We were planning to get a pair of pigs again this year. We have the customers lined up, and we felt “up to it” again. In theory, pigs aren’t a lot of work, but in reality, they escape and rampage or wreck things at very bad times and can be exhausting.
We were not planning to get pigs in March, with snow still on the ground, but they came available. Black Berkshires, raised organic, and born outside on January 31. We’ve had some COLD temperatures since the end of January, so these must be hardy pigs.
So with two days notice, we reactivated the dormant pig palace, set up the electric fence, made a cozy pig bed, and bought feed.
Then we went to pick up our pigs.
The farmer was all business, ready with the plastic garbage can he used for piglet transfer. He grabbed up one pig at a time out of the litter (we asked for females, because they’re “less trouble”), dropped it screaming into the can, and shut the lid. He and H.W. carried the can the short way to the truck, and dumped the can, piglets sliding out, quite confused. we had a tarp and some canvas down in the back of the SUV.
The ride home was long. The farmer had said we might get a piglet up in the front seat with us, seeing as we didn’t have a pet carrier, but we didn’t get a visit, thankfully.
There were occasional sounds from the back, little grunts, with a question mark on the end. Also occasional smells.
It was an hour’s drive home, on Nova Scotia’s winding roads, and still twenty minutes away, the piglets started to get carsick. Little retching noises started, between the grunts.
Home. Two miserable little pigs in the back of the trunk. Is it over?
I grabbed one and set out for pigland. HW followed behind me. I carried mine in my arms, which exhausted both of us. HW put his over his shoulders, which got him kicked in the face. My pig periodically screamed, kicked and struggled, then rested up for the next bout. By the time we got there, her eyes were closed like she was ready to fall asleep. I set her down inside the fence and she stood still and calm.
Then HW came up with his piglet, now hanging over his back, apparently pretty comfortable (the pig).
HW set her down inside the fence, and we both looked up to see Piglet 1 blithely trotting through the two-strand electric fence (yes, hot) like it wasn’t there.
I sprinted away, trying to circle out in front of the pig, to send her back towards our land, where she’s obviously going to want to rejoin the other pig, right? This rapidly turned into trying to gain on the pig (“running” a ways to one side of her, through dense brush), and then, trying to keep the pig in sight. A $100 bill, scampering off straight into hundreds of acres of Crown land and woodlot. Pigs are FAST, and she wasn’t even running, she was out at a steady, relaxed trot. I´m not even sure she was running from me, or the memory of the garbage can.
I lost her. HW came up behind me eventually, saying that pig’s gone, give it up. He had thrown his pig into the greenhouse, which has doors to shut. The birds were in an outraged uproar.
Oh, and now it was almost dark.
We went home. Piglet 2 was a dark shadow shape in the greenhouse, scuttling from one end to the other. The birds, any that hadn’t already gone in their coops before the intruder came in, were treed on the roofs of the coops, furious! Most of the layers were crowded on the guinea house, the highest point in the room.
Completely beaten, we retired, debating the feasibility of calling and buying another pig. “Hey, we lost one, can we have another?” Maybe not.
We can’t have just one pig, it will be unhappy. It can’t live in the greenhouse, and if we put it in the electric fence, it will just run out too, looking for the other pig. The lost pig is going to be sad, and lost, and cold!
Well, pigs are smarter than that.
I consulted Google. Other pig bloggers were encouraging. Advice item #1: Don´t chase them. No point at all, they will run farther if you chase them and you won’t catch them. Encouraging item #2: Piglets are champs at surviving in the wild. They will almost never be gotten by predators. Too smart and fast, and they are, in their wild form, a top species. They also rapidly revert to wildness, once escaped.
What to do? Feed them in the woods. Move the food closer to home every day. They like food, so they can be baited back with food, until you’ve baited them right into their pen and shut the door behind them. Maybe a week or two.
That allowed me to sleep, although I was still worried for the lost lonely pig (spoiler: I needn’t have worried).
Oh, and the best possible way to contain pigs? Two-strand electric fence.