Fifteen of them -- wiggly, shivering, skinny, almost-translucent, pink piglets.
Yesterday, late afternoon, Leban came running into the house to say that the pig was in the graveyard collecting twigs and grass -- a sign that she was ready to have her litter of piglets (the collecting...not the location). Koba and Tea went out to get her out of the graveyard and into the barn -- I went to my room to get my camera.
Once she was in the barnyard, Koba tried coaxing her into the barn instead of letting her into her tiny house. If she had her babies in her house, she would certainly kill most of them by rolling over onto them. But even with a bucket of food, Koba couldn't get her to go all the way into the barn -- she'd start to step across the threshold -- Tea was ready with the door -- but then the pig turned around and trotted back to her house, squealing all the way. Since the pig wouldn't cooperate by going into the barn, Koba spread some hay on the front stoop by the barn door. She would be comfortable enough to have her babies there, but it was too cold outside for the newborn piglets to survive. They would have to be moved inside as soon as they were born.
We were hoping that momma-pig would have her babies early in the evening. She had made a nest out of the hay and had gone around the barnyard collecting sticks and pieces of hay to add to what Koba had laid down. It was funny to watch a pig make a nest while the chickens stood by watching, probably critiquing the pig's technique with each bob and cluck. Then the pig started doing laps around the barnyard, chewing on nothing but air -- Tea said that meant she was in labor. Pacing and chewing is how pigs deal with the pain. By 10 p.m., she still hadn't had any babies. I went to bed, willing to wait until morning to see them.
The babies came into the world in the middle of the night -- Tea didn't get much sleep having to tend to the newborns. First two, then four, then more, and more, and more! The pig gave birth to 15, but two died right away, so by 3 a.m., Tea had moved the 13 piglets and momma pig into the barn where they would be warmer and contained, but still have space to move around.
I didn't get to see the piglets until after school today (yes, school on Saturday... the first of our two make-up days). There they were, huddled in the corner trying to pile on top of each other to get themselves back into "womb-position" -- which, I'm sure, was much warmer than this Georgian March weather and the barn floor. The pig-pile was a mass of tiny, shivering, pink bodies -- almost cute since they were actually clean. I stepped into the barn later on to see if they had started moving around -- they were a swarming, squirming, pink cloud ringing their mother.
I look forward to watching these little guys grow up in the next few months. And there will be more spring babies to be added to the farm -- chicks, kittens, a calf, and turkeys (if Tea can borrow a male turkey for a few days....).
Fun on the farm!