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Taming The Herd

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CogGirl

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Hey all!

I'm CogGirl, aka Emma; some of you'll already know me from the Introductions page or from Facebook, but for the uninitiated I'm 27, Welsh and relatively-recent mama to five beautiful baby guinea-girls; Lagertha, Siggy and Auslag moved in on Jan 19th, and Thorunn and Helga joined the family on Jan 26th. The other pig-parent in the household is my better half, aka the minion, who will occasionally be featuring in these posts as well :)

I've seen a lot of people (more on Facebook than here, granted) asking questions along the lines of "It's day three since I adopted my pig and he still won't come to greet me; why doesn't he like being petted?". While this is not meant to be a criticism of any enthusiastic new owner, or a 'best way to do things' (and, indeed, I more than welcome suggestions / criticism from more knowledgeable cavvy-wranglers) I thought it would be helpful to keep a record of how our girls are settling in, both to show that it's a slow process and to prove that patience is rewarded. I'll be aiming to update sort-of-daily to keep track of how they're progressing.

Admins: feel free to move this if it's in the wrong place; this seemed like the best spot.

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General things we have been doing: initially we tried to disturb the girls as little as possible to let them settle in; for the first few days we fed them in the hutch (we keep them indoors in a converted hen-coop, and have a playpen we can put up around it) and just sat outside talking quietly. We also put some small pouches made from fleecy socks we'd been wearing in the run up to getting the girls in with them, so they'd get used to our smell.

Now the girls get their evening feed at 6.30pm (they also get fresh hay and pellets at 8am (before I go to work) and midnight (when they go back in the hutch)). The run goes up, the doors open. Myself and the minion will sit in the pen for a while, talking and generally letting them run around us while we spotclean. We'll also handfeed them (carrot sticks, green beans and crispy lettuce leaves are particular favourites), and then leave them be for the rest of the evening (with the run still up and their food set in it) through until about midnight.

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Feb 7th 2015

Lagertha / Siggy / Auslag - Day 19
Thorunn / Helga - Day 12

The girls now very definitely know when dinner is; I was about 15 mins later serving them tonight, and was greeted by a chorus of curious pops and wheeks when I set the run up.

Helga is the bravest of my furbabies; she's reached the point where she's curious and confident enough to try taking little nibbles of my fingertips and knuckles, and will quite happily sit and munch something I'm holding. Auslag comes a close second; she's not nibbling me yet.

Siggy is very much the alpha of the herd, and likes to remind everyone of it by joining in on whatever they're eating, so long as she doesn't brush against me; as soon as she smells skin she scarpers.

Thorunn is still super-nervous, but she's now happy to take beans from my hand (provided she can then run off with them, she won't sit and eat them while I'm holding them like Helga does), usually if someone else has already started eating she'll join in. Lagertha is the only one who won't take them; she waits for someone else to bring one back and steals it from them.

None of them are happy being petted yet; they tend to run off whenever my hand moves towards them. Picking them up is still definitely not something they're cool with; we've been using the tunnels and cuddle-cups to move them, as this seems to stress them out less.

Thinking next week I'll start laptime, but currently it feels very cruel because they're so nervous about being picked up; Helga will clamber up onto my shoulder when we're moving them, the others mostly try and burrow into our dressing gowns and squeak indignantly. Clean-out day is tomorrow, so they'll be sulking again after we have the audacity to move them.
 

ayemee

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It's lovely to hear of their progress! I'll be keeping an eye on this thread. I've had my new girls about 7 weeks now and they're still very shy. Each day we see tiny improvement though.

Looking forward to reading more of their progress :)
 

CogGirl

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Thanks guys :hug:

Feb 8th 2015

Lagertha / Siggy / Auslag - day 20
Thorunn / Helga - day 13

The girls get a a slight reprieve from the horrible indignity of being moved (our washing machine's door broke last night, so their spare fleeces are trapped inside for the moment); spot clean only tonight, with the full clean tomorrow when I can pick up newspaper / another charity shop blanket as a stop-gap. Feel like a bit of a bad piggy momma, but one day won't hurt.

Fed them a little early tonight; dinner mostly romaine lettuce, with some celery, carrot, a little diced swede (Auslag is very fond of it) and (a new addition) radish. Helga's investigated the radish, the others so far seem unconvinced and are sticking to their existing favourites.

