What a pig needs
If you're thinking about offering a home to a pig, below is a checklist of things to consider. Click on the underlined headings for more information.
Land & space - Is there enough to meet enrichment needs such as rooting, exploring and wallowing? What types of space are there? And do you have provision for periods of wet weather and mud?
Consent from landlord and/or neighbours where needed - Also check deeds for any restrictions on the land/property.
Fencing - Stock proof or similar. Pigs are strong and often escape artists!
Shelter - We recommend reinforced wooden shelters and not metal pig arks.
Holding Number (CPH) & Herdmark - You need to have these to legally have pigs on your land.
Moving pigs & Keeping records - You need your CPH and Herdmark number to be able to apply for a Movement or Walking Licence to legally move your pigs. And you must keep annual records of the pigs on your land.
Able to cover grooming, medical and other costs - These will vary depending on size and age of pig but we give an indication of what you should budget for.
Feeding pigs - Did you know that there are legal restrictions on what you can feed pigs, including pet pigs? The law does not allow the feeding of kitchen waste to pigs. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/apha-warns-not-to-feed-kitchen-scraps-to-farm-animals-because-of-disease-risk You can find the information on the govt.uk website at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/keeping-a-pet-pig-or-micropig or contact the Animal and Plants Health Authority. Like the Movement regulations, those on feeding are designed to prevent the transmission of disease.
Meeting social needs - Pigs need friends!
Managing pigs with other species - Dogs and pigs should never be left unsupervised and horses can be scared of pigs. You need to think about your whole human and other species family when you introduce pigs.
Basic personal care - Hoof trimming, skincare, and daily checks.
Basic health care & vets - Things to watch out for, worming, poisoning, plus have you got a pig experienced vet. It is very hard to find good pig vets, especially for pet pigs, in the UK.
Neutering & spaying - Discuss with your vet if this has not been done whether it is possible. It will depend on the age and size of the pig as the larger the pig the greater risks of something serious going wrong. Both mean you won't have to deal with rampaging hormones and will protect the pigs long-term from certain tumours, such as uterine in females. However in the UK spaying is uncommon so you may find it difficult to find a vet close enough who is experienced to do it.
Willingness to commit to lifetime care, including cover for holidays and sickness - Who will look after your pigs when you are sick or away?
Be aware and manage behaviours - The Minipig Info website has useful information on what to look out for and steps to take, click here.
Contact us if you need to rehome
When they die - Sadly, pet pigs are treated in the same way as Fallen livestock and subject to the same rules. Inevitably, with shorter life spans than humans and limited understanding and treatments in pig healthcare, ‘pet’ pigs will usually die before us. Sadly even when a ‘pet’ in the UK they have to be dealt with in the same way as farmed pigs which means you cannot bury them on your own land. Instead you must use an approved transporter who will take your pig to an approved ‘disposal’ facility. More details here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/fallen-stock
Volunteer - If you have no previous experience of pigs, we recommend visiting or volunteering at a sanctuary first.
Resources - Online seminars, books and websites are all helpful resources..
Land & Space
Ideally we would love it if every pig, like ours, has around half an acre each to enjoy, but we know with the number of pigs in need this isn't always realistic.
We take into account a number of factors when we assess each home application, such as age and size of pig, and whether the home are around most of the time to provide alternative enrichment. In addition we take into account indoor areas, areas available on rotation and hardstanding, etc. Typically in farming and smallholding you’ll see the space requirements given are much smaller. This is because pigs raised for meat usually go to slaughter by the age of 6 months, so they don’t even make adult size. Please note we very rarely if ever rehome to an average back garden in a residential area because so many pigs from those sort of environments end up being put up for rehoming due to lack of space, mud, behavioural issues from lack of enrichment, and complaints from neighbours. We look at two key areas to assess land and space suitability: 1) the impact of the seasons on the land and 2) enrichment.
