Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Saga of Petunia



…or How We Became Unsuspecting Pig Parents
By Jennie Staub


Last Tuesday started out normal enough.  Little did we know how far from normal the next few days would become. My husband, Jay, and I woke up, fed dogs, cats, and chickens, drove to work, and decided to have lunch at one of our favorite restaurants where our friend Julie happens to work as a server.  As always, we asked to be seated in her section.  When she saw us, she immediately rushed over and without preamble asked if we had purchased our new farm yet.  We’ve been on the hunt for a new place with more acreage and more privacy and had told Julie a few weeks prior about a place we’d found further out in the country with eight acres and how, if we bought it, we planned to add to our menagerie of cats, dogs, and chickens with maybe some pigs and goats.  When we told Julie no, we didn’t have a new place yet, she sighed heavily and said how much she had hoped we did because she was going to ask a huge favor of us.  And here’s where the story gets really interesting, really fast.

Julie told us that her brother had been given a pot belly pig by a friend who, in turn, had gotten her from another friend who works at a local animal shelter.  When her brother mentioned to this friend in casual conversation that he was thinking of getting a pig to raise, his friend took him to mean a pig as a pet (we assume) and knew that a pot belly pig had been turned in at the shelter by some folks who said she wandered into their yard.  Since coming to the shelter no one had come to claim her so away she went to Julie’s brother. 

The only thing wrong with this picture is what Julie’s brother meant was he wanted to get a pig to raise for food and he had no intention of keeping a pig as a pet.  Some of his less enlightened friends (think Beverly Hillbillies-type folks) heard him mention that he needed to find a new home for the pig because he did not want to keep a pig for a pet.  Seeing a flashing neon sign saying “FREE PORK”, they offered to take the pig off his hands, have her carved into pork chops and bacon, and both sides would stock their freezers. 

Needless to say, Julie and her husband, Jerry, were appalled and beside themselves when they heard this but were in no position to take her since their neighborhood was not zoned for pet pigs.  They had been going to her brother’s house for the past week to feed and care for the pig, which they came to adore and had named Petunia, all the while trying in vain to find someone, anyone, willing to adopt her and NOT slaughter her.

I think Julie viewed us as Petunia’s last hope.  She was practically in tears telling us how the very next day her brother’s backwoods buds were coming to take Petunia away and straight to the butcher.  We agreed with her that these people were unconscionable to take and kill a pig that had never been anything other than someone’s pet.  Feeling awful, but not knowing what else to do, we left it at that, finished our lunch, and went on our way.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about that poor little girl and how I could possibly help save her from what seemed an almost inevitable fate.

On the way back to work, I thought of my sister who lives about 60 miles west of us and is very plugged in to the north Alabama animal rescue community.  I contacted her, told her the story, and she began working her contacts.Very soon she contacted me with good news.  It turned out one of her good friends, Amber, who is actively involved in rescue and fostering had her own pot belly pig, coincidentally also named Petunia, and was willing to foster our Petunia and try to find her a home…..but there was a catch.  We had to get the pig to her, some 60 miles away.  Neither Jay nor I could afford to take time off work.  Julie was scheduled to work also; however, Jerry had the time and a truck but not the financial means.  Julie doesn’t make a lot at her waitress job and Jerry is currently unemployed.  I gladly offered to give them gas money if they could deliver Petunia and they jumped at the offer.  It all seemed to be coming together and we both agreed we would sleep soundly that night knowing Petunia had a safe place to go.

The following morning, Wednesday, Jerry went to his brother-in-law’s house and got Petunia in his truck to make the long trip to drop Petunia off with Amber at the veterinarian office where she works.  Amber would get her home from there.  All seemed to going well and I breathed a sigh of relief that Petunia was safe from the butcher and would be well cared for until a home could be found.  The original plan was that Amber would keep our Petunia with her Petunia in her backyard, and work on finding her a forever home.  By this time in the process, I was already sold on adopting Petunia myself IF (and it was a big if) I could figure out a place to keep her.  My dear husband, on the other hand, was blissfully unaware of my decision.  We have two acres at our current residence but none of it is fenced except for a portion of the backyard where the dogs stay and three adjoining garden plots which are set up with welded wire fence.  We have been using them as extra roaming space for our flock of chickens.  I decided we could retrofit one area to be fit for a pig and estimated that we could have her back with us in a week or two. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans….

