3 weeks ago, when Sadie was off work, I invited her to ride out to White Pine with me to go pick up the latest batch of pullets. It’s about an hour away, but the girl selling the hens made me an excellent offer. We put the wire kennel in the back of the van, stopped at the ATM, and hit the road. We were going to get 4 barred rock pullets and 5 black sexlinks, each about 5 months old. Hens usually begin laying at 6 months, so it was a great time to bring them home.
I love riding places with Sadie. Sometimes we talk and laugh and tell stories, and sometimes we just let our minds wander or stare out at the beautiful rolling hills of East Tennessee. It’s peaceful.
When we pulled up at the house, it was anything but peaceful. The driveway sloped sharply down a hill to a bare dirt yard crawling with chickens, cats, dogs and puppies. At the end of the driveway was a hog pen with three of the biggest pigs I’ve ever seen inside, grunting and smacking on corn. To the right of us was a small wire pen with a nanny and three baby goats, all bleating.
Caitlyn met us and walked us down, she introduced us to her father and her two younger brothers, and showed me to the pullets. They were beautiful. There was a burn pile blazing nearby, and a truck loaded with a sow, piglets, meat birds and several bales of hay. Caitlyn explained that she was moving and they were taking the sow to auction.
Sadie and I have talked about having Pigs several times. Because the horses use so much of the pasture, we are really not set up for cattle. We could have goats, but that would require replacing the barbed wire fencing with square wire, and probably running electric wire over that. Pigs are a bit more feasible for the acreage we already have.
The only problem is that we know nothing about raising pigs. Some people keep pet pigs, or breeder pigs, or feeder pigs, it depends on what you want to do with them. The thing about pigs is that they can’t sweat. If they get hot, they have to have somewhere to wallow to cool off. Like any animal, they need shelter, access to food and clean water at all times. But they are very intelligent, easy to train, and grow like weeds.
We went over to the truck to look at the piglets, which were a Duroc/Berkshire breed, known for their hardiness and tasty flavor. Caitlyn’s brother scooped one up and put it in Sadie’s arms. When it began to squeal, Caitlyn rubbed his chin to calm him down. At 4 weeks old, he wasn’t bigger than a loaf of bread.
You should have seen Sadie’s face holding that piglet. It was like Christmas morning. When the piglet began to doze off, I knew we were in trouble. I tried talking her into just getting a pair, but Caitlyn kept saying “I’ll make you a good deal if you take all five.” A good deal for her, yeah.
I bought the wire cage too, the pullets went in the trunck of the van and the piglets rode on the floor behind the drivers door. Caitlyn’s Dad followed us to the ATM, and I shelled out the cash for the piglets and the cage.
Oh how Sadie laughed and laughed! I didn’t say a word, I think I was in shock. I felt like someone just told me we were adopting five infants, all I could think was “we don’t have a fence, a pen, milk, bottles – ANYTHING.” We were extremely unprepared, and I couldn’t get a handle on it.
We had planned on meeting some friends for dinner at Cracker Barrel, we left the van running with our latest mouths to feed, and went inside. The waiter came over and asked how we were doing, and I blurted out “We bought five bottle piglets.” He looked as startled as I felt, and proceeded to congratulate us before taking our drink orders and striding off.
Sadie laughed again, I said “We bought FIVE piglets!” and started laughing with her. I still can’t believe it. We swapped stories, cleaned our plates, then walked back to the car to show them off. Sadie held one and oh how it squealed, we were getting looks all over the parking lot.
On the drive back, we planned out where we would keep them. The shop? The horse trailer? The bathtub? We ended up driving to the chicken coop and putting the little squealers in the chicken’s laying room, which used to be a draft horse stall. We decided if Sarge couldn’t get out, neither could they.
Sadie and I walked back to the house, it was now almost 10:00 and I was pooped. You never know what may happen in a day on the farm, but I would not have guessed baby piglets for anything. We weren’t prepared, but if I waited to be fully prepared for every decision, I wouldn’t be on the farm in the first place.