The surprise nine

When I enter a barn that houses an expectant mother due to give birth I always pause at the doorway and listen. I stand for a while, adjusting to and sorting through all the sounds that determine who is where and what is going on over there.

Yesterday morning I stood at the door, just inside, the southerly wind  picking up air behind me, the sunrise pinking around the doors and I heard nothing. But it was not an empty nothing it was a nothing full of no Molly sound.

I narrowed my eyes, cocked my head like a sparrow and consciously sorted through the farm sounds, and moving cows,  the wind, the bang of a door, the shuffle of early morning hay, the roosters, then I could hear Molly sleeping. Molly is never asleep when I come through the door. She always calls out to me. But she was sleeping soundly.

I put my buckets down, laying the handles to rest silently and on hunting cat feet I slowly, slowly walked to my viewing corner. There was Molly – fast asleep- and over her back I could see the tiniest white piglet head working at breakfast.

I soundlessly backed out of the barn, took my small bucket of feed back to the feed shed,  swapped it for a gargantuan bucket of feed and a huge bucket of water, sent all the dogs back into the house and returned to the barn doors to wait and listen again. This time I was listening for an opportune moment to ask Molly if I could come in. I would not interrupt feeding time – I had to wait until there was a break.

Any visits to a new mother are swift and fluid, so there is no panic or fright. So I waited, silent, totally ready to move.

The most important part of my plan yesterday morning was to fill her feed bowl to the brim so she is never hungry and jumpy, this is the rule for the whole time she is feeding her piglets. Molly leaps about when she thinks there is food coming so when she and Poppy have their piglets they are allowed to eat On Demand. I never let that bowl run out. But yesterday morning the bowl was empty because she caught me by surprise with this farrowing. So  filling it without her leaping up and standing on a piglet was the risk. So I waited.

After a while the scent of my body  drifted down to her and she grunted a soft hullo. Her hullo to me is singular and individual. pigs greet different people with different sounds. Like names. I knew then that she knew I was here and it was OK. After another while I heard her turn over onto her belly, the piglets softly protesting. This was my cue. I walked on tender feet into the barn and by the time I reached her gate she had her head up and was waiting, the babies gathered by the wall. She grunted to me. I put down her heaped bowl and she carefully hauled her tired self up to eat.

I climbed the gate and walking past her, trailing my hand along her side  – my hullo –  I went in to check the babies. There were nine – they were a few hours old with full bellies and cold cords.  I trimmed the cords that were too long, and iodined them then got rid of the afterbirth but basically there was little for me to do. Molly had done it all.

She kept eating and drinking the whole time I worked. She does not mind at all when I am in there. Such a calm girl now.

She had built a nest. Because she had eaten all her bedding earlier, in the night she must have stood her front legs up onto the gate and somehow reached a bale of straw, she had broken the bale, probably by shaking it side to side and pulled a goodly amount of straw into her pen to make her baby bed.   She had made her nest by the big back door, way off in the dimness, far from the piglets warm lights and the creep. I don’t know why she did that. Last time she had her babies right under the warm lights. But I had to leave them be. To try to get them into the warm light would be a disaster at this point.  It would break their safety thread. The babies drink every 30 minutes of so for the first 24 hours, almost non stop, and they tend to stick close to the birthing area. It smells right and they know their mother will return for them there and they have already learnt the safe spots. Moving them would cause disastrous confusion. They will have to find their heated room when they are more mobile. Their mother is moving very slowly and it was 53F last night. Not too cold. The night they were born it was 34F and they were fine. So I think they will be alright. Thank goodness she waited for the Southerly.

Protection from drafts is the main thing and Molly took care of all that when she was stealing straw. She has stuffed straw into all the cracks – even into cracks that lead nowhere. She was very thorough.

If we lose any it will be in the next 24 hours and it won’t be from cold. This is why I leave her be. Mother knows best. Less intervention by humans at this point is even better. As long as she gets up and down slowly and carefully they will be alright.

There is a short video on instagram of the newborns but it is very dark in there with all the doors closed and only a few interior lights. As usual we will have to wait a few days for a decent shot.

