Scarlett, the Tamworth pig icon Scarlett, the Tamworth pig

Jenny's Hobby Farm

Jenny set up a hobby farm in the Canadian West Coast Rain Forest, clearing the land with pigs and raising ready-to-lay hens to sell. The books and articles on this web site represent knowledge which she has accumulated during this time.

About Free-Range Pigs

How to Clear Your Land using Free-Range Pigs

Why I chose free range Tamworth pigs to clear my land

Tamworth Pig
Photo of a free range Tamworth pig taken by Jenny Robson.
Tamworth Pig
Photo of a free range Tamworth pig taken by Jenny Robson.

When I bought the land which was to become my hobby farm, it was raw West Coast Rain Forest which had been logged about 15 years earlier. Since most of the trees were still fairly small, I guess you could have called it scrub land or bush. I decided to clear some of the land using free range Tamworth pigs. The following excerpt from my book about the happenings on my farm, explains why I thought Tamworth pigs would be the best breed to free range for my situation, instead of using any other breed of pig.

Excerpt from Chapter 2 - "Pig Tales and Other Stories".

My property had originally been logged in the 1920's and then again in about 1980, but now it was covered with dense undergrowth and hundreds of skinny alder trees as high as a house. There was also a scattering of evergreens. The debris left behind by the logging company was lying everywhere, hidden by the undergrowth. This debris is supposed to decay over time and the small branches had duly complied. However, the long, skinny alder tree trunks had only got harder and well seasoned. They crisscrossed the land as if a great giant had been playing pick-a-stick and had got tired with the game, leaving everything in a terrible muddle after one last drop of the sticks........

......But, to have a farm one really needs to have fields where it is possible to walk about easily, so, obviously, I needed to clear the land. I had read a book which described clearing the land with pigs and then running sheep on the land. The idea was that the pigs ate all the scrub and dug up the roots. Once that was done, you ran sheep on the land. You fed hay to the sheep wherever they happened to be at dinner time and the grass seeds from the hay either fell directly onto the ground, or else they went through the sheep and came out the other end, embedded in natural manure and "Voila!" you had instant pasture. So with this romantic notion in my head, I embarked on my mission to find some pigs.

I researched many different breeds of pigs and settled on a heritage breed called Tamworth pigs. They still have most of their natural instincts and also have long, long legs. These pigs, when fully grown, stand about four feet high at the shoulders and eight feet long from nose to rump. Then, there is the curly tail tacked on, as it were, at the end. They have reddish-brown hair all over, which is at least a couple of inches long. Their hair grows thicker in the winter to keep them warm, like the wild animals do, and then they moult in the spring, looking quite moth-eaten while it is happening. They are very docile compared with most pigs and are quite happy to live out in the fields, preferably with a shelter for the rain. In fact, if they are given a grassy pasture, they will graze on it like cows, instead of digging it all up like modern breeds of pig do. I considered using regular, bacon-type pigs with short legs, but I had visions of them getting their bellies hung up on one of the fallen alder trees which criss-crossed the land in the aftermath of the logging, rocking back and forth frantically until they could get a toe-hold somewhere on the ground, finally scrabbling over the tree trunk, only to get hung up again on the next. That would never have done.

Newborn Tamworth piglets

Because Tamworth pigs still have many of their natural instincts, they were able to handle having their babies while still being allowed to free range in the forest and bush. I watched with fascination as my two female pigs, Mandy and Scarlett, together with my boar, Nuff, operated as a family unit.

If you want to read the story about how Mandy, Scarlett and Nuff looked after their baby piglets, go to

an excerpt from Chapter 23 in my book 'Pig Tales and Other Stories'

Back to top of the page

A-frame Pig Sty for Free Range Pigs

A-Frame Pig Sty
Click for Enlargement
A-Frame Pig Sty
Click for Enlargement

I chose to build this A-frame pig sty (measurements given below) when I thought I was buying 4 weaners to clear my land. As things turned out, I came home from the pig breeder with 3 full grown pigs instead.

This size would be good if you were raising about 4 weaner pigs, as I had intended. If you are going to keep the pigs until they are fully grown, then I would suggest at least a 12ft x 12ft A-frame. My 2 sows weighed 650lbs each and the boar was about 800lbs. They only just fit inside this 8ft x 8ft A-frame when they lay squished together like sausages in a pan !

