Monday, December 23, 2013

The "Micro mini" and "Teacup" pig myth exposed on Global News Calgary

The myth of "Micro mini" and "Teacup" pigs exposed on Global News Calgary. They don't exist and this myth is causing rescues to run at maximum capacity, unable to take in the never ending number of pigs in need of immediate care. This message needs to get out. Pigs are NOT house/city/town pets, they are farm animals who need the company of other pigs and the freedom to roam and root and be pigs, not to mention the fact that they are illegal in most cities and towns. They don't stay small and you need to run from anyone who tells you they will. Take it from people who have been there and done that and know what living with a mature pig is like...NOT from a breeder who's only interest is your money. Please watch and see for yourself...

18 of the 74 pigs in the rescue/foster care talked about in this piece are living with me (along with 4 others)...ALL the result of irresponsible breeding. They don't make good pets for most people as they mature into large animals (120-250 pounds), are stubborn, destructive and can be aggressive. If you are not prepared to live with these traits for 15+ years, a Pot Bellied Pig is not for you.

The fantasy of a pocket pig is a lie. Don't buy into it. If you are looking for a large farm pet, please don't support breeders of any kind. Check out the Potbelly Pig Rehoming Network on Facebook instead and help support those who devote their lives to caring for these unwanted animals...and save a life at the same time. What could be better?! :)

Friday, November 22, 2013

New Babies...and lots of them!

I was told it should take no more than 3 hours...start to finish, but after 15 exhausting hours Olivia was finally finished. It shouldn't have surprised me that she had so many, but it did. She's a young pig and not fully mature in size yet. 14 piglets (1 stillborn) is too many for her. I am up supplementing 3 of the weaker babies with goats milk every hour and a half. I'm not going to lie, getting up with a baby was a whole lot easier when I was younger!! My vet says that goat's milk will cause diarrhea and possibly kill them, but I have no other choice...they will die for sure without it. I have read a lot and goat's milk is the preferred choice and many people have had success with it. I am saying my prayers with every feeding.

I was ready for cute, but what I wasn't ready for was the noise. Piglets are very loud!! They are also very active. It sure didn't take long for them to steal my heart. It's been so busy that I haven't named them all yet, or even figured out how many are boys/girls. When they are awake it is like you stepped on an ant hill and it's so hard to keep track of who is who. I have, however, pinpointed the piglet who I think is going to cause me to tear my hair out many times over the next 15-20 years. We named him Taz.

Mama is doing fine, she is a great mom and is very protective of her new family. Because she is one of our recent rescues, she was still a little cautious of people before she gave birth and that has only magnified with the arrival of the babies. We are able to handle the babies, but we have to be aware of her mood at every moment. She will charge and she will bite.

These next few months are going to be long and difficult. Olivia came from proper shelter, no food, no clean water, male and females breeding at will with no plan for the unwanted piglets. I am so glad that we found her when we did. She was being given away with a (yet) undiscovered 14 babies in her tummy. Because she was allowed to breed at will, her babies were born when the thermometer outside read -30C. These babies would not have survived. If she had been given away there is a good chance that the people who took her would not have been set up to care for 13 piglets, nor would they have probably been willing to. We had no way to separate Olivia from the other pigs and still have her in a proper winter shelter, so she is inside the house with us. This situation is far from ideal and creates many problems of it's own, but at least the babies are warm. It's not easy  to transition animals from inside to outside in the middle of winter, so they may have to be in the house until spring. If this is the case, it puts our life on hold. I have a plywood 4x8 box where my kitchen table belongs. I have 2 farm style gates in my house to separate Olivia from Leland (another pig who needed to be in the house for the winter) and I have 13 piglets who will get a lot bigger and much more destructive and time consuming over the next few weeks/months. Sometimes it is hard to think about the lady we rescued these pigs from. So irresponsible, so unaware and unconcerned with what she has created and what somebody else's life is like because of her actions.

 Shelters get requests daily from people "needing" us to take their pigs. All with the same story, it exceeded it's ridiculous "tea cup" weight by 6 months, it's wrecking my house, no time, it's urine smells bad, it's aggressive. There is just no place in the world for these animals, yet people like this lady and the many, many others like her out there (breeders for profit included) who just don't care and keep letting them breed. People involved in rescue are the ones who pick up their pieces, and it's getting harder and harder to find people who will help.

Please don't support this. Take to heart what you read here. Pigs are NOT easy pets. They aren't happy in the house and will eventually destroy it...which in turn will make you miserable as well...believe me. Pigs need other pigs and they need a lot of room to roam and root and do normal pig things. Pigs need proper food and proper insulated winter shelter with an outside heat source. We use plug in heaters for our shelters that have a display in the house letting us know what the temperature is (15-20C). Pigs need to be spayed/neutered to be a good pet. Pigs need to have their hooves trimmed regularly and males also need their tusks trimmed regularly. It is very difficult to find a vet who will deal with a Pot Bellied Pig beyond the basic care. If your pig gets sick, often you are left to watch it suffer and die because no one knows what do do for him. Pot Bellied Pigs on average grow to be 150-200 pounds...there is no such thing as a "teacup" pig, don't buy into the lie and be one of the people contacting an already maxed out rescue saying "I had no idea!!" Every rescue I know is maxed out with pigs and there are more and more and more coming to our doors every day. I can't count the number of 150 pound "teacup" pigs in shelters.

Only you can stop this, by doing your research and being honest about whether you are able or willing to care for a pig for 15-20 years. Don't ever buy from a breeder... even an "accidental" breeder. These people are irresponsible and will continue to breed as long as there are people taking their "product". If you are one of the (very) few people who know a pig is truly the companion for you, make sure you are set up to properly care for it for it's entire life... in a way that is right for the pig... not for you. Adopt from a rescue (if you are in Alberta, check out "Potbelly Pig Rehoming Network" on FB.) I can't stress enough that a happy pig makes a happy life. A bored, cooped up pig with no room or time to be a pig makes for a miserable life for all involved. Too many people have learned this the hard way and many pigs have suffered so much because of it. Please don't be that person.

