This is the first winter in quite some time that we’ve had no pigs on our small homestead. The last pig ‘left’ us six weeks ago. I’m already missing not being able to look out of the window to see pigs rooting in the field. I miss not seeing them trotting through the woods, alongside the road when they hear our Jeep returning home. Rushing to reach the barn before we turn into the driveway. Although, when it’s cold and nasty outside, it’s a relief not to have to turn out to do the barn chores. It's nice not to have pigs, turned cranky with cabin fever.
Over the years we’ve had many visitors at the farm. After their initial surprise at seeing pigs that are black and not pink, the first question is usually “Do they ever get out?” The answer to that is “YES!” But that’s another story. The questions then turn to winter.
“Do pigs feel the cold?” and “Do pigs go outside in the snow?”
Like any of us, they probably feel the cold when the mercury dips to twenty below. However, Berkshires are a hardy breed and well adapted and equipped to deal with cold and snow. Ever wondered where hog paintbrushes come from? As the days grow colder, they grow a thick coat. Not a fluffy coat of fur, but coarse bristles that trap the air.
They love being outdoors whenever possible, even in the winter. Nothing makes them happier than to root in the snow, looking for anything tasty below. They'll run and play in the deep snow, or they’ll simply stand in the sun and let it warm their backs.
But being clever creatures, they won't venture out in inclement weather. A wet pig is a cold pig. Pigs need a shelter that is dry and free of draughts. Our pigs are accustomed to grazing on pasture so, in addition to their feed rations, we supplement by giving them free access to good-quality hay. Not only does the hay keep their bellies full but it seems to ward off boredom when the weather confines them. We give them a thick bed of straw. On stormy days they build a nest, snuggle together and hunker down to sleep it out. Pigs are smart like that!