Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pig Traits

I'm often asked what it's like to raise pigs. I don't have lots of experience in this department, so every time I get new piglets I keep learning more about pigs. Prior to coming to Hawaii, my pig raising escapades involved commercial piglets. They were far, far different from the part ferals I'm working with now. These part ferals are way more active and aggressive. 

My current pair are very active rooters. In fact, I'm exploiting that trait in order to rid my future garden area of grass. As soon as they are moved into fresh grass, they both root around ear deep (and often have their complete heads underground!) ripping up the sod. This pair could destroy a manicured lawn in minutes.

Another very piggy trait I see more so with this pair than any previous pigs is their aggressive eating habits. They will both dive into the same bucket and try to out gobble their sister. Within seconds they are pushing, trying to flip the other guy out of the bucket, biting ears, and squealing. Then they will switch buckets, repeating their piggish behavior. 

Somewhere along the way one pig gets flipped right over the back of the other, ending up being in the other side. But the eating never stops. They just shove their faces right back into the one bucket again until all the food is gone. Then it's a repeat performance with the other bucket of food. When they finally get full, I'll refill the buckets so that they can nibble with less tussling until it's dinner time. Whereupon they do it all over again. My previous piglets never carried the food fights to this extreme. 

Another piggish habit, one that I don't like, is that the reddish brown one bites. Not fun. She's smart enough to not bite if I'm holding a short length of pipe in my hand. But arrive without the pipe and she'll try to bite my hands and feet. She's the smaller of the two sisters but surely the meanest. And she's going to be the first one to go into the freezer. At the rate she is biting, I won't be waiting for her to get very big. The black one is just fine and enjoys head and belly rubs. But I have to fend off the red one in order to do that. So I've learned with this duo, some pigs are aggressive and not interested in being tamed. 

So far each piglet I've raised has been different. Some nice. Some not. Some smart. Some pretty stupid. Some that I like. Some that I'm more than willing to butcher. I've had rooters and non-rooters. Jumpers and non-jumpers. Some afraid of dogs. Some that liked to run and play with our farm dog. And now the red one who tries to attack and bite the dog. Poor Crusty is afraid of this red pig. 

I wonder if mean pigs taste different? Naw, I don't think so. But we'll find out soon enough because the red pig will be going to feed a bunch of people at the Saturday night get together. She just needs to get a little bit bigger first. 


  1. This is such serendipity as the owner of this ranch, our employer, has asked me to look into getting pet pigs to entertain the little kids. I know, I know, this is a bad idea described as such but I have sway with these people and if pet pigs need to be kept behind "bars" to keep them from hurting the children that's what will happen. They want us to get small pigs. The ones that top out at 40-50 lbs. Can you recommend a good beginner book? We need to build an enclosure that has shelter from the hot summer sun and a pig wallow. We do have an area on a slight slope behind the barn where the pigs could shelter in the barn. It's about a 1/4 acre where they can root. I guess your pigs do not root under the move-able enclosure and escape. We live where there are coyotes. I don't think lions come in this far or bears but they are out there.

    1. 40-50 lbs mature pigs are a fallacy. Those that end up in that range as adults have been fed starvation diets. For real! Their littermates who have been fed properly end up maturing at 100-200 lbs. Small by commercial pig standards, but still fairly large. Definitely not 50 lbs mini pigs. By the way, a lot of those starving mini pigs end up biters because they are constantly hungry and desperate for food. I see them being offered for sale on craigslist. Of course the sellers fail to mention that the pig destroys the place in its quest for food, and if confined it bites when approached. I've seen people around here buy them, then turn around and offer the poor pig to me......like I want a biting stunted pig for a pet. I'll take them for food, but not as pets.

      Keeping a pet pig is fairly easy. They need shade since they will overheat without it, since they can't sweat. They like a wallow for cooling off. And in cold winters, they need shelter and deep dry bedding. They will burrow under dry straw and snuggle with their herd mates to keep warm. Pigs like to root, some more so than others. My two current aggressive rooters have not gone under the fencing, but I know of other pigs that have learned that trick. The feral pigs around here do it all the time if landowners don't put barbed wire along the fence bottoms. A hotwire about a foot off the ground will stop that behavior too. In case the pigs escape, it is real easy to call them back if they are trained to come for food. I ALWAYS call peeg-peeg-peeg when I feed them, especially when they get treats. That way they will follow you as you carry a bucket and call them. Soooo much easier to get pigs back in their pen this way.

      I don't know about predators. We have loose dogs from time to time and they will kill a pig if possible. Will a coyote, cougar, or bear? I don't have experience to say.

    2. Thanks SuBa, I did not know that teacup pigs were "small" because they are underfed. I think I'm going to amass a bunch of information to discourage the owners from getting pigs. They are city folk and simply don't know. Which is not an indictment but all the same is all too common. They want the mini pigs for their little children who visit this ranch about twice a year. They want a twice a year petting zoo. This is not enough socialization or adequate socialization for the pigs. Little children coming twice a year could turn into an unmitigated disaster. My husband and myself are not prepared to take [igs into our house and keep them socialized.

      I have an idea. The owners should hire a petting zoo to bring the goats, pigs, llamas and whatever they want for the twice a year thing. It would be cheaper and safer.

  2. Su Ba, I hope you can keep that stock fence between the red pig and you at all times until he gets the shot between the eyes! Time to get the imu ready, too. I have seen some awful pig maulings many years ago, in Utah. It always involved a "mean pig", and the owners thought about they could keep that pig at bay. Just saying...

    1. Thanks for the warning. I totally agree with you that this red pig us a real danger. I plan to get the imu ready in one more month. By then she will be big enough to be more of a real danger and fat enough for good eating. Yes, she is going to get butchered out early. And I will ALWAYS have a length of metal pipe or the cattle prod in my hand when working with this pig. Yes, she will have a reason to hate me, but hey....she started it first! Her sister, the black pig is sweet. She's the mean one and has rejected my friendly petting and scratching. So I don't feel sorry for her.

  3. Fineartgourds commented via email......
    Interesting that the Piggy pig looks the most domesticated... We were warned as children to avoid all pigpens like the plague. That and stallion's enclosures were advertised as certain death! Made them irresistibly attractive. Got a big kick out of the feathered peanut gallery lined up outside the fence, and the fearless bantam inside.