How to keep minipigs in the garden

Minipig with piglet
Minipig with piglet

Minipigs are all the rage and more and more private individuals are flirting with the idea of keeping a small pig in their home or garden. Especially the small breeds find more and more lovers since a few years. But is a mini pig in the garden really a good idea? Professional associations and clubs express fear of a breeding boom at the expense of animal health, the spread of diseases and mass shunting of the animals when they get too big. It is true that pigs are extremely intelligent, clever and cuddly animals that are perfectly suitable as pets under certain conditions on farms and large properties. However, the basic prerequisite for this is that you have enough space in the garden so that the animals can move freely, and are willing to deal with the sometimes complex details of keeping pigs.

Therefore, the purchase of mini pigs is not recommended for laymen. A pig, even a small one, is not a pet like rabbits or guinea pigs and there are some important points to consider when keeping pigs privately. So if you want to keep minipigs in your backyard, you should carefully consider the requirements before buying.

Minipigs: Important things in a nutshell

Mini pigs are demanding pets. Keeping them privately, even in the garden, requires compliance with complex legal requirements, as minipigs are considered farm animals. They also require a lot of care, space and exercise and at least one conspecific by their side. Minipigs also like to dig up the garden in search of food. Plants such as oleander, box, daffodils as well as some ferns and other ornamental plants are poisonous to them.

What are mini pigs?

As cuddly as they look, the original reason for the small breeding of pigs is not cute at all. In the 1940s in Minnesota, USA, the aim was to develop a small and manageable test pig for human medical studies that would require less space and feed and would respond to lower doses of medication in tests. The result was the Minnesota minipig, which 20 years later, through crossbreeding with the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, gave rise to the Göttingen minipig that is still popular today. Due to the growing interest of private individuals in acquiring mini pigs for pet keeping, there are now many other crosses and breeds, but all of them ultimately go back to old wild pig breeds. Knowing this is important, because it means that piglets in a litter can have very different characteristics and expressions, and the size and weight of the adult animals also varies greatly. Therefore, be sure to consult a reputable breeder before buying.

Characteristics of minipigs

By a minipig, many people mean a tiny little piggy the size of a piglet that fits in a handbag. However, these so-called “teacup pigs” are the absolute exception and often, unfortunately, degenerate animals with short life expectancy due to excessive breeding. The classic mini pig, on the other hand, is an extremely robust animal. Depending on the breed, it grows to about knee-high, just under a meter (40 in) long and weighs up to 100 kilograms (220 lbs). Nor is a mini pig in the garden a short-term pleasure, as the animals reach an age of up to 15 years. Typically, mini pigs have prick ears and a straight tail.

They come in all colors from blonde to pink and brown to black, solid or spotted, with long, curly or short straight bristles. Like all pigs, they have an excellent sense of hearing and smell, but cannot see very well. Minipigs are intelligent and capable of learning all sorts of tricks. They communicate with each other by grunting and squealing and can clearly distinguish familiar people from strangers. There are no breed standards for the mini pig, so the individual development of a piglet is always a surprise package. A minipig is not fully grown until it is about four years old.

Legal requirements for minipigs

Anyone who wants to keep mini pigs in the garden must be aware that this type of animal is not considered a pet by the law, like dogs and cats, but an agricultural livestock. The legal requirements for keeping pigs in private homes are correspondingly complex. These include registration of the pigs with the animal health insurance fund, including annual stock declaration, and the wearing of an ear tag. Unfortunately, this also means that hobby pigs, just like fattening pigs, fall victim to epidemic measures in case of doubt. Anyone who does not register thw minipigs and, for example, there is suspicion of disease transmission (swine flu, swine fever or similar), is liable with their private assets. The obligatory registration at the veterinary office is usually done by the trader or breeder. In addition, preventive health care in the form of vaccinations (rabies, glanders, swine fever, parvovirosis, tetanus) and regular deworming must be ensured in consultation with the veterinarian.

The minipig as a pet

Although they are smaller than classic domestic pigs, they need relatively much space and care. Keeping them indoors only is out of the question for these active animals. For a species-appropriate husbandry in the garden, at least 100 square meters /1.100 sq ft of space should be available for each piglet. For a happy pig life, the animals need a stable or a dry shelter in the garden with a toilet corner, feeding place, wallow and lying place.

Since the minipig is a social animal that lives in large family groups in the wild, a mini pig should never be kept alone. At least one other conspecific should already be there. If you do not want to turn a few pigs into many pigs within a very short time, mini pigs are sexually mature from the age of four months and give birth to about six piglets per litter, you should ensure that the animals are castrated in good time. In addition to reducing piglet production, it also reduces the potential for aggression and the bitter boar odor. But beware: in boars, castration is not fully effective until six months after the procedure. So only get a pig if you also have the time to keep it busy and care for it.

Tip: Since pigs are extremely curious, headstrong and not always easy to tame, it is recommended in any case to include the minipigs in the private liability insurance.

Feeding minipigs

Minipigs, like their larger counterparts, do not have any special requirements when it comes to food. However, since pigs are always hungry, a balanced, healthy diet of hay, vegetables, bran, corn and a small amount of fruit should be provided so that the animals do not become overfat. The rule of thumb says the daily feed amount for a pig should not exceed one to two percent of body weight. Fattening diets and concentrates for piglets from pig farms should not be used at home. Also, pigs should not be indiscriminately fed with kitchen scraps. Avocado, cocoa and onions, for example, can cause severe poisoning symptoms in minipigs. Many people would like to have as small a pig as possible as a pet. However, the final size of a mini pig is genetically determined and cannot be regulated by the amount of feed. Less feed therefore does not lead to small pigs.

Minipig in the garden: habitat and run

Unlike running ducks, minipigs leave distinct tracks in the garden. So if your lawn or flower beds are dear to you, make sure you have an escape-proof pen. Minipigs have a perfect sense of smell and can scent food even 60 centimeters (25 in) below the surface of the ground. Flower bulbs, mushrooms, worms and nut depots of mice or squirrels are ruthlessly plundered, and the garden systematically plowed up. At the same time, the piggies do not tolerate everything you find in the garden. The above-ground parts of the potato plant, nightshade, daffodils, azaleas, oleander, boxwood and various ferns, as well as many other ornamental plants, are toxic to minipigs and should therefore be avoided or planted out of reach when keeping pigs in the garden. Lots of fresh grass in the spring can cause flatulence, diarrhea, and severe digestive distress.

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