L is for Late Nights in the Hog Pen

After weeks of waiting, we are back on piglet watch, this time in the newly designed and constructed hog hut. We’ve had terrible troubles with our sows panicking during farrowing and then lashing out at what they perceive to be the cause of their pain – their new piglets. When Olivia had her last litter and I tried to intervene and get the piglets out of the way until she could finish delivering everyone, she came after me. Let me tell you it is no fun to be tossed in the air by an angry sow, flung aside like I was of no heavier than a scrap of cloth.

After that rather scary incident, I was very leery about getting between Pearl and her piglets and thought I’d be very discrete, staying way out of the way while she delivered her little ones. That was a mistake. Well, perhaps not a mistake when it came to protecting myself, but a mistake in terms of saving the piglets.

We had been busy preparing a safety pen for everyone and were about a day away from completion when Pearl went into labour a tad ahead of schedule. So, I had to improvise with a couple of pallets and a gap between the pallets and the hog shelter wall. By the time I had maneuvered this makeshift safety pen into position, Pearl had dispatched three or four piglets. She continued to deliver and after I had the protection of the pallets, I was able to pull four more to safety. We dried them off, put them under a heat lamp, and waited until she had delivered the afterbirth before warily putting the surviving piglets back in with her. Even though we had a creep set up and an area with a heat lamp in the hog shelter (for the piglets to stay out of the way), she still managed to squash two more during that first night! So, after all was said and done we wound up with two piglets out of a litter of eight.

A day later, we also had a lovely new safety pen built inside an old horse trailer and positioned in Olivia’s pen. Olivia has been eating and sleeping in there for several weeks now (with the back door open so she was free to come and go) and late this afternoon when she was producing milk, I locked her inside. She is quite comfortable in her ‘den’ but this new, smaller area with its low walls allows me to safely work around her. I can reach in to assist and remove piglets as they are born. They will stay close by under a heat lamp, but out of the way so the risk of squashing is minimized.

It usually takes mom and babies about 72 hours to learn to talk to each other. Mom has a special grunt that means ‘get out of my way while I lie down!’ and another that means, ‘I’m lying down now – come and eat!’ As soon as they have this all sorted out, I’ll open up the back door of the safety pen and they can all come and go as they please, but meanwhile, everyone should be reasonably safe.

Had I known how stressful this whole farrowing process was going to be before we started down the rare hog breeding path, I’m not sure I would have started on the journey! But now that we are on the road, I have to admit there are few things cuter than new piglets. Not that any appeared last night. I slept down in the truck and checked on Olivia every couple of hours, but she slept through all my nighttime visits.

I started writing this post last night thinking I would finish it in the wee hours of the morning when I could post photos of the new arrivals. Hah! Unless Olivia gets in gear today and delivers everyone during the daylight hours, it looks like another night wishing the truck was just a couple of inches wider so I could stretch out properly.

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Meanwhile, I will enjoy these little cutie pies, who hatched yesterday. Can we all say ‘awwwwwwwww!’

14 responses to “L is for Late Nights in the Hog Pen

  1. Sounds very stressful! I hope Olivia’s deliveries goes more easily than Pearl’s. Do you have only the two, or more to come?

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  2. Dad raised some hogs when I was a kid. He was always cautious of the sows during that time. I’m guessing some sows are more relaxed and less likely to attack their piglets. Good luck with the next ones.

    We also had some ewes that would lamb in late winter. Seemed like they always waited for a snowy stormy night to do it. There would be a lamb that needed to come indoors and get warmed up. Those were fun.

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    • Thanks! Fingers are crossed things will go more smoothly this time (if they go at all… still no sign of any piglets last night! Though, I do have a lovely stiff neck this morning…)

      So far we’ve managed to avoid nasty weather lambing by keeping the ram far, far away until late fall. Next month we should have a few of those hopping around and if all goes smoothly, I won’t have to leave my cozy bed…

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  3. Awwwwww! Super cute!

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  4. Good Luck with your piglets!

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  5. I have been knocked on my @$$ more times by pigs than I ever have by cattle that are three times their size. They can be very dangerous. Our sow is delivering as I type … my husband is on watch. We use a farrowing crate for the very reasons you describe: SAFETY for ALL.

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    • I like your division of duty over there… you inside safely typing, your hubby out on watch. Sounds great to me! I hope all goes smoothly with your delivery… Here, we are still waiting. My sows have been terribly inconsistent with their delivery signs… because they all live in a little herd, it isn’t always easy to know exactly when the girls get bred, so it’s can be tricky to know exactly when the piglets will arrive.

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  6. It reads like a suspense/drama that keeps one on the edge of one’s seat! Good luck with the remaining farrowing! And the ducklings look adorable!

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  7. This sounds like how we started out with our pigs a few years back. our sow had her piglets during a tornado watch in a very bad storm. She ate a few and left the others couple to die in the mud instead of going into the pen. The next time around we penned her up and checked on her every hour but sometime in between she ate the whole lot. needless to say she went to slaughter soon after. We are now waiting for new babies from the neighbors sow but she also had problems and he saved 1 out of 8. Pigs sure can be crazy. We will get 3 total after one of the other sows have theirs but for now we have 1 male if he makes it .
    Hope you have better success on the next batch and I glad I ran across your blog.

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