I awoke the next morning, Thursday, to an urgent text message from Amber that said she was terribly sorry but didn’t think this was going to work out after all and needed me to come get the pig.  It turned out that our Petunia was a good 70 pounds heavier and several inches taller and wider than her Petunia and she was afraid to leave them alone unsupervised, plus our Petunia had charged at her dogs upon seeing them.  To make matters even worse, Petunia had bitten Amber’s foot the previous evening in her anxiousness to get to the food that she was bringing her.  Amber was just afraid she was going to be too much to handle.  My heart sank.  What were we going to do now?  By this time, I had sold Jay on the idea of having a pet pig (surprisingly easier than I expected) and we had a quick brainstorming session.  We decided we could get something put together by Saturday. We asked Amber if she could possibly keep Petunia until we could make it over Saturday afternoon to pick her up.  She had a 10x10 chain-link kennel that she sometimes used for rescued dogs and she could put Petunia in there for a couple of days.  Now the clock was ticking louder and we really had to get to work.

Friday afternoon we both left work after lunch and ran to our local feed store to purchase a truckload of straw bales and a large molded plastic dog house similar to the one Amber said Petunia was already sleeping in at her house.  The fenced area I wanted to put her in had been our garden this past summer and still had all of the tomato cages, the remains of the plants that had just recently died off, and snaking through it all a long half-buried soaker hose. 

All of that had to be torn down or pulled up, and the plants dug up and removed, specifically the tomato plants, because I know they are poisonous to many animals.  We worked HARD for several hours and finally had a double stacked row of straw bales along the fence Petunia would share with the main chicken run, effectively blocking her view just in case she decided to try and “play” with the chickens.  We had a large pallet we had kept to use as a foundation for a new dog house but hadn’t yet so we brought that out, put her house on top, and then stacked straw bales around it for insulation.  The last bales we stacked one tall along the opposite end of the pen where the fence is shared with one of the older garden plots that the chickens are allowed into each day to scratch and explore.

We knew from Amber’s description, and a few pictures she sent me, that our little Petunia was not so little after all.  She was a big girl weighing in at perhaps 100-120 pounds and just a little shorter than knee high.  Amber had also tried putting a makeshift harness on Petunia the day she got her and Petunia freaked out, telling Amber that no one had ever harness or leash trained her.  Our original idea of leading her out on a leash, picking her up and placing her into the bed of the truck went flying out the window.  After reading about ramps on the Pigs 4 Ever website, I told Jay that’s what we needed – a nice sturdy ramp with little cross sections of wood tacked on so she could get traction and not slip…AND it was a job I was assigning to him.  He nodded his head and assumed the mantle of patient long suffering he wears whenever I decide we need to adopt a new pet and he is tasked to help.  Soon after, the sound of his table saw could be heard whining away in the garage and soon there emerged a very nice ramp.

Amber worked until noon on Saturday so we planned to leave our house in the late morning.  This would give us plenty of time to stop at Tractor Supply on the way to pick up pig chow, suitable food and water bowls, then on to Amber’s house to load Petunia and get back home with plenty of daylight left to get her settled in.  One of our three dogs sleeps in an XL wire crate each night so we borrowed it to transport Petunia and put lots of nice fresh straw in the bottom so she would feel more secure and her hooves wouldn’t slide.  We loaded up the rapidly made but surprisingly sturdy ramp in the truck bed alongside the kennel and headed west.

For those of you who have pet pigs, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything new when I say wrangling a pig the size of Petunia and getting her to go where she doesn’t want to go and to do what she doesn’t want to do is no small feat indeed, but when that pig doesn’t know you and has recently been shaken up from being shuttled from one place to another and another, it’s practically impossible.  We were woefully unprepared for just how difficult it would be getting her out the small fenced area where she had been sequestered, along approximately 15 feet of fence line, around the corner, and through the gate where we had backed the truck and lowered the ramp.  I believe it took us at least seven attempts (maybe more), and several handfuls of dog food as an enticement, just to get her to the gate.  Once we got Petunia to the open gate, Jay got behind her and partially closed the gate so she couldn’t back up, and then it was up to all three of us, with more dog food dropped up the ramp, to push, pull, and bribe her all the way up the ramp and into the kennel.  Jay and I had just experienced our first, but I’m sure not last, up close and personal encounter with a creature whose personality traits had spawned the word “pigheaded”.  We caught our breath, thanked Amber again for being so gracious to take Petunia in,then we headed back home.