Nuff, my boar, stood 3ft 11.5ins high at the shoulder, and the hair on his neck brushed the top of this 4ft high doorway, but, luckily, he never took the door frame with him as he went in and out.

  • Floor: 8ft x 8ft
  • Roof: 8ft long corrugated metal
  • Door opening: 2ft wide x 4ft high
  • Inside walls: Shiplap boards
  • Flooring: Plywood sheets
  • Floor joists: 2" x 4" studs with 8in o.c. (on centers) spacing, or you could use 2" x 6" joists with a wider spacing

I had put my floor joists on 8in spacing, which held the behemoth pigs' weight with no trouble, and I had put shiplap boards on the inside walls going higher than the pigs' heads, which also survived intact. (You can see the boards inside in the enlargement of the photo above). However, I had forgotten to reinforce the back and front walls. As you can see, the front wall got knocked out fairly fast!

I was not able to get a sheet of plywood inside the A-frame once it was built, so I opted for shiplap boards, which interlock. I reasoned that if the walls were smooth and higher than the pigs' heads, then the pigs' teeth could not get a grip on anything to yank the walls down. It worked, and all the sloping walls remained intact for as long as the pigs lived in the pig sty.

If you want to read the story of what happened the night my pigs knocked out the back wall of their pig sty, go to an excerpt from Chapter 1 in my book 'Pig Tales and Other Stories'

Back to top of the page

Feed and Water for Your Free Range Pigs

Free range pigs that you are using to clear the land will eat most of the bushes, as well as the roots, of the wild plants that are growing in their range. However, I still gave my pigs commercial feed to make sure they were getting enough of the right vitamins and minerals to supplement their diet of vegetation.

Much of my land had salal bushes growing everywhere that were about 6ft high. They munched their way through all the above ground vegetation, and then started on the roots which ran at least 2ft underground. They ate right up to within a few inches of the electric fence which was keeping them in the area that I wanted cleared, because they soon learnt that the wire would zap them if they touched it. The salal never grew back, so they must have got all the roots.

They never touched the alder trees, broom or huckleberries, which were all left standing like solitary sentinals in the middle of a wasteland when the pigs had finished clearing all the land around them.

I gave up using the wooden feeder that I had made for my pigs when they ignominously trampled it into the ground the first time I used it. I ended up putting a separate, measured heap of feed on the soil for each pig, with as much space between the heaps as was practicable. They were already getting some garden type soil along with the roots of the bushes that they were eating, so I did not think a little more would hurt them.

After several unsuccessful attempts using different vessles to hold water for the pigs, which all got knocked over, I found the best waterer for them was a small, heavy metal bowl with a flat backside. It measured about about 10ins (25cms) across and 6inches (15cms) deep. It had a float valve which let in more water when the level got too low. I nailed it to a tree trunk about 12ins (30cms) above the ground and ran a hose pipe to it with drinking water. (Do NOT use copper nails, they will kill the tree) There is a similar one for sale at Farm and Ranch Depot in the USA

If you want to read about the problems I had trying to find a way to get feed and water to my pigs, and see what did and did not work, go to

an excerpt from Chapter 3 in my book 'Pig Tales and Other Stories'

Back to top of the page

Electric Fencing for free-range pigs

I got a lot better at keeping my pigs behind the electric fence as time went by and I learnt from my mistakes.

There are lots of good articles and U-tube videos about setting up electric fencing, so I am not going to try and re-invent the wheel on my site.

However, just a couple of extra points that I have learned from experience which might help you.

  • 1. I discovered that my pigs would only ever try to go UNDER my electric fence, and NEVER JUMPED OVER it, so when it sagged to ankle height because Nuff (my boar, who stood 4ft high at the shoulders) dug around the bottom of a pole, he did not get out. He still tried to go underneath it, and got zapped in the process. In other words, I did not find it necessary to run the hot wire very high off the ground for the fence to work and keep the pigs enclosed.
  • 2. Initially, I had a problem in the summer when the ground dried out and the fence stopped working. I solved the problem as follows:

    Please note, just in case you do not already know, ELECTRICITY WILL ONLY FLOW IF THERE IS A COMPLETELY CLOSED CIRCUIT (eg. a closed loop of wire or other conductor).