*UPDATE* Unfortunately one of the smaller babies didn't make it. He passed away 3 hours short of 1 week. 14 piglets is just too much for a young pig and his little body wasn't developed enough to survive in this world. He fought hard for me, but was just too small. Rest in Peace Little Billy. You were loved much. <3*

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Pigs Need Other Pigs

This is Leland. Leland came to us in August, but August was so busy after taking in 6 pigs in less than 2 weeks, so I never got around to introducing him.

Leland has turned out to be the most troubled pig I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. He is supposedly just under 2 years old, suffered through a home neuter (extremely cruel and painful) and was living a solitary life in a pen far from anything with no other pigs or companions. When we brought him home, he had terrible mange...his skin was literally falling off. We had to keep him in a separate pen for this reason, and also because he had zero social skills due to his solitary life. I have taken in and introduced many pigs (most wild) over the years with only minor problems, but because Leland had no idea how to act around others (people or pigs), it was extremely difficult. He was obsessed with humping everyone and everything in sight. He would try to hump people, garbage cans, shovels leaning against the fence, chairs...anything. He was also so amorous that he turned aggressive if his advances were turned down or reprimanded. Our first thought was that he hadn't been fixed as we were told, but a trip to the vet proved otherwise.

He was also EXTREMELY aggressive to my other pigs. Our attempts to bring them together always ended in serious injuries that required medication. My socialized pigs wanted nothing to do with him. They knew he was acting strangely for a pig. We were beginning to think that Leland was going to have to live his life in a pen alone...we had never seen anything like him, but thankfully MacGyver (our biggest pig) knew exactly what he needed. One day Leland went after MacGyver with every ounce of aggression he could muster. MacGyver (who doesn't like to fight, but will when he is challenged) took him on. The fight lasted for 25 long minutes before Leland finally admitted defeat and ran away. That was all it took. Leland's disposition changed dramatically that day. He no longer humps things and is able to be friendly with pigs, people and all animals. He has found his place in his new herd and is much happier.

His story has proved an very important point that I would like people to understand. Pigs need to be around other pigs. Leland could have been passed from home to one willing or able to understand or deal with his extreme issues. He would have ended up dying alone in a pen, being sent for slaughter or being abandoned because he developed a problem that could have been so easily avoided. It took ONE other pig to solve what people did to him. They learn how to behave from other pigs. They learn where they fit in to their world and who they are from other pigs.  Just like people, they need this security.

To keep a single pig is not in the pig's best interest. I've heard people say that a single pig will bond to its owner better, but the sacrifice that is made to fulfill this human desire is cruel and unfair to the pig. Just like a pig needs room to roam and root and do pig things, it needs a pig to learn about life.

While Leland has come a long, long way and is able to function within his herd, there have been lasting problems that may never go away for him, and this is sad. Because he was so strange for so long, he has been allowed to enter his new herd, but he is still looked at suspiciously. He is allowed to roam free with them outside, but he has not yet been welcomed into the winter shelter. Because winter has hit and we don't have another shelter, Leland has had to learn to be a house pig. There is hope that things will be different after another summer with his herd, but for now his lives inside, which cause a whole new set of problems. Without human interference, Leland would have been fine. It is time that people look at who these animals are and what is best for them and stop trying to make them fit into an idea of what they want them to be. Give them what they need and let them be pigs.

Friday, November 1, 2013

General Behavior of Pigs in Captivity (Excellent article)

I have found every word of this to be true with each and every pig I have taken in over the years. Some very good information when trying to decide if a pig is for you...and also for problem solving any issues you may be having with your pig. Definitely worth the read!!! 

