I slogged through the mud, the rain dripped off the brim of my hat. One hand shoved deep in my coat pockets to try to keep warm the other gripping the cold handle of the slop bucket. Ollie, Pork and Beans greeted me with happy squeals and hungry grunts as I approached the pig sty. They always make me smile. Inside the sty I dumped the slop and as they devoured it all, as if they hadn’t eaten in days, I did a visual check of the fence and the water dishes.
“This is disgusting,” I said out loud. “C’mon you guys, it looks like a pig sty in here, ha!” It really is not a pleasant place. Mud. Mud puddles, mud, and then there’s the mud that’s gotten particularly squishy because I put straw on the mud, hoping it would sop it up and let them have some clean area before their hut. But it didn’t work out like that at all. And of course, the poop. Always, the poop.
I reached down and gave each one a scratch behind the ears and on the haunches. I told them how gorgeous they are and that they are loved, and as I stood up a flash of white in the hut caught my eye.
“Oh, gross! There are rats in there!” I whined as I said it because Lance wouldn’t be home for hours and the proper thing to do is quickly dispose of the rodents..ick and yuck. I’m really not good at the revolting things.
I adjusted my hat and bent down to peer into the dark spot trying to make out how many I would be dealing with. And, there they were…wiggling around, disgustedly rooting for food, no doubt pooping rat poop.
“You’re disgusting..little rodents…oooooo….wait…..it’s BABY PIGS!!!!!”
Probably could have heard my squeal a mile a way.
We had guessed Ollie was pregnant but she didn’t have some of the sure fire pregnancy indicators she was supposed to. We were getting the barn ‘nursery’ ready, but didn’t feel any hurry. But now we had to hurry. In the first days of a piglet’s life they do not generate body heat, and they have zero immunities. They get those as they nurse from their mama. So, I had to make sure they didn’t get into the harsh elements. I picked up a baby, which made him or her SCREAM… Ollie ran into the hut at which time I put the baby down and locked the door. Essentially then, I was locking Beans and Pork out but they are pretty hardy so I reckoned they would be ok.
On my way to the Orthopedist I called Lance and told him about the piglets. I mentioned how mobile they were and that I was afraid they would just wiggle out into the mud so I had locked them in the pen with Olive. He tried really hard to not say, “they’re probably rats,” instead he said, “wow, really? You aught to send me pictures.” I don’t blame him for doubting. I actually wondered if they had been born a few days earlier because they were so mobile with sleepy open eyes. Not the typical look of baby animals I’d dealt with, which include white mice, hamsters, kittens and chicks. As you can imagine, or may know, all babies are different. Piglets are good to go when they drop, except for the whole immunity thing.
After my appointment I hurried home and raced down to the pen.
The little babies nestled next to mom. When Ollie realized I was there she stood up and strained against the door. Through the top slat I talked and scratched her head while slowly opening the door. I’m not sure if this little one in the picture below was coming towards my voice or the outside, but he speedily made his way to the front.
I just wanted to sit out there and look at them, but you know, life was happening, so I put some more clean straw into the hut and Ollie laid down with the babies again. Pork and Beans also went in hut and it then it got quiet.
In the barn, I began organizing tools and clearing the spot we had set aside for her. I spread the remainder of our straw down, and went back to the house.
In addition to various online sites, we’ve have been reading an amazing book called Raising Pigs. I reread some notes I had taken from the sites and the books and frankly I don’t know how wild pigs survive. Before she had the piglets, we were supposed to de-worm Ollie and scrub her clean, especially her teats before we put her in the barn which was also supposed to be sterilized. Some places recommend you make a farrowing crate, in which the momma lays down, bars gently press on her teat area and the babies eat from the other side. Thus she won’t roll over on them and crush them. And the babies can freely eat whenever. That just didn’t sit well with me. First of all, where do you take a pig to give it a bath? They’re very susceptible to the chill in the air, so an outside bath would be a bad idea. Secondly, really? I just couldn’t shove her in a crate and make her lay there. Seems like a sort of factory idea. Since then I have read a few homestead blogs and learned that homesteaders do farrow as well, not just factories practice it. Farrowing also ensures every piglet gets a teat, so all can eat. We only have 3, not worried about enough teats to go around. We failed in that area with mom. Then I learned we failed with the babies, too.
I apologize for this blurry picture, I was trying to take it quickly so as to minimize the stress, but this little one day old piggy would not be still. By this time they should be in a sterile farrow crate, their milk teeth or wolf teeth clipped, injected with iron, notched identification marks in the ears and tails docked. None of this happened. The information out there divides, kind of like human vaccinations camps. You either love it or you don’t. I reckon you do what is right for you and your animals. Just keep them healthy.
As soon as Lance got home the day of the birth, we fixed up the nursery part in the barn. He brought home Sow food (we feed our livestock home mixed grains and greens to avoided the fillers in commercial feeds) but because she will need extra protein and vitamins we feed her this and give extra portions of milk. Anyways, he bought straw, too. So we fixed it up… spread the hay, put up the hog panels and gathered up the three littles, thinking Ollie would follow them into the barn, which she did, but so did Pork and Beans. All the livestock seemed very interested in what was happening and soon all the goats and sheep and turkeys were mucking around trying to get inside. We ushered Pork and Beans out and back to the pen with the allure of yummy alfalfa. Leaving just Ollie and the babies.
These are the babies in the cat carrier being transported to the barn.
With the heat light on, fresh water, full feeder, the calm and warmth and dryness of the barn, seems to agrees with Ollie as she nurses her babies, but still I’m unsettled.( I’m very tempted to bring them all into the house, but that wouldn’t be fair to the Mic, Mags and Mouser our three barn cats who might like to be in the house, too “) )
I reckon it will take a while to get used to all the homestead/farm/animal husbandry stuff. We’re always evaluating exactly what our goals are and what we hope to accomplish. But, in the meantime, I’ve got a pretty sweet gig with God’s gorgeous creatures and I’m happy.
All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all….(a song from my childhood Sunday school days).