Celebrating 4 Years in Deer Trail!

Four years ago today, Hog Haven Farm relocated to its current location (in Deer Trail, CO) from a much smaller property in Byers. This move completely changed the course of our rescue work, allowing us to expand, save more lives, and give our pig friends so much room to graze and stretch their legs! This move truly allowed us to be Hog “Haven.”

A view of the Hog Haven Farm property, prior to relocation: June 2016

Thanks to our friend Ricky, who spent hours hand-mowing the overgrown grass and weeds, we were able to move the 28 pigs and 2 miniature donkeys in one day! Ricky also spent countless hours over the last few years helping build pens and shelters, designing name plates, and being a total asset for the safety of our pigs.

Another view of the new Hog Haven Farm, June 2016

So much has changed in these four short years, and so much for the better! Hog Haven Farm is now home to 122 rescued pigs, and in the 6 years we’ve been operating, nearly 300 pigs have been saved.

The current view at Hog Haven Farm, looking down the main corridor, June 2020

When we first landed in Deer Trail, we only had 2 pens, and we didn’t allow the pigs free access across the whole 40 acre property (as we needed to fix some fencing).

The current view, looking up the main corridor, June 2020

Hog Haven Farm now has more than 20 pig pens, and the pigs are allowed access to the field during the day! We are so grateful for all of the support we’ve received over these years, to be able to follow our passion and dream of rescuing and rehabilitating pigs, educating the public, and showing the community just how special these guys really are. Thank you!

The Hog Haven Farm Piggy Family

One of our frequently asked questions is how we determine what pigs are adoptable, versus what pigs will be sanctuary residents. It’s a great question, and we have given a lot of thought to how best explain our process.

There are a variety of factors that influence our decisions–not just regarding adoptable vs. permanent, but on how to best socialize a new pig, how to integrate a new pig with existing pigs, what pen a new pig should ultimately be placed in, and so forth. The first step in our process is to familiarize ourselves with a pig’s personality traits and behavior. Is the pig dominant, or timid? How does the pig interact with other pigs through the fencing? How does the pig interact with humans, both the regular caretakers he sees daily, and the random visitors who stop by?

One of the families calling Hog Haven Farm their home: Batman (middle) is the biological dad of Neils Boar (left) and Valerie (right)

Phoenix Rose

Rescue often involves heartbreak and heart aches. Some pigs arrive happy and healthy, but others arrive broken, neglected, and abused. At Hog Haven Farm, most of the pigs surrendered to our care come from that second category—so we can be a safe landing space, a source of comfort and healing, an option for those with nowhere else to go, and a voice for the voiceless.

Our newest rescue may not have purposely been neglected, but her physical condition desperately hurts our hearts. There are many breeders out in the world who claim “teacup” as a breed of pig, and their advice is to essentially starve the pig to keep it small. Unsuspecting owners take this poor nutritional advice with no question, feeding a diet of only ¼ cup pig pellets twice a day; but like any other species, as we grow and mature, our diet must also increase. ¼ cup of feed per meal (twice a day) for the duration of a pig’s life is not enough nutrition, and some folks do not realize the harm this diet causes.

A pig’s organs will continue to grow as they mature, and if their body does not keep up with internal growth, they will live a short life, stunted, starving, unhappy. A healthy diet is based on 1-2% of body weight, and the feed you select should be formulated specifically for potbellied pigs (some brands are labeled for mini pigs, but the protein content of a pig-specific food should range between 12 and 16%, or closer to 20% for piglets. Most hog feeds, and specifically grower feeds, should not be used). Hog Haven Farm chooses to feed Manna Pro, but other brands are widely available. It should also be noted that mini pigs are not a breed, but a size reference: healthy adult weights can be as low as 70lbs, or as large as 300lbs, and they are not considered adults until 4 years of age. In Hog Haven Farm’s experience, average adult weight is typically between 100 and 180lbs.

A variety of shapes and sizes, all of these pigs have healthy body scores.

Meet our 2020 Board of Directors

Big changes are afoot at Hog Haven Farm! To kick off a new year and a new decade, Hog Haven Farm reorganized its Board of Directors and added important, new subcommittee positions!

We are excited to focus on the growth and expansion at our rescue & sanctuary, to plan exciting new community events & fundraisers, and to keep on saving lives this year. Several of our previous board members are continuing this year, and we have some new faces, too! Say hello when you see our crew at Hog Haven Farm events this year.

