Monday, October 1, 2018

Pigs, Little Escape Artists

Young pigs are inquisitive. And they like to explore and travel. Add to that mix the instincts and urges of a feral pig, and I end up with piglets that are difficult to confine. My current piglets are mostly feral, with a bit of domestic tossed in somewhere in the background. So they are active and frequently find ways to escape their roomy pen. 

Escape methods--
...though the fence. When they were tiny, some figured out how to jump through the openings in the fence. The lower foot  of fencing wires were too closely spaced for them to push through, but further up the wires were spaced further apart, enough for a small pig to get through. So for the first couple of weeks, I was able to identify which were the clever piglets of the group. But it didn't take long for them to grow too big to make it out. 
...under the fence. These piglets like to root up the ground, and along the fenceline is their favorite place. It didn't take the smart ones long to figure out how to pull up the bottom wires, permanently bending them enough to be able to shimmy under. So I had to strategically place large rocks and logs to keep them from escaping this way. I've considered running a couple strands of barbed wire along the bottom of the fence, but I haven't gotten to it yet. They're not escaping frequently enough to motivate me to do that job, not yet. 
...between the fence and rock wall. I have a t-post fairly close to where the fence meets the rock wall, but there's a couple inches of space.....a gap. Again it was the smartest one who discovered the gap and worked it. When the pigs finally grew larger and heavier, they were able to pull the t-post away from the rock wall enough to squeeze through. So I had to brace the t-post to prevent them from pulling it aside. 
.,.via the gate. Gates are often the weak point of an enclosure. Mine proved to be weak. The gate was fine as long as the piglets were small. Now that they have put on weight, they now have enough heft to challenge the gate. Twice now they've managed to break the hinges, and once they popped the latch. Now I've replaced those with heavier hinges and clasp. 

Since most of my pigs are escapers, I take four steps that I believe are super important and help me control my pigs. 
...don't jet them run out of food and get hungry. A hungry pig will go looking for food. 
...make friends with your piglet. I like my pigs to come to me for rubbing. I brush their backs. I offer them treats. I encourage them to follow me around their enclosure. 
...train them to come. Every time I feed them I call them. Before long they will come running anytime they hear peeeg, peeeg, peeeg. So when they get loose, I can call and they will come running out of the woods. 
...find out their favorite to-die-for food. With every pig I've raised thus far it has been dry dog food kibbles. So once a week I offer them a bucket of dry dog food out of a white bucket. Now anytime they see the white bucket and hear the kibble rattling, they come running. They get rewarded with their favorite treat. 
...train the farm dog to herd. You can't use a hyper excited or running dog around loose pigs. So I trained Crusty to follow loose pigs at a bit of a distance. He walks behind, keeping a quiet presence. But the pigs are very aware that he is there. Although they are use to him hanging around and even playing with him, they some how are aware that he is herding them rather than his usual play. Having Crusty there encourages them not to back track while I am leading them back to their pen. 

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