General Behavior of pigs in captivity   

 Pigs are not domestic animals like dogs or horses, they are wild animals and that must be factored into our understanding of their psychology. Unlike domestic animals, humans are not viewed by the pig as a playmate or like a dog views us, but as a potentially deadly predator. More about the definitions and significance of this status later. But keeping it foremost in the mind helps to understand many things that are not otherwise clear.
     Pigs live 15 to 20 years.  Some small percentage may live even longer. we don't have enough history yet to know how many might do so.  The oldest possible pigs in 2010 could be about 24, the second generation of the original (all deceased) imports in 1986.. They do not stay little and cute, despite what you may have seen or heard on TV or in ads. Normal,healthy pot bellied pigs average 120 to 160 pounds at maturity. And unlike animals like dogs, which do make good pets,  pigs mature mentally and develop intelligence far greater than other animals. What playfulness was so enjoyable when he was a 3 month old piglet will be gone and forgotten when he is 4 years old and entering the mature pig years. He will no longer be willing to be entertained in such silly ways. He will become an adult pig with adult PIG needs.. not human needs or dog needs.. he will need the society of pigs, an environment that is challenging and interesting, relationships that have social and emotional content suitable for his species. A single pig is one of the saddest things on the planet. He knows, somehow, that he will never in his lifetime get to speak to someone who understands his language, or share his needs and his fears. Many, when they reach this point of awareness and the desperation that comes with it, simply give up and die.  If you expect that your companionship is enough to sustain him, you are simply not thinking about what he needs. Think long and hard about life, and imagine that you are raised by groundhogs and will never in your life see or speak or touch another human, living in an environment that is unhealthy to your genetic type and mentally incompatible to your needs... it's not a life we would choose. And he does not choose it.  Those who point to the social nature of wild pigs to indicate how willing pigs are to live with humans forget the simple basis of the interaction, the pigs are free to come and go.
When he weighs 150#, rejects the very concept of being led or picked up and is aggressive to everyone in the family because you are keeping him in jail,  you have a major problem on your hands. Starting right and planning for his maturing needs will reduce these problems. Outdoor pigs with plenty of territory seldom exhibit aggressive behavior towards people.
Pigs are outdoor animals. While inside time is fine in moderation, it is not his natural setting and will not make for a happy pig in the long term. It is like keeping your teenager locked in the house.. not a good plan for either of you. Start out with a well-planned outdoor area and invite him in for visits. He will be happier and healthier and both you and the pig will have a more normal life style.  Pigs have to graze to keep their immune function working properly. It is for that reason (and others) that house pigs often only live half as long as outdoor pigs. Grazing, exercise and an outdoor life with sun and breezes and rain is essential for a healthy pig.
Careful attention to his environment is the key to your long term relationship. Environment as much as genetics drive his behavior and while there is nothing you can do about the genetics, you have control of his environment and are solely responsible for providing a suitable one. Observe and learn from your own pig what he really enjoys for entertainment. Some like a soccer ball to push around, others absolutely have to have company. The biggest mistake you can make with a pig is assuming he will be content with being a "pet". Pigs are as intelligent as primates and have emotional and social needs that very closely parallel the same in man. In many cases their reasoning results in conclusions that are far more "mature" than one would expect based on similar situations in human society. A pig needs intellectual stimulation to mature into the adult of his species that he is designed to be. He needs emotional fulfillment through lifetime bonds with others of his own kind, especially his family.  He needs the opportunity to develop his own society and rules of behavior that are satisfying to his innate psyche.
Look around you at how pet pigs are kept. Is it any wonder they become aggressive, depressed or simply lie in a bed and vegetate?  Pigs succumb to depression very quickly when their youthful years are over and adulthood holds nothing to stimulate them.  Humans don't speak their language so unless they are in a situation with another pig they are essentially forced to live without communication forever.  The company of cats has saved more than one pig from depression, and rabbits and goats and other species, although a far cry from the best choice, certainly help.
 If you are going to keep a pig as a companion, look to his needs, look to what nature had planned for his life and see what you can do to provide for  those needs. You cannot return him to the life he was designed to live, he must live his life enslaved in a world of restrictions, under the control of another species.. but you can do a great deal to make that life richer. Providing plenty of territory, the companionship of another pig or pigs and privacy in his life,  will keep him fit in both physical and emotional terms.  While not many homes can provide the size territory he needs, (acres) and cannot give him the full range of social life through a herd of pigs that includes his siblings and mate and children, most people can make some major improvements in their pigs life by fencing all the available space, adding "pushable" items like logs, a sandbox for soaking up the sun, a "hide out" of dense shrubbery, a small mud hole for wallowing  to keep skin protected from sun, providing a warm dry house outside and allowing the pig to have that private area without interference. If you have dogs who bark and run around and want to play, put them in a fenced dog pen and keep them away from the pig. As he matures into an adult at 4 to 5 years of age he will have less and less patience with the "silliness" of our canine friends. Cats will appeal to him as they are quiet and make good sleeping companions.
If you are already living with an aggressive pig, fix the environment and solve the problem He may need a another pig as a companion to exercise the territorial instincts he is developing as he grows up.  We will be glad to try to help in any way we can with solving your pig problems. For the pig the options are few, and you control them all. Either fix his environment or he will end up like so many others being put down or abandoned. For a problem that wasn't of his making, those are terrible penalties to pay. And its a shameful failure on our parts as guardians, to make a pigs life so intolerable that he dies from depression, obesity or being destroyed by the very person who made him that way.
Behavior Modification is for the pig owner.. not the pig. He is doing what is natural and proper for him. All your "modification" is likely to do is make his life miserable and that's not what you planned when you got that sweet baby piglet.  Read more on the natural behaviors that he will exhibit as he grows up to understand them.
  • History
            Vietnamese potbellied pigs and their numerous cousins of various sizes and colors range all though Southeast Asia, Africa and South American jungles. They are one of the most widespread of all prey animals. So important to world ecology that they are protected species under some counties laws to assure a source of food for the many endangered species who prey on them in an ever smaller ecosystem.
The foundation of the Vietnamese pot belly breed  (shown below left) is a mid size, long bodied  black pig and quite social in its wild state. Hanging around villages they were welcome 'cleanup crews" and were not typically used for food.
The US potbellies today, with or without "papers", are a mix of Vietnamese potbelly, a white domestic pig (perhaps middle white) mixed with potbelly to produce the white potbellies and the flashy black and white and silver color patterns and a "smushed face"  and a wide variety of other genetic influences, including Guinea hogs, South American and island species, African miniatures, ferals and domestics.  The Chart of Pig Breeds  on the Pig Site, an excellent resource, will give you a brief history and details on the importation of the first potbellies in 1986 to the U.S. as well as some fundamental history on all domestic breeds  
Ref: photo of native Vietnamese pigs.
  • Wild vs Domestic pigs
        In the wild the concept of "purebred" has a negative meaning. It is the hybrid vigor of out crossing as far and as often as feasible that keeps the species viable and the individuals robust. The closer the inbreeding the more defects and the less survival traits exist. In Domestic swine, purebred means bred without regard for longevity to produce traits that have nothing whatsoever to do with survival of the species. The species survival is in the hands of the breeders. Essentially, to any species, purebred means little chance of your genes surviving the rigors of adaption in successive generations. Domestic swine as a sub species have been domesticated for 6000 or more years. It is nothing short of amazing that research shows that domestic swine will, in one generation, show a visible physiological change  if set free in the wild. (Read full article published in the Docent News of the LA Zoo, 2008)      Quote from that articleAmazingly, when barnyard hogs become feral, all these domestic adaptations are quickly reversed; changes in the size and shape of the skull occur within a single generation as the pig brain starts to grow again.  The head becomes longer, the snout straighter and narrower.  The coat becomes denser; the hair grows more bristly, as does the pig’s attitude.  It seems that after all those millennia, the wild boar material still lurks in the genes of domestic pigs.
Porky, Piglet, Wilbur, Freddy and Napoleon are one unlocked gate away from becoming all that they can be.