    The principle behind an electric fence, according to the instructions which came with my fencer (the black box which sends out a pulsating electric charge), is that you run a hot wire from the positive (+) (and on my fencer, red) terminal of the fencer to where ever you want, but you do NOT connect it back to the negative (-) (and on my fencer, black) terminal of the fencer. The earth under the hot wire is supposed to act like a return "wire" back to the ground rod, which you should have already connected to the negative terminal of the fencer box. When the pig touches both the hot wire and, by standing on the ground, the return "wire", he/she makes a connection between the two "wires" and completes the circuit. At this point the current can flow in the wire and zapps the pig.

    Unfortunately, there is one bad flaw with this system. Wet earth will conduct electricity with no problem, so the wet earth under the hot wire can act like a return wire back to the ground rod, BUT BONE DRY EARTH IS ANOTHER MATTER AND WILL NOT CONDUCT ELECTRICITY VERY WELL, IF AT ALL. Every summer on Vancouver Island where I live, we have two or three months of drought and the ground dries out completely. The electric fence stopped working and the pigs were roaming free every day.

    For the first few days after the pigs discovered that the fence was not working because the ground had dried out, I was running along beside the hot wire, watering the ground right underneath the wire to make the ground conduct electricity.

    Then it dawned on me what I should have been doing instead. I called myself all sort of names, which all basically meant "Stupid", and then went and fixed the problem properly.

    What I had been trying to do by wetting the ground was to make the earth conduct electricity, as it had in the wet season. But that was completely unnecessary. All I had to do was to string a second wire about 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 cms) above the ground, right underneath the hot wire, but ABSOLUTELY NOT connected to the hot wire or touching it anywhere. I connected this second bottom wire ONLY to the ground rod. Now I had my return ground wire in every season, and my pigs were once more confined behind the fence.

  • If you want to read about the problem I had at feed time when the ground dried out and the pigs escaped on a daily basis and see what you should NOT be doing,

    an excerpt from Chapter 8 in my book 'Pig Tales and Other Stories'

Back to top of the page

Farm Fencing for free range pigs

Farm fencing is wire fencing, 4ft high, with small holes at the bottom with the holes getting larger as you get higher up the fence. It is held up with wooden posts at about 8ft intervals. Farm fencing is also about one third of the price of welded wire fencing, at least it is here in Canada where I live.

When I got my Tamworth pigs, the farmer who had sold them to me had also been free-ranging them. He said his pigs had never challenged his professionally installed and properly tightened farm fencing because they had plenty of space to roam. He had 40acres. I found the same thing as the other farmer had found, (I had 6 acres enclosed) and although my pigs escaped out of their electric fence enclosure dozens of times, until I figured out how to stop them escaping, they never once even attemped to escape out of my perimeter fence. If at all possible, I would recommend that you install a perimeter fence before you begin to clear the land inside it.

Back to top of the page


Excerpt from Pig Tales and Other Stories


Chapter 1 - The stories begin with the arrival of the pigs

The pigs were shrieking and stomping about inside the horse box as it rumbled down the driveway, anxious to get out of their temporary prison. The driver flung open the door and fled, leaving three enormous pigs to charge out of the back of the horse box. Luckily, Newton's First Law of Motion applies to large pigs. They continue in their state of uniform motion in a straight line until forced to change direction by some external force. In this case, the external force was furnished by a solid wall of dense bush in front of them. Their only choices were to go left into the pigsty or turn around and go out the way they had come, back into the horse box. Since their bodies are solid, like a whale's, they have difficulty turning in a small space and they chose the pig-sty. With shaking hands, I fastened the electric fence behind them, praying that it was working. As I walked down the driveway to the barn to check on my two hundred baby chicks that had arrived that morning, I could hear one squeal after another behind me. The electric fence was doing its job.

