LTM's small farm is completely off the grid. Her family uses solar and alternative power sources for lighting, cooking, animal fencing, etc.
We were offered a miniature pig.
We have a small farm, and all the locals know we like to keep pigs for weeding our vegetable gardens. Our last two pigs, Bacon and Eggs, went back to their place of birth to become breeders. They were fit and healthy and, by the time they left, they had grown big and strong.
At a local soccer game, we were asked if we'd like to give a new home to a much-loved miniature pig who was sadly neglected after his owners became too busy to give him any care or attention. The timing was good, and the price was excellent.
A miniature pig, however, sounded like it would be of little use on any farm. We certainly were not looking for another pet.
Miniature Pigs and Other Small Farm Animals
The smallest cow in the world is a miniature Dexter, standing only 33.5 inches tall. The smallest cat is a tiny 6 inches—which is taller than the smallest dog, a 4-inch-tall long-haired Chihuahua . . . and the smallest horse stands only 17.5 inches.
I quite like the idea of smaller animals on my small farm, but what use is a horse that's smaller than a Shetland Pony? To be honest, I have no need for a Shetland, but if I had a young child who wanted to learn to ride or a cart that needed pulling, I would consider buying one. We had a Shetland pony come to stay a few years back during a lengthy drought when we had grass and its owner had bare soil. It was friendly, cute and loveable . . . but we sent it home after a few months.
Some Small-Size Animals Have Advantages
We have been discussing buying a Dexter cow to provide us with fresh milk. Some of our neighbours have Dexters, and there are definite advantages to owning an animal slightly smaller than the regular size. It will need less feed, be happy in a smaller paddock, and be less intimidating at milking time.
Our bantam hens are smaller than their full-size cousins. We keep large and small breeds of chickens, providing us with a range of egg sizes and playing different roles in our gardens. The larger chickens scratch and clean the earth before planting. Smaller bantams wander between the vegetables, eating caterpillars and pests throughout the growing season without tearing the plants from the ground.
When it comes to dogs, we like Mini Fox Terriers. Our Mini Foxies have always been good at announcing the arrival of visitors and detecting snakes on our farm. They sniff out mice and dispose of them, chase rabbits away from our boundaries, and have bravely and effectively challenged and killed venomous snakes. We don't need farm dogs to round up sheep or herds of cattle, so our Mini Foxies are perfect. They take up minimal space in the house, protect our farm and our family, and it doesn't cost much to feed them.
But what good is a miniature pig?
Miniature, Micro and Teacup Pigs
Research on the internet introduced us to the new phenomena of miniature, micro and teacup pigs. Paris Hilton had one. Jonathon Ross, a British television host, bought two. Teacup pigs were described as a new fashion accessory.
Cute photos of micro pigs snuggling up against fluffy pillows, dressed in pretty outfits, and posing comfortably inside teacups (of questionable dimensions) gave the impression that miniature, micro and teacup pigs would never be more than a handful of trouble. Price tags for micro or teacup pigs ranging from $750 to $950 each had 'sold' signs plastered over them. Clearly, selling tiny pigs is big business.
Tiny Pigs May Become Big Pigs
The largest 'miniature pig' is supposed to be about the size of a labrador dog, but news reports showed instances of mini pigs that grew to be massive porkers (see video above).
At four years old, the miniature pig we were offered was fully grown and allegedly the size of a labrador—big enough to be a help in the garden—so we went for a look before deciding whether or not to bring him home.
Our Miniature Pig Was Malnourished When He First Arrived
Meet Mr Pig: Our First Miniature Pig
A pig can live for up to 20 years. Miniature or full-size, pigs are not short-term visitors unless you are simply fattening them for the freezer. Many people neglect their pigs after the novelty of owning a pig wears off.
It seems quite common for families with young children to spend time loving and nurturing their piggy friend, only to banish it to a barren enclosure when the kids become preoccupied with some other activity. It is hard to know how many pigs are discarded at animal refuges, and how many are simply destroyed. Our first miniature pig was destined for a bullet, had we not rescued him.