         For reasons unclear to me, many people want to classify the potbelly is a domestic breed. Biological definition and behavior indicate this is incorrect. They perhaps confuse domestication with socialization. A domestic breed is "created", a "socialized" breed is simply taken into captivity and bred. To create a whole new "type" or sub species, typically requires  hundreds of years and thousands of generations.  
Domestic or wild, if set free  these pigs will soon return to their wild state, a state of exceptional survival skills. The difference with the potbellied and other wild pigs in captivity is that they never really stopped longing for their freedom. And handling them. treating them when sick will be a much greater difficulty than handling the mild mannered domestic pig.
         To be a prey animal has some  unique characteristics. As predators, we humans seldom consider how different the perspective is .  A prey animal will never sleep without a sense of what is going on around him; he will use whatever skills to disguise and protect his habitat, leave no trails, and attempt to send the tiger or crocodile onto a trail which leads to the neighboring village, not his own. Many of the "bad habits" of pigs in human homes are direct applications of these survival skills.
                     Being aggressive about his "home", his bed  (Protecting self and family)
                    Aggression toward strangers     (Protecting self and family)
                    Tearing up blankets, carpet, walls and even floors    (Nesting material; frustration with inactivity and lack of freedom)
                     Peeing in his pool  ((if this were a stream of water in the wild it would carry his scent away)
                     Making a  weaving trail through the fields and following it every day  (species specific pheromones lead him home)
                     Screaming if you pick him up, restrain him or try to give medicine or injections. (Response to restraint which to a prey means they are caught and will be killed)
·     Wild animals respond to illness much differently than domestic animals
             A wild animal such as a potbellied pig will respond with strong species preservation and self preservation behavior to the same stimuli that a farm pig will look at with mild curiosity. Why? Because farm pigs have been domesticated for thousands of years. The strong survival instincts and much of the innate intelligence has been selectively bred out of the species in favor of lean meat on their hips and shoulders.  A 1200 pound boar with strong survival skills would not be bred. He would be far too aggressive and territorial. He would be slaughtered and a more amiable animal selected for breeding. Over 6000 years of selection has produced a more docile pig.
  •      A sick pig will go off by himself away from the herd. This is species preservation. Sickness has odor.. Odor that predators recognize and seek     out.. Staying in the herd endangers the herd > the species. 
  •     He will be very quiet, no matter how much pain he has, this is self preservation.. Noise brings predators.
  •     A wounded or crippled pig will not put himself into any danger by getting too close to a bluff, deep water or a gully. Pigs have a very well     developed sense of personal danger, recognizing their limitations and risk.
  •     A sick pig will often stay motionless under a pile of hay or leaves.
  •     A sick pig, even of the friendliest kind, will often scream at your attempts to touch him. At the instinctive level you are still a predator.
  • The six Senses of the pig at work
  • Sight   Poor in all pigs. Especially poor in potbellies who have folds and smushed faces. Most fat pigs accumulate enough fat over the eyes to make them "fat blind". Pot bellies are also very frequently plagued by entropian eyes (lids which fold in, causing painful contact and infections from eyelashes.
  • Hearing  Keen. You won't sneak up on one very often.. and never in a free roaming herd state.
  • Touch       They succumb to the scratch and the belly rub very quickly, being touched is a great pleasure to them once they overcome inital fear of being confined/restrained. . Cats will "knead" them and they just fall over to better enjoy the pleasure.
  • Smell   Keen.. hide a cookie and they will find it.. With farm pigs this can be a high risk .. never enter a farm pigs field with a pocketful of cookies or gum or anything that smells good.. they get excited and try to rip away the fabric to get at the goodies.
  • Taste  Unlike many animals who seem to treat all foods as one topic, pigs will "shop" the plate and each has his special favorite foods. Usually they will go first for the breads, second for fish and cheeses, eggs, etc, and last to vegetables.  (sound familiar? Its typical of humans as well.). They enjoy food more than anyone and are often obese because of it. However, they will rarely overeat to the point of creating an acute health hazard. Unlike animals who eat until they founder and die, pigs eat until they sigh with contentment.
  • Pheromone  Probably Keen   No, they do not read our minds. They do however, actually possess this “sixth sense”,  a separate sense organ, known as the vomeronasal organ which is an “auxiliary” olfactory sense (smell), which receives pheromones.  Humans as well as all animals give off, receive and respond to pheromones. Some species may be much better at it than others. As a wild animal it is imperative if Mr. Pig wants to see another morning that he be able to read the signals of the tiger in the bush ahead. If the tiger is hunting, and the pheromones he is giving off read ”man, I could sure eat a nice fat pig for supper,” it is as clear to the pig as if we see a sign ahead that says “Bridge Out.”  If the message he receives is “burp, boy that was great antelope” then he can relax and move on.  There are many identified and well studied pheromones.  One that has always intrigued me is the trail pheromone, which lays down a non volatile hydrocarbon trail. Ants use this to get to and from their hills. And I expect its what pigs use too. I have watched in wonder over the years as a pig, even a blind pig ambles off into a new pasture or into the woods without apparent concern, and then comes back later on the EXACT trail.   Nose to the ground he walks, leaf by leaf over the same trail. A sudden, unprecedented snow left me with 6 pigs on the hilltop pasture one year who could not find their way down.. watching them search for the trail was frustrating. Eventually I had to walk to the top and walk down, leaving a trail they could follow with the snow disturbed. Whether they followed my trail's scent or simply walked in the path I can't say. As pheromones become better known it will be up to us, who are not blessed with great pheromone recognition ability, to understand how this added sense impacts animals who rely upon them.  Domestic animals, like humans, have lost the ability to recognize the pheromones but still transmit and act upon them at a less acute level. There is nothing magical about pheromones, they are simply signals sent by our physical bodies that have physiological impacts on others (Usually defined as within a species).  They do answer many questions about why things happen as they do in our sensory world.    With our pigs the senses are much more direct and keenly honed because they have not been selectively bred until survival traits are diluted beyond usefulness. And, in addition to the pheromones, they read the body language signals very well. The way I walk tells them a lot about what’s going on in my mind and what it could mean to them. When I walk out to give a pig a shot of Baytril, knowing it stings and the pig will hate it, I am broadcasting that trepidation clearly on several bandwidths. The pig knows before I ever get close there is something he doesn’t want on its way. How often in planning a trip to the vet has the pig suddenly become “shy” and won’t come in the loading zone. Every day for a week he came in.. What's different today? Today I am sending out the message of, “I hope it’s not kidney failure...Please don’t die, Sparky...Oh, I hate to take you and leave you over there.”  Sparky reads all these fears in me and says, “I am OUT of here.” We also read a lot that is coming from them.  I can often “sense” a serious illness when I walk out the front door.  I have sometimes had to hunt for hours looking to find the source of the “wrongness” feeling but eventually I will find a pig in trouble. It is no doubt a combination of experience and senses working at a level that "feels" the total impact but can't define it. I can usually tell if a pig is about to die from a long period of illness.  I am not psychic...there is often a message of impending death sent out quite clearly in the last day or so.  Recognizing these signals is just a matter of learning.
While pheromones have been studied for years, there have been none done with potbellies.  A wealth of knowledge is there waiting to be identified and classified. 
            When animals are young many relationships exist between predators and prey. As the animals mature, the rule of nature takes precedence and prey animals become viewed by predators as targets for food use or for just killing to destroy them. Keep your pigs safely fenced from all dogs. They are the number two killer of pigs (number one being humans). No matter if they all got along fine as puppies and piglets.. and they may have... the day will come when they don't and that pig will be horribly killed or ripped apart. Building fences is for keeping risks OUT. If spayed/neutered pigs won't leave home (except to find food).
Other predators: Coyotes are not much of a danger to adult pigs . I have never lived anywhere that wasn't knee deep in the little guys. They are hard on rabbits and chickens and other small critters but adult pigs pose a bit more of an aggressive resistance. Coyotes are shy and easily driven off by a LS Guardian dog like a Great Pyrenees. Keeping a Pyr is as close to 100% effective against coyotes as you will find. Years ago I used to have problems with them and skunks getting my little Silkie chickens and rabbits so I got a Pyr pup and that was the last loss I ever had ( 1985) . I have never been without a Pyr since.  I sleep soundly here, surrounded by wildlife, knowing  my 350 pigs and my cats are all safe from harm because the two Pyrs are wandering around doing their job.  For info on Great Pyrenees.   
