We are getting ready for piglets this weekend on Red Alpha Farms. Our main American Guinea Hog sow, Jovy, is due on Friday. We have a new farrowing pen setup, with 8-10″ of deep litter (hog fuel), and hog panels to make sure she can see all the piglets all the time.
I set this up outside my office window so I can keep an eye on her and the piglets throughout the day.
Since we began raising American Guinea Hogs, we’ve had a number of shelter solutions. We move our animals frequently, so any shelter has to be mobile. They also need to be large enough for a pair of breeding hogs, a sow and litter, or a litter of hogs to get up to around 6 months in.
We began with 2 pigs that were around 8 and 12 weeks, so we started with a dogloo for large dogs. That worked really well for 3-4 months.
We next used a pallet house that was made with 4 pallets screwed together with some leftover plastic corrugated roofing on top. There might not be anything more convenient to build than a pallet house.
That pallet house worked, but it was very open on one side, and was extremely heavy — the roofing supports were 2x4s — not good. I built another one in a similar fashion, but cut down the pallets to 3′ high in the front and 2.5′ high in the back, and then installed galvanized roofing on 2×2 frames.
That worked very well, and was easy to move. It was much lighter. In order to make moving the pallet house easier, I put a 2×4 on each side of the bottom, the long way, to act as runners, and to hold the pallets together. I then put large eye-bolts in each end of each 2×4, to allow me to connect a rope with carabiners attached to each eye-bolt and allow me to drag it around.
The problem with that shelter is that we just got into some weather that was down in the teens, and I didn’t want the hogs to get too cold, so it was time to build the next iteration of the shelter.
This shelter was framed out of 2x4s, with an open bottom, and cedar fence boards for siding. The door is 2’x2′, with the shelter being roughly 6’x4′. The roof is 3′ high, and there is a covered porch to keep the weather out of the doorway. This one also has a front handle and pegs sticking out the back just under the roof to allow it to be flipped up to clean out. I also placed a sheet of insulation just below the gap between the siding and the roof to make it even warmer.
The shelters open bottom allows a great amount of hay or straw (or other bedding) to be placed inside the shelter. When it gets a bit full, I just rock the shelter around a little bit to get the sides to crawl up on top of the bedding, and it helps keep the hogs up off the ground better.
I’m not moving them much with snow on the ground, so I will likely also install runners on the bottom and pull this around when better weather returns.
Our American Guinea Hogs are 4 weeks old this week. They are trying to eat more solid food with some success. Much of their efforts are hampered by the sow and boar in the same pen. It’s much easier to have them all in the same pen, but it creates too much competition for solid food for them to thrive. The solution is to create a creep feeder.
I took a 36″ by 16′ hog panel and cut it into three sections. I wanted a triangle so that the larger hogs could not push it and make a piglet sandwich. It ended up working well, although the hogs still push it a little bit and I have to hold it in place.
After the first feeding, I cut an additional vertical bar out from one section on each side so that they didn’t have to crawl in and out. I don’t have pictures of that yet.
The creep feeder works well at keeping the hogs out.
I place the food dish, filled with milk or water and an all stock type feed that I buy from Xcel Feeds in western Washington called “Premium Blend”.
American Guinea Hogs are great mothers. If you’re looking for a hog that can farrow on pasture and requires little intervention, this might be the hog for you.
Our piglets showed up on Monday, 9/20/21. We had 6 healthy piglets.
We lost one piglet on the 26th, so we are down to 5. We have 2 gilts (females) and 3 boars (males). We have no idea what happened to the one we lost – it wasn’t there when we went to check on them during lunch that day. It was there for breakfast. I suspect that a pack of crows got it.
Jovy, our sow is doing great. She did lay on one for a minute the first day, but I gently pushed her over and it crawled out and she hasn’t repeated the mistake since. She is very careful every time she enters the shelter to root through the hay to see if there are any piglets there.
It is surprising how flexible the piglets are when it comes time to eat. They just run behind and when they catch up, they start eating again.