Once we arrived home, it was surprisingly easy to get her into her new pen.  We backed the truck as close to the gate as we could and lowered the ramp.  With Jay using a blunt wooden garden stake to gently encourage from behind and me waving a bowl of her new pig chow under her nose, it only took just two tries to get her to make the trip back down the ramp.  She made a beeline for the southwest corner of her new pen, squatted and pee’d a gallon.  With that accomplished, she leisurely explored all four sides of her pen, sniffing and grunting her apparent approval. She inspected her house by walking in, burying her nose in the straw, and coming back out with straw draped over her head.  Seemingly satisfied with her new digs, she settled in to eat her dinner.  I stayed out with her for a while to let her get used to me and eventually she stood still for me to scratch her back.  She bowed her back and the next thing I knew she flopped down on her side for a belly rub, grunting happily. At that point I knew I could tell Julie that the saga of Petunia was going to have a happy ending. 

It’s been only a week since she came to us and already she has grunted and squealed her way into our hearts.  Cold weather arrived here today, a bit earlier than expected, and next week is forecast to be even colder.  We will be building her a lean-to this weekend so she will have a better place to stay warm and dry that is much larger than just her little house in the midst of the straw bales.  Her new Busy Ball is on order and should arrive tomorrow.  Next up is a harness and leash so we can begin that training process.  I look forward to the day when we are comfortable enough to allow her to roam and graze outside her pen and she can finally know that she has nothing to fear ever again.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

More On Potty Training....

Since help with potty training is one of the most requested e-mails I get here I'm going to share what I have done and do here with my house pig(s). 

Get your pig on a schedule! A routine makes all the difference in the world. When Oshay was little he didn't have much of a routine he was just put outside to run the yard and go potty. He had no idea that there is a difference between play time and potty time and sometimes there were accidents. Once this was pointed out to me I made sure he was on a schedule and watched his routine. I noticed that he would pee pretty much right away after being put outside and with watching him I realized that he would pee again in another 20-30 minutes. Get to know your pigs routine so that there aren't accidents.

He was normally taken out every 2-4 hours with the last potty time being around 10-11 at night. It was when he was a little over a year old that he let me know that he no longer needed to go out that late in the evening...7-8p.m. was fine.
Even now at 7 there are days that I have to make sure that my little guy goes potty when put out for potty time. He is fed in the morning then taken outside to potty while I feed the other pigs. Now depending on the weather he might graze a little, go potty and graze more as he will be out for several hours.

It took more than once for me to figure out that when the weather is bad I need to close the screen door to the patio or he will turn around and go back in while I am feeding the other pigs. This forces him to stay out and gives me time to get the others fed. I then have to lead him back into the yard where we now walk around a bit until he goes potty...the whole time I am telling him go potty. Once he has pooped and peed he is free to wander the yard or come back inside.

Because he has to go down a ramp to get outside I do take him out morning and afternoon/evening. I DO NOT assume that he will do this on his own even now. So please do not assume that just because you put your pig outside to potty that he knows that is what he is supposed to do. Walk him/her around until they go potty.

Now to anyone that is new to having a pet pig. Yes they can be litter box trained, but I can't stress enough to forget the litter box and take your baby outside. We have found over the years that even pigs that were litter box trained grow out of using the litter and want to go outside.

As a rule our pigs do not like rain, snow or cold weather...the same as most of us. This means that on those days we need to put on our rain or winter coat and go out with them. They will be fine in the wet & cold as they are only outside long enough to go potty. Though you may have to be creative getting them out the door.

I can't stress enough that litter boxes don't work in the long run and training never ends...meaning you need to stay on top of them and make sure that they are going potty when put outside. I am also a firm believer that ALL of our pet pigs should be going outside to potty.

