People own pigs for a variety of reasons but mainly people raise pigs for meat. We chose to raise ours as pets! Growing up I had a pig for a short time and it made quite an impression on me. I always hoped that when I grew up and got a place of my own that I would have another piggy in my life. Well, when we moved to Crow Farm and Justin happened to make a comment about being open to the possibility of owning a pig I finally had the opportunity. Enter Curly.
Curly was one of 4 pigs that we purchased soon after we moved to Crow Farm. Curly, the cute little auburn colored Kunekune runt was our favorite! She was and still is so petite (yes, still referring to our pig) and has such a cute little short snout with a perfect little curly tail. It took a little while for her to warm up to us but once she did she was hooked on us too.
Because we thought Curly had such nice traits and because piglets are SO irresistibly adorable, we thought it would be nice to breed her. Mercy, Curly’s sister who also lives with us here at Crow Farm, is a very sweet piggy but she is definitely a bit pushier and has some GI issues making her not the most sanitary if you catch my drift. Therefore the plan was to breed Curly, keep Curly and one of her piglets and sell Mercy just before Curly was farrowing.
How do we go about breeding a pig? I started by reaching out to neighbors through word of mouth and in Facebook community groups asking if anyone had a proven Kunekune boar. I found two local farms that had the boars we were looking for. So I went on blind dates for Curly, of course, trying to find the right mate. One of the pigs we visited wasn’t the cutest and the enclosure didn’t look very safe which made me nervous for Curly’s safety. The other place had a handsome curly haired boar who was very sweet and had a safe enclosure. Both boars were shockingly enormous but that was par for the course. We decided to go with the handsome boy with the short snout. The longer the snout the more they dig!
Thanks to our lovely neighbors we had a dog crate to put Curly in to bring her 15 minutes down the road to the boar. For a couple days leading up to Curly’s honeymoon I gave the piggies all their fruits and veggies in the crate so Curly would get used to going in and out without hesitation. It took about a day and a half for her to warm up to it. Then, when the time had come, we closed the door behind her sweet rear, popped her in the back of the car and off we went. I tell you what, a pig’s snort is a very unusual soundtrack for a car!
Before long we got a whiff of something pungent. Somebody had pooped and it wasn’t us! Poor Curly had gotten nervous and had an accident in the car. If you couldn’t guess, we drove the rest of the way with all the windows down!
When we arrived, Curly was so frightened that even after we opened the dog crate door and tried luring her out with treats, she wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t until we took all the bolts off the crate and lifted the top off that she would hop out. After we got Curly all cleaned up we settled her in and left her and her new piggy buddy some apples from our tree. The plan was to leave her for a week hoping for mating to naturally occur. We planned the visit when Curly would be in heat. She and the boar got along great! We visited her a couple times while she was there so she wouldn’t miss us too much (and because we missed her!). Unfortunately there wasn’t a close eye kept on her so time will tell if mating actually occurred.
Getting Curly BACK in the crate was an entirely new challenge. Not only did she remember being in that crate just a week earlier but it also had rained the day before we came to get Curly so the ground was very muddy. Mud does not make for good traction. Justin and me were slipping this way and that trying to get our Curly in the crate. Curly never once tried to nip at us (I think I might have if I were in her position) but she was STRONG! I tried will all my might to push her little booty in that crate and every time she balled up into a giant powerhouse muscle and slipped away from me and the crate. Mind you, at that point in the process we were in a pen about 1 yard by 2 yards so it was a bit intense! We came up with a strategy that worked pretty well with patience being the key factor. We put apples in the crate again and as Curly inched toward the crate ever so slowly, we inched a pallet in behind her. Slowly but surely it worked and Justin was able to shut the crate door behind her. Hurray! Sadly, on the way home she got car sick. Poor Curly. Though she had a nice time at the other farm, I vowed not to do that again to her again because of the transportation of it all.
Curly recovered later that afternoon from the car ride though Mercy was very mean to her when she arrived back and I’m pretty sure it was because she smelled different. So quickly Mercy forgot how very lonely she was the week without her sister. Thankfully Mercy’s rude behavior only lasted for about a day and a half. After that everything was mostly fine and dandy for the next week.
That is, until one morning when I went in to feed the piggies and Curly didn’t greet me with her usual happy snorts! She didn’t even jump up on the side of the pen to get her morning head scratches as she always did. I had come to feed them a little earlier than usual so I thought maybe they were just sleepy, as I did wake them. But then I knew something was amiss when Curly didn’t playfully dart between my legs in greeting when I came into the pig pasture or wait for me to rub behind her ears before going to her food bowl. She merely sauntered in my direction, then toward her food bowl. She ate one bite then went back into the barn. Oh dear!
