A question that many small farmers and homesteaders wonder about raising pigs is if you can keep on pig on its own or how many pigs you need to keep. Because pigs are intelligent herd animals, many people believe it is cruel to keep a single pig on its own, even if you’re raising it for meat.
Keeping a single pig is not recommended since it increases the chances that the pig will become bored, destructive, and aggressive. Pigs that are kept in groups are happier and gain weight faster. If a pig is kept alone, it needs to be given lots of human contact and do activities to stay happy.
There are plenty of reasons not to keep a pig by itself, and many benefits of keeping more than one. Keep reading to learn more about keeping a pig on its own and why you may be better off getting two.
Why You Should Not Keep On Pig On It’s Own
Pigs Are Herd Animals
The main reason that it is generally not recommended to keep a pig on its own is that pigs are highly intelligent and social herd animals. In the wild, pigs live in large groups for their entire lives, and they develop complex social relationships with other pigs. In domesticated pigs, this instinct is still present, and pigs would much rather be in a group than be all alone.
Here are some facts about pigs as herd animals:
- Pigs naturally live in large groups of around eight pigs.
- A sounder of pigs is usually made up of two or three brood sows (females) and they’re young.
- Boars (male pigs) are solitary animals and only meet up with brood sows for mating.
- Pigs live in a social hierarchy based on feeding and will fight to maintain their rank in the sounder. Piglets are especially competitive with each other for food, no matter whether that food is the teats of their mother or feed.
The behavior of pigs in a herd means keeping multiple pigs brings both welfare benefits and husbandry challenges.
Pigs That Are Kept in Groups Gain Weight Faster
For those farmers who plan to raise pigs for their meat rather than as a pet, pigs that are kept in a group tend to gain weight faster than pigs that are kept alone.
Are your pigs struggling to gain weight? Click my post here for the 6 other reasons your Pigs are not growing.
Why Pigs Kept In Groups Gain Weight Easier
- Solitary pigs are more susceptible to boredom and loneliness, which can adversely affect the pig’s appetite.
- Being around other pigs stimulates a pig’s competitive drive for food, which will encourage it to fight for its share of the feed even if it’s not hungry to maintain its place in the feeding hierarchy
- One pig getting up to eat will often encourage the other to eat just by imitation.
Source: Family Cow
If you’re raising a pig for meat, you can raise a second pig with the first one without much additional investment in food, space, or maintenance. Not only that, but you’re also likely to end up with pigs that fill out better and give you more meat for your dollar.
Pigs Can Be Kept Alone if They Are Socialized with Humans
Pigs can be kept alone if necessary, especially if it is a smaller breed of a pig kept indoors as a family pet. Without interaction from other pigs, a solitary pig will need even more interaction from humans in its daily routine to fulfill its need for socialization. (Source: Pig Placement Network)
Many people who plan to keep a pot-bellied or teacup pig inside as a house pet prefer only to keep the one animal since multiple pigs make double the mess to clean up. While pigs can be housebroken, it requires training that some people are not patient or committed enough to pull off.
If a pig is kept on its own, it’s a good idea for someone to be home all day to spend time with the pig, since the people in the household essentially replace the pig companions that the pig would otherwise have. Older adults who are retired can potentially give a solitary house pig the amount of interaction and affection it needs to stay happy, as can stay-at-home moms and dads or people who work remotely from home.
Single Pigs Can Get Bored and Destructive
Pigs kept by themselves are more likely to become bored. It’s important to remember that pigs have an intelligence level on par with a three-year-old child. (Source: The New York Times)
Now, imagine what kind of trouble a three-year-old toddler could get into if left unattended for eight to ten hours a day, and you’ll have an idea of the kind of destruction a pig is capable of if left by itself for long hours.
Because pigs can be so destructive when they’re left on their own, it’s a much better idea to keep them in a group. In a group, pigs have interaction to keep them busy, and they’ll be more interested in feeding and socializing than destroying things.
Is it dangerous raising Pigs? Learn the facts in my post.
Enrichment Objects Are Necessary for Single Pigs and Groups of Pigs
Whether you keep a pig on its own or with other pigs, you’ll need to introduce enrichment objects to the pig enclosure to give them something positive to do to keep them occupied. Adding toys to the pig’s area will give them something to play with and make them more comfortable throughout the day.
Toys are necessary both for pigs that are raised as household pets and those that are raised as livestock. Pigs that have play opportunities grow larger than those that are bored or lonely. (Source: Silicon Republic)
Different Types Of Pig Toys
- Balls and rolling toys
- Tunnels and obstacles
- Biting/chewing toys
- Playing chains
- Fragrant objects
The more activities and objects are provided for pigs, the less likely they are to fall prey to the bad habits that solitary pigs sometimes fall into. Pigs need to keep both their minds and their bodies engaged with the activity, or they’ll start making mischief.
For other ideas for Pig toys see my post, it’s about Chickens toys for your Pig still enjoy the toys just the same.
Why Pigs Are Better in Pairs
For people who don’t want to keep a herd of pigs, keeping a pair of pigs is often a better option than keeping one on its own. Here are a few of the reasons why:
- A single extra pig can provide plenty of socialization and help farmers avoid the pitfalls of keeping a pig on its own. From a welfare standpoint, a pig kept with at least one other pig will be much happier, too.
- A second pig doesn’t require a larger enclosure than one pig on its own. As long as each pig has roughly eight feet of space to itself, the pen is large enough for both of them.
- While keeping an extra pig does double the amount of feed necessary to house them, it also increases the weight that both pigs will put on, which will maximize your profit with either meat or selling price per pound
- Raising two pigs as a homesteader or small farmer means having meat for your family and extra meat to sell or give to friends and relatives. Homemade hams and cured sausages make great gifts for the holidays.
Another advantage of keeping a pair of pigs is that you can keep a male and a female together to raise piglets. This allows you to keep your original pigs as pets and use their offspring for either meat or selling for profit.
Do you know what foods are toxic to Pigs? Learn what you can feed them in my post here.
Male Pigs Are Better Kept Alone Than Females
For people who only want to keep one pig, keeping a male pig is the better option. This is because male pigs are naturally solitary animals, while female pigs are more invested in social hierarchies and social interaction. Remember that female pigs are used to living in a sounder, while male pigs make their way on their own.
A male pig kept on its own may be less likely to engage in frustrated or bored behaviors due to a lack of socialization. However, they can still become destructive or even aggressive if they aren’t given opportunities to work their mind with enrichment objects or given things to play with.
Even though sexually mature male pigs may develop tendencies towards aggression if left uncastrated, they still tend to enjoy human company if they are raised around people from a young age.
Nevertheless, male pigs that are kept as house pets should typically be castrated to prevent a surge of aggressive behavior that coincides with sexual frustration when they reach sexual maturity.
Do you know if straw or shavings are better for your pigs? See which bedding your pigs prefer in my post.
Why Keeping a Pig on Its Own Isn’t Usually a Good Idea
While it is possible to successfully raise a pig on its own, in many cases, it just isn’t a good idea. The increased risk of negative behaviors plus the fact that lone pigs do not put on weight and meat as well as pigs in pairs or groups means that it’s generally better to keep at least two pigs together.
For people who insist on keeping a lone pig or want to keep a solitary pig as a house pet, the humans in the pig’s life must make up for the socialization the solitary pig lacks with plenty of interaction. Otherwise, you may end up with a bored pig that becomes destructive or aggressive.
Do you know the differences between Pigs, Boars and Hogs? Learn the differences in my post.