We are suddenly expecting piglets. In March! So, we had to rush around to get their home ready.
Since we don’t have a dog anymore, to pigsit for us and keep them safe from predators, we decided to install the pigs right next to us – about 100m from the house- even closer than the chickens.
That meant bringing the pig palace (est. 2014) all around the field from old location to new. The two of us used to pick this thing up together by rope handles on the four corners, and walk it along, as we moved the pigs around the field with electric fence. Doable, but moving the pigs wasn’t a chore we looked forward to. Moving it several hundred meters slightly uphill, through light brush, wasn’t realistic.
So we took it in half. Removed the ridgecap and the collar ties, and the roof came in half, and then each half was a sled. We skidded it along the snow by the two rope handles.
And reassembled it in situ at the new location.
It went very well, smoothly. We installed a pallet, to keep the pigs off the ground, and three bales of old hay make a nice cozy box, with a pile of straw to burrow under. We raided the hens’ hay fort, but the hens won’t be in the greenhouse much longer.
We set up the electric fence, two strands of tape.
All ready to receive the piglets.
Then we went to pick up the new oinkers. And that´s where “easy and smooth” ended.
Because of their size and power now, I usually feed them and then, while they’re busy eating, wrestle with cleaning their water bowl. If I don’t, then I get a thorough going-over with muddy pig snouts and total, eager, pig participation in the process, which is quite unhelpful and unwelcome.
The other day I gave them some cucumbers for distraction and tackled the water. I heard some steady oinking approaching me from across the pig yard. Oh. Great, I thought. Rudy came oinking up to me. Instead of taking advantage of my crouching pose and doing his best to knock me over, he came up face to face with me, still chewing a bit of cuke. He looked me in the eyes, and holding them, oinked deliberately at me for a long few seconds. Then turning on his trotter, he pranced away again.
I was left a little dazed. I just got talked to by a pig.
He came over just to say what he said, and he was very happy, and I’m quite sure I got the gist of his communicado: I looove cucumbers! Thank you for the cucumbers! I just love cucumbers!
One of the pigs mudded himself up in an almost exact half mud, half clean split. Brown/pink.
The pigs are growing slowly but steadily. They are thick and strong enough now to be a little scary, and I don’t go in their pen anymore. If I do I get enthusiastically leaned on and greeted with a vigorous head rub, which I’m afraid any day now will knock me over.
They’re always into a good neck scratching or behind-the-ears rub, though.
The pigs are growing. The dog enjoys their company less, now that they boss him around more. He doesn’t like being aggressively explored with their hard noses, but he and Rudy will still have themselves a good chase.
Happily, they have not had any more sunburn issues, and we have not had to do any more pig skin care.
Petunia is the rooter. Our neighbour says Yeah, the females are really the ones that do all the work. The males are just lazy and greedy and wait around for you to bring them food.
I see. The similarities between our species run deeper than I thought.
At any rate, Petunia is a dedicated rooter, who is methodically expanding her plowed field. It’s getting kind of impressive.
Rudy just follows her around, re-inspecting the ground she’s turned.
He’s so friendly, though! He comes running with his Dumbo ears, smiling and expressing great pleasure to see you, even if you don’t have a bucket. Nudge nudge with the nose, paw paw with the hoof.
If you do have a bucket, they start jumping around in circles, totally overcome, and making themselves a tripping hazard. Interest in shoes has not abated. Rudy loves to be rubbed all over. He stands still with his head down and eyes closed and grunts with pleasure. So does Petunia, but she’s more complicated. First she jumps and screams, Don’t touch me!, then she comes back for more. Come ‘ere, go away.
Still no wallowing, although they enjoy the game where we pour their old water over top of them before refilling.
Pigs are so fun. So happy and pleasant, like uber-friendly dogs, wagging their short whip-like tails in circles. Still so strange-looking to me, especially with their long noses dipped in dirt up to their eyes, but so expressive in the face.
I’ve never had pigs before. They seem so strange, so interesting. Clean little peach coloured hooves, sparse white hairs. Constant snoring sounds, asleep or not. Their tails wag, whipping around in circles. Their little snouts can be softly supple and receptive, or as hard as wood, at the whim of the pig.
It’s important to mention that we got these pigs for rooting. I can’t touch pig meat without getting spectacularly ill, and HW’s not the biggest fan, so we aren’t in it for the meat. We’re in it for their labour. Hopefully, as we move them around with the electric tape they’ll root up the field for us and we can get some quality grasses seeded in. We shall see. So far, they aren’t much use. Too little.
I have never once fed them, yet every time I walk by, Rudy comes galloping toward me, ears flapping like Dumbo. Then he pulls up short at the electric tape and watches (wistfully?) as I walk by.
What does this pig want? I wondered. Turns out, he wants to be touched, so now every walk past the pigs has to factor in a pause to pet the pig. Petunia does not have the same interest in being touched. She snorts and jumps when you try to.
Who knew, pigs are shoe fetishists. They’re really into shoes. They both aggressively root at pant legs, and boy do they ever love to chew on shoes (our feet still in them), while making great pleasure sounds (why?).
