Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waiting for Circe's Piglets

Circe is due to have her piglets in 2 days. 

Since these will be our first piglets born in winter, I'm not sure what to expect as far as how much help they will need staying warm. 

Piglets are born without the ability to regulate their own temperatures for a few days, and while they can get warm by snuggling next to mom, that does leave them more at risk to being squashed if mom rolls over on them in the bedding.  Commercial pig farms solve the problem by locking the sows in tiny farrowing crates and keeping the piglets in a separate heated place of their own.  But I prefer to let my pigs live a more natural life than that, so my sows never get locked up in crates.

I did want to give the newborns a little extra shelter and warmth, though, so I moved Circe out of her hoop house that she's been sharing with Jack out behind the barn, and built her a snug nest inside the barn.  The nest is a backwards "G" shaped enclosure made of hay bales to give insulation from drafts, then bedded with a generous pile of loose hay that Circe can push around and adjust as she likes.

Above the nest area, we've hung two heat lamps to provide extra warmth when the piglets are born.  As a safety precaution, we placed a metal fence panel as a "roof" between the nest and the heat lamps.  That way if by some chance the heat lamps should happen to fall (and believe me, we fastened them securely!), they would not fall into the bedding and start a fire.

I've been feeding Circe in her nest for the past few days so that she gets used to it and associates it with being a pleasant place to go.  She's not shut in the barn---she can still go out and wander around in the paddock for fresh air and sunshine whenever she likes.  But she seems to like her nest and loves to sleep in there, luxuriating in the comfy, private spot.

Now all we have to do is wait a couple more days for the piglets to arrive!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Pig-mas!


Magick the pig wishes you a "Magickal" Christmas

And a Happy New Year

From all of us at Ingleside Farm.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sheep in a Dunce Cap

That's it.  I finally couldn't take it anymore.

I have a sheep named Wheat who---alone out of the entire flock---has developed a bad habit of getting her head stuck in the hay feeder.  Oh sure, a rare few times I've had to rescue another sheep or two who have gotten their heads stuck somewhere.  But those sheep have done it ONCE, learned their lesson, and never done it again.

Wheat, on the other hand, does it daily.  Not just daily, but two, three, four times a day.  Every time I go outside, there she is, stuck again. 

There's another feeder she could eat at where it would be impossible to get stuck, but she rarely uses it.  There are other ways to eat from the feeder she likes without getting stuck (all the other sheep do it!).  But she won't learn them.

As a result, she spends most of her time trapped in one position---all night, all weather, any time when I'm not right there to rescue her instantly.  After all, I DO have a few other responsibilities on the farm besides extracting learning-disabled sheep from the same stupid predicament over and over and over again.

So I finally said enough was enough.  I came up with a solution to the problem.  For the rest of the winter, Wheat will have to wear a dunce cap.  A special dunce cap, invented just for her, to prevent her from sticking her head into places it doesn't belong, so instead of getting stuck all the time, she can move around freely like a normal sheep.

Well, maybe not quite normal.

 Wheat's dunce cap is a spare piece of light PVC pipe fastened to her horns with duct tape.  It makes her head too wide to go through the small holes where she likes to stick it.  If the head can't go IN, then there won't be any issue with it not being able to come back OUT.  With any luck, by next winter, Wheat's own horns will have grown enough that they will naturally prevent her from getting her head stuck.

But for now, it's the dunce cap for her.  And after all the hassle she's put me through over the past month, I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a certain perverse satisfaction in making her wear that embarrassing looking contraption on her head.

The other sheep are looking at her like she's an alien.  They'll get used to it soon, but meanwhile they're not sure whether they want to run away, beat her up, or follow her around staring at her new fashion accessory.

At least she can run around wherever she wants to now!

Duct tape really DOES fix all problems!  :-)