Pig in the Bathtub

Pig in the Bathtub

I’m not fond of showering with a pig but sometimes they get to use the bathtub. This piglet was not doing well and came in the cottage to get warmed up. For a quick solution, sometimes the best place to put a small animal is in the bathtub with its steep sides and easy to clean surface.

Pigs in ICU

A better solution is the Intensive Care Unit, the ICU. This is simply a poly barrel cut down to size with a feeder and waterer added. Being plastic it is light weight and easy to clean out and store away between infrequent uses.

The black piglet in the photo is drinking from a rubber nipple attached to a bottle full of colostrum on the outside of the barrel. The cup below the nipple catches any drips keeping the bedding dry while also teaching the piglets to drink from a dish.

Once they learn to eat from a dish they are easier to feed. The small pail on the left has a hole cut in the side for them to stick their heads in. This arrangement makes for less spillage and keeps them from climbing into the dish.

The jars are full of water which started at 107°F to help warm the piglets. That’s the upper range of temperature for them. Pigs are 103°F. A blanket over the top keeps them warm so a heating pad isn’t needed beyond the bottles. Plastic milk jugs work well too for hot water bottles.

Outdoors: 4°F/-11°F Very Windy
Tiny Cottage: 64°F/58°F

Daily Spark: Weather forecasts are not very accurate. Simply looking at the sky and saying tomorrow will probably be the same as today with a chance of being different is more reliable.

About Walter Jeffries

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14 Responses to Pig in the Bathtub

  1. Daniel says:

    ICU: Great low cost idea! The poly barrel is a good fit for a few piglets who need the extra care. Love your blog.

  2. Nicola says:

    I’m assuming pigs shiver/tremble when they get cold?

    • Nicola says:

      Love your ICU!

    • Yes, I think all mammals do. Birds too I think. Perhaps all warm blooded animals have this – it is probably way back in the evolutionary tree and might even have been repeatedly developed as a mechanism to deal with heat control. Shivering alone isn’t a big deal. Uncontrollable violent shivering thought is a sign of hypothermia and can lead to the particular problem of death.

      • Jack Schmitt says:

        I’m not sure about whether all mammals shiver, but I do know that newborn humans DON’T shiver for warmth (they burn brown fat instead) which is why it’s so critical for them to be kept warm. I’m not sure when the switch takes place (I’m a Neonatal ICU nurse – once they’re past term pregnancy age, they’re not mine) but it may well be different for piglets.

        I just discovered your blog a few weeks ago and I love it. I’m hoping to move outside of town soon and put your experience to use. Thanks!


        • Interesting about the human newborns. Newborn piglets do shiver but I think that they get a lot of their heat from their mothers who run about 103°F. They are born with almost no fat – I’ve dissected many. Now that I think about it human babies are born fat in comparison. The piglets have little in the way of body reserves and must get onto their mother’s milk quickly or they waste away.

  3. Dan Pinkel says:

    I love it! Part of what I love about your family farm is how you go that extra mile to care for your livestock and the land. The factory farms would have just killed a little pig that wasn’t making it. You tend it. Yes, yes, I know that ultimately the pig is meat but you make its life good while it is here sharing the world with you. That is a wonderful way you have and I appreciate all that you and your family does! Good job!

  4. John Klimes says:

    I thought that your cold weather was over. -17 Brrrrrr .

  5. DrFood says:

    As a pediatrician I am inclined to call your poly barrel a “NICU” since it does appear to be a Neonatal ICU! That teeny white piglet doesn’t look long for this world–is that iodine, or just yellow patches of fur?

  6. We just lost a piglet last night. She was about a 9 days old. She was born the runt, and was looking fine for a while, but we soon realized that her litter mates were almost twice her size. She was having a hard time walking, and developed a wet cough (possibly pneumonia?) We thought about bringing her in to a similar NICU a few days ago, but were worried she wouldn’t take a bottle. Last night I got home from a 4 day trip and she could hardly stay standing. We brought her in, but only had colostrum supplement and yogurt. We kept her warm with the mason jar trick, but she didn’t make it through the night.

    At what age do you switch from colostrum to milk supplement (do you even use these)? I understand that if we had milking goats we could use their milk, but alas, we don’t at the moment. Should I ever consider leaving a sickly looking piglet out with mama, or just always bring her in for some intensive care? I feel like we might have been able to give her a better go at life if we had brought her in when we first started considering it.

    As always, thanks for your time and input!

    • They need the colostrum for about the first three days. Ideally the colostrum should be from their own mother – we’ve milked pigs for this. Second best is another sow’s colostrum. Frozen colostrum saved from a sow on your farm comes third. Commercial colostrum is the backup and sometimes the best one can do. It is important to realize that pigs are like rabbits in that they take a ‘have a lot of babies and hope some survive’ strategy to reproduction. Not every piglet that is born is born complete. Coming off the sow’s life support system does not always work if they don’t have a complete digestive system, have incomplete lungs, etc. A runt is far more likely to have problems. Most of these sorts of deaths will happen in the first 48 hours.

      Sometimes we do what we call visitation where we keep a weak piglet apart from the sow and other piglets because it can not compete but bring it to the sow for many nursings a day. If you have a calm sow this can work. Mark such a piglet to be a feeder, not a breeder just incase it is a genetic flaw.

  7. Hey, I’m Steve’s (^ that guy’s) wife. We had a first time farrower this morning. One appeared to be stillborn this morning, but the rest seemed fine and active. When Steve did chores this evening, 3 more (so 4 out of 10 total) were dead. It’s unclear if they’re nursing, and mama seems a bit indifferent to them. Advice? We had another sow farrow on Sunday night, and we’re considering trying to see if she’ll accept a few more, but she has 7 already. We’re hesitant to bring the whole litter up to the house, but we’re not sure what’s the best course of action. We have commercial colostrum replacer. Thanks!

    • Can you get milk by drawing on a teat? Check that to see if she is lactating. They need her colostrum for the first three days. There is commercial colostrum available at most feed stores which you can get but it is not anywhere near as good as hers. We have milked sows to get the colostrum for weak piglets. If this sow isn’t working out then grafting onto another sow is a good idea if they are at the same stage. At this point the first sow (Sunday’s) is beyond her colostrum period so that is a concern. I would try to milk the 2nd sow.

      Then the question is whether to rebreed or eat this sow. My druthers would be for the latter if she is not a good mother. However, she might do better the second time. If rebred she is four months to farrow. To raise up a second sow is about a year. The question thus is do you need a sow farrowing in the fall? As a rule you want to pick future breeder stock from sows that were good mothers the first time so I would not hold back any piglets from the 2nd sow to be breeders.

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