All pigs deserve to be happy and feel safe. Caring for your pig and learning to understand their needs will help you identify what you need to do to prevent your pig feeling worried, upset, frightened or distressed. By doing these things, you will be providing your pig Freedom from fear and distress.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that your animal has five groups of welfare needs. These are five groups of things that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the Five Freedoms.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) need to provide these five groups of things for their animals. One of these Five Freedoms is: Freedom from Fear and Distress. In this section you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your pigs receive the love, understanding and companionship they need to be free from fear and distress.
If you have a lot of space, keeping a pig might be the right option for you. They are intelligent, funny, fast learners, clean and enjoy a good tummy scratch.
However, before you make the decision to keep a pig, you should think seriously about whether or not a pig is right for you and your family.
One of the things to consider is that your pig might grow to be quite large.
Sometimes, people get pigs because they start off as very small, cute piglets, but remember small piglets soon grow into large pigs with their own needs and wants.
Pigs eat a lot (if you let them), therefore the cost of feeding is something to consider. They shouldn’t be fed just on kitchen scraps, as it doesn’t give them all the right vitamins and minerals to grow properly. Your pig also might need veterinary care, another cost to consider.
Pigs live for a long time, up to 15 years, so you need to be able to commit long term to your pig. Lastly – but not least - pigs need a lot of attention and space.
Do you have time to give your pig affection, train them to do tricks or fun things, feed them the right foods, and make sure their shelter is clean and they have enough room to root around in the ground outside?
Researching what is required for different breeds of pigs is important and even speaking to other people who have kept pigs is a good idea. This will help you to decide whether or not keeping a pig is the right thing for you.
Everything should be prepared before your pig arrives. Make sure you have all the necessary fencing if your pig is being kept outdoors and check that your pig’s shelter and bedding is all prepared. Make sure there is fresh, clean water in the area for them to drink, as well as a small amount of food for them – this will help them to settle in their new home.
Hopefully you have already met your pig at its previous home, so they recognise you. In their new housing, let your pig come to you when they are ready. She might take some time to approach you, once she feels comfortable enough. When she approaches, move and talk slowly and gently and try not to make any sudden movements or loud noises that might scare your pig.
It might also help to have a few food treats with you when your pig approaches, as this will help your pig think positively of you. Once your pig is comfortable with you, try giving her a pat or two - this might take some time so don’t rush it.
Remember that once you get your pig home, everything is brand new for them, which might be a little frightening for them. Your pig will probably check out their new home by sniffing and rooting around the area with his/her snout. Make sure you keep a watchful eye out for your new pig at this time, as they are very curious, especially in new environments.
It also helps to have made sure there is nothing your pig can get access to that might be dangerous for them, such as chewing on electric wires or loose parts of their housing or shelter.
A good way to start to tame your pig is by gentle handling at feeding time - touching their backs gently, talking in low tones and stroking and scratching them.
The best places to touch your pig are behind the ears, shoulders, along the back and down their sides. Many companion pigs enjoy cuddling their owners and will often approach and nudge themselves up against them, asking for pats and back rubs. This is a good way to bond with your pig.
Although pigs love affection, some do not enjoy being picked up and will squeal if they do get picked up, whilst others may not mind. If your pig squeals when you pick her up, put her down gently and get her used to being petted instead.
If you do decide to pick up your small piglet/pig, you should remember there are right and wrong ways of picking them up, and they should be picked up carefully with both hands around the body of your pig and then cradled gently against your body whilst carrying. Once your pig starts to grow, it is safer for both you and your pig if you do not pick them up.
Occasionally, you will need to move your pig from area to area, so you should train your pig to respond to commands such as ‘come’ or even get them to respond by name – the same way as you would call a dog. This way your pig will come when called and you can call her into different areas when required. You can also train your pig to wear a harness, and in this case, she can be walked on a lead.
Pigs are very smart, social animals and a pig alone with nothing to do is likely to be an unhappy pig. Pigs should ideally be kept in pairs or small groups, so they are able to form social groups, have good companionship and feel safe together. This way they can play, forage and sleep together.
Pigs should also be provided with lots of enrichment in their environment to keep them busy, interested and active. You can use toys and activities to keep your pig’s clever mind happy, as well as giving them exercise. Also training your pig is another great way to provide stimulation for both you and them.
Ensuring that they have a lot of space in which to display their normal behaviours of foraging and rooting at the ground is also very important, as they can spend over half the day involved in this activity if allowed. More can be read about foraging, enrichment and training for pigs in the section Freedom to express normal behaviour.