The chicks were coming to no harm so I returned to the house and prepared my supper. While I was eating, I could hear all this thunderous banging, crashing and bellowing going on in the pigsty. I was very glad that I was inside the house with the door locked. As it turned out, the three pigs were trying to bed down for the night and could only just fit into the little pigsty with them squished tightly together. They had been fighting furiously as they all tried to turn around to face the doorway at the same time. Once they had manoeuvred themselves into position, they had to lie like large sausages in a frying pan, jammed between the sides and the end walls. I still have not fathomed out how the third pig could get in and then turn around once the other two were lying down. They are really the most un-supple creatures that I have ever come across. I kept thinking that surely one of them would be trampled them to death, but, as with a lot of my fears, it never happened.

Later on, when it was pitch dark outside, the noise had stopped and was replaced by heavy breathing. I needed to go back down the driveway, past the pigs, to the barn to make one last check on my day-old chicks. I had wanted to take the dogs with me for protection, but they wouldn't stop barking. They could sense the strange animals in their territory, even though they could not see them. I ended up having to lock the dogs in the house since there was no possibility of creeping past the pig sty with them running around and making such a commotion beside me. I walked stealthily down the gravel driveway and made it silently as far as the pig sty, and then disaster struck. I accidentally kicked a loose rock in the dark, right outside the back wall of the sty and the pigs woke up. The banging and bellowing started up again. I gave up trying to be quiet and started to walk quickly towards the barn. I had not gone very far before the sound of splintering wood filled the air behind me, followed by a crash and then an extra loud, terrified bellow. The pig sty was now between me and the house. I could hear trotters galloping on the gravel driveway, coming ever closer behind me in the pitch darkness. My heart began to pound in my chest as I started running like the wind. I raced past the barn and kept on running towards the perimeter fence and the gate. Everywhere was inky black outside the beam of my flashlight and I dared not stop long enough to turn around and see what was happening behind me. The adrenaline rush gave me the strength to vault over the chest-high metal gate. Once I had landed on the ground the other side, I finally stopped, praying that the gate would be strong enough to hold back the charging behemoths following me. What should I do now?

Ian, the farmer, who had sold the pigs to me, mentioned that they would respect properly tightened farm fencing so long as they had enough space to run around inside it. Luckily, this time was no exception. After thinking about my dilemma for a minute or two, I decided to make my way back towards the house on the outside of the perimeter fence. You need to understand that I am a single, middle-aged lady who was brought up in the cities of London and Birmingham in England, who was now living on her own in the middle of the Canadian forest. On nights when there is no moon, night time is very, very dark outside the small pool of light given off by a flashlight. I was terrified, to say the least. The sound of the pigs' running feet had stopped. I made my way through the bushes as far as the gap through the trees where the electricity lines ran from the road, down the hill, to the house.

I waited there, outside the fence, for what seemed like an eternity, listening to every sound in the night. Finally, I got up the courage to climb back over the fence and I made my way down through the clearing to the house. It must have been primeval instinct which made me go round the back of the house, even though the front door was closer. As I peeped around the corner, I could only see one pig, lit up by the porch light, looking straight at me from just the other side of the front door at the opposite end of the house. I was now able to see that it was Mandy. I made a dash for the back door, which lay between us, and jumped inside before she reached me, locking the door behind me. I watched her from behind the drapes for about half an hour. She was just standing in one spot beside the steps, patiently waiting for me to come out. I stood there shaking, wondering what to do and then I thought about Ian again. I had watched him leading the pigs through one of his gates with a bucket of feed. I had no pig feed in the house, but I did have a huge bag of dog crunchies. I was alone with an escaped pig and there was only me to get her back behind the electric fence. I gave myself a lecture and said that if I was going to clear land using these behemoths, then I had better get used to managing them. Ian had managed before me, so I should be able to do it too.

I turned on all my inside and outside lights, which gave a shadowy glow almost, but not quite, as far as the pigsty, and went outside. I had armed myself with the bowl of dog crunchies and I walked with fake confidence up to Mandy, who had now calmed down about as much as I had, and led her towards the pigsty. So far, so good. Then I had to open the live electric fence to get her back to the other side of it. When I had originally set up the fence, I had put an insulating handle on the wire so I could open it like a gate, while not getting zapped myself in the process. I now opened the fence using the handle and put the crunchies on the ground, just the other side of the opening. Mandy sensed some trick or other and would not come any closer. I was forced to lay the live fence wire on the ground in order to pick up the crunchies and go back towards Mandy with the bowl. I waved it under her nose, trying to coax her through the gap. She started coming towards me and then disaster struck again. She got tangled up in the live fence wire that was lying on the ground, shrieked at the top of her lungs and shot off back down the driveway towards the barn, disappearing into the inky blackness of the night.