Good luck!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

CHRISTMAS FROM BENTLY BATTOE'S POINT OF VIEW

His stocking is hung with the greatest of care
Not that this means he will leave it there.
He snuffles for presents and we learned from the past,
If we don't hide them well, they will not last.

The nativity scene is set out in a row,
Why he must rearrange it we do not know.
He moves the stone animals out of their beds,
And uses the wise men to rest his head.

Maybe he feels that his scene is lacking,
For there are no porkers to give him backing.
Ben gazes at us with a baleful eye,
We can almost hear him asking Why...?

Should there not be a pig in this special scene
Of love, compassion, and man's greatest dream?
Of course, we say, you should not be left out,
As we place a stuffed pig with a big rubber snout.

Our Christmas story is different by choice,
As we feel our Bently deserves a voice.
When it comes to love and the Christmas spirit,
A pig beats a camel no matter how you hear it.

Ben knows that God in His infinite wisdom,
Created pigs for just this reason.
A laugh, a chuckle, love and devotion,
What more could we ask of God's world in motion.

We humans could learn a lesson well taught,
By porkers in general who give us this thought.
A laugh a day, a clear conscience at night,
A slight forgiven, a wrong made right.

These things so easy for our porcine friends,
seem to be hard lessons learned for mortal men.
In this season of Christmas, love and light,
Should we not try harder to do things right.

Bently watches me write this as he lays at my feet,
Thinking all of this rhetoric really is neat.
Best wishes to everyone he sends by the bunch,
And tells me; Enough already; it's time for my lunch!

Phyllis Battoe
12/94

Monday, October 3, 2011

WORMING AND MANGE MITES

One of the most asked questions that we get is what should I use to worm my pig(s) and when should I do it. Also, why do I want to use a wormer when they have mange mites?

Most wormer's will also kill the mites that cause mange. The most popular and easiest to use is a liquid called Ivomec 1% Solution for Cattle & Swine.

A number of the sanctuaries have switched to Dectomax as it claims to provide protection for 21 days while the Ivomec protects for 14 days. Dectomax, like Ivomec, comes as injectable which can be given orally, and as pour-on which is put along the pigs back like the Frontline dog and cat products.

"I have used Dectomax with no problems, but I can't say it was any better than the Ivomec and it is more expensive." Ted of Willow Ridge Sanctuary

Another question is: What if my pig has never been wormed? No one has ever mentioned that I need to do this.

This does not fall under the rule of "If it's not broke don't fix it." It does not hurt them to be wormed. Most of us don't talk about the worms enough because the Ivomec and Dectomax that we use mainly for prevention and treatment of mange also kills worms and lice.

If they are on the twice a year schedule (spring & fall) then worms are not a problem because we are taking care of it when we Ivomec them.

If your pig doesn't have worms he will just pass the excess Ivomec out of his system. If he does have them you will certainly know as those are some of the nastiest things we have ever seen come out of a pig!

"Some of the rescue pigs that have come in have passed these terrible looking things after their arrival and their first treatment with the worming, but I believe that the twice a year schedule keeps them pretty clear after that." Phyllis of PigPals Sanctuary

The only worms you will see after worming is the large roundworms which can be up to ten inches long and thick as a pencil, although they are usually much smaller.

They will be lying on a pile of poop. They will pass from one to three days after medication depending on the regularity of your pig. Meds can be given before, during or after a meal it doesn't really matter.

We do not recommend worming the young ones that have worms. It is best to feed them better and worm them when they are 15-20 pounds or more.

Pig worms are species specific so don't worry about the other animals. A word of caution here; A worming schedule of twice a year is adequate for most pet pigs and the products talked about here are for pigs ONLY! You will need to check with you vet as to what is best for the dogs and any other animals that you may have.

On very young pigs you can dust them with Seven Seven powder like you use on your garden (you can get this at your local garden supply), or in the case of bad mange you can use this to kill the mites on the outside and relieve the itching until the Ivomec can work. Make sure you do not get the powder in their eyes or mouth!

This is meant to help with the itching, but you will still need to worm them with Ivomec to kill the mites that are in the larva stage.