But so far so good. I didn’t have to use my piglet birthing box.

And I didn’t even have to lose any sleep.

I hope you have a lovely day.



44 Comments on “The surprise nine

  1. I wonder if she deliberately kept them away from the creep, being worried she might lose some in there? Looks like Marmalade has annexed that heated bowl as her own, is it even switched on? Laura

  2. You are so calm, I’m sure that confidence transferred to Molly. Very happy for Molly and her new family. Marmalade looks very comfy. He looks like a cat in a hat box. Perfect fit.

  3. what a lovely start to your day  

    Sent: Sunday, April 09, 2017 at 2:31 PM

  4. I showed the video to my grandchildren yesterday, and they were delighted! Good job Molly!

  5. Congrats on 9!! Hope all continues to go well. You are the most caring farmer out there. They are all so fortunate to have you. We had extremely high winds a couple of days ago that were marching across the country. Hope they keep marching more south that up by you. Even the weather cooperated for you. 🙂 Have a wonderfilled Sunday.

      • I’m sorry, I had hoped they would go south. I felt an extreme pressure drop once during the day and went out to look for a tornado cloud. Not something we normally have here but nothing is normal. We got lucky this time. Wish you the same.

  6. 24 hours old this morning. The piglets looked very healthy in the video. Molly did well. Sitting with her everyday prior to birth is such a good idea.

  7. I touched, always, when I read these stories of how competent the mothers are, just following their nature, their instinct. It is so beautiful. And somehow, deeply reassuring. I wish I had trusted myself more.

  8. She makes up for all her antics at other times when she’s got babies to care for. She’s an excellent mama, and you’re an excellent fairy godmother of the magically never-emptying food bowl 🙂

  9. Well done, Mollly! This story made me think about Tahiti’s piglets. How did the three you kept fare after all?

  10. Congratulations! You two are getting good at this birthing thing.

  11. Oh Molly!! Ninetuplets!! glad to hear they’re all looking healthy!! Molly is a good Mother cause Mama Celi is a good Mother to her!! Awww Marmalade ~ you a pretty girl!!!Hope all continues to go well in the nursery ~ Congrats Molly!!!!

  12. Congrats to Miss Molly, and of course to you! Nine is a much easier number to deal with than 13. Hope they’re all still dong well and flourishing the next day. Saw the video and they look so precious.
    My vote for the new lady cow’s name could be “Ragamop” (as opposed to Ragamuffin, cuz it’s really only her top knot that’s looking mussy). Of course, if she’s to rule over the farmyard then it could be Regina or Reign and she did arrive at a time of much rain. She looks very sweet. Hope you’re having a lovely day too, ooo-ing and awww-ing over new wee piggies. ~ Mame 🙂

  13. Nine new piglets, well done Molly and Celi. May all the other ladies in waiting prove as calm and easy when their turn comes.

  14. I love the way that you understand and are completely aware of your animals, I hope one day I can have even a little of your intuition and understanding.

  15. Thank you for the instagram video – i just love hearing the sounds of the farm! Your pictures are always lovely, but we city folk can hardly imagine the sounds! Thank you and bless those little piggies!!

  16. Nine babies – how wonderful !! And isn’t Molly amazing… getting everything ready for them. And ‘letting you sleep’ – LOL!! Exciting times I say!!
    Love the photo of the cat in the heated water dish!! ; o )

  17. A beautifully told story of such a happy event . . .may all continue to go well . . .

  18. Beautifully done Molly. And Celi, I was touched reading this post, by your tenderness and care. There’s a book by David Abram called ‘Becoming Animal’, about how we humans need to tune into the non-verbal world of the senses. You are a star, in the frame of that book. I spent last night catching up on at least two months’ worth of your posts, so I was very ready for this event. Thank you; you give me hope in this world where so many are disconnected.

  19. Good girl, Molly!!! Congrats on the nine new babies. Lovely, peaceful time for all concerned.
    The roof is fixed, sure can do without those kind of surprises.

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