With the pig out of sight, I took a minute to see how she had got out. The back wall of the pigsty had been thumped out as a result of all the shoving and pushing which had been going on when I woke them up. It now lay like a bridge over the electric fence wire which ran just behind the sty. I turned off the electric fence and propped up the plywood against a tree, since Scarlett and Nuff could just walk out of the back of the pigsty onto the driveway anyway. I now had two pigs in and one out. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. The escapee was nowhere to be seen in the dark and she could have been anywhere within the eight acres of forest that had the perimeter fence around it. I prayed that Ian had been right and that she would not try and break through it. There was nothing more that I could do in the dark, so I figured that I would wait until dawn and then resume the hunt.

I had a sleepless night, with visions of behemoths running wild all over the property, and got up at first light. I went outside expecting to have to hunt all day for my pig. Imagine my surprise to find her fast asleep between Scarlett and Nuff in the pigsty, all of them squished together looking again like sausages in a frying pan. I closed the gap in the electric fence, turned on the power and went back to bed.


Back to the top of the page

Excerpt from Pig Tales and Other Stories

Chapter 3 - First day with the pigs

When the pigs arrived in the Spring, the first thing they needed was water to drink. I had manoeuvred the old bath-tub out of the mobile and into the corner of what was going to be their field. I had seen pictures of people using a tub as a trough for horses and did not see why it would not work for pigs as well. There had been nowhere in their field that was both cleared and flat, other than where I had put their A-frame, but it happened that one of the corners of the cleared septic field abutted onto their field. I ran the electric fence in such a way that this corner now became part of their field. Unfortunately, it was quite sloping and, not wanting the tub to sit on an angle, I dragged some heavy rocks over and propped the tub up with them. Once I thought it was level enough, I filled it with drinking water and waited for the pigs to arrive.

Well, what I considered to be heavy rocks might just as well have been beach balls for the pigs. They shoved and pushed to try and get their noses into the water, but they could not bend their necks enough for their heads to go over the rim of the tub. Within thirty seconds, the tub, along with the precious drinking water, was tipped over, spilling the water onto the ground while the tub was shoved right down to the bottom of the slope. Panic stations! Whatever was I going to use as a container for water now if these animals were so strong that they could upend a heavy metal bathtub? I searched around and then spied the lid of a garbage can. I reasoned that they would have to be able to get a drink from that without knocking it over, since it was almost flat. I was right, but they had only had a gulp or two of water before Mandy put her nose under the lid, lifted it up and sent it skidding along the ground. The little bit of water that had been left in it slooshed over the edge of the lid and was gone. This was not going to work either.

I left the three pigs to their own devices and set off to town to get a proper livestock bucket. I found one that was square and three or four times the size of a garden pail, but still considerably smaller than my bath-tub. The pigs were able to get their heads over the edge this time to drink while the weight of the water kept it in one spot. It worked for a couple of months until the weather got hot, when another unforeseen problem raised its ugly head - but that is a story for another day.

Next, I had to feed them. I had made a feed trough out of wood before the pigs arrived, thinking, in my naivety, that I had made it long enough for the three pigs to stand quietly side by side while they ate. It was long and narrow and sat quite close to the ground, with low walls to hold the feed in. The pigs were watching as I approached it with my bright orange bucket full of feed. I started pouring the feed into the trough at one end, but I was not quick enough for the pigs' liking. The all converged on the first sprinkle as it poured out of the bucket, with such a shoving and pushing that the little trough went slewing all over the ground with all three pigs in hot pursuit. I had to dodge their huge bodies while trying to pour more feed into the trough at the same time. It was a disaster. The faster I poured, the harder they shoved and squealed. Much more of the feed ended up on the ground than in the trough and then, finally, they ignominiously trampled my little feeder into the ground.

