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Homesteading and Livestock

Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.


Winter Pigs and Spring Preparations at Sugar River Farm

Hi everyone! With it being almost a third of the way through April, we in New Hampshire are finally expecting our first days in the 60-degree range. This is all very exciting, especially since we received about two inches of snow three days ago. Go figure.

snow 

Last we spoke, I had written about Overwintering Pigs in the Northeast. It’s been a few weeks since the pigs went to market. They were somewhat lighter than we had hoped, but it was a bitterly cold winter and I think more calories were spent keeping warm than they were building bacon. All in all, raising the winter pigs was a successful venture. They didn’t escape (yay), and we were able to stay on top of keeping the electric fence ahead of the snow and their water melted.

One thing that went very well was getting the pigs loaded in the trailer to go to the slaughterhouse. Pigs can be pretty vocal when they are displeased, and Dan and I really didn’t want to go through the experience of herding a bunch of hollering pigs into a trailer at 5am, which we all know would definitely endear us to our neighbors. We also wanted the pigs to have as low stress of an experience as time would allow. Our pigs paddock was about 50 yards from our driveway, so the plan was to set up an alley using electric fencing leading from their current living quarters to the trailer a few days prior to their being moved. Our hope was that they would eat and sleep in the trailer, thus making the trailer fun and not frightening. I understand that other farmers may need to use their trailers more than once a week and this type of adjustment period may not be an option, but it works well for us. After a few hours of sniffing around, the pigs took to the trailer, mostly because of the food that was sitting inside, and they spent the next few days doing exactly what we had hoped. Instead of a chaotic pig move, Dan simply went out very early the day of and quietly shut the trailer door on the ten sleeping pigs. When we left, we threw them some treats from the day old baked goods section of our local supermarket and we were all on our merry way. It was strange the next few days to not have the pigs around, but it was nice to have a little break. I’ve been trying to focus on finding some good breeders in our area to supply us with piglets until we are set up to farrow our own.

moving pigs 

Aside from the pigs, our next phase is prepping for the 550 chicks we are expecting the end of this month. Friends of mine in Virginia and Missouri already have started their birds, but the likelihood of lingering cold temperatures in New Hampshire lead us to hold off a bit on getting our babies. We have a brooder in our old barn with walls made from straw bales. This is the first time we’re using this type of construction for a brooder, so I’d like to have the birds in there for a bit before I start writing a how to… Writing about it now seems like writing a review of a restaurant you’ve never been to. Actually, as I write this post, Dan is working on the six mobile coops we will need for these birds. We have a commitment to provide 500 birds a month, plus a weekly farmer’s market so these coops will get a lot of use. My next post will explain how to build one of these coops along with some rough costs, but they’re not done yet, so I need to be patient.

As for other farm animals, besides the meat chickens and pigs, I also threw an order for ten Indian Runner ducklings (so cute) onto our chick order, which I’m so excited about. My excuse for getting them is that they are prolific egg layers, but I really just want some birds I can get attached to. We are also in the market for some guard geese for the chickens. While interning at Polyface Farm, I saw firsthand the effectiveness of a not-nice goose against all types of predation (Lets just say that to me, Owl City is not just the name of a band. Sometimes I feel like I live there.) and I know we will need geese here. It would be nice if the goose didn’t go after me, but dodging an angry bird in the name of the greater good is something I’m willing to do.

I hope you all are enjoying your early spring and I’m looking forward to updating you all further as the population grows here at Sugar River Farm!


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