Northern Ireland

The 'lazy sods' looking for a new home

Vera buried in the straw at the far right, while Norton, Wilbur, Snout and Honker savour the sun on their skin.
Image caption Vera's buried in the straw at the far right, while Norton, Wilbur, Snout and Honker savour the sun on their skin

"They're lazy sods, this lot."

Not the best recommendation for a new housemate you might think, but when it comes to pigs, it's close to the highest praise Barbara Mladek can give.

She runs Northern Ireland Battery Hen Rescue (Nuthouse Hen Rescue) and has found herself in possession of five pigs - Vera, Norton, Wilbur, Snout and Honker - who need somewhere new to live.

Image caption Barbara with Twinkle the hen

"They don't take a lot of looking after," she said.

"You just keep an eye on them, make sure they don't get any runny eyes or snouts.

"These five like to sleep a lot, but that's mainly because I don't have any grazing to let them out onto.

"Ideally I'd like to get them someone who had a field they're not using, that they could let them out into and they'd keep your grass short for you."

Image caption Fizzy the hen is also a resident at the shelter

The rescue's main focus is hens, ducks, geese and turkeys and there's a constant stream of new arrivals mixing with Barbara's firm favourites.

Curly the duck, limping from an old injury, is finding his place in the flock, while Fizzy the frizzle hen tries to avoid being pecked by some of the bigger birds and Twinkle enjoys a cuddle from Barbara.

'Abandoned, dumped or surrendered'

The prospective porcine pets are getting on enormously well with their feathered yard mates.

Each morning, various hens come into the pen to lay their eggs in the straw, as the pigs enjoy a post-breakfast snooze.

They're certainly the largest animals Barbara has ever had in her care.

Image caption The pigs have even made feathered friends at the rescue shelter

"All five have been abandoned, or dumped at the side of the road, or surrendered," she says.

"Quite often it's because they just got too big.

"People buy them and think they're going to be 'micro-pigs'. But really, there's no such thing.

"It's just one small pig bred with another small pig and if you're lucky, you get a small piglet."

'A good tummy scratch'

'Small' definitely does not apply to any members of this quintet.

A mixture of potbelly pigs, potbelly crosses and Tamworth crosses, Barbara says it's been impossible to weigh them, but it's safe to say they're all a particularly healthy length and girth.

She hopes to rehome them as a group, or in pairs, although Vera could probably live on her own.

But they're used to all sorts of company now.

Image caption There are a variety of animals kept at the rescue shelter

"This shed is open for the hens and the ducks to come in to, the hens will come in and sit on top of the pigs to keep themselves warm," says Barbara.

The pigs are partial to a bit of sunbathing and particularly like a good tummy scratch.

They'll even 'chat' when their names are called and they're very fussy about the hygiene standards of their quarters.

"They're so clean. They love shredding the straw around themselves to snuggle down into," she explains.

"They're great and I hope someone gets the opportunity to love them like I do."

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