Tails from Dr. King’s Farm – Piglets

As summer comes to a close on the farm, one of our potbelly pigs, Gina, decided to surprise us with a litter of nine beautiful piglets one morning in late July. I have experience with many different farm animals but not pigs. So I got a crash course in pig!

Piglets

Pig Momma Superhero

First of all, pig mommas are VERY protective of their babies. Even a little potbelly, who stands only as tall as your knees, turns into a formidable force if you get anywhere near those piglets.

I watched Gina chase a half-grown bison across the field, and then stand up to an 1,800-pound camel who got a little too close to where she had stashed her litter in a shady corner of the barn. Needless to say, I gave her plenty of space and when I went to go see the babies. I made sure to be calm, quiet and soothing to her as well as making sure I had a ready escape route, just in case.

Tiny Truckin’

The second lesson I learned is that piglets are extraordinarily precocious. I am used to seeing bison calves stand within minutes of birth and follow their mothers almost immediately, but these little piglets were on their feet, chasing each other and fighting enthusiastically over the best place at the milk bar just twenty-four hours after being born.

Within forty-eight hours those piglets were trucking through the fields after Gina, and they were so small you couldn’t tell where they were except that the tall grass moved over their heads as they ran in a line behind her. They would grunt and squeal and fight and nibble at food and then pile up to sleep together in the shade during the hottest part of the afternoon. Never before have I seen an animal better equipped to deal with the world so soon after birth and I was very impressed.

Runt Wrangling

One of the piglets was a runt and she was half the size of her siblings. Due to the size difference and the number of piglets in the litter she was definitely getting the short end of the stick. She was being chased off at mealtimes, so after a week we decided to step in and “pull” her from the litter in order to help her survive. Rena has a great deal of experience in bottle raising deer, Watusi cattle, camels and bison, so of course she was chosen to be the pig whisperer.

After catching the little runt (which is a whole other story in itself) we brought her into the farmhouse and attempted to give her some milk from a bottle. Despite being tiny and dehydrated that little pig put up a ruckus like you have never heard and fought us like a lion. After a struggle we did finally get some milk into her but we also realized that this was definitely not a job for amateur pig handlers, so we called a neighbor with a great deal of pig experience, not to mention patience, for help. Happily, the little runt was given a new home, a name and a comfy bed, and she is thriving, so we were certain that we made the right decision in giving her a hand.

Muffled Mirth

The other piglets are now a month old, weaned and have been moved into the barn so that we can work on gentling them. You have to go sit in the stall quietly and talk softly and let them come up to you when their curiosity outweighs their fear.

Little snouts snuffling your boots and jeans and little eyes peering up at you trying to figure out what exactly you are make it hard not to laugh out loud because they are so cute, but if you do they all scatter and peer at you accusingly from behind the crate in the corner. Pigs are very smart and they remember everything, so you have to make sure that this is a good experience for them so they’ll learn to trust people. (Having treats in your pocket doesn’t hurt either.)

This experience has been wonderful and really made me appreciate pigs in a way I haven’t had the chance to before. Their curiosity, playfulness and ability to adapt at such a young age is definitely impressive!

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