The main thing you need to know about raising piglets is that they are ROTTEN. They want what they want, when they want it, exactly how they say they want it. So don’t get any ideas that you are in charge, because your not. The pig called the shots in our home for nearly a month. This is our story.
Three months ago our sow had to be put down. She had birthed a single piglet. The next got stuck into her birth canal and she was unable to pass it. After many attempts of human intervention, a vet was called. He preformed a c section to try and save the piglets still in uterus, but they had already died. Momma pig had to be put down and we we left heartbroken, but with her tiny daughter. We named her Gloria. Gloria was tiny, as in Chihuahua sized. Its strange to think that one day she will be 500 pounds. So, we were stuck with the very daunting task of raising a baby that we didn’t know how to raise. I had never really thought about raising an orphaned pig. And although charlottes web was cute, it wasn’t ever an experience I wanted personally. Luckily, we had a wonderful lady farmer from our 4h group that gave us solid advice for starting our journey. She recommended what nipple to use, how often to feed, and most of all encouragement that we COULD do this despite our huge loss of momma pig and the rest of the litter. This is a time lapse account of what happened:
Night 1, while we were battling to keep momma pig alive there was not much sleep. The kids took turns holding Gloria inside their coats, while us adults tended to momma. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning,when we decided to call it quits til daylight, I took Gloria with me and the two of us fell asleep together on the bathroom floor. (she was so tiny I was afraid she would fall out of the bed and break a leg, and she had to be kept warm, as in 100 degrees.. perfect for me to be her human heater. Apparently most orphaned piggie babies die from cold, rather than malnutrition. Because like most animal babies, they can’t regulate their own body heat.) Anyway we got a few hours sleep on the bathroom floor, then back out to the barn at first light. Gloria was fortunate in the fact that she got to nurse from momma, and so received precious colostrum. It was terribly heart wrenching in that momma pig was more concerned about nursing her baby, than in her own well being. She took care of her baby, until her death a few hours later. So now heartbroken and tired, the clock began ticking of when Gloria would need her next meal. Papa went off to get milk supplement and nipples, and our 4h neighbor and aide, who had also been in the barn with us all night had come back and was trying to now teach me the basics of bottle feeding. PATIENCE IS THE KEY. Gloria did not like the bottle. In fact she hated it. She wanted momma, and I knew exactly how she felt. I wanted momma pig back too. I had become quite fond of the big sow, she was quite charming with her snorts of approval whenever she saw someone she liked, and always appreciated a good scratch behind the ears. It was the one pig I had let myself grow attached to, knowing that she would be a breeder pig, one to be a part of the homestead family for years to come. But it was not to be, and now it was just baby Gloria. It took time to get the bottle in her mouth, as she kept fighting it, finally she would take a sip, then spit out the nipple and we would have to start over again.
My oldest daughter Ashley, bravely volunteered for night 2. I got some sleep, and Ashley took great care of Gloria. Something I forgot to mention, because I nearly forgot, is that Gloria along with hating bottles, hated to be picked up. She would squeal like her life depended on it. It the wild of course, her life would depend on it, but in the middle of the night, when it is potty time, the eardrum shattering squeals were not appreciated by the humans. So that is how life went on for the next few days. Me and the girls took turns on the night shifts, and every time we got nudged in the ankle by a rubbery nose, we would fix a bottle. (By day 3 she was used to the bottle) Most farmers I’m sure have a better set schedule, but I figured if she was still with momma, she would have had a 24 hour all you can eat buffet. Plus, all the kids wanted turns holding bottles for her, and after all she was really REALLY cute.
Day 8 Gloria was now an expert at taking bottles and being carried around without squealing. Of course night after night of no sleep, was starting to wear on all of us, and we were all getting anxious to get her eating solid food so that she could self feed though the night. The thing about that idea was she was not on board. Those green pellets labeled “pig starter” were certainly not made for her. So we tried to get a little more creative, we mixed some starter into a mush with her formula, it apparently still was not up to standard. So we tried applesauce. This was a success. Of course Gloria would only eat it if it was spooned into her mouth, if it was in a bowl, it apparently tasted disgusting. So now we were spoon feeding the pig which was needless to say quite messy, so this was only done outside. However even outside after every bite she had to let you know she wanted more, and to do that she had to nose your leg. And while nosing your leg applesauce was smeared everywhere. There are times, I’ll admit, I pretended I didn’t notice the pig was hungry, then she would move on to someone else. Then they were suckered into feeding the poor, helpless, spoiled rotten, brat of a pig.
Day 14: Gloria was eating more solid foods by this point. She would eat apples, musk melon, sometimes oatmeal cookies, and of course she always wanted her beloved bottles. These were only given twice a day now, although she complained all the time about this fact. She literally nosed my ankles until their were bruises.I am not exaggerating. I was more than ready for her to move out. I was tired of sharing the house with the pig. Although I will give her some credit about the potty training thing, she was good about not going in the house. Of course the front porch was her designated potty area….so there is that…. Anyway Gloria got kicked out of the house.
Day 21: The end of the bottles! Gloria was officially weaned and me and my big girls were quite relieved. We had actually done it! We successfully reared a piglet and kept our sanity…sort of. Little miss attitude still was sneaking in the house and going up and down the stairs( she thinks pigs are supposed to do that), then back outside to pee on the porch. She still was following people around like a little lost puppy, squealing at them when they would walk too fast and leave her behind.So yeah, maybe she was driving me a little bit crazy.
She is now 2 months old. More rotten than ever, and she thinks she runs the farm. I suppose she does. She has made friends with the pilgrim geese, and has somehow talked them into “pruning” her on a regular basis. She hates our feeder pigs, stating that the have no sophistication, and will Houdini her way out of the actual pig pen, screaming the whole time. The feeder pigs have no idea why she is making all the fuss, they hardly glanced at her. The poor ducks can’t figure out why all their eggs are disappearing, and I think Gloria told them it was me. Of coarse this is not true, I personally saw her eating them but she denies it. Most of the time she will bite peoples ankles, which really has lost whatever cuteness it had before. And so we are stuck with this pig we don’t want to breed (since her momma passed down the whole narrow hip problem) and we don’t want to eat because now she’s has somehow claimed the coveted “pet” title. ( I do threaten to turn her into bacon every time she pees on the porch, but she just wags her tail and laughs) So thats our story for now, and I’m not sure how it is going to end, but I am sure it is a summer that we won’t forget.