We’ve learned some valuable lessons from our first farrowing – some assumptions might not be accurate, so we’ll have to test them:
Use a small pen – if it’s large, the piglets can wander off and might get eaten or lay down for a nap. We are using a 16’x16′ pen, with string across the top to prevent crows from flying in (after we lost one). Next time I might go smaller for the first week.
It might be better to use pellets or wood chips – the piglets can get lost in the hay. Although, it could be that the deep hay protected the one piglet that was laid on and allowed it to breathe.
Using pallets for the shelter walls required filling in the holes at the bottom (the space between the bottom inside board and the outside boards) so that piglets wouldn’t fall in and get stuck! I had to rescue one before I learned this.
The sow will possibly become protective within a few hours – if you lift a piglet up and it squeals, she may come running. It’s better to lift them from under them, and not hold them from multiple sides, so they don’t feel like they are being taken by a predator. Our sow became protective, but she would just come running out and grunting angrily – she did not attack anyone.
It took 2+ hours between the first piglet and the second. From what I have heard, this is very unusual. The rest came within 1 hour from the second.
Overall, this has been a good experience. It’s rough losing a piglet and not knowing why, and not having any evidence or carcass to inspect. I can’t emphasize enough how important good breeding stock is. The process went well partly because we started with great stock, and a great breed. Also, the Registered American Guinea Hog Facebook group is quick to help and offer advice. I’d recommend joining for anyone who would consider or has American Guinea Hogs.
We raise American Guinea Hogs (AGH) on pasture and in the woods. We move them frequently, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly. These hogs have a wonderful temperament, they don’t try to escape, and they don’t root up the soil too much. We’ve found that they root quite a bit more in the wooded areas than the field/pasture areas.
We’re about a week away from piglets, according to my calculations. We have a gilt that should farrow next Sunday, 9/19.
She’s looking very bulky right now, with milk bagging up and she’ll no longer tolerate belly rubs (too sensitive). I am going to separate the two pigs today and move them onto pasture and out of the woods. We’ve had them in the woods over the hot summer, but now it’s cooling off quite a bit, so the pasture will be better, and keep them away from the predators.
Here is what the wooded area looks like when they first get moved onto it. We leave them in one general area for 1-2 weeks.
On Saturday, we went down to Cascade Meadows Farm and collected two American Guinea Hogs to add to our farm. This is a 4 month old breeding pair that should provide us with pigs this fall around September, if all goes well.
So far pigs are the most entertaining farm animal we’ve had. I love watching and interacting with these guys. They are a bit skittish as they have recently had a slew of tests and probes to make sure they are healthy as they were slated to go to Hawaii. The process didn’t work out, so we are now trying to tame them down a bit.
I’ve been feeding them kitchen scraps, as available, as well as an expired bread/milk/All Stock mix twice a day, mostly to tame them down. They love the bread and milk, they love the kitchen scraps, and they like the All Stock grain mix. I also make sure they have an abundance of dry hay to bed in, and I put out a high quality flake of second cut timothy every day or so that they eat quite a bit of.
We’re housing them in a very large dogloo that I had bought for our dogs long ago and they would never use. I don’t recall the exact size, but I’ve had two 115lb+ dogs inside one after throwing a particularly tasty treat inside and both of them wanting it pretty badly. They were able to turn around and get out with a minimal amount of growling and scrambling (the dogs). The pigs have made a nest in the dogloo with all the hay and don’t appear to be soiling it at all yet.
We also have a pallet shelter to provide them with somewhere to go during inclement weather, which is more often than not in western Washington state.
Cascades Contender is not happy to be left out of the bread and milk sessions:
He’ll stand there until after all the bread and milk is gone. Poor guy, we fed him some bread when he first got here to get him used to us, but we stopped that long ago. (Contender is in a large pasture – he looks like he’s in a cage because we have the pigs inside a set of hog panels that are inside a quarter acre holding paddock until they get used to us.)