Meet our Board:

Heidi Loveless—President 

Heidi became actively involved with Hog Haven Farm shortly after its founding, and adopted her second pet pig (Olivia) from us. From attending events, to volunteering at the farm, to assisting with rescue operations and transport, Heidi has been a key figure at Hog Haven Farm. With her husband, Jeremy, Heidi has three pet pigs (Ziggy, Olivia and Rue); when they aren’t snuggling the pigs and watching Netflix, Heidi and Jeremy enjoy traveling and the great outdoors.

The (long) road to health and happiness

The sweetest, cutest little face and round tummy you can possibly imagine. The quintessential happy piglet. Moo radiated so much light, life, and happiness when she arrived at Hog Haven Farm in January 2017. We made the decision to adopt Moo to a forever home, along with 3 of her friends.

Moo, January 2017

When Moo left our care, she weighed around 74lbs, and was just under a year old. As with all of our adoptions, we looked forward to future updates, to see how she and her friends were growing up and getting along. Updates became few and far between after about a year, but from what we had seen, they were loved piggies in their new home.

Moo with her best friends, February 2017

Fast forward two and half years post adoption: we received a surrender request from Moo’s family, to take her back with her friends, due to a change of life situation. Part of our adoption policy is that pigs be returned to Hog Haven Farm should something happen in the future. We scheduled a day and time to pick them up, and we were totally unprepared for what we saw. Perhaps the novelty of keeping pigs as pets wore off; perhaps the pigs became too great a burden to pay much attention to; perhaps life was too busy to hassle much with pet pigs. Yes, the pigs had a cozy shelter and large pen space, and access to water and feed; three of these pigs were healthy, but incredibly timid, and Moo…well, poor Moo was totally different.

We were told the other 3 pigs were food bullies, and didn’t share enough food with Moo, and that Moo would eat too slowly. We don’t doubt that; feeding multiple pigs together can be challenging. The confusing aspect of this story is that one of four pigs not eating enough has a very simple solution–a separate area for feeding, and monitoring each pig’s eating habits, every meal.

Moo’s condition upon intake, August 2019

While we do not think Moo’s family intentionally caused her harm, she was obviously in a state of serious neglect. In pigs, body condition is scored on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is emaciated, and 5 is morbidly obese. Moo ranked at a 1 upon intake, weighing a mere 30lbs; her spine and hip bones were highly visible, and her jaw line was sharp, with no fat or muscle mass on her body. Knowing that Moo weighed 74lbs at time of spay in January 2017, and should have kept growing, we know that she lost 60% of her body weight.

Moo’s visible spine and hips, 20 days after intake

When pigs are emaciated, their immune systems become compromised–in addition to poor body condition, Moo was fighting an upper respiratory infection, and mange (a skin parasite). Her breathing sounded like a rattle of death, and honestly, when we picked her up, we didn’t think she was going to last through the night. Not only was she sick, but her eyes were dull; despite all of these problems, our vet was confident that we could make a full recovery with Moo, and we wanted to do everything in our power to save her.

Erin with Moo, August 2019

Dealing with extreme starvation in any species takes time, routine, persistence, and patience. A rapid increase in nutrients can send the body into shock, so a strict diet plan was put into place by our veterinarian. The goal was to build Moo’s immune system, and allow her to gain back the weight she lost–but we may never get her back to 74lbs. Over the course of 25 days, we slowly increased her feed, providing her with 3 meals a day. She was also given a vitamin B12 supplement for her immune system, antibiotics weekly, and dewormer every 12 days. She has been given 3 sulphur baths to combat the mange (in addition to the dewormer).

Moo during one of her sulphur baths

Moo has shown, since day one, that she is a fighter. She was failed by humans, but refuses to let that slow her down. Today marks 8 weeks since we picked Moo up; today, Moo’s eyes are sparkling, her belly is nice a round, her breathing is better, and her skin has drastically improved. We still have a long road ahead of us, but Moo is on the uphill race, determined to be healthy. And boy, is Moo happy. Her tail wags constantly, she’s made friends with Morty, and she loves to explore and graze.

Moo with Morty, September 2019

It’s hard to notice obvious results, even over the span of 8 weeks. Looking back at pictures from this time frame, it’s now obvious to us that Moo has made amazing progress. From her first day here, to today, our little Moo is fighting to be healthy. We are so proud of her. We can’t wait to see what another 8 weeks brings.

Before and After, Week 1 and Week 8

Operation: Indy Pig Rescue

From Hog Haven Farm’s Executive Director and primary caretaker, Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, regarding the animal cruelty/hoarding case in Indiana

Erin documenting conditions on the ground in Indiana, early June 2019

About 3 weeks ago, I was tagged in a Facebook post about 60+ pigs in dire need of rescue in Indiana. I reached out to a few individuals to get more information, and learn how I could best help these pigs. 