If you don't have any Seven Seven dust at home try the feed store for some hog dust. The dust will help give relief on the itching while the Ivomec is working to kill the mites from the inside.

Everyone has their own way of giving Ivomec. If you go to the vets he will want to give a shot. Pigs don't handle shots very well so ask if it can be given orally. We give 1cc per 50 pounds of body weight. Ivomec is one of the safest drugs out there and has a wide margin for safety.

If your pig will sit nice for a treat then you can just squirt it into the side of their mouth. (Make sure it is the side of their mouth, not straight down their throat, so it doesn't go down the wrong tube. You also need to take the needle off of the syringe.)

Or you can dampen his food just a little and squirt the Ivomec on the food and stir and they will usually eat it. If you have more than one pig keep them separated so that you makes sure each pig gets his full dose.

"Yes, I put it in my pig's food when I give it. Make sure you are giving enough as these pigs grow fast and it doesn't take a little more when you do it by mouth. I cut the food in half, dampen it a little with juice, then squirt the Ivomec on the damp food and stir it up. By cutting it in half you are making sure that they clean it all up and are getting the medicine.

Then mark it on your calendar and 14 days later do it again. (This is for the pigs that have mange.) We do this on the outside pigs every spring and fall and it keeps thing pretty much under control until some new kid moves in that has it." Phyllis of PigPals Sanctuary


Ivomec 1% Solution is an injectable that most of us give orally. You will need the solution, syringe & needle. We use either an 18 or 20 gauge needle. The needle is needed to get the Ivomec out of the bottle. You take the needle off when squirting in the pigs mouth or on their food.

If you use Ivomec it will work for those mites in the ears as well as anywhere else. (Ivomec is not picky about what part of the body it works on as it goes into the blood stream and goes all over the body.)

Also, for chronic mange you can give every 5 to 7 days for up to 4 weeks. It is hard to overdose on Ivomec. For a "normal" case of mange you give two doses about 10-14 days apart and that is it. From then on you will want to worm your piggy twice a year (spring & fall) as a precautionary measure.

It usually takes that second dose to get the larva stage of the mites that haven't hatched yet. BUT, make sure you do it twice 14 days apart!

It is a good idea to change bedding when you are done with the 2nd dose even though the medication will kill any new mites picked up.

Can a human get mange? If so, what would it be like? Mange on a human is usually an itchy red rash...REALLY ITCHY!! You shouldn't have to worry too much about that as most cases on humans happen when the pig is really loaded with it and people take them to bed with them. The mites don't like us as well as the pigs so it's usually a light case and will go away on it's own with simple nothing.

They really don't like us too well and will leave on their own. Washing with alcohol might help with the itching.

TYPES OF WORMERS: Worming & Parasite Control

A variety of products can be used to treat your pigs. Listed below are few:

Ivermectin - Used to control worms, lice and mites. Can be administered in many forms.

Ivermectin Injection for Swine - This is a 1% injectable solution. It can also be given orally although this is an off-label use. A syringe and needle is needed to extract the solution form the bottle. The smallest bottle is 50 ml. so it is not cost effective in worming just one or two pigs.

Ivermectin Paste Wormer 1.87% - This product is designed for horses or equine but can be given to pigs at the same dose. It is relatively easy to administer on a piece of apple or the pigs favorite food.

Ivermectin Granules - A feed additive that is mixed in with the food over a six day period. It can also be used to top dress feed to treat a specific problem. Sold in 50lb bags.

Ivermectin Pour-on - A .5 % solution which is administered along the backline similar to flea treatments used in dogs and cats. The smallest container sold is 250ml which will treat 25 to thirty pigs.

Dectomax - A drug similar to Ivermectin, but claims to have a longer residual life. Also controls lice and mites and can be administered several forms.

Dectomax Injection for Swine - An injectable solution that can also be given orally.

Dectomax pour-on - A solution administered along the backline as the Ivermectin pour-on.

Heartland Wormer- a feed additive specifically designed for pot bellied pigs.

In addition to a regular worming schedule, effective pasture or backyard management can help to reduce the parasite load on your property. This would include removing manure on a regular basis. If manure cannot be picked-up, periodic raking or dragging the pasture will break-up the manure exposing it to sunlight which will help to kill the eggs.