Mr Pig Is a Fast Learner
He was unfamiliar with electric fences, but he quickly learned to respect and avoid them. He had never been expected to drink from a water nipple, but he quickly mastered that skill. He'd never been a gardener, and I suspect many of the vegetables he discovered in our soil were new to him, but he has settled in really well, and our first miniature pig is now an active member of our family and farming team.
Mr Pig Adapting to Life on our Farm
A Boar or a Sow?
Most farmers with small farms choose to have one or two female pigs in preference to males. Sows can have piglets without needing a full-time boar, either by artificial insemination or taking the females to visit a nearby boar.
Sows are said to be more placid than boars, and we'd also heard that sows do a better job of digging and weeding the ground.
We would not have chosen a boar, had we been buying another pig. However the miniature pig we were offered was a male, so we took him. There has been no indication of aggression, and even our teenage daughter happily brushes him - although she is never alone with him.
Mr Pig has proven himself quite capable of preparing our garden areas for springtime planting. Had he not been so hungry, it is hard to say if he'd have been as effective as the female pigs we've had in the past.
It's a Pig's Life
Two Mini Pigs Make a Happy Couple
A few months after the boar moved in, I spotted a sign offering a free miniature sow. She looked an ideal match, so I had her delivered to our home.
When first introduced, there was a lot of screaming as they tried to avoid each other but within 24 hours, they were the best of friends.
My husband hastily constructed a shelter large enough to contain them both but we also left the boar's bachelor pad in place so there would be no conflict about sharing the bed. The female, however, had lived in a confined yard with no shelter other than trees so it took a couple of days for her to get used to the idea of sleeping anywhere other than out on the ground.
She too had been a family pet for years and comes running when her name is called.
Who would put a ring in a pig's nose?
Peppa Pig With a Ring in Her Nose
The previous owners of the sow called her Peppa after the popular British children's animated tv character. She's obviously the wrong colour and I doubt the animated Peppa would be happy about having a ring in her nose.
It concerns me that the ring must get extremely hot and uncomfortable during the summer months but she's had it in place for years and has somehow managed until now. I try to keep a bowl of cold water available for her to dunk her nose into in addition to their fresh drinking water.
To keep their drinking water fresh, we fill a large plastic garbage bin with water and the pigs access the water from a drinking nipple near the base of the bin. The bin is raised on concrete blocks and secured to a tree so it can't be overturned.
It seems ironic that the ring was inserted in the pig's nose to discourage it from digging the earth yet I almost didn't take the pig because I like mine to dig freely.
Peppa's friendly character and her quiet disposition were enough to win me over.
Just Like Real Pigs—Phew!
It is our peak growing season so every morning and every evening we go and toss the pigs some food. They love the greens from the garden, and the occasional loaf of bread. :)
When the hens are laying more eggs than we can eat, they score a few eggs as an extra treat.
At the end of our harvest time, they'll again have the job of digging up the gardens and eating whatever they find. Meanwhile, there's lots of time to rest.
These two pigs are not the cute little 'teacup' type you see sold on the internet. They look far more feral than fancy. lol. Truth be told, they may well be descendants of wild pigs that someone caught and tamed ... but wild pigs originated from domestic pigs let free, so perhaps it is just the completion of a circle.
Despite my initial reservations, I am happy to have them. They will weed and fertilize our gardens in the winter and because they are small, they don't take much effort to feed in the summer.
Win-win Farm Management
Miniature Pigs as Pets
I have had plenty of time to think about people buying miniature pigs to keep as pets. They would want to be a lot smaller than my two if you were to consider keeping them in the house ... but mine actually fit the definition of 'miniature'. Yikes. You could be in trouble if you didn't own a farm.
The thought of pigs living indoors unsettles me. It seems unnatural.
Yes, pigs are actually very clean animals if you provide them with enough space to keep their toilet separate from their living area. Ours always use a far corner of their large pen as the toilet and even when they are working our gardens, they choose one small area to use.
Yes, they learn their names and come when they are called. They can be trained to follow you (useful for us when we want them to weed vegetable gardens on the other side of our property) and they seem happy to follow basic instructions.