When I saw the news stories posted about these pigs, I decided I could not turn away, and merely share the links asking for help. I wanted to be involved on a deeper level—I have personally worked on hoarding/neglect/cruelty cases before, and I know first hand how much these animals need a lifeline and support. 

Communications began between myself and a few other rescuers, and over the course of a week, plans and arrangements to save these pigs were falling into place. I decided to fly to Indiana to see the situation first hand, assess the exact number of pigs in need, and document conditions with my photography skills. 

Conditions on the ground were absolutely heartbreaking, and much worse than I fathomed. The areas the pigs lived in were deplorable—some of the large pigs (400lbs+) were in mud to their chests. There were areas of the pens I could not safely walk, as the depth of mud was greater than the height of my knees. The smell was powerful…laden with feces and urine, the mud had an overpowering, sickening smell—and in several areas, I had to cover my face to breathe. The flies were everywhere, and the sound in the still air was filled with their buzzing. Not one pen had grass for the pigs to graze, and many pens lacked dry ground or shelter as a relief from the mud and elements. Many pigs had no access to water, and none of the pigs had access to fresh water. All of these pigs (67 by my count) are intact, and we aren’t certain on how many pregnancies there may be among the 32 females.

Though this experience was a literal hell on earth, I tried desperately to stay strong for these pigs. I diligently went to each pen, a total of 18, to document the pigs, their conditions, and to make contact. Most were scared of me, and refused my touch. Some were curious after a few minutes, and would cautiously approach, smelling my hands. 

Only one pig willingly approached me as I entered his pen. He was a little crusty from the mud, and the only pig with water in his pen. The word “water” should be used very loosely, as the container resembled that of a cesspool, and nothing I would allow an animal to consume. The look in this pig’s eyes was of genuine curiosity; he wanted to trust, but he wasn’t sure how.  

In my heart, I made a promise to these pigs. We will get you safe; you will know the basic comfort of a soft bed to sleep upon, fresh grass in your belly, and the cool relief of fresh, clean water. You will know love and compassion, and be saved from hell. We will not let you down. 

I made the decision to bring a couple of these pigs back with me, when they are able to travel across state lines, to give them the very best life imaginable. There will be happy tears when I see happily swinging tails of pigs enjoying freedom, at last, and the life they so desperately deserve.

While on site, two pigs seemed in dire need of medical attention: one lived in a horse trailer, without any ventilation or fresh water, and with visible respiratory distress. The other had a visible prolapse to be addressed. Working with a few other volunteers, we purchased crates to transport them to Purdue University Vet Teaching Hospital, where they could be immediately helped. Driving two hours north was the most stressful drive of my life, but both girls were able to receive much needed medical attention, and now, days later, are recovering well and have bright futures ahead.

Working with multiple other rescues, with the common goal of saving lives, has been a very humbling, incredible experience. Though this mission has been overwhelming, exhausting, stressful, and troubling, to say the very least, there are good humans who only want to reach a common goal. I am beyond grateful for teamwork on the Indy Pig Rescue, to simply save 67+ lives, and raise awareness about the power of compassion in rescue. To my friends, new and old, at Gracie’s Acres, Cotton Branch Farm Sanctuary, Kansas City Pig Rescue Network, Kanda Farm Sanctuary, Trail’s End Wildlife Refuge, and A Critter’s Chance: thank you for working by my side, through thick and thin, to save these sentient beings. 

Tomorrow starts a new chapter for these pigs, and life will only get better from here on out. 

If you would like to assist with this rescue operation, funds are needed to provide vet care for all 67 pigs. Basic care, including dewormer (for internal and external parasites), disease testing, and pregnancy screening will begin the week of June 10, 2019. After initial vet care, these pigs will be neutered and spayed, and prepped to safely head to forever homes. All donations are being handled by Kanda Farm Sanctuary, a 501C3 nonprofit in Indiana, and are tax-deductible.

To sponsor basic vet care: bit.ly/indysponsor

To volunteer as a caretaker: bit.ly/caretakervolunteers

For more general information: www.indypigrescue.org

The Plight of Mini Pigs

On April 18, 2019, executive director Erin Brinkley-Burgardt presented to Colorado legislators the plight of pet pigs. Learn more about Hog Haven Farm began, why there is an overwhelming need for rescue, and how you can help.

