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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
From Hog Haven Farm’s Executive Director and primary caretaker, Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, regarding the animal cruelty/hoarding case in Indiana
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.
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!
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)!
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!
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!
In 2017, Hog Haven Farm brought in a total of 40 rescued pigs, and 19 piglets were born at the sanctuary to 3 different pigs. Here’s an end-of-year status update on these pigs!
Of the 40 rescued pigs, 8 found their forever homes: Alvin, Boots, Charlie, Kevin the KuneKune, Kevin the potbelly, Moo, Otto, and Pepper! In addition to these 8, another 15 pigs found their forever homes in 2017. Of the 19 piglets born at Hog Haven Farm in 2017, 6 found their forever homes; Mama’s babies Junior and Patty, and Delilah’s babies Stewie, Lemmy, Chester and Roscoe were all adopted. A total of 23 pigs found their forever homes in 2017!
If you’ve been following Hog Haven Farm throughout the year, you may recall a few of the sadder rescue stories. In March, we brought in a malnourished pig named Phil; while his former family didn’t intentionally cause him harm, and he was loved and happy, Phil was on an improper diet for his age and was significantly underweight. Check out the before and after photos of Phil, from March until now!
In April, we rescued 6 siblings from a terrible hoarding situation: Delilah, Zara, and their brothers Brindle, Hagar, Leo and Paxton. Delilah was pregnant at time of rescue, and delivered 9 babies in late July; sadly, one didn’t make it, but the other 8 were very healthy! All four boys were neutered late summer, and the girls will spayed early 2018. We’ve been working hard to socialize this group, and slowly seeing some results.
Zara was injured at time of rescue, with an odd, jagged scar running from her forehead to her tail, with open sores along her back. While her back is covered heavily in scar tissue, she has grown hair and healed very well. Her skin is still pretty dry, but compared to April, she’s a whole new pig! She also got a trip to the human house for a few days over Christmas, where she really warmed up to pets from Erin.
We are closing 2017 with 84 pigs (8 of whom are boarding with us). Many of our piggies are still looking for their forever homes! If you think you’re ready to be a pig parent, please visit this link.
Hog Haven Farm does not encourage breeding, and do our best to avoid litters of piglets born on our watch. However, pigs (and animals in general) are driven by instinct, and last May, our sweet troublemaker Dug figured out how to escape his pen. We spent a stressful day fixing fences, installing electric wire in two new areas, and keeping unaltered pigs contained to their respective pens.
Since Dug was loose, and in contact with intact females, we discussed options with our vet to avoid pregnancy, and purchased emergency contraceptive for several females. With a high demand for rescues, avoiding new litters of piglets is advisable, so we don’t contribute to the problem of so many unwanted pigs.
One of our females ended up pregnant, even after emergency contraceptive. We didn’t realize her pregnancy until about 2 weeks before her due date (which we were able to calculate from our expenses to fix fencing). Of all the pigs to become pregnant, it was our Hampshire, Journey; this means adopting out her babies is not an option, because she is 400lbs at 2yrs, and Dug, a Hampshire/potbelly, is over 300lbs at about the same age.
We welcomed a litter of 6 healthy piglets on 8/31, the same day (ironically) that Dug was neutered. Journey gave birth to two girls, Infinity and Maple, and four boys, Bowie, Prince, Beetlejuice, and Timon. These piglets are 3/4 Hampshire, 1/4 potbelly from our best guess, and were so vibrant within hours of birth. They began exploring outside almost immediately, and within a week, were playing in the mud and eating solid food with their mom.
These piglets are so incredibly sweet and curious–more so than any of the piglets born at Hog Haven Farm from pregnant rescues. When strangers approach the pen, these piglets are immediately at the fence to sniff and nibble fingers. They love to play and run around, chew on clothing, and climb all over whomever will sit in the pen with them.
Journey started weaning the piglets at 5 weeks. They are 6 weeks old today, and we let Journey out during the day, but back in with the piglets at night. They still nurse periodically, but have been eating pellets for weeks, so they are fine to be without mama now; she is happy to be out and about during the day with her friends.
We would like to have Journey spayed by the year’s end; the cost of her spay has been estimated at a minimum of $800, given her size. Including Journey and her piglets, we currently have 5 unaltered males and 13 intact females left. Nearly 30 spay and neuter procedures have been done this year alone, and our new policy is to not accept unaltered pigs (unless it’s an emergency). On average, neuters cost $130-150, and spays start at $250, but average cost is $400. Spays are a more intensive procedure, and cost varies by size of the pig.
If you’d like to help support our neuter and spay program, please consider a one-time or recurring donation. You can also call our vet and have a credit put on our account, under Andrew and Erin Burgardt. Not only do these procedures eliminate unwanted pregnancies, they help avoid behavioral issues (escaping/damaging pens, aggression) and promote healthy females. Intact females can suffer from uterine tumors later in life, and much shorter life spans than if they are spayed.
Ideally, neutering and spaying at an early age is best, but quite a few of our females came to us intact and older. Two need to lose weight before they can be considered for surgery, but we are trying our best to take care of these procedures as funding allows.
Summer time is usually a time for fun–backyard parties, time spent with family and friends, fireworks, and baseball keep everyone busy and active outside. At Hog Haven Farm, our summer season kicked off with new rescues and more pigs with special needs.
Hog Haven Farm happily welcomed new senior citizen residents Dottie and Stewart at the end of May. These two pigs are now our oldest residents, at 15 and 13 years old, and are also larger pigs. Dottie is most likely a Hampshire-Potbelly cross, and weighs in around 450-500lbs. Stewart is a larger potbelly, easily over 350lbs.