1) Pigs tend to tear up the ground with their rooting, as well as churning it up just by walking on it. In summer this isn’t too much of an issue when the ground is dry but in winter this can become something of a mud nightmare!! We have helped rehome several pigs because they were living in deep flooded mud with no dry areas. Much as pigs love a good wallow in the heat, being permanently stuck in cold mud in the winter is not good for them as they are prone to arthritis. Also as the carer, having to wade through knee-deep mud to look after them is not a pleasure! This means that you need enough space to be able to give them dry areas during the wetter months. This could include some hard-standing, especially around their shelters. If you have a large enough area, eg two paddocks, you can have them on one half and then switch to the other when the first area needs to rest and recover. This also gives the grass a chance to grow back for the pigs to munch on next time they’re moved there. This is why your average back garden is NOT a suitable home for a pig. If your land is clay or prone to water-logging, think especially carefully about how you will manage during times of heavy or prolonged rainfall.
2) Pigs are intelligent and inquisitive. They need a lot of enrichment and to be able to use natural behaviours. We don’t want a destructive and unhappy pig. The more space they have the bigger the area they have to explore and forage, the more smells to encounter and the more ground to root about in. If you can add in trees and a natural wallow, it’s piggy paradise!
Have you ensured that you have permission to keep pigs? This is particularly important if you are a tenant, Council or private, but also for mortgaged/owned properties there are sometimes restrictions in the deeds. You must make sure you have permission, because we rehome pigs regularly due to they or their family being threatened with eviction. It is not something to take lightly! Also, it is a very good idea to check with your neighbours because another fairly frequent reason for pigs being rehomed is due to complaints from neighbours over smell and/or noise. If there are horses next door, check with their humans because horses can be scared of pigs and again we have been asked to help pigs because the neighbours' horses were too scared to go in the adjoining field.
Pigs are strong, even small pigs, and will quite happily batter their way through standard fences. In fact, escaping pigs are one of the reasons given by people looking to rehome. So you ideally need a stock proof fence (plenty of advice and sources online), or a stone wall is good so long as it’s high enough. Not that pigs are known for jumping but some have been known to climb, or at least stand tall enough to push themselves over. Any fencing must also be secure into the ground so they don’t bury under. Do not underestimate a pig’s drive to go after that yummy smell that has drifted to them on the breeze! They are smart, surprisingly quick movers and have the solid force of a battering ram. Likewise, electric fencing is only successful if pigs have been trained to respect it, usually as youngsters when they can't just barge through it at speed.
And once you have pigs, daily inspections of the perimeter are a good idea, to make sure there is no damage.
Pigs are very susceptible to arthritis and joint problems, so it's very important that they have a shelter accessible that is cosy and free from draughts. Traditional metal pig arcs are not recommended because of this and also because metal tends to be cold in winter and too hot in summer. If your shelter has a metal roof on it, make sure that it is heat reflective or that it is placed in good shade. We recommend wooden shelters reinforced with extra pannelling inside and you can either buy purpose-built ones, use a summerhouse/shed or build one yourself (check out our Facebook and Instagram posts for shelters we've built).
Make sure it is strong because pigs aren't known for being gentle when they move around. There should be a gap just under the roof to allow for air circulation, a floor off the ground, and a windbreak across the doorway, which could simply be a flap made from plastic sheeting. Other great options are stables and barns.
Whichever you use, put a nice deep layer of straw in, enough that the pigs can bury themselves in and under it if they want. The shelter should be big enough for the pigs to move comfortably around in, obviously that will depend on the size of the pigs!
In addition, for the summer, because pigs are prone to sunburn and heatstroke, they need some sort of shelter from the sun. Ideally this would be a wooded area, but you can easily create something with tarpaulin, rope and poles. Their water can then be placed in that area too. And pigs also need a wallow as they don't sweat so they use water and mud to keep cool. You can dig an area out and fill it with water and keep topping up, or if your pigs are small enough, use a robust paddling pool! It's great to give them with options so even better if you can provide both.