From there on things went down hill fast. Curly refused to eat or drink and only came out of the barn to use the bathroom or, a couple times, to lay in the sunshine. I tried enticing her with all her favorite treats and made all sorts of delicious drinks for her to try. Nothing! She barely sniffed any of it. Because of the experience we had with our sickly adult female pig, Butternut, passing away I knew I had to intervene right away. I started offering her food and water every hour and by lunch when she still wasn’t taking to any of it I started syringing molasses water in her mouth. She would humor me for a little while then gently nudge me away and put her head down or if she could muster it, walk away from me.
By the next morning Curly was having trouble breathing and was still refusing food or water and barely moving. On a regular basis our piggies are running around in our hayfield, always come when called by name and never turn down a treat. This was very worrisome. I started calling vets in the area to see if anyone would come out and look at Curly. I must have called 13 places with no luck. Either they didn’t see pigs or because I wasn’t a previous client they weren’t willing to fit me into the schedule. They could get me into the schedule in February (4 months away). Thanks, super helpful! I was getting desperate. Curly was slipping away and I felt helpless!
I called a neighbor who had raised pigs to ask for advice and thankfully he pointed us in the right direction to care for Curly. While the girls and I stayed home to look after Curly, Justin went to Wilco Farm Store and bought antibiotics, a thermometer, syringes and needles. I am so very thankful that people can buy those things for their pets without a prescription. After watching a couple YouTube videos on how to administer an injection for a pig, I went in armed with the medicine. Curly was so tolerant of her shot. It was supposed to kick in within 24 hours. I took her temperature and it was 105! Heavens! Luckily we had some children’s liquid Tylenol so we gave some to her via dropper. She had got so bad that before the girls went to bed I had them say their goodbyes to Curly just in case she passed overnight.
We had cried so many tears that day. We have a piggy camera so of course I was up all night checking to be sure she was breathing. Luckily Mercy, Curly’s sister, snuggled close to her keeping her warm at night. Throughout the time when Curly was sick Mercy never bullied her and came to check on her in the barn regularly. So very sweet especially because Mercy usually does her fair share of bullying Curly. Sisters!
On the third morning Curly was worse than ever. She was visibly thinner and was very weak. I gave her water from a dropper and soon after she threw up. Her temperature was up again to 104.7*. I gave her another dose of Tylenol and of course gave her the hourly syringe of molasses water. I would make slurping noises and massage her throat to encourage her to get some liquid in her. Throughout the 3 days I had only got her to swallow maybe 4 times.
It seemed that our duck, Nugget knew how heart broken we were. At Curly’s worst, she finally laid her first egg!! The girls were overjoyed which was just what we all needed. Thanks Nugget!
Just as it was supposed to, after the antibiotics hit the 24 hour mark in her system Curly started to show little signs of life! She drank some water from her bowl and tried a couple apples, though she needed us to cut them up because she was too weak to bite into them whole. We celebrated by giving her extra belly rubs and us humans had pie and ice cream! Curly was all better!! Or so we thought anyway…
On the forth morning Curly refused to eat and drink again and didn’t come out of bed. Her temperature had spiked again to 103 this time. Another dose of Tylenol and an afternoon of sunshine and molasses dropper sips made her get her motivation to drink back by late afternoon. Her breathing was sounding a lot better as well! That evening she ate her slop and some slices of apples AND she even gave me a bit of a hard time with her last injection. Good signs! I also ended up giving Mercy an injection of antibiotics as well since they sleep snout to snout and share the same food bowls.
We don’t know what it was Curly had and can’t be sure where she got it but we are very thankful she is alive and well! As far as we know, Mercy never caught whatever it was Curly had. Sometimes you don’t know how much somebody means to you until you almost loose them. We love our sweet Curly! As for if Curly is pregnant or not, we still do not know. During the time when she was sick would have been when she was in heat so her usual behavioral give-aways weren’t present. I know what you may be thinking, “Was it just morning sickness and Curly really is pregnant?” That was my first thought too. I couldn’t find any evidence of similar symptoms happening to piggies who were pregnant. The poor breathing part of it and high fever pushed her condition into more than the typical morning sickness realm. But, I guess anything is possible! Time will tell. We learned a lot and will continue learning I’m sure!