They both got wicked sunburns right away, and I’m not sure how, because they spent all their time sleeping in the shade of the pig palace the first few days, either end to end, or buried completely in the straw, just nostrils showing.
Petunia did even more sleeping than Rudy, who pops up all friendly-like at any visits. She got covered with bug bites, too, so bad I thought she had a rash.
We’re trying to make them wallow but they don’t get it. HW dug a hole, and empties their old water in it, hoping they’ll roll around in it and get some nice mud SPF on themselves. But no. The closest they come to wallowing is walking through their water pan and looking surprised at it.
Their sunburns, especially on the ears, was heartbreaking-all scabby and cracked and bleeding. Horrible!
Therefore, we moved the pig palace closer into the tree line for more shade, and set out to slather the pigs in (wondrous, all-purpose) Bag Balm (ears), and aloe vera gel (body).
Critically, we forgot our ear protection, despite talking about it ahead of time. HW seized a pig and held it down, while I slathered as fast as I could. Rudy was first, screaming blue murder. Unhand me! The outrage! I demand of you to release me! How dare you!
Wow. Deafening! My ears were ringing, my head hurt – Petunia was scampering around squeaking and then the dog, obediently sitting nearby with a dismayed expression, started in sympathy howling! Either reflexively provoked to by the octave the pig was hitting, or else expressing his anxiety and distress. AowooOOOwOOOO!
We rushed through Petunia’s turn before my ears started bleeding, and leaving the pigs well greased and slathered, retreated with ringing ears. The dog was much more reluctant, wanting to lick the pigs post-daubing. HW: HEY! Stop licking that pig!
The dog would look at us with glazed wide eyes, still licking compulsively out of the side of his mouth like his tongue was doing the licking all on its own.
Leave that pig alone!
Can´t… stop…. like honey glazed ham…(still licking the pig).
Phew, what a sideshow. But their ears and skin recovered dramatically and quickly with the treatment. Bag Balm‘s pretty wonderful (shame about the petrolatum, but so effective).
The dog sleeps with the pigs now. It’s not entirely clear if he enjoys their company or finds them irritating, when they’re awake, but he seems to love sleeping with them. They nudge them and provoke him until he jumps up and barks sometimes; I know from experience being enthusiastically nudged in the sides with a wiggling snout that it is incredibly ticklish.
But when we deliver him to the pig palace at dark to look after the pigs for the night, he runs in, smells the two sleeping pigs, and then flops down in the straw, cuddled right up to them with a dog smile. And he stays there in the morning, long after he wakes up. He serenely watches me walk by to the garden from his station by the sleeping, gently snorting pigs.
The pigs, of course, sleep in. This is so strange to me. I thought all diurnal animals were attacking the day’s work at the crack of dawn. Pigs? 8 am, 9 am… perhaps a long nap shortly after waking? Don’t mind if I do!
Subsequent pig slathering has gone much more smoothly. I just sit on the ground and let them tackle my shoes. I rub stuff on their ears while they’re occupied.
They’re so adaptable. Even Gah! I’m being touched! Hates it! Petunia, after a couple swabs, visibly adjusts. Hey, that feels good and good for me. I may even stand still. Positive association to behaviour adjustment, in seconds. So reasonable!
They won’t stop hanging out in the sun though, so another sunburn, another application of aloe vera gel. I put aloe on a chicken, after all (day 4), I can aloe a pig. It will be nice when their hair grows in thickly enough to protect all that pink skin.
We have pigs! Our lovely neighbour dropped off our pair of piglets on his way home with a trailer load of his own and other neighbours’ pigs.
His exact words as he handed me a piglet were “Here’s the tame one”. He carried the other. My piglet immediately commenced thrashing and screaming bloody murder and fighting for its little pig life to not be carried. Put me down! I insist! I set it down for a moment to get a better grip – instant silence.
Wow, what an introduction. Pigs are loud! “Earsplitting” takes on a whole new literal meaning. That pig screamed til my ears rang. Naturally that made the pig he was carrying scream too, and they chorused all the way to the pig yard.
Pigs are also very very strong. These are 35# pigs, and holding one feels like holding a 35# block of solid sausage shaped muscle. His pig rested amenably in his arms and mine kicked and thrashed and threw back its head with all its strength, so that I was afraid of losing a couple teeth on its skull, and I had an awkward grip of it, around the belly and a fistful of back legs.
Hooo, what a relief to drop them inside the electric fence.
Clearly pleased to be unheld, and in the tall cool foliage, they just stayed, exactly where we dropped them.
I left them to their own devices, checking on them every little while, and they did not move at all.
I should have picked them up and deposited them in the shade of their pig palace, which is what HW did right away when he came home an hour later.
They had already had a ride in an open trailer, and it was a blazing hot day. A couple days later they had bad sunburns. The extra hour outside probably put them over the edge.
They were both painted up, numbered 5 and 7, in blue ink, a lot of which transferred to my shirt during the transfer of the pig.
HW promptly pointed out that we already have a Seven, so we won’t be calling them 5 and 7, and named the boy pig Rudy.