Introductions for Pet Pigs
Pigs are happiest when they live in the company of other pigs. However, pigs who haven’t met before need time to get to know one another and adjust to the other’s presence before they can be given free reign to interact. Gradual introductions for pet pigs are key to successful long-term integration. Pigs are herd animals and, similar to dogs, must establish a hierarchy. This is true whether you are introducing male pigs to male pigs, female pigs to female pigs, male pigs to female pigs or one new pig to an already established group.
There will likely be disagreements and altercations early on while they work out the dynamics of their relationship. However, you can minimise the stress for the pigs, and reduce the possibility of aggression, by taking the time to introduce them gradually.
A reduction in stress and potential aggressive interactions is not only desirable for the wellbeing of the pigs, it will also lead to a higher chance of a positive outcome in the long run.
There can always be exceptions but, generally speaking, when introductions are done mindfully and gradually they are successful. Despite their initial reservations, in the end, the piggies involved very much appreciate the company with some becoming completely inseparable.
The set up for introductions
The ideal set up for initial introductions will have two separate, securely-fenced areas next door to one another. This allows the pigs to chat and become familiar with each other’s scent, while also providing a safe space to retreat to if they feel intimidated or threatened. Giving them a safe space to retreat to during the initial meeting phase can often be the deciding factor on how well the pigs bond.
A great option is to section a barn or shelter into two, with the pigs still having their own separate outdoor areas. This encourages the pigs to sleep together through the night. This has been very successful in the past and is highly recommended if possible.
If they have separate shelters it is good idea to swap bedding around. This will help the pigs become familiar with the scent of one another and help them adjust to the idea of sharing their shelter. Please note, you should be sure that all animals are in good health before you start sharing bedding.
The length of the introduction process is dependent on the individual pigs involved. Those who have little or no experience with other pigs may need a little longer. Generally, we advise giving all new pigs a week or two to settle in and adjust to their new environment before putting them into the same space as another pig.
Allow them to get to know one another through the fence during this time. You should expect territorial behaviours towards one another through the fence during their first encounters. There will likely be displays such as chomping, foaming and, potentially, biting attempts. This is very normal behaviour and nothing to worry about.
Once your new piggy seems settled, you can start feeding the pigs next to one another on either side of the fence. This is a good way of helping them to build trust.
Sharing the same space
Once the pigs have had some time to become familiar, you should start to see a reduction in territorial behaviours. At this point you can begin to think about allowing them into the same space. Do this in supervised episodes with a ‘pig board’ to hand.
A pig board is a large, sturdy but lightweight piece of plywood or plastic used to guide the movement of pigs by making one avenue appear blocked, which encourages them to move in the opposite direction. You can see a good example here.
During the first encounters there could be disagreements. If a fight occurs, do not try to intervene if you think there is a risk of injuring yourself. Wait until they retreat and then use the pig board to guide them back to their separate areas. If they are just having a scuffle you may be able to insert the pig board between them to break them apart.
At a certain point it might be necessary to allow them to just tussle their disagreements out. It is not possible for us to micro manage every aspect of their social interactions. Ultimately, they will have to work it out between themselves. Although this can be quite jarring to see, it isn’t uncommon and even bonded pigs will sometimes have altercations. Including some objects that pigs can hide behind, such a hay bales, can help them to naturally diffuse tension.
How long should meetings last?
Managing introductions for pet pigs is not an exact science. Many pigs, providing they have had enough time to familiarise themselves with one another through the fence beforehand, will not need to be separated again after their first meeting.
Others will need to have their permanent integration built up very gradually. They may only spend an hour together to begin with. This hour can then be extended into a full morning or afternoon, and eventually, overnight.
When pigs first spend the night in the same space they should still have access to separate sleeping areas. The choice of when they spend the night in the same shelter should be left to them to make.
The length and frequency of interactions and separations is something you should determine at the time by observing the pigs’ behaviour. If the pigs are fighting a lot, separate them, give them chance to cool down, and try again another time. Continue to feed next to one another and swap bedding around in the meantime.
If you are introducing a single pig to a bonded herd, do the introduction process one on one with the new pig and each member of the herd individually.
With introductions it better to err on the side of caution and take things slowly, especially if it is your first time. It is easier to get introductions right first time than it is to correct issues caused by having pigs meet before they are ready.
If possible, try to have them meet for the first time when females aren’t in heat.
If you plan to introduce two males to one another, having them castrated beforehand can make a huge difference in the success of their introductions.
Introducing unfamiliar pigs can seem daunting, but if you plan to adopt a single pig from us as company for your current pig, or you think you could offer a home to two of our single pigs, we will be here to guide you throughout the entire process.
We are happy to answer any questions at all. You can contact us here.