A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper

A Day in the Life of a Zookeeper
Ever wonder what its like to share your world with a bunch of crazy critters? Tune in to find out!

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Pigs Are Hard

So - I see people posting frequently about the need to rehome their pig.  I see shelters posting about pigs available for adoption who have been surrendered.  I get it - things happen.  But, I can't help but feel for the pigs as well.  You see - pigs develop a strong bond with their humans and they really stink at change so finding a new home, a new life is quite hard on them.

Here it is - my honest opinion piece on having a pig.  Let me start by saying the following:  I adore my Winston - my life has been changed for the better having him in my world and I wouldn't change having him for anything.  I love him to pieces.  That said - pigs are hard!  I have had lots of kinds of critters in my life - cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, frogs, fish.... pigs are by far the hardest and I think the reason is they are by far the smartest.

You know the sayings - stubborn as a pig, pig headed - um yeah - they are steeped in reality.  Pigs are smart - super smart and as a result they require pretty much constant stimulation.  A bored pig is a naughty pig.  Bleeding like a stuck pig is also a saying steeped in truth but that's another post. Sweating like a pig - not true - pigs can't sweat....but wait - I am on a tangent....

Here is the bottom line - and maybe some folks won't like this but I feel like its true and important to say out loud.  At the end of the day - Winston is a pig - even though he lives inside and we want him to be 'domesticated' he is still a pig and he is going to do the things that pig do and have done for thousands of years.  Pigs are hierarchical in nature and sometimes their need to challenge the order of the herd results in crappy behavior.  It's easily correctable but it's a constant thing - as a pig parent you need to remind them - sometimes daily (even multiple times a day).  Pigs can be quite destructive.  The big ticket items in Winston's world were carpet and drywall.  Others have issues with shoes, furniture, etc - they will destroy things if they are bored, or mad, I do believe they have the capability of being spiteful.

They need space, they need outside time, they need to root, they like to run and frolic.  We did the subdivision thing - its hard on pig parents and hard on the pig.  Zoning issues are not something to play with - we had a scare with Winston, Animal Control was involved and for a few weeks it was very stressful not knowing our fate.  It all worked out fine but wow - crazy times.

I could go on forever so I will recap it here in a simple list.  These are the things I wish someone would have told me before I got Winston:

  1. Be prepared to make a 20 year commitment - take it seriously - pigs need stability - if you think you can't do it, don't get a pig
  2. Research, research, research - I did a lot of research before I got Winston - in reality I was clueless.
  3. Don't let a breeder convince you that a 4 week old piglet is old enough to be away from it's pig mom - it misses out on all the pig manners she will teach him/her.
  4. Understand that pigs are different than cats or dogs - the bonding time is different, the way they show affection is different and the engagement you will have with them is different - it's super rewarding but its different.
  5. Piglets are LOUD when they are mad, they are intimidating and scary and they know if you are scared and will take advantage of it.  Make sure you get a piglet that has been handled - I think when we got Winston he was touched for maybe the second time in his life - he was so scared!
  6. Get a piglet that is already fixed - there are many reasons I say this.  Fixing them is better for their health, getting Winston fixed was stressful - if you get one that has already had this done it's one less thing to worry about - and you will worry ALOT, and last and maybe most importantly - boy pigs S T I N K if they are not fixed - save your nose!!!
  7. Ask and ask again about zoning - check all the zoning, county, town, city, homeowners.  Don't think you can hide a pig - it can't happen, people are too interested and people are busy bodies. Someone will report you!
  8. On the day you bring your piglet home touch his feet, play with his ears, his eyes, his snout, look at his teeth, get him used to you picking at him and doing maintenance.  Winston is great about letting me do his hooves, clean out his ears, pick goobers out of his eyes, clean out his nostrils and look in his mouth.  I got him used to that very early on by doing it all the time.
  9. Teach them tricks - they love to learn.
  10. Pigs and other animals can be challenging.  Before we got him we had ferrets, cats, dog and hedgehogs that were always together, out and about - they lived peacefully together with no issues.  Once we added the pig - all bets were off.  Pigs and dogs don't mix - Emma and Winston are friends and they do well together - but if we are gone - they are separated. Winston did well with the cats - they pretty much avoided him.  The ferrets were obsessed with him and he was very interested in them - but I don't let them interface because I don't want any of the weasels to get stepped on.  We have zones - ferrets and kitties together - pig with his own space- dog with her own space.  It works great for us - but make sure you have a plan for how your fur children will cohabitate.

So - there you have it - my thoughts on having a pig.  If this makes you not want a pig - I am okay with that because I would rather you not get one than get one and give them up.  Having a pig is fun and rewarding and a privilege - I am blessed to live in a place where its okay to have him, that I have the family support necessary to keep him (did I mention my husband is a saint?).  If you still want a pig I think that is fantastic - but please - make sure you know what you are getting in to and you can make that forever promise to your new little oinker.  I would be remiss if I didn't say one last thing - please consider a rescue rather than a piglet - we got Winston from a breeder - but if I had it to do over again knowing about all those unwanted piggies out there I likely would have opted for the rescue option instead.

Okay - end of opinion piece.  I hope there was nothing too controversial in there.  I don't want to make anyone angry....

15 comments:

tammy said...

Very well said ....

scoops56 said...

