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Pet Pigs – Taking Care of Your New Pig

So you’ve decided on a pet pig after all – why not a dog: easier, generally cleaner, good around the house and you can see how big they’ll be when you see their mum and dad? Why not a cat: clean, low maintenance, not so expensive to feed, mostly look after themselves? Why not a fish or two: put them in a tank and feed them from time to time – go away for the weekend and not worry?

OK, the pig. What size is it? How big will it be? The first question obviously depends on the age you’ve bought it at, and the second on the breed of its parents. Let’s assume you’ve bought a ‘weaner’: this’ll be a small pig, 10-30kg in weight, depending on its parentage, and maybe 8 – 12 weeks old. It’ll be established on solid feed, and the other side of the biggest stresses in its life – and therefore likely to be fit and well with a gut that works properly.

In the UK, if you have a pig (even as a pet) the local government will want to know where it is – please make sure you’ve complied with the law before your pet arrives (it will need a movement licence in order to travel to you if it’s coming from a reputable source) – see DEFRA’s website for details. If you’re reading this elsewhere on the planet I’d ask that you talk to local pig keepers about any requirements – it’s the best way to keep your pig healthy!!

Feed it whatever the supplier was feeding it (get a bag of pig food with the animal when you pick it up or (better) it’s delivered), and if you’re going to change it’s diet do it gradually. As a ‘weaner’ it should be well established environmentally and not need extra heat, but make sure it is able to keep out of hot sunshine – a pig gets sunburn and it can’t sweat either. Have it’s housing ready before it arrives – plenty of clean, dry straw (or paper shreddings maybe), somewhere to go to the toilet (pigs are clean and will not muck where they lie unless it gets too hot / cold or there is a draught in their bedroom): make sure that there is fresh water available at all times, and that the walls are ‘pig-proof’. Feed your pig ‘ad lib’ (clean fresh food on offer all the time) whilst it is young and growing, and then take advice from your feed supplier and/or the breeder when it approaches adult weight (from six months to a year old, depending on the breed).

Your pig will have been taken away from its brothers and sisters, and a pig needs company (you’d be better off having purchased two), so make sure you spend lots of time with it when she first arrives. It would be advisable to get your vet to look it over after it’s settled in, as it would be worth nipping any niggling problems in the bud (like parasite or gut problems for example).

Your new arrival will quickly adapt to whatever routine you develop, waiting at the gate for food, fresh bedding, mucking out or exercise (use a halter, collars are no use on a pig (no neck!)). You’ll find him or her (‘her’ (a gilt) is better, boars grow big and strong and unpredictable in very short order) a fantastic distraction and talking point – endlessly inquisitive and very sociable, it isn’t possible to get bored watching porcine antics. Give her plenty of recycling to do, from garden vegetable waste to cardboard boxes and watch the fun as she investigates and dismantles!

If you’ve chosen to employ your pig as a soil conditioner or plough, at which they are excellent, then take care that they are well penned, properly contained using strong barriers (even for little pigs – their noses make very powerful crowbars!) in the area that you deem needs their attention – they’ll naturally want to wander!