A much bigger concern is stray dogs and the neighbors dogs. Dogs all have a natural instinct to kill pigs.. its the predator prey relationship and it doesn't matter what kind of dog or how it was raised or how friendly it seems to be with the pig, given the right opportunity one day it will kill it. Simple as that..  .. dogs are by nature intended to kill prey animals.. and they will. So a fencing project should be undertaken with dogs more than coyotes in mind. It only takes one wandering dog to brutally kill 2 pigs in a few minutes. They rip them apart, eating their ears and rectums and vulvas .. and sometimes chewing off the feet while the pig screams.. Its a horrible thing to even contemplate but knowing the enemy is half the battle. And dogs are the pigs enemy. He's who you are building the fence to protect from, not the coyote. Coyotes seldom weigh more than 30 pounds.. and are used to living off small prey.. a pig may smell like a big meal but he will also appear like a big task to bring down and they will move on. I won't say its impossible for a coyote pack to kill an adult pig but in the 25 years I have been working with pigs I have never heard of it happening.
If you don't want to add a Pyr pup then leaving your large dog out at night will help discourage the coyotes. Its a matter of pheromones and some breeds have been bred to have a better ability to ward off  strangers.
From my experiences with various fencing types, cattle panels, properly installed so that there are NO gaps at the bottom that don't have flat panels extending out and staked are far and away the best choice for safety from dogs and absolutely prevent pigs getting out. Coyotes may be small enough to wiggle in but aren't likely to do so. 
  • Interaction with domestic farm animals and companion animals.  
  •         Good relationships can be established with cattle in large fields and the sharing barns is safe with a little modification for the pigs to have a corner that they can get in where the cows don't step on them. Cows are careful and considerate of small animals who are not in the predator family.  My cows used to surround the pigs whenever a coyote showed up.  
  •         Friendly relationships, though not really healthy ones can also be established with fowl, goats and rabbits.  Pigs are by nature very clean animals and do not pick their food out of fecal matter or eat urine soaked morsels. They will if that's all that there is, and so would we, but its not healthy and not appealing. Goats, fowl and rabbits  deposit their waste wherever the urge occurs. It is often in the food and water dishes. If they are to live in a shared area, provide a lockup area for feeding and some various types of water reservoirs to keep the pigs food and water safe. Goats can often present a risk to pigs by butting them in the abdomen. If you have goats who exhibit this natural goat play behavior, they should not be in with pigs. Pigs are pretty well padded all over, except the soft underbelly and it is easy to have serious life threatening injuries there.
  •          Bad companions and often deadly are horses, who have a major innate fear of pigs, and their close kin llama, donkeys, and other equine. Consider it probably a no to the multitude of other species I haven't named, some obvious like big cats and dogs of all kinds and some not so obvious such as sheep, whose butting instincts are too strong.
                Some pigs never meet a stranger, others are very wary of everyone. Don't force unwanted relationships or biting may occur. Pigs and young children should be associated only with extreme caution. Pigs snap at each other as a normal part of their behavior and they snap at a child just as easily. It is not a signal of a "bad" pig, it is a perfectly normal action but can easily result in injury. And the pig who gets a deep laceration will heal without a scar in no time without any care but the same wound on a child is serious and will require stitches and antibiotics and a lot of pain will be experienced. I have often had my leg opened from knee to ankle by a pig in a bad mood. Don't condemn the pig for behaving as a normal pig. These behaviors are not explained to prospective buyers or adopters for obvious reasons. Who would then take on such a risk in their household?  
Once you have created spaces for his life and yours to coincide comfortably, then establishing some rules may be necessary. If they snap at you they are exhibiting a territory ownership and a few strong words and a slap will usually convince them that you are bigger and have a claim on that territory. It is enough to make them settle into "second" place. But don't claim their sleeping area, that is the pig's very private space. Serious aggression problems virtually never occur with outdoor pigs in suitable environments. 99% of aggression is attributed to confinement. The house pig has no other territory but the house, he has to claim it. And as he grows his territory also grows. And as he grows he becomes an adult pig and doesn't want you in it.
 If you think "its all in how you raise them" you are living in a fantasy world. Instinct will prevail. You must remember that these are "wild animals", not domestic, unlike dogs who have been living in man's world for centuries. Many of the pigs in homes today have great grandparents who were wild in the jungles of Vietnam or Thailand. They are wonderful social animals, but they are still dependent on their keen "wild" instincts for survival. You won't change their instincts and trying may make for a very unhappy relationship. The idea of behavior modification is born of an irrational arrogance that says all things must serve the human captor that controls it. This doesn't work with pigs. Like some peoples in history who could not be enslaved, some pigs would prefer death to subjugation. It is a fine line between the instinct to preserve life for the species benefit and the plain and simple despair of the individual.  If behavior needs modifying to make a good relationship between pig and human, it will be the human behavior that usually needs change.
There seems to be a good bit of confusion about "bonding"; both bonding with humans and bonding with other pigs.
The sex does not matter much in any bonding relationship. Once you eliminate the sexual relationships of a pig's society, the relationships that form thereafter are those of mutual friendship and benefit. And his bonds with human are less stressful as well. Whether you bond with a single pig or two at a time the bonding process is the same and the bonds have no greater or weaker threads. Bonding with two makes for a more well rounded group for the pig. Since you have other relationships with humans or perhaps other animals, it is certainly unfair to expect the pig to "make do" with only you as his companion. You cannot satisfy the need he has for his own kind, no matter how much you care for him.
A good human to pig bond is beneficial for both of the beings involved.
pig-to-pig bond is natural and better for the pig than any other bonds.  It matters little about sexes in a pair of pigs but in general, the tightest bonds are between siblings, followed by a bond between two males; then that bond between two females and the least bonding occurs between male and female unless they have been a mated pair prior to neutering.
  • Effects of social lifestyle
        Pigs who live in a "natural"  environment, outside with plenty of acreage to wander, trees and water and fields to graze, and the company of their family members or other pigs develop remarkably different behavior than their limited lifestyle counterparts in suburban homes. Pigs from one sanctuary to another, in differing environments and population sizes live differently. Environment plays a huge role in how the live and how long. Anthropology offers some general rules about life styles and environment and certainly laboratory animals have written the book on suffering in close confinement and the behaviors it creates. It is up to us who work with different species over decades to see how these animals fit the norms.
Some observations about social behavior from our years of work with pigs:
  • Territory is rarely extensive. Most pigs do not travel more than a range of perhaps 7 or 8 acres.  Young pigs in small groups are much more likely to explore new territory.
  • Pigs sleep in the same beds for years. They sleep with the same companions for years. What motivates them, after 10 or 15 years of being a group to change their patterns is sometimes health related.  One becomes arthritic and realizing his infirmity, the arthritic pig moves to a less populated area.
  • With a large territory available and no restraints as to when and how they spend their time, pigs settle into routines of early morning grazing, mid day naps in favorite spots, afternoon grazing and woods foraging and bed. They are very much creatures of habit.
  • Pigs in groups fight. Not serious fights as a rule but challenges over a bit of food or a bed arise frequently. Why they fight is perhaps like asking why you get into arguments with your mate or teenage children.. because.. different ideas surface and disagreements happen. It is not because they dislike a=one another and the minute the argument is over they go back to normal  Intelligence and choices breed independence. Its not always peaceful. Small groups argue less, groups of disabled pigs do not fight and interestingly, very large groups without territory are calm, but it is the calm of acceptance of life without freedom. In the wild extended family groups of a dozen or so are all you would expect to see living together.
  • Families raised together usually stay a "unit" for life.
  • Pigs grieve the loss of their mates and family members. I have seen pigs lie beside the grave of their mate and refuse food, grieving for days. And pigs touching their dead sister all over and then 'talking' among themselves as they go off into the woods and stay a day or two. Grief is not unique to humans.  They grieve for the loss of their home and family when they are given away, and for a human family member that dies. For a lesson in this kind of broken heart see White Wilbur's story. 
  • Pig parents teach their children how to behave. They nudge them into place and correct them with little bumps and nips. Both parents share in the rearing from birth onward. Read about this child rearing from M'Goo and Penelope's Story  