Excellent post. I, also, had wanted one....but.....I did alot of research.

first off, i'm 60 yrs old; I don't think I wanna deal with a pig when I'm 80. Plus zoning doesn't allow it. And most of the other reasons you mention.

How did i get my pig 'fix'? I sent $$ to pig sanctuaries.

Nicola Vernon said...

Thank you for this. I have a farm animal sanctuary providing a home for 17 pigs. I will soon be full and won't be able to take any more although I know of dozens out there that are waiting to be rehomed from owners who just cant cope with them anymore. All of the pigs who were rehomed here, AND their owners, without exception, were broken hearted to be parted. It takes weeks of careful attention, love and comfort to bring round a rehomed pig. They mourn and cry for the family they've left behind. The family are in pieces. And all because unscrupulous breeders don't say it how it is. Generally pigs do not make good pets. It works for a very rare few people but most simply can't cope.

TheGrantZookeeper said...

Tammy - thank you!!

scoops56 - Thank you for making such an educated and kind decision and for supporting pig sanctuaries!!

Nicola - Thank you for the work you do! I can only imagine how hard it is watching both the human and the piggie side of separation. The work you do is so important - thank you again for changing the lives of so many pigs!

Pet Pig Education said...

Thank you for this! We too have written many a blog and post on how difficult pigs can be and although we get through to some, we will never get them all. Adopting really is the way to go these days but most importantly... Do your research first! Pigs are not cats or dogs, shoot, I have had camels better behaved and easier to deal with. Most of them are the equivalent to a jerk 3-4 year old that is hell bent on getting all your attention or destroying you; unlike toddlers, they don't grow up. The ones you see that "seem to be perfect" are the very rare random exception, NOT the norm! The are so rewarding and I would never trade all mine for anything but the dedication they take is mind boggling, very few can do it!

One of your most important points, ZONING! Make positive you are zoned because more than likely, you won't win and if you are the select few that do, you won't come away unscathed from years of legal battles. Thank goodness we have a farm where our piggies run on acerage! Thank you for your insight! ����
Founder of petpigeducation.com

Knatolee said...

Thank you for an excellent post! We have ten rescue PB pigs at our farm who wouldn't be here if humans had done their research and made better decisions.

Winston sounds wonderful!

Critter said...

Great advice I have a pig named miss truffles and sometimes she does get out of hand but I love her and I'm more stubborn then her I have many Critters as well one being a very spoiled rotten raccoon every one knows their place and that is great for me thanks for sharing and I too hope others think long and hard before they run out and get a pig just because it's a new pet

Kristen said...

I love my pig and dont find her that difficult but I think this has a lot to do with her individual temperment and that she can go outside and do the things she likes to do anytime she wants. I also am not at all fussy about where she roots or what she drags to the work shed. She has never been destructive inside the house which really helps.
She also seems to be ok with the established hierarchy for the most part. She listens to me, my 12 yr old corgi and the goat. Sometimes she is loud about it but she complies. She was 7 weeks old when we got her and as cute as she was, I wouldnt go through that again. Baby pigs are HARD. They wake up and squeal LOUDLY at all hours of the night and need near constant
attention. It will definately be a rescue for the next one.

Kristen said...

I love my pig and dont find her that difficult but I think this has a lot to do with her individual temperment and that she can go outside and do the things she likes to do anytime she wants. I also am not at all fussy about where she roots or what she drags to the work shed. She has never been destructive inside the house which really helps.
She also seems to be ok with the established hierarchy for the most part. She listens to me, my 12 yr old corgi and the goat. Sometimes she is loud about it but she complies. She was 7 weeks old when we got her and as cute as she was, I wouldnt go through that again. Baby pigs are HARD. They wake up and squeal LOUDLY at all hours of the night and need near constant
attention. It will definately be a rescue for the next one.

TheGrantZookeeper said...

Pet Pig Education: LOVE your website - such great information!!!

Knatolee - Thank you for the work you do and for changing the lives of your 10 PB babies - they are so very lucky!!

Critter - thank you for reading and for your comments!! I am so jealous you have a racoon - it is on my way too long wish list of someday critters.

Kristen - thank you for loving your pig kid and for considering rescuing another!

Unknown said...

Thank you 1000 times over for this. It is good advice. I have two 7 year old boys. I got them when I owned my home, had the money to have them, had researched and I knew the zoning. Never in my life did I think they'd ever be at risk. Now I have a progressive brain condition that has meant I've lost almost everything. I'm about to move for the 2nd time in the 7 years they've been with me and it is near impossible to find a rental home with two large pigs,zoning or not. But it really was incredibly stressful for all of us. I have committed to my Loves (pigs). I never knew how hard that would become. I can't even think about how sad they'd be if I had to give them up. I don't think they'd ever get over it, and I know I would not either.

Mini Pig Info said...

Great great post! We preach the same thing on our website. Research, educate and be sure you know what realistic sizes of pigs are because a fully grown 20lb pig isn't gong to happen if you truly want a healthy and happy pig. Love this though. Definitely sharing! www.minipiginfo.com

Unknown said...

I love my 4 piggers and I love this post! I also love the entertainment, affection, attitudes and always trying to outsmart them before they outsmart me. I am top pig, but when they get a little out of hand I just drink some wine or take a xanax and remind myself they'll love me again in 5-15 minutes. I also spend a lot of time giving myself the "it's only things" pep talk. Wouldn't trade a second of it!

Unknown said...

Amen and Amen!

Tina Rhodes said...

beautifully said!