Friday, February 1, 2008

Guinea Hog Update

Well, it wasn't until Hayden emailed me specifically about our guinea hog Pumpkin that I realized I had not written much about her and how we have progressed since first acquiring her. My apologizes to everyone that I have forgotten to update our progress.

She has grown quite a bit in the 3 ish months that we have had her---but she's still small by anyones standards. Also, as I think I have mentioned before she worked out great as a garden tiller. We owned a pot bellied pig years ago that was not anywhere close to as good of a tiller as Pumpkin is. As a matter of fact---Hamlet (the pot bellied pig) would wander our yard and the neighbor's and never did "till" up anything. Pumpkin is not quite that trustworthy. First because, as I said, she tills like no bodies business. Secondly I would say that she is less domesticated seeming than Hamlet was. Now that doesn't mean that I feel that I couldn't have her for a pet if I wanted, nor does it mean that she is aggressive at all but she is a bit more "forceful" in her desires than Hamlet was.
We have also heard from Heartease Farm (they raise Icelandic sheep like us and also guinea hogs) that they had to put rings in their hogs noises because they were having a problem with them "tilling" the pasture as they ranged with the sheep. So....I hope that helps with the question of digging up the soil.

As far as how we have kept her and caged her what follows is her "normal" routine and how she lives:

She is in a 10x10 dog kennel which is perfect for her. It is too heavy for her to lift up and get out of. Because of the size and weight she would have to dig a hole under it the actual size of her body to get out. She doesn't do that---so it works. Sometimes it looks as if she could---but when rooting around she really doesn't have a rhyme or reason so she just doesn't ever get her holes large enough. Also, we shift the cage periodically. After about a week and a half has gone by we move her cage by at least half the cage width. This is easily accomplished by two people and pretty easy with just one person. Since the corners are meant to come apart they pivot. So I pick up one side and move it forward a bit which torques the cage out of square. I then go to the other side and move it---putting the cage back into square again. I do this until I get the cage to where I want it. In the time we have had her (mid October 2007) we have moved her cage to cover an area of about....40 x 30. A few spots need her to come back to them since the grass was particularly dense and it still needs more tilling. Some areas are ready to plant if I wanted to and the weather was good and some areas---because it rained while she was in that segment ---need a bit of smoothing by me before they can be planted.
So..what will we do with her when the garden is planted? Well, if we work it correctly there should be a few beds that need her periodically during the growing season. Also, I will put her in the chicken pen where the chickens and sheep have compacted the soil pretty badly. I think it would help that area to have her work it over a bit for the chickens to scratch in more effectively. Incorporate that high nitrogen chicken poop too. One thing: I will have to make sure she can't get in the coop since she LOVES fresh eggs and their shells. She would be able to reach the bottom row of nests and could helpy selfy.

Feeding: As you can see in the picture we use low items for food and water---the waterer flips up when she digs near it so it doesn't get broken. She gets dirt/mud in everything so we do scrub everything out at least once a week. We also scatter whole corn as I have mentioned on the ground along with anything that comes out of the kitchen. You do not have to feed pigs/hogs meat if you don't want to but we do (except for pork---we do not feed that to her). Hogs are naturally carnivores. Pumpkin eats every scrap that comes from our kitchen ---even the "yikky" parts we won't eat, leftovers out of the fridge as long as they aren't spoiled, and any meat scraps that come through. I don't feed her raw meat---pigs are susceptible to the similar diseases as humans so I don't take a chance but of course in the wild she would eat raw meat. Eggs, leftover breads, cereal crumbs, avocados, fruit, juices, milk, cheese, noodles etc etc. Anything we would plus more. The only thing she has not eaten yet is potatoes. She doesn't like them.
We also put things like coffee grounds and other things on the ground in her pen to till into the soil. If she likes whatever it is she will eat it. If not, it gets worked in.
Oh yes---as a back up for days with no leftovers or food scraps she get purina hog chow. About 3/4 cup twice per day with about a cup of whole corn sprinkled for her. We have just recently purchased our second bag so it goes a long long way.
Remember too that pigs/hogs are good for cleaning up windfall fruits in orchards , nuts and other things like that.
We also have people who would like to "borrow" our Pumpkin and her cage to work their garden. Other than some squealing and grunting when it's meal time she is easy on the ears and easy to take care of so if you had like minded neighbors I don't believe it would be hard to find numerous places to keep your pigs throughout the year if your garden was smaller than ours.

Oh yes---we have had a number of people comment on Kune Kunes to us too since we have mentioned that we would like one.
Kune kunes are not yet in the U.S. IF someone were willing to go through the process of importation, and its piles of corresponding paper work----you would have many many people eager to purchase from you. Another idea is to try and get embryos sent over---again still fraught with paperwork. Barbara Webb who first brought Icelandics in to the U.S (and only from Canada no less) spent 3, or maybe it was 5, years getting approval. It is a long drawn out process---but not unattainable for someone willing to try. I just haven't wanted to mess with it, maybe someday though. Also---Stuart and Gabrielle had Kune Kunes if you would like to quiz someone about them and how they cared for their pigs/hogs. They are in Brittany though---and they ate theirs recently so really they don't have them anymore :-D


Woody said...

She is truly

I used to laugh at my wife not wanting to give our hogs spoiled food from the fridge. I understand where she is coming from with her objections but it just seems odd since I dump whatever it is into a bucket and onto the ground in their pen. Not like they really seem to care.

Hayden said...

Thanks, Monica, I really appreciate the detail.

This is all new to me. I'm taking early retirement next year and will homestead family property. I've wondered a lot about which critters will fit in. (I don't want a LOT of anything; maybe a couple of small sheep, maybe a handful of chickens.. and now I'm thinking... maybe a pig.)

I've also wondered how I will EVER MANAGE to get garden area prepared while I'm building my home. You may have just told me the secret to helping me get more done in a shorter time.

Just curious - do you know if pigs used 'lightly' have a better or worse impact on soil than tilling? I've heard too much tilling is bad. Sounds like pigs do a number on it, but if they are more random in their approach (rather than covering an entire space at once) it seems they might preserve the various soil ecosystems better.

again, thanks for the post.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Woody-- she's become quite the "porker" aye?! :-D

Hayden--personally my theory would be that the pig is easier on the soil microbes and such. Maybe she does bury some of them (thus starving them of oxygen) but she also urinates and poops thus adding back --unlike a tiller. Also---I don't think she "buries" it quite the way a tiller would. What do you think? Just my theory---but then I think nature/GOD/evolution (whatever you believe in) did a pretty good job working it out and I haven't found anything yet that man does (opposite of mimicking nature I mean) that works out well in the long run. So my moneys on the pig :-)