  • Effects of aging
                 The dynamics of aging can be studied better in pigs than in any other living being. With domestic/ companion animals the brain size has decreased during the eras of human dependency and the dietary and environmental needs skewed by the generations of non natural behavior. With wild animals the captivity wreaks such damage on the overall health that you often can’t tell what aging is “natural” and what is directly resulting from the poor health the captivity itself engenders.
Humans have a life span too long for objective study. The inability to “see” it all, repeatedly, from birth to death, leaves us too close to the forest to see the trees. 
But pigs are social by nature, adapting to being captive with a great degree of pragmatism, are long lived but not so long you can’t “see” the processes as they occur and they exhibit much the same types of aging “issues” as humans, making an understanding much easier. They get blind, they get senile, deaf, indifferent, slow, arthritic, lose competitive interest,  seek more warmth and get picky about their food. They grumble and complain and want more comfort. Sound like Grandpa? Well, it’s about the same with pigs reaching their late teens and early twenties.
To see our old friends age and become fragile is a sad reality.  Once they become seniors, at 14 or so, they begin requiring more specialized care. They tolerate less cold, less heat, less humidity, less poor feed, less anesthesia... The Elder pig and his needs will be addressed in several sections of pig care as it is at the end of life that his needs are greatest and most likely to be difficult to attend.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Momma is Pregnant