Founded in August 2014, Hog Haven Farm was conceived from my childhood love of pigs, and from an incredible bond I formed with my first pet pig, Pipsqueak. After bringing Pippy home in 2013, and becoming active in Facebook communities for pet pigs, my husband Andrew and I became aware of the national plight of pet pigs, and decided to take action. Thinking our rescue goals would take 5 years to take off, we were blown away when Hog Haven Farm grew within 6 months. In the last 3 years, we have moved twice to accommodate the growing demand of rescue, and are now located on 40 beautiful acres east of Denver. We rescue pigs from situations of abandonment, abuse, neglect, and from slaughter. 

Hog Haven Farm is currently home to 98 pigs, 7 equine, 1 dog and 4 cats. Of these 98, 80 are potbellied and 18 are standard or mixed breeds. In the 4.5 years we’ve operated, we have rescued nearly 190 pigs, with our intake doubling in 2017 when we were able to expand. Since founding, we have been able to adopt more than 80 potbellies to forever homes, and network other pigs in need to find sanctuary or permanent homes. 

Sadly, only 2-5% of all pet pigs remain in one home during the course of their long lives, a 20-year average. One primary factor contributing to abandoned pigs relates to breeding practices. Because pig breeding is not regulated by the USDA or PACFA, false claims can be made to sell more piglets without consequence. Additionally, there are an estimated 500,000 pet pigs in the United States, so you can imagine why the retention rate of pet pigs is so alarming.

The terms “teacup, “micro-mini,” and others were coined by breeders to sell more piglets. No matter the breed, all piglets are typically less than a pound at birth, and the overwhelming cuteness of these babies draws a lot of attention. The myths about these tiny pigs include many alarming details; breeders will claim that teacup pigs reach a mere 25-40lbs at maturity. Additionally, many breeders suggest highly restrictive diets to keep these pigs small, or essentially advising their clients to starve the pig. Many breeders also welcome clients to meet the breeding parents, suggesting that the piglet will only grow as large as mom or dad. 

The truth behind these myths is widely available to anyone performing a simple Google search. “Teacup” and other such breeds are merely potbellied pigs, who grow anywhere from 70 to 250lbs. The term “mini pig” is also misleading, as it refers to any breed of pig 300lbs or less. Compared to standard breeds, 300lbs is quite small! Females come of breeding age at 4 months old, and often, the breeding parents at breeders are just babies themselves. Because pigs don’t complete their growth for 4-5 years, meeting breeding pairs who are younger than that do not give an accurate size reference. Additionally, not all pigs will be the same size as their parents; just like human children, there is no guarantee that they will fit in a certain growth percentage! 

Another contributing factor to unwanted pet pigs is zoning regulations and restrictions. In Colorado, some of the current cities with bans on pet pigs are Aurora, Loveland and Castle Rock. When people are caught illegally keeping a pig, the animal is either seized or the owner is given up to 30 days to remove it. Hog Haven Farm has received many calls from Aurora and Castle Rock, from both animal control and private owners, asking that we remove the pig. 

In addition to bans on pigs, other jurisdictions have unrealistic weight restrictions for pet pigs. While potbellies can be as small as 70lbs, the more common range, in our experience, is 100 to 180lbs at adulthood. It is our opinion that, if potbellies are permitted as pets, the weight restriction should be removed all together, or should be at the high end of the range—250lbs. 

Most jurisdictions that allow pigs as pets do not have licensing or neuter/spay policies in place. This contributes to backyard breeding, which is banned for other types of domesticated animals. Because of the lack of licensing and altering policies, about 50% of the incoming pigs at Hog Haven Farm are intact, and are rarely up to date on necessary vaccines, such as dewormer. 

While pigs do make wonderful companion animals, they often do not do well in homes with other pets—primarily dogs. Because pigs and dogs have different methods of communication, they can become a danger to one another. Inherently, pigs are prey and dogs are predators; due to no fault of either animal, the result of their inability to communicate can lead to traumatic, and often lethal, results for the pig. That being said, pigs do coexist well with other species, including cats, goats, and other “farmed” animals. 

One of the reasons I am so drawn to pigs is their sentience. Pigs are social animals with a herd mentality, and form strong bonds with their companions—they crave affection and attention. Ranked the fourth smartest mammal, pigs reach the intelligence of a 4year old human. Like elephants, pigs’ emotional intelligence is comparable to our own human experience—they understand joy, love, and happiness, but also deeply feel sadness, loss, grief, pain, and fear. When pigs lose their companions, they can, and often will, cry real tears and suffer from depression, just as we humans do.