Holding Number & Herdmark
Unlike cats and dogs, all pigs are considered livestock (think about that word and what it means) and subject to legal requirements designed to prevent, identify and deal with outbreaks of disease. All pigs are at risk of getting highly contagious diseases which could a) affect pigs across the country (note: the authorities are concerned with the economic impact on pig farming rather than the pigs themselves) and b) in some cases be passed to humans. Whether the pigs live in your house or in fields, whether you have 1 little pig or lots of big pigs, you must register the 'land' they are on and get a County Parish Holding Number (CPH) within 30 days of their arrival. And you must also get a Herdmark Number which identifies that the pigs 'belong' to you (equally you must notify the authorities when you no longer have pigs). Both are free and easy to get hold of via a couple of phone calls, details can be found on the Government website here. (Please note requirements and the application process may vary between England, Scotland and Wales, so make sure you check out the guidance relating to your area). Without these numbers you can be fined. If 30 days have passed it is best to own up and get it sorted because you also cannot legally move pigs off your land without them. There is no reason not to get a CPH and Herdmark Number. As it can take time to get a CPH Number through, sort it out well in advance if you’re planning to get a pig at some point. Once you have that, you can apply for the Herdmark Number, the recommendation is about a week before the pig arrives but can be any time up to 30 days after.
Moving Pigs & Keeping Records
Aside from registering your land and your herd, there are legal requirements relating to the movement of pigs. Remember this includes 1 pet pig or a group of farmed pigs. If you want to take a pig for a walk off your land, say down the street or around the local park, you need a special Walking Licence. This can be obtained by contacting the Animal and Plants Health Authority (or Scots/Welsh - for NI please check as there is nothing online about a WL) with your proposed walking route. They can turn down your application if they believe there is a risk of spreading disease. If approved, you can only walk that route and, you must carry the licence with you when you do so, and you have to re-apply each year. Let's face it, it's much simpler just to have plenty of space on your land for you and piggy to walk there. Plus you won't have to worry about the risk of strange dogs attacking your pig!
If you need to move a pig to a temporary or new permanent home, you need to get a General Movement Licence. The easiest and quickest way to do this is online, details are on the govt.uk website here (except for Northern Ireland, see below). This also acts as your holding register, otherwise you have to keep paper/computer records updated annually. You need your CPH and Herdmark Numbers for the licence. The pig must also have an Identifier - eartag or slapmark - again details are all on the govt.uk website. Once the pig is on the new land, there are Standstill Restrictions which means that no pig can be moved off the land for 20 days thereafter and other 'livestock' for 6 days. Rules and processes can vary between England, Scotland, Wales, so it is always best to check the relevant links on the govt.uk website. For Northern Ireland, the process and requirements are somewhat different, for example there is no online system, so you must check the NI govt website if you are located there.
It is also important to remember that you are legally required to keep a record of any pig moves on or off your land. If you use the electronic system for movements on to and off your land - eAML2 - this will automatically provide a record for you for any movement-related changes. Otherwise you will need to set up a record yourself, paper or electronic, which you must make available for inspection when asked. The records must be kept for 3 years after you no longer have pigs. More details on what is required here:
I know this probably sounds like a lot of hassle if you just have one or two 'pet' pigs. Remember in the eyes of the law, even one pig dozing on your sofa poses a health risk, and the above rules are intended to contain and manage a disease outbreak should one occur.
Grooming, Medical & Other Costs
You need to make sure you understand what the financial commitment is likely to be. Of course this depends on the size of pig and its age. A small pig won’t cost as much to look after as one of the large farm breeds. Things you will need to take into account are (figures where given are all approx in 2020):
- Land rental or purchase (around half an acre per pig with minimum 2 pigs = about 1 acre minimum )
- Stock-proof fencing that needs to be well-maintained
- Shelter - purpose-built wooden shelters of the sort we recommend are about £300 (for e.g. Kunekunes) to £500 (for large pigs) new but you can build your own or repurpose a strong shed/summerhouse or use a stable
- Bale of straw for bedding at around £3 each plus top up and change twice a year = at least 5 bales per year
- 1-2 sacks of pig nuts per week £10 each - Fresh food to supplement the above (remember you can't feed food waste from your kitchen)
- Vet's bills, could be around £200 per year for a large pig, probably half for a small pig. Pigs can be especially prone to cutting or injuring themselves!
- Worming 2-3 times a year
- Vaccinations may be required
- Hoof trim by vet if required
- As pigs get older they are prone to arthritis and often need something like regular Metacam £70 for 100ml.
-Creating a wallow (mud pool) or using a paddling pool and keeping it topped up with water, if no access to natural water
- Transport costs, e.g. trailer, should you need to move your pig.
- Enrichment - ‘toys’ to help pigs display natural behaviours and stop them from getting bored and destructive (can be homemade, recycled, or buy eg. treat ball).
