Abby’s Piglets

Abby Ready

People often ask what a sow looks like just before farrowing. Abby, above, farrowed the next day. She is heavily bagged – that means her breasts, all fourteen, are full and hanging with enlarged nipples. She has started to drip a bit of milk. It is hard to see in the above photo but her vulva is puffy as it readies for the job to come. Fortunately, unlike humans, her piglets are very small relative to her size so they slip out easily. Her hip ligaments are also softening such that her back is flattening out.

The hay is there because her nesting instincts have kicked in. She built a firmly packed bowl shaped nest of hay about six feet in diameter that encourages the piglets to stay with her against her belly as she puts her back against one wall.

Piglet on Abby’s Head

She just can’t get any respect. They’re everywhere!

Piglet Colors

There were 11 piglets in this group but only one with any color. Abby’s red color is genetically recessive so her offspring carry it but the boar’s dominant Yorkshire white gets expressed in most of the piglets. There’s something else in there too, possibly Glouster Old Spot. Note that the piglets in a litter may have more than one father just to add some confusion. Based on how these piglets looked later I’m guessing it was Spot and BigUn. We run the boars together with the breeding herd and a sow typically takes multiple matings during a heating. This maximizes the litter size.

One Day Old Piglet

Piglets at this age are ever so cute. We are hardwired in our brains to see them that way. It’s part of being a mammal. Babies look adorable. This produces survival. Later when they get to 300 lbs, 600 lbs, 1,200 lbs they aren’t quite so cute although I must admit I still enjoy working with the big pigs too.

Outdoors: 55°F/22°F Sunny
Farm House: 40°F/33°F Doors open
Tiny Cottage: 70°F/57°F Windows open

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to Abby’s Piglets

  1. Hello Walter,

    That was very interesting! So how large is the typical piglet at birth? And could you get an over the top shot of a pig nest? I’m curious how they look. You hear so many commercial type pig people saying that farrowing crates are needed, but you have such success with the natural approach!

  2. I’ll do some photos from overhead of nests. Piglets are pretty tiny at birth. A couple of pounds?

  3. Beth on Cape Cod says:


    That photo of the piglet on Abby’s head is one of the most beautiful photos EVER! The huge sow… the perfectly innocent piglet… the contrasts of dark and light, newborn and mature, knowing and unknowing, scruffy and soft – oh! Its just fantastic!!

  4. mara says:

    Hey Walter! Those piglets are awesome! Thanks for taking the pictures of them and of Abby – she’s so pretty! We’re looking forward to getting our pigs! Post more pictures of the pigs!

  5. ChristyACB says:

    Oh, they are so clean and pink and smoochable! The piglets, that is.

    How is the new Mom?

  6. Randall says:

    Do you leave your boars and sows together year round?

  7. Yes, we keep the boars with the breeding herd. See this article about boars and piglets. Cheers, -WJ

  8. Evelyn says:

    Great post, farrowing is the next thing for us to grapple w/.
    Query: Is it usual for their ears to be folded back/open like that? It seems curious, as adults their ears fold toward the front, to protect the ear. But, these piglets seem to have the tips of their ears folded back, to open them. Mightn’t something like a piece of hay get inside?

  9. When piglets are born their ears are almost always flat back against their head. Gradually they start to stand up. Some become completely erect (e.g., Yorkshires) while others flop forward (e.g., Glouster Old Spots). Some are sort of in between. It can be as long as a couple months before the adult ear form is attained but usually you can see it within two weeks.

  10. waylandcook says:

    Our boar is in with our females all the time. He looks like he is talking at the piglets sometimes his nose down in the middle of them grunting at them. He has even excepted my pom dog as a piglet. The pom goes out to play with baby pigs every day and the boar does nothing to him. So I guess it is the temperment of the boar.

  11. top blog!
    I have just aquired two pot bellied gilts……lovely girls…would love to have piglets at some stage!!!!

  12. Vermak says:

    I have 5 piglets (about 50-60 lbs now). They are mixed breed of landrace, yorkshire, and some peatrine. They are pink. We’ve had some very sunny days and I think they are getting pinker. Should I be concerned about sunburn? I feel silly asking this but should I consider using sunscreen?

  13. Provide shade within their space, brush and trees count, and provide a wallow, a mud hole. Mud is a natural sunscreen and bug repellant that pigs use. It also helps to keep their skin soft and youthful.

  14. Hey, Walter! Was Abby a gilt or had she had piglets before? Did you hear anything about the listening session in Harrisburg


  15. Ginger says:

    Hi again! I love your blog

  16. Eric Hagen says:

    How do you keep track of genetics when you run the sows with multiple boars? I’d imagine that it’d be important to know for selecting new breeders and such.

    • If they’re duplicate brothers, Heir and Backup, then it doesn’t matter.

      Otherwise their significantly different and I know their genetic histories so I can tell their offspring apart even when they both mate the same litter.

      Little known factoid: a litter has only one mother (sow) but may have multiple fathers (boars). This has apparently happened in humans as well.

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