Tip One: Don’t do it! A pig will take you and your garden over. It’ll grow at a ridiculous rate, it’ll smell when it gets hot next summer, and maybe it’ll get ill and cost you a small fortune in vets’ fees. Then, when it’s got too big for you, and the only sensible option left to you is to have it for the freezer you won’t be able to do it because you’ve got so attached.
But then maybe you’re going to do it anyway? In which case:
Tip One revisited: think about it, research it, talk about it with someone who’s been there before you… pigs aren’t like dogs, and eat a lot more than you’re thinking right now!
Tip Two: Look at the law – pet pigs can pose a significant threat to commercial herds, in that they can harbour diseases which can carry on the wind, on feet, tyres and via vermin. If you’re keeping your pets within a few miles of a pig unit, birds and the wind can be bearers of business wrecking news to the pig industry. The good news is that pig farmers are generally happy for people to be keeping pigs, so long as they’re registered with the government, and can be traced if anything does happen (Foot & Mouth is the obvious example here: highly virulent, if it gets into your area and your pigs are not known to the authorities, not only are your pigs at risk, but they too can nurture the microscopic bad guys). It would be good to know a vet that knows pigs too – just in case. Being so close to humans physiologically we can carry their diseases and catch stuff from them too, and sick pigs are pretty sad – the first you usually know is that either they start coughing, squitting or just generally looking horrible.
Tip Three: get their accommodation right. It needs to be secure and yet mobile, as your pet will, as is its nature, destroy whatever non-concrete substrate you put them on, in fairly short order. They’re also extremely inquisitive creatures, and barriers need to be secure or they’ll be through to check out the rest of your (and your neighbour’s) property before you know what’s happening, and usually at the most inconvenient of times. Try good, sturdy, well-anchored fencing with an electrified strand (but make sure it stays on, at least for the first few days). They need a nice snug place to nest, somewhere to relieve themselves, a trough to eat out of and fresh water on tap. Their bedding needs regular topping up, straw being he preferred medium – make sure you’ve got a good supply. To summarise this tip – don’t let them inside our house: yes they can be house trained, but they’ll tear the place apart during the learning process!
Tip Four: Feed them right… it’s illegal to feed them cooked leftovers from your table (another disease precaution – the last big Foot & Mouth outbreak in the UK came out of a waste food bucket on a pig farm), but they’ll eat anything else: garden waste, slugs snails and windfalls. But most of all they need a balanced pig diet that offers them everything a growing pig needs. You’d feed you dog food: feed your pig pig food!
Tip Five: Your pig won’t be happy if you don’t go and talk to him frequently, give him things to occupy his (surprisingly bright) mind, and best of all give him a friend to lay with. In short, don’t just have one pig, get a couple of sisters (not brother and sister, pigs don’t worry about incest, and start not worrying from a remarkably young age) and they’ll look after one another’s need for company and exercise.
Tip Six: Be prepared to have your life and emotions hijacked by a pet which will engage you, need you, amuse and entertain you. Your life will be centred on your pig(s) and your shelves and walls full of pig memorabilia – you’ll be a pig-bore at parties, and you’ll smell a little all the time and not know it!