By the time the next feed was due, I had had to admit to myself that my idea of giving them a feed trough was a very bad one. They watched me striding down the driveway with my orange bucket, jostling for the best position along the electric fence as I got closer. I leant over the electric fence and dumped the feed in three heaps, fairly close together, on the ground. I had to move fast because they all converged on the first heap before I could pour the second and third heaps out of the bucket. Mandy and Nuff shoved each other as they rushed for the new heaps, leaving Scarlett with the remains of the first heap. All went well for about three minutes, then the jostling started up again. Mandy had finished the bulk of her heap and was only left with a scattering of feed on the ground. She turned her attention back to Scarlett's heap, which I had quietly replenished after the other two pigs had moved on. Mandy began pushing Scarlett determinedly with her huge body to get her out of the way. Her unyielding snout managed to get two or three big mouthfuls of Scarlett's dinner before Scarlett could react and then a pig shoving match ensued. Mandy won, and once she had had the easy-to-gulp remains of Scarlett's dinner, she quickly turned her attention to Nuff's food. She must have tangled with Nuff in her previous life, because, after one glaring stand-off with him, she backed off and went back to finish her own crumbs. I realized I had still not found the ideal solution to feed-time at "The Pigs".

The next feed-time came around and I decided to try a slightly different tactic. I armed myself with three buckets, each with a full helping of feed for one pig in it. The delay that I had had while I tried to estimate one third of the feed for each pig while pouring it on the ground, had been slowing me down. This time I started by dumping the first lot of feed beside Mandy but away from Scarlett. Predictably, Mandy started scoffing it immediately. I poured the second dump for Scarlett a few feet away in the opposite direction. Nuff was patient as ever and just watched the commotion while he waited for his turn. With all the heavy undergrowth in the pigs' enclosure there was not too much open ground to get more than a short distance between the heaps, but it was working better than last feed time. However, Scarlett was still losing some of her dinner to Mandy each day so I tended to make her heap larger than the others to compensate.

Over time, the pigs slowly ate their way through the salal and their enclosure was becoming less bushy, with more and more patches of bare earth showing. I was now able to get at least twenty feet between each heap of feed and I changed my tactics yet again. My buckets and I were eyed with gluttony as soon as I came into view and the stamping and shoving started in earnest long before I got anywhere near the pigs. I dumped the first heap in their field as far away from them as possible and then ran like the wind to get the other two heaps down, leaving a good distance between each of them. Mandy had never given up gulping the bulk of her feed down and then trying to get to Scarlett's before Scarlett had had time to eat hers, but now Mandy had further to run to get to it. It gave Scarlett a chance to gobble a bit more of her own feed before Mandy arrived on the scene. Now, I have to say here, in case you don't know it, that all pigs are very intelligent creatures. As well as leaving more space between the heaps to get Scarlett more of her own dinner, I had also managed to teach her that she and I should try and trick Mandy each day. I would give Scarlett a small heap to start with and then as soon as Mandy started her headlong charge to get at Scarlett's dinner, I would catch Scarlett's eye and she knew to follow me a long way away to behind a tree, right out of sight of Mandy, where I would give her the rest of her dinner to eat in peace. I had finally found a way for Scarlett to get her fair share.


Back to the top of the page

excerpt from Pig Tales and Other Stories

Chapter 8 - The feed race

Before the pigs arrived I had strung electric fence wire around the area that I wanted them to clear, so it was already place when they turned up in the livestock truck. I could hear squeals coming from their direction for the first few days, as they learnt that electric fences give a sharp pain when touched, but the noises soon ceased as they learned to respect their wire boundaries. Pigs are very intelligent creatures and these ones were no different. They rapidly learnt to eat the undergrowth right up to the wire, but no further, so they avoided being zapped.

By now, summer was here and with it came the summer drought. I had put up the electric fence in the rainy springtime and, being an inveterate instruction reader, I had followed the directions to the letter. Unfortunately, whoever wrote the instructions either lived where it rained every day, or had just made up the instructions from electrical theory. I soon discovered that the way they had told me to set up the electric fence was not very good. The fence only worked in wet weather. As soon as the ground had dried up in the heat of summer it stopped working, and my pigs, being clever behemoths, soon realized that it was no longer going to zap them.