Pigs use more than 20 sounds to communicate; when they are happy to see their companions, they hot pant to express affection. As intelligent animals, pigs are natural problem solvers—they are curious and food motivated, so learning to bust out of their pen or break into the refrigerator inside the house are mild inconveniences. More so than other domesticated animals, pigs appreciate human companionship, and love to cuddle or be around their people. As such, we advocate for a compassionate, plant-based diet. 

Operating a pig rescue has its limitations. Pigs are dominant creatures, and will physically fight one another when meeting for the first time, so there is a process to integrate new pigs. As many of our intakes have not been vaccinated, and parasites can affect our entire herd, we have a quarantine procedure that lasts anywhere from 30 to 60 days. Many of the inbound females are not spayed, and the procedure, while necessary, is quite expensive. Current demand averages eight surrender requests for every one pig we adopt out. In 2019, we have rescued 12 pigs and adopted 8, but have a current waitlist of 5. We have had to say ‘no’ to more than 40 unwanted pets as well. Our average annual adoption rate is only about 20%, and that further limits the number of new pigs we can rescue.

To combat the overwhelming plight of unwanted pigs, we have several ongoing objectives. The first objective is to work directly with animal control units across the Denver-metro, for training purposes or to place abandoned, abused and neglected pigs. We also work directly with many animal shelters that are not equipped to handle pigs; some of the shelters we work with are partnered with animal control units, and we have been able to save many pigs from hoarding and neglect cases because of this relationship.

Hog Haven Farm also strives to educate the general public about pigs as creatures and as pets, to break the myths breeders have created and allow people a chance to interact with our rescued pigs. We are very active on social media, with the goal of teaching people about these amazing creatures. We currently have 7 pigs trained as therapy pets, and will bring them to fundraising events, as well as to schools, assisted living and nursing homes.

Our last objective is where we need your help! We are seeking change for breeding regulations and zoning restrictions across Colorado and ultimately nationwide. Without your help, and without our ability to educate the general public, the epidemic of unwanted pet pigs will only worsen.   

You can become involved by sharing this truth, reaching out to your local lawmakers and demanding change, and by choosing to adopt your companions, rather than supporting breeders. Only through education can we demand change! To watch the full video of Erin’s presentation, please visit our Facebook page.

The pigs who call Hog Haven home – Part II

Welcome to the official Hog Haven Farm blog! Check out more of our current residents (as of March 2018). A few days ago, we shared pictures and information on 20 of our piggy family members, names A through F–today, learn about piggies name H through L!

Hagar is one of six pigs who came from a hoarding situation in April 2017, and is named for musician Sammy Hagar. Though very timid upon arrival, Hagar is slowly building trust with people, and will be adoptable soon!

Hampton is a sweet, timid young potbelly who arrived at the sanctuary in February 2018. While he currently stays alone, he is slowly making friends with our Yorkshire, Lola, and potbellies Marvin and Walter!

Harley was an owner surrender in September 2015. This handsome boy is one of our larger potbelly residents, but is so affectionate! He lives in our main pen with best pals Journey, Cupid and Bentley.

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The pigs who call Hog Haven home

As of March 2018, Hog Haven Farm has 85 piggies in its family–of these, 77 are residents, and 8 are boarding with us. Check out the adorable pictures and brief bios about some of our piggy family below (this is the first post of several)!

Amelia Earhart was born at the sanctuary to Delilah in July 2017. She has been adventurous and curious since birth!

Annabelle was an owner surrender in January 2017. This sweet lady is one of our smaller adult residents, and enjoys hanging with her pals Oscar, Peter and Phoebe!

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice!! This handsome Hampshire was born at the sanctuary to mama Journey in August 2017, and is so full of life and personality!

Continue reading

2018 Rescue Updates

2018 has been a busy year already!

We kicked off January with a trip to Wichita, Kansas, to pick up a stray Spotted breed set to be euthanized. Henry, a young, gentle, 260lb pig was a stray taken to a shelter. Given his breed and size, he was not an adoption candidate, and faced a terrible fate. We welcomed him to our pig family, and drove the 16 hours round trip to bring him to his new life!

Henry making friends in our main pen!

The end of January brought us five adorable 4-5mo old piglets. These sweet babies were never socialized, never named–and were going to be sold at auction. Part of a collaborative rescue effort with Broken Shovels Farm Sanctuary and Rescued Friends Animal Sanctuary, a total of 17 pigs were in need, and every single one needed to be spayed or neutered. We welcomed home Fiona, Ferdinand, Duke, Pigger Allan Poe, and Kramer, and they were all taken in for neuter/spay surgery on 2/8!

Fiona, one of the five rescues and the only female

The four boys–from the back, Ferdinand, Kramer, Duke and Pigger Allan Poe