And remember pigs can live 10-30 yrs so it’s a long-term commitment.
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.
Managing Pigs with Other Species
Although we would always recommend pigs have pig friends, sometimes pigs social needs can be met by other species as well as, or if neccesary, e.g. because of space limitations or fear of other pigs, instead of other pigs. A couple of species are worth talking about specifically.
First, horses. Generally the advice is that horses and pigs don't mix. Horses are often scared of pigs, the high-pitched squealing doesn't help! If you want to keep pigs near horses the best thing is to have them in separate but adjoining areas so the horses get used to the pigs but some horses will never be happy and we have had people give up their pigs because the neighbours' horses were too terrified to go in their field or were too scared to go past the pigs to their stables. So if you have horses you need to be prepared for the possibility of keeping the pigs in an area well away from them if things don't work out.
The second species is dogs. It is quite common for homes to have pigs and dogs and sometimes it all works out well. Unfortunately this isn't always the case and aggression can arise between the two. In the USA this is actually becoming a major issue for pet pigs. An increasing number of pet and abandoned pigs are severely injured or killed by dogs. Dogs are a predator species and pigs are a prey species, and they don't speak the same language. Clearly it all depends on the dog, some have about as much predator in them as a cuddly teddy bear, but the advice is do not leave pigs and dogs alone together.
Aside from dogs and horses, pigs can and do make friends with chickens, cats, rabbits, etc but again it isn't guaranteed they will always get on so at least at the beginning, introductions need to be supervised. Sometimes just the sheer bulk of a pig might be a danger to a small animal. And pigs do get grumpy and grumpy usually means barging and biting. Pigs have also been known to help themselves to a snack of a passing chicken (pigs are omnivores)! The bottom line is, always do careful introductions, supervise when they are together as far as possible and/or keep in adjoining areas, and have a fallback if it doesn't work out.
Basic Personal Care
Hooves should be trimmed from an early age so your pig gets comfortable with the process. Even before a hoof trim is needed, get your pig used to having their hooves handled and getting them into a position you can clip from, even before you get the clippers out. You can do this starting from any age if you adopt an older pig. Use a good pair of clippers and have rewarding treats to hand with a willing helper. Some pigs will need trimming regularly, others may never need it. One way to minimise trimming is having hardstanding areas for your pig that they need to walk over every day. If necessary with pigs that are hard to manage, especially big pigs, you might need help from a vet and possibly as a last resort, sedation. Always keep an eye on the hooves and your pig's gait. If they start to walk funny due to overgrowth then this will cause problems in the legs and can lead to lameness. Also check for splits and cracks which may need treatment. The following site has some really useful advice on what to do and photos of what to look for: https://www.minipiginfo.com/mini-pig-hoof-care.html
Pigs get very dry skin, so its good to rub in pig oil, which can be bought at any farm supplies shop. Also keep a supply of antibacterial spray handy for wounds and scratches, and some Hibiscrub for washing infected areas. As pigs love a good scratch, a horsebrush can be used to provide a piggy massage. And if they are light-skinned, sunblock in strong sun is essential if they aren't kept in shade.
Basic personal care is something that should be done as part of your regular routine. Spending time with your pigs every day means you can give them a quick check over for any issues, get them used to you holding up hooves, looking in ears, etc.
Basic Health Care
Pigs are prone to all sorts of minor and major ailments from cuts to pneumonia. Spend time with them every day and use this time to check them over, looking for any physical or behavioural changes such as loss of appetite, excessive thirst, lethargy, vomiting, problems moving or walking, skin, hoof, mouth, ear problems.
Make sure you worm them regularly, usually every 6 months.
Regularly vaccinate against Erysipelas. Without rapid treatment this disease can kill pigs or lead to long-term issues like heart failure. It is very common as the bacteria can be picked up from soil infected by birds and rodents, and it can be passed from pig to pig. Speak to your vet about what's required. If you choose not to vaccinate, make yourself familiar with the first signs of the disease so you can act quickly. Information here: http://apha.defra.gov.uk/documents/surveillance/diseases/disease-smallholder-pet-pig.pdf
In Summer especially, watch for heat exhaustion and sunburn. A pig's temperature should be 38.6-38.8C. Keep a thermometer handy in case you need to check for fevers. If you suspect heat exhaustion, call the vet and then cool the pig down by sponging cold water over them and spraying the air around.
