Meeting social needs
Pigs need friends. Normally pigs should have the company of their own kind and not be kept on their own. They are naturally social animals, who would live in large matriarchal groups, constantly communicating with each other when not asleep. They benefit from having a companion who also speaks pig speak and that they can cuddle up to at night. They can and do get lonely and a lonely pig can become depressed and/or destructive. You may be able to be with them throughout the day, but sharing a bed with them is probably a step too far! And we have had people give up lone pigs because though they had lots of time to give them at the start, circumstances changed, such as a new baby or work pressures, and they were no longer able to give their pig friend the attention needed. This makes it even sadder because pigs, especially lone pigs, can bond with their human family very strongly and may suffer depression when they are rehomed. If two or more pigs are rehomed together, they still have their pig family with them at least. It's really important not to underestimate how sensitive and emotional pigs are.
Of course sometimes a pig companion dies and a new friend is needed. We have helped a number of bereaved pigs find a new friend.
Pig-to-pig introductions, whether following a bereavement or simply finding a friend for a lone pig, can be a challenge. Pigs can be introduced to each other at any age with care. Because they naturally live in hierarchies and like to establish who is boss, they typically will fight with unknown pigs. To help make this easier we recommend the following, but bear in mind there is no guarantee they will get on so you need a backup plan. Also there is no set timescale. Some pigs can bond in weeks, others months.
- separate but adjoining areas with shared fence for at least a week where they can sniff, hear and see each other.
- Place bedding from one in the shelter of the other so they get used to the scent in their area. During this time there may be fence barging, chomping teeth, foaming at the mouth, or not!
- If there seems to be quiet acceptance of each other, then try introducing them into the same space, making sure you have pig boards and tasty snacks should you need to intervene and plenty of antiseptic spray to clean up bite marks and wounds. You can also rub Vaseline or similar over areas they are likely to try and get hold of, such as the ears and neck.
- Keep the time short and supervised to begin with and build depending on how it is going. Always make sure they can get back to their own space and shelter. Give them plenty of room so they can choose to just ignore each other if they want.
- Don't be surprised if the first time you leave them unsupervised because they seem to be getting on, you find yourself running back outside to the sound of squealing because they've started a fight! You are part of the group dynamic so once you step out, the dynamic changes.
- Gradually as they get used to each other the scuffles die down, though some pig groups may always bicker, especially around food, and you should start to see them lying down together, following each other around and then the ultimate happy moment, deciding to sleep together in the same shelter. How long this takes depends on the pigs and as mentioned, in some cases may not happen and they may need to stay in their own areas.