Every day after their discovery, they stayed obediently behind the fence until it was dinner time. Then, they pushed their snouts carefully under the wire, satisfying themselves that it was not going to zap them, and their massive bodies followed their noses under the wire, forcing the wire skywards and out of their way. Once free of the wire, they sauntered along the driveway and waited for me by my back door. They were like clockwork. As I came down the steps, my behemoths surged towards me and I had to employ evasive tactics. I darted in an arc around them, as if I were avoiding a defence-man in a soccer game, and then made a dash for the box of my blue pick-up truck which I kept parked near the front door. I leapt up and over the tailgate, landing inside the box, and then breathed a sigh of relief as once more I had thwarted the pigs at feed time. They can run as fast as racehorses on the straight, without a lie, but they are completely hopeless at manoeuvring in a small area. Their bodies are like overstuffed toy whales and they just don't bend in the middle - at all.

I had started to store the feed, along with my big orange bucket, in the box of the pickup truck because it was out of reach of the rats. Once I was safely in the box of the truck, I scooped the feed into the orange bucket and then, with the bucket brimming over, I leaned over the side of the truck towards the pigs, feigning that I was going to jump out of that side. The three pigs jostled for the best position closest to the truck. Then I pulled up the bucket, took two large steps to the other side of the pickup box and vaulted out, with my bucket clasped firmly in my hand. I always managed to sprint across the driveway and part way to the fence around their field before they realized that I was no longer in the truck, but then I had a race on my hands. I had to keep running like the wind to stay ahead of them and, without pausing, I jumped over the electric fence when I reached their field. They didn't seem to realize that the electric fence wasn't working from the driveway side, just as it wasn't from their own side, so they never attempted to barge through the fence as they chased after the feed bucket! I ran along inside the fence to where I could open the wire and lured them through the gap with the bucket. Then I tossed the feed on the ground in three heaps, quickly closing the fence behind them. They meekly stayed behind the fence, just as if it were still working, until next feeding time, when the performance was repeated all over again.

I realized quite quickly that the ground needed to be wet for the electric fence to work as described in the instructions, so two or three times a day I got the garden hose and watered right along underneath the fence. The hot sun just dried it up again. I was exasperated. Sometimes, I am just not as bright as I ought to be and it took perhaps a week for it to dawn on me that what I was trying to replicate was a return ground wire. Then I had an epiphany - why didn't I just use a real wire instead of trying to make the ground conduct electricity when it was dry? I strung a ground wire close to the ground, underneath the existing hot wire, and then waited to see what happened. That evening, Mandy was the first to approach the fence, expecting to be able to squeeze under it as usual. She squealed as she unwittingly touched both wires at once. The other two pigs came up to investigate the commotion. Scarlet then tried to escape under the fence and also got zapped for her trouble. Nuff had been watching carefully and decided that he was better off not even trying to escape. The pigs were imprisoned once more behind the fence - at least for now!


Back to the top of the page

excerpt from Pig Tales and Other Stories

Chapter 23 - The piglets in the nests and the boar's charge

Both of my sows (female pigs) were pregnant when they arrived. As the time drew near for the piglets to be born, Scarlett and Mandy started to work on their nests. First, they each scraped out a hollow in the dirt, about ten feet across and three feet deep and lined it with salal branches. When they had finished, the nests looked for all the world like birds' nests, only on a giant scale. The mums lounged back on the sides of the nests while the babies were being born and the babies naturally gravitated to the bottom. The babies then stayed in the bottom of the nest, being unable to climb out, while the mothers lay against the sides, never squishing any of them. Mandy ended up with seven babies and Scarlett had eleven.

Photo of my Tamworth piglets in their nest, taken by Jenny Robson.
Tamworth piglets in their nest
Photo of my Tamworth piglets in their nest, taken by Jenny Robson.
Tamworth piglets in their nest

I watched as my boar, Nuff, who was the piglet's dad, ambled over to Scarlett's nest and stood beside it, eyeing Scarlett and the babies intently. The signal was not lost on Scarlett and she left to go and find food and water for herself, leaving Nuff to guard the babies. When she came back, she flopped down against the side of the nest again. Then she slowly wriggled down the slope, towards the center of the nest, so she would not crush the babies. Once she was ensconced in the nest again, suckling the babies, Nuff nodded his head a few times and then wandered over to Mandy's nest to take up his position as guardian for her, so that she could take her turn at getting food and water.

Back to top of the page