Probably going to use the lettuce for handfeeding more often; it's large enough they don't have to get too close to my hand if they don't want to, and several can feed at once which seems to increase their confidence. All of them chowed down on things I was still holding tonight, including Lagertha - she and Thorunn were happy feeding as long as they could keep their back 2 feet inside the hutch.

It's funny to watch the herd dynamic develop; there's a very definite (and literal) pecking order - Helga and Auslag will investigate a thing to make sure it's safe, then Siggy gets first dibs on it. I've been trying to strike a balance between respecting this (in order not to 'rock the boat') and making sure everyone gets a shot - thankfully they seem to have different 'favourite bits' (for example, with lettuce - Helga and Siggy like the dark green bits at the top edge of the leaf, Lagertha the light green. Auslag likes to chew along the edge of the central spine, and Thorunn likes to crunch on that central bit).

Helga is presenting herself as an obvious candidate for starting laptime next week; she's continuing to investigate my hand, taking careful little nibbles (her teeth are really sharp, but she's not biting hard enough to draw blood). She won't let me move my hand to pet her, but if she's come over to investigate I am permitted to stroke her with the fingers she's not sniffing. She's also had a little clamber over my foot, which the other girls tend to skirt around.
 

ayemee

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I bet it's so lovely watching your little group develop. :)

I also find longer things easier to hand feed at first.
 

CogGirl

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Feb 9th 2015
Lagertha / Siggy / Auslag - day 21
Thorunn / Helga - day 14

Bit of a mixed bag today.

Cleanout went went well; we've still not got access to the washing machine, so this was mostly changing the newspaper, sweeping out and putting in a layer of fresh hay. I may stick with that method even after we get the machine back, as it seems far less stressful for them than removing them from the hutch to the playpen while we change all the fleece & liner.

Unfortunately the ladies were far more interested in frolicing in their new hay than in paying attention to the monkey; if their popcorning and burrowing wasn't so adorable I'd be nursing some hurt feelings XD This did mean that I got to pay a little extra attention to the girls who were interested in the lettuce which today meant Auslag and (cue much rejoicing) Lagertha.

I've since left them to it, though I've threaded some of the beans through one of their toilet rolls, and hidden some of the lettuce in a pile of hay, so they'll have to work for their dinner despite me not being there.
 

PiggieHerd

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Welcome to the Forum!

I have a herd of 5 piggies and trust me it takes time. I still have some who refuse to be petted. Initially some would run away into their hidey but now they will come up to the side of the cage and sniff me. One even jumps in my hand and allows me to rub her head and belly.

I would recommend talking to them while you are cleaning and sometimes whistle to them.
 

CogGirl

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Feb 15th
L / S / A - day 26
H / T - day 19

Little slack on the updates recently - the minion and I have both been full of hell-flu, so pig-handling went on the backburner for a bit. Started laptime properly today, though. Auslag and Siggy were amazingly chilled out, Helga continues to be curious and fearless, and Lagertha and Thorunn have discovered that they can crawl around under the minion's dressing gown - the back of his neck seems to be a favourite place to sit.

They're getting notably more comfortable around us - still not happy about being picked up, but much quicker to get back to eating / popcorning / not-hiding-in-tunnels once they're put down.
 

CogGirl

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March 8th
L / S / A - day 47 (I think?)
H / T - day 40

Apologies for not keeping up the daily-updates; I've lost a few days to kidney infection and a few more to a new LARP so our house has been all about the kit-building and the prop-making and the historical baking. The guineas have still been getting their floortime, though, so it's all good.

They've twigged that there's a routine (breakfast before I go to work, floortime around 6.30) and will start wheeking to be allowed out and doing little circuits of the hutch when they hear us get back from work, which is adorable. Still not happy being picked up, and Siggy in particular is incredibly untrusting after she decided to go exploring and ended up down the back of the sofa (I'd underestimated how quickly they could scramble off my lap), but they'll run around my feet if I'm in the playpen and take food from my hand. Helga and Auslag sometimes let me stroke their noses as well.
 

ayemee

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Really glad they're doing well! Sounds like you're making great progress :)
 
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