Check out which plants and household products can cause poisoning and make sure you keep any of these well away from your pig because as they will eat most things, they can easily get themselves into trouble, including swiping medications out of your bag!
Some diseases are notifiable to Defra. Make sure you know which ones you need to look out for, for example African Swine Fever (caused by infected flies, ticks and contact with infected pigs) is a big concern at the moment so you should take the time to read up on it on the government website. Pigs don't have to be in contact with each other to pass these diseases on so just because you have only a couple of pet pigs it doesn't mean there is no risk.
Key is to get to know what is normal for your pig and what isn't. Have a basic first aid kit to hand with antiseptic spray, thermometer, etc. Find a good pig vet and when you need them try to learn as much from them as you can that you can do yourself. Unfortunately pig vets really do vary widely in their knowledge and especially in their care and compassion, probably because most of their time is spent dealing with pigs that will be going for slaughter. So don't be afraid to try different vets if you don't feel the first one has the best interests of your pig at heart. At the least you want a vet who cares about your pig. Finally, for both smaller and larger pigs, there is an excellent, very well managed Facebook group called Mini Pig Health Management. And lots of useful advice can be found at: https://www.minipiginfo.com/mini-pig-health.html (please note this is an American site so some things may not be applicable in the UK).
If you are new to caring for pigs, we highly recommend visiting and perhaps volunteering at a sanctuary or rescue to get a better understanding of what it involves. Also, if having thought it through you realise that you are not in a position to offer a good home, please do consider sponsoring or adopting a pig instead. There are many pigs in sanctuaries and rescues, and demands for spaces for more all of the time, so helping with their care financially makes a real difference. You will usually receive a photo of your pig and information in return. Obviously we have 20 pigs at PITW who love to be adopted but if you aren't local and would rather find somewhere closer to you, here are a list of just a few places you might choose to support instead or as well as. Please note that visits may be only on specific open days rather than all year round, check the individual websites for details.
Brinsley Animal Rescue - sponsor and visit
Brockswood - sponsor and visit
Coppershell Farm Sanctuary - sponsor
Dean Farm Trust - sponsor and visit
https://footprintsanimalsanctuary.co.uk/ - sponsor and visit
Huggletts Wood Farm Animal Sanctuary - visit
Margaret Green Animal Rescue - sponsor and visit
https://www.retreatanimalrescue.org.uk/ - sponsor and visit
https://www.thefarmanimalsanctuary.co.uk/ - sponsor and visit
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For more guidance on caring for pigs, check out the following online seminars, books and websites. (Please note we are not responsible for the information provided by them, so if you read something that you are concerned about, do let us know by contacting the Rehoming Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, laws and some issues like diseases relating to pigs vary from country to country so please bear this in mind when looking at resources from a non-UK country.
The online New Pig Parent Seminar is run by the Pig Placement Network in the US. Suitable for those simply interested in pigs through to reasonably experienced pig carers. Please note a couple of things under health aren’t relevant to the UK - Dippity Pig & Rabies. And any legal aspects won’t be relevant to the UK. You can learn things like why males take longer to pee 😂 & therefore why they are prone to urinary issues 😢, and that you can clicker train pigs to learn 8-10 basic colours. It is free but they welcome a donation to help fund their work with pigs in need. In 2021 they are also planning to offer topic-specific seminars. https://www.pigplacementnetwork.org/events/ .You can find PPN on Facebook and Instagram if you want to keep up with their work and future events.
There are a large number of books available on pig keeping. Sadly these are all pretty much geared towards smallholders and farmers and so include sections on breeding, raising for meat, and slaughter. The books we recommend below are different in that they are about living with pigs and will give you a better understanding of pigs' needs and the fun and challenges of meeting them!
The Unexpected Genius of Pigs by Matt Whyman - our top recommendation which looks at the psychology and behaviour of pigs with plenty of fun anecdotes. His first book, which is about his experiences of having pig members of the family, is also worth reading. There is also a very funny and educational interview with Matt Whyman about his pig books here on the Mini Pig Podcast.
The Good Good Pig by Sy Montgomery - U.S. book about Christopher Hogwood, a sick piglet who became a much loved part of his community.