.


In the evenings he's often home before me and starts dinner, jealously guarding all the best vege offcuts, lest I snatch them and race them out to the chook-house behind his back.

The poor worm farm tends to be reduced to scoffing used teabags and coffee grounds, with a weekly treat of a barrow-load of horse manure.

I haven't heard them complain but then I haven't heard much of anything from worms, ever.

We could, of course take turns over who gets the scraps, but that would be far too logical.

Far better to use that wakeful moment at 3am to sneak out to the kitchen and smuggle dinner's leftovers out the back door and hide them behind the Boston ivy for retrieval on the way to feed the chooks in the morning.

Recently, in the tradition of "one man's trash is another man's treasure" I peered into the bin at work and decided that if the lunchtime crowd really didn't want to finish their sandwiches and sushi, a better place for it would be inside my chickens.

At least that way the half-eaten muffins and unwanted chips could be turned into useful things like chook poo and eggs.

I went looking for a respectable receptacle to put on the lunch-room bench, something a tad more civilised than the 10-litre ex-paint-pail that lives under the bench at home.


Finding a handled, lidded, purpose-built compost bucket in a discreet shade of beige was a delightful bonus.

Another delightful bonus was the email I got the next day.

"About the scrap bin," it began.

Oh no, I thought, someone has taken an exception to me purloining the office leftovers.


"I was about to put my sandwiches in the bin," the email continued.

"But they have ham and chicken luncheon on them. I am assuming that chickens and pigs don't eat ham and chicken so should I pick the luncheon off?"

This person obviously thought very highly of pigs and chickens, and did not want to offend their delicate sensibilities.

It was a very kind, sweet thought.

I fear I shattered the poor woman's perceptions.

She was envisioning chickens pecking politely at cucumber sandwiches, while the pigs merrily nibbled ears of corn.

"No problem with the luncheon," I told her. "Pigs and chickens will chow down on each other's relatives quite happily. In fact they will cheerfully eat their own brethren, with or without seasoning."

She was shocked.

"Really?" she asked me later in the lunchroom.

I had to explain to her that pigs and chickens are not the nice people we like to think they are.

In fact, our pigs were munching on a roast bone just last weekend, I explained. Until they turned their backs for a moment and a waiting chihuahua shot through the fence and snatched it and ran away.

It was a happy chihuahua for about 20 minutes, gnawing away, until the roving band of chickens came upon it, beat it up and stole the bone for themselves.

It made our place sound way less than salubrious, now I think of it. Less Little House on the Prairie and more Lord of the Flies.

The next day I walked in on a debate between two of my colleagues arguing whether one of them had contaminated the entire scrap bin by the addition of her boiled-egg shells.

"The chickens can't possibly eat the scraps now, since you've tainted them with the shells of other chickens' unborn young," the innocent party exclaimed.

Called upon to mediate, I explained that not only were eggshells allowed, but they were recommended, as a way of replenishing the chooks' calcium reserves.

I think this week I have done for farm animals what Cujo did for St Bernards.

Yes, it's every animal for itself, down on the lifestyle block.

Or so it seems after yesterday. As I tipped the scrap bin contents into the chook-house a rogue meat patty rolled out through the chook-house door, only to be pounced on and gobbled up by ... my formerly kind and gentle vegetarian nanny goat.

I'm starting to feel a little disturbed myself.