This is Olivia and her 2 babies (Toppy & Binoo), 3 of the 5 rescued pigs from August. When we found her, she was still nursing 2 (from 6) of her 3 month old babies and she was very thin. We weaned the babies and took them in and had them neutered, as they can begin breeding as early as 6 weeks and will breed back to mom.

Olivia has been putting on weight, we were hoping just because she was now eating properly, but because she was being housed with a male (15 year old Todd from other posts...and the father of her first litter) when we found her, we always suspected another pregnancy. We took her in yesterday to be spayed, but had the vet do an ultrasound first to be sure. It confirmed that she is, indeed, pregnant.

Her previous owners didn't want any of these pigs. They weren't being cared for, they had no shelter and were not being fed the right food, or enough food. They were on Kijiji "to give away"...for anyone to take, yet they thought it was their right to breed not only one litter of piglets, but two and give these babies away, unfixed. Pigs can have up to 12 piglets in a litter. Do the math attached to this logic.

There are a few misconceptions about breeding that I would like to clear up. First, OLD PIGS CAN BREED!! That was the excuse this woman gave for the first litter...she thought Todd (dad) was too old to breed at 15 years. What's the excuse for the second litter I wonder? Second, NURSING MOTHERS CAN GET PREGNANT!! Olivia was still nursing when she became pregnant. I have even been told by a vet that this isn't possible. IT IS!!! Third, as I've already said, BABIES AS YOUNG AS 6 WEEKS CAN BREED and will breed back to their mom.

Seeing those babies on the ultrasound yesterday deeply touched something in my heart. Their little heartbeats blinking on the screen...a result of total irresponsibility. There is no real place in this world for these babies. They are sweet, they are precious...and they are unwanted. Don't get me wrong, I am keeping them and cannot wait to meet their tiny little selves and they will be loved to death and cared for throughout their entire lives (God willing I will still be here to do that), but did even I want more pigs being brought into this world? No. I don't have the money to take more pigs. Spaying and neutering that many pigs alone costs close to $4000, not to mention food, shelter, electricity for heating shelters all winter, worming medication and various vet costs. My family will have to sacrifice to care for possibly 12 more pigs (possible total of 22)...all the result of other people's extreme irresponsibility.

PLEASE help fight against this. Do not support breeders of ANY kind...from the people with their expensive, fancy sounding pigs (all the same breed, but they don't want you to know that), to the backyard breeder asking $50 for a muddy old pig from their pen out back. If you are serious about owning a your research. If you can honestly say it's still for you (for up to 30 years), then adopt from a rescue. Bringing unwanted pigs into the world to be neglected and killed or passed off as another's responsibility is not someones right. Please let them know this.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Todd & Grandma

Here's Todd & Grandma, 2 of the rescue pigs from August. The longer I have had them, the harder it is for me to imagine how someone who had these pigs for 15 years could possibly consider ending their lives...because "they are too old and too fat for anyone to want them". Todd is one of the sweetest, gentlest personalities I have ever met (with his noticeable under bite) and Grandma has a spirit that is full of life, even though her body is not. They've lived a miserable life of neglect, but have now found love and compassion and will live out their remaining days in comfort, knowing someone loves them. Whether human or animal...there is no better feeling...I can see it in their eyes.

I've been trying them in the house, hoping I will be able to keep them inside for the winter. I don't know if Grandma has another year left in her, and the thought of her spending her last days outside in the cold is not sitting well. Our shelters are insulated, and have a heat source...I know she would be fine out there but I am hoping if I can get them in the house, I will be able to get her up more during the day and her condition might improve. So far it's not going well. After 15 years of just "existing" they don't understand the house and they are scared. Todd wants to be outside on the grass, and I am finding it very hard to get Grandma in and out on my own. She doesn't do the ramps on the deck very well with her limited mobility, but I am hoping a little practice is all she needs. I think I will hold off and try again when it gets a little colder outside... when the warmth of the house might be a little more appealing to them. They do like the fire once they settle in. :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Winter Shelter for Pot Bellied Pigs

It's getting to that time of year. We built a shelter this spring and moved my pigs outside for the summer and I am really feeling the fall chill in the air when I go out to feed them in the morning. I've never had pigs outside during the winter, but because of the recent rise in numbers, I won't be able to bring them all in this year. This will be hard for me. :(

Many people believe that pigs are fine in the crudest of shelters and this is not true. Pigs have a hard time regulating their body temperature and need a lot of help. In the summer they can get overheated quickly and need access to shade and fresh water at all times. In Alberta winters, they need to have a properly insulated shelter with an outside heat source (such as a heat lamp placed high enough that they can't touch it). It must be large enough for them to comfortably move around in, as they will spend most of the winter in it, but not so large that heat is lost to extra space. It should be filled from floor to roof with clean straw for them to burrow into, and it's never a good idea to keep just one pig. They snuggle together in the straw for warmth, and it's much harder for one pig to stay warm. The door should face away from the winter winds and shouldn't be bigger than needed for the pig to come and go. Our's has a big swing door for cleaning that always stays closed except in the spring when they like to lie in the shelter and enjoy the sunshine. A blanket of some type should be hung in the door to keep the wind and blowing snow out. The shelter should be on keep the floor from rotting so will need a ramp for the pigs to walk up. The roof should be slanted and shingled to prevent leaking.

I have seen people who keep their pigs in small, plywood rickety old dog houses during the winter with a handful of straw to lie on. This is cruelty. Those pigs live miserable lives. If you are considering getting a pig, please make sure you are able (financially and physically) to provide the proper care throughout its life. They will depend on you.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Pigs and surgery

Yesterday was an emotional day. Todd, Toopy and Binoo all went in to be neutered. These are always hard days for me.

Pigs are VERY sensitive to anesthetic and it's VERY important to use a vet who is familiar with Pot Bellied Pigs or there is a good chance that you will lose him/her during the surgery. The preferred anesthetic to use is ISO (spelled either Isoflourine or Isoflorine Gas). This puts them to sleep quickly and they wake up quickly with no after effects. Please make sure that your vet knows to use this on your pig ... not all vets know this as not all vets are familiar with Pot Bellied Pigs. We have found that very few vets are.

All in all everything went well. Toopy was cryptorchid, so his surgery was a little more difficult. One of his testicles hadn't dropped, so they had to go into his abdomen. It was a little scary because it was buried in his intestines, but all turned out well. A little more medication for him to prevent infection, but he's alright.

The vet decided to keep Binoo's extra two feet on. He said that they are fully formed feet (with bone), so it would be major surgery to remove them. They shouldn't cause him problems, he walks just fine, but the hooves will have to be kept trimmed at all times. He's my special pig...I think his extra feet will make him fly. ;)

I am just glad yesterday is over. In a few weeks Olivia will go in to be spayed and I will be in for another emotional day, but until then...all is well!                                                                            

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pig Tusks

I just wanted to post a photo of a pig tusk that was trimmed from one of my pigs today.