Recommended places for finding Ivomec and Dectomax:

KVSupply
Jeffers Equine
Valley Vet

Don't forget to check with your vet and local feed store.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Heat and Pigs

With the heat that we are having across the country right now I thought I would give a few tips about keeping our piggies cool.

House pigs should go out early morning and later in the evening when temps are at their coolest. They are used to the A/C and being out in the heat for too long can cause our pigs to over heat.

If you think that your pig might be over heating you need to cool him down. Spraying him with hose is not what you want to do. The best way to cool down a pig is with a cool towel or water on his belly and behind the ears. You don't want it cold, but cool as we want to do it gradually.

Outside pigs should always have plenty of shade and access to either a pool or mud hole. These too should be in the shade not sitting directly in the sun. I personally like the mud hole as it serves a dual purpose. The mud works as a sunblock and protects against bugs.

On those really hot and humid days we hose down the ground where the pigs live so at least the ground is cool. I have also keep a fan on low running to keep air circulating. It is not blowing directly on the pig.

Remember that the water coming out of your hose will be hot to begin with so give it time to cool down before spraying your pig or filling up pools or water bowls.

Keep an eye on your babies and stay cool. They won't feel like doing much, but then neither do I on those really hot days.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Tricks

Sit: If he will jump for a treat, he will sit too. Instead of trying to put the butt down, stand in front of him and hold the treat lower than for the jump and more or less onjust above the snout. The head will come up and the butt automatically goes down. It may only be a partial the first time, but praise & treat him for trying. Try again making him get the butt down farther.

Another suggestion for sitting would be to get a wall behind you and hold a treat above your pigs head, not to high as you want him to reach up so that his rump goes down. If you hold it to high he will jump up for the treat. The wall behind him will help so that he doesn't back up and his rump will be forced to go down. If he succeeds say sit and treat him. Eventually he will learn to associate the word sit with the trick. If he doesn't do well with this, don't worry, not all pigs like to sit. I think it has something to do with their shapes, some like to sit, some don't.  

Wave: Get them to sit first. Then, while holding the treat in one hand, say "Wave" while using your other hand to give them a signal. I started with an upside down wave, briefly, then taking that hand and reaching down and tapping the back of her front leg. When he lifts it just a little, give him the treat and praise him.  Eventually, you can change your signal to look like you are waving at him.

It helps if you have a greedy pig.  Repeat four or five times in the morning and then the same at night. It doesn't take long.  Mine is always waving at me trying to get me to give him a treat. And it's hard to resist a waving pig.

Circle: Try teaching him to circle (or spin as some call it). I found this to be the easiest trick to teach. Get him to follow a treat until he completes a circle and say the word circle or spin and give him the treat. Eventually try to get him to do a circle just by saying the word or using a hand signal. Once he gets this down increase the amount of circles or spins he needs to do before you give him the treat (without making him dizzy, that is).

Have fun and be creative.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Teeth Grinding

The question is: My pig is chewing big time on the carpet and on one of the living room chairs. Is there anything I can do to get her to stop?

From the sound of things I think she is probably teething. They don't usually bother furniture but the carpet is fair game. There are a few reasons this may be happening so we can go through just a couple.

Is she a young pig? And probably the most important are you feeding her enough for her age?

Young pigs will sometimes go through a teething process and that's when they grit their teeth the most and find things to chew on just like a baby.  I give mine the large size hard milk bones a couple of times a day when they go through that stage. When Oshay was going through this it was winter and he loved chewing on ice.

If this pig is about four or five months old this could be the problem and it can be as late as twelve months old but she is also old enough to say NO to when she does it  and you should redirect her to something else.
Hungry pigs will also show this behavior and sometimes we forget that these are still babies at this age and need more food than an adult gets to grow the bone and muscle that they may need when they are adults.

We feed puppies well ....and kittens and foals and calves and all other baby animals and a baby pig is no different. Sometimes people misunderstand about not feeding too much and end up not feeding babies enough. If she is under a year I would also give her a children's vitamin every day and it can be a cheap generic brand of Flintstones.