We have a pot-bellied pig on our urban farm. Her name is Olive Rose, and she recently acquired a new piggie friend, Percy — a 10-year-old male who has spent his entire life as a house pig. Now, I never really intended to add pigs to my small 1-acre farm in the city, but when I consider that my favorite book as a girl was Charlotte’s Web, it only seems natural that I would, right? If you’re considering pigs on your property, here’s what you need to consider first — there’s a lot of misinformation about pot-bellied pigs out there, and it’s important to know what you’re getting into with these wonderful animals.
Why should I consider getting pigs? Pot-bellied pigs are wonderfully intelligent animals that form tight bonds with their humans and some other animals. They are great for overturning soil as they search for succulent roots to eat, and their manure can be composted. If you live on a very small urban homestead, though, you may find that you just cannot compost all the manure, so you’ll need to plan for proper manure disposal just as you would for a dog.
How large do pot-bellied pigs get? I cannot stress this enough — it depends. Do not, under any circumstances, believe it when the feed store or seller says, “Oh, it won’t grow more than 50 pounds or so.” The truth is that pigs continue to mature in size for up to 5 years, so that adorable piglet could, in fact, grow up to be several hundred pounds. And do not buy into the moniker of “mini pig” — these pigs are mini only when compared to a full grown 1200-pound hog. A pot-bellied pig could be anywhere from 75-250 or even 300 pounds at maturity.
Can I have just one pig? Well, yes, you can, but pigs are actually happier when they have another piggie friend (or 3) to hang out with. We’d had Olive Rose for almost 2 years when we decided to adopt Percy, and while they are still getting used to each other (pig fight, anyone?), chances are good that once they settle down, they will be fast friends and actually happier than they would be by themselves.
How long do they live? Pot-bellied pigs typically live 12-15 years, but possibly up to 20 years. That’s similar to some dog breeds, so be prepared to care for this animal for quite some time.
What do pigs eat? Typically, they eat commercial pig chow in addition to fresh grass, roots, and plants. If a pig cannot find enough food to forage, he will start digging. Because there is not sufficient grass for Olive Rose to eat, we supplement her pig chow with 1-2 “salads” a day consisting of carrots, lettuce, vegetable ends, and a bit of cut-up fruit. While this might sound indulgent, remember that it’s important that pot-bellied pigs have a balanced diet so they are healthy, and greens/roughage are a huge part of that. Although it may seem cute when they are babies, please don’t give them candy, cookies, or human junk food. Pigs get fat very easily, and once obese, it’s difficult to trim them down.
Any other special instructions? Yes, several! First, be sure that your area allows pigs. If you don’t live on a multi-acre farm where nobody would question it, find out what laws or codes are in place before you bring a piggie home.
- Have a small structure for shelter in case of inclement weather.
- Be sure your fences are sturdy. And I mean sturdy. A pig’s main focus is to find food, and if they have no food and nothing to do, they will try eveything they can to break out of your yard. Olive Rose has never broken out of ours, but we have a series of very sturdy fencing and we give her plenty of food and space to run around, so she just doesn’t need to make a break for it.
- While you can, in theory, process and eat a pot-bellied pig, it doesn’t seem to be the smartest and most cost-efficient choice because of their smaller stature. And, there’s always the fact that they tend to be more pet-like that farm sows, so there’s that to consider as well.
About the Author:
Jenny Peterson is a landscape designer and urban farmer living in Austin, Texas. She comes from a family of gardeners and her gardens include drought-tolerant plants, herbs, veggies, and a wildflower pollinator garden. As a breast cancer survivor, Jenny specializes in gardens that heal from the inside out.