People tell me time and time again that breeders are telling them that pot bellied pigs don't grow tusks. This is NOT true...they grow impressive tusks and they need to be trimmed. They are sawed off using a wire and pigs DO NOT like this activity. Please be aware that performing this task on a 200 pound pot bellied pig is not easy and many of the people who bring a baby pig home don't look far enough into the future to consider this.

Also be aware that pig tusks cannot be removed. They are part of the jaw. When I got my first pig, our vet (at the time) told me he could remove them. He pulled 4 little teeth and we thought we were done with the problem. Once my pig started to mature (2-3 years) did his tusks. You cannot have them pulled...yet many vets who are not familiar with pigs will tell you otherwise. Don't believe it.

This is ONE of the FOUR tusks that were trimmed. Picture a 200 pound pig with four of these in his mouth when you are considering adding a pig to your family. ALL MALE PIGS GROW TUSKS. Females do as well, but they are smaller.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

More pigs

It happened again. A very sad story has led to me being the proud new owner of 5 new pigs. I went on a 12 hour journey to pick these ones up. Living where no one cared about them, in a small dirt pen with so little human contact that they were scared of everything and serious medical issues went unnoticed.

Here's Todd. He's anywhere between 8 and 15 years old and not fixed. He was going to be killed (for no reason). He's a very sweet guy and is going to be neutered in a week.

This is Grandma. She is also anywhere between 8 and 15 years old and was also going to be killed (for no reason). Although this picture doesn't show it (don't ask me how that happened!!), she is very overweight, limps and is completely blind due to the fat rolls covering her eyes. These are issues that cause her distress and someone who cared at all about these animals would never have let it get to this point.

This is Olivia. She is about a year and a half. She had 6 babies, but 4 of them had been sold by the time I found her. She is underweight and was still in with her 2 male (unfixed and able to breed) babies. She was also in with Todd, who is also unfixed, when we picked her up. Chances are she could be pregnant again. This lady was starved for attention...she follows me everywhere I go.

This is Toopy. Toopy is 12-14 weeks old and wild as wild can be. He's never been touched...his old owners couldn't even tell me...after that much time... whether he was male or female. It's not hard to just looking into the pen. Just shows how much attention was given to these pigs. We have been able to hold Toopy and his brother and get them into a harness after the first week...but they are not happy with it yet.

This is Binoo. Binoo is Toopy's brother. He has 4 front feet (that the straw in the picture is hiding well), possibly caused by his mom's malnutrition during pregnancy. He's smaller than Toopy and just as wild. They are both going in next week to be neutered and we will see what the vet says about his 2 extra feet. If they will cause him problems as he grows, we will have them removed.

Here is them arriving at their new home after a long drive. This picture (first) of Grandma shows her fat a little better. She's the one on the left, Todd is on the right.  I really don't know how she looked so much slimmer in the last picture...but I wish I could bottle that photo genius that I obviously posses!! ;)

I am sure that the people who sold/gave these pigs to this home probably felt like they were going to a good home. Most people do not intentionally give an animal to someone they think will abuse or neglect it (although some people just don't care). People who have no business owning an animal of any kind can make themselves sound like the perfect owners for the few minutes that you are speaking to them. It happens all the time. Please keep this in mind, both when you are considering getting a pot bellied pig/piglet and when you are trying to rehome one. Chances are this is the type of place they will end up if it doesn't work out with you. They are NOT easy to rehome as adults. If they are lucky, they will stay in a sad place like this until someone involved in rescue comes to get them before they are killed or sent to another equally sad existence....and then if they   are lucky, they will stay there until someone involved in rescue comes to     get them before they are killed or sent to another equally bad existence......

 All it would take to stop this is to do your research before bringing one home. Make sure you know all the difficult parts of pig ownership that breeders forget to tell you. Adopt from a rescue if you decide that a pig is for you. If you take away the demand of these precious babies, you take away the supply (more and more being produced for profit). You get a wonderful friend, who is fixed and socialized and you get ongoing support from people who care deeply for the pig you take home, and you save a life. It's a win/win situation.



Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pigs and hair loss

Sigh. Tanner has started losing his hair. Most pot bellied pigs do this once a year, and mine usually do it in the spring, but he's started early. It's called "Blowing their coat," and it's awful!! It takes a few months for 1 pig to lose all of their hair, and all of mine start at different times which means that I have several months where it looks like I have pig bristle carpet in my house. Pig bristles are nothing like dog hair that vacuums up easily. They stick in everything...especially your socks!!! I HATE IT!!!!

On the bright side, we get a lot of laughs from their Shrek-like appearances during this process...and they do look ever so handsome when it all grows back, but I still can't say it's worth it. I'm not sure why he started so early this year. Boy, is he going to be cold! :)

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Things are not always what they seem

Just saw an ad on Kijiji entitled "Happy Haven for Unwanted Livestock" which reads as follows...

"Hi we are offering a safe haven for all unwanted livestock.we have lots of room on our farm we live and work on our farm daily it is our lively hood we have on hand medication and put our hart and soul into our aniamls here.for more info call..."

When you click on "See posters other ads" you find ads offering everything for sale from cats to horses, alpacas and steer, goats and pigs for butcher. Some "Safe Haven"!!! Seems to me that is a "heart and soul" any animal could do without!

PLEASE be aware of this type of thing when trying to rehome an unwanted pig...or any unwanted animal for that matter. This is the rule...not the exception when it comes to pot bellied pigs. I just don't know how to stress enough that if you are not absolutely sure that a pot bellied pig is for you (for life) when you bring it home, chances are very good that you will be sentencing it to death if you try to rehome it as an adult. Places like this are where they usually end up. Very few people are willing to take on an adult pig and they rarely find forever homes. They are a lot of work, and the same reasons that you no longer want him or her are the reasons it generally doesn't work somewhere else. Please keep this in mind...your pet depends on has no one else.

UPDATE: After emailing these people with my concern that their ad was very misleading...and much nasty-ness on their part...they have changed the wording. It is now titled "Unwanted Livestock". Still the same people...still sounds pretty good...still selling animals for butcher. Is this where you want your pet to end up? Please don't take chances with your pets life. It's very easy to make something sound a whole lot better than it actually is. Be aware that things are not always what they seem.