But they also love to run and play. On a hot day, they like nothing more than making a mud bath from a running hose. They make themselves muddy then shake themselves clean. They dig and snuffle and do what pigs do.
I'm not sure all that can be achieved within a house. Somehow, watching tv on a comfortable couch just doesn't seem the same.
Have You Heard of Miniature Pigs?
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2013 LongTimeMother
Madeleine on June 22, 2020:
Thanks for this article. It's so hard finding people with experience keeping pigs on their farm but not for meat purposes. I want to have pigs on my land as well but the internet seems to only present two options, a pet pig in the house, or a meat pig you slaughter after 6 months. Glad to see there's this alternative of keeping miniature pigs outside like true farm animals that can serve a purpose other than being eaten (not that I have a thing against pork, I just get too attached to my animals ha ha)
LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on December 23, 2014:
I look forward to reading your future hubs as your family gets settled in your new home and starts becoming more self-sufficient, peeples.
It has been raining at my house today as well. It is nearly evening time on Christmas Eve (Australian time) and we have a thick fog rolling in. Kind of odd for summer weather, but my daughter was laughing at the idea of a 'white Christmas'. (Not sure that fog counts ... but it is certainly more white than strong sunshine!)
Maybe your kids can start with some chickens and a vegetable garden in preparation for pigs one day. The chicken poo will help strengthen the vegetable garden that will one day produce enough food to feed your entire family - with enough left over to feed some pigs as well. lol.
And if the kids are eager enough to collect eggs every day, maybe they'd be willing to help milk a cow every day when they're a little older. Gee, the possibilities are endless!!
Merry Christmas to your family. I hope 2015 is brilliant for you all!
Peeples from South Carolina on December 23, 2014:
I would so love to live as you do. I have been trying to talk my husband into getting a mini pig for years, while he has been trying to talk me into getting a hog, which is simply too big for where we live. I think one day me and my oldest will manage to talk him into it. I had never heard of mini cows, but I think the idea sounds great. Now I need to find out if the milk they produce is the same. Great articles, I have been reading many of them this morning, and sharing the pics with my children. Now I have to go put some boots on and go put out a bucket to collect some of today's rain in. You've inspired me to get outside today even in the rain!
LongTimeMother (author) from Australia on December 29, 2013:
Thanks for the comments. :) The pigs are more pig-shaped now that they've settled in and been receiving regular meals. I will have to take some photos so you can see Mr Pig's 'before' and 'after' photos. He is proudly porky. lol.
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on December 26, 2013:
Glad to hear that this is working out so well for you. I never realized that there were three sizes of mini pigs. I had only known about the pot bellies.
Jaye Denman from Deep South, USA on December 22, 2013:
This is a very enjoyable hub. I've been intrigued by pigs since I read the results of scientific research that proved their intelligence may be greater than that of primates. In that study, pigs routinely bested primates at playing video games. If they had fingers and toes instead of hooves, they could probably learn American Sign Language like gorillas!
The famous teacup pigs of Pennywell Farm in South Devon, England, are both adorable and photogenic. The farm's website is enjoyable to view, and I find these little porcine characters so darling that my 2014 kitchen calendar is titled, "Pocket Pigs" and features the Pennywell teacup pigs in delightful staged photos. They photograph the very young ones when they're still quite tiny (though slightly chubby) and babyish looking, much in the way puppies are photographed at their most precious stage of development. Fully grown, these little pigs obviously don't fit into a teacup, but are still fascinating creatures.
C E Clark from North Texas on December 22, 2013:
Interesting. I've not read much about miniature pigs (didn't know they came in that size actually), and haven't read much about keeping them as pets either. In fact, I'm surprised to learn how many different kinds of animals come in miniature. (Found your hub in the Hub Hopper, FYI.)
I grew up on a farm and never thought of Holsteins as intimidating. I used to pet them and hug them and feed them by hand when I was just 4-5 years old.
Yes, as FlourishAnyway says, pigs are very smart. As stated in this article, some people don't want their pigs burrowing or rooting in the ground and put a ring in their nose to discourage it.
Interesting and informative article. Voted up!
FlourishAnyway from USA on December 22, 2013:
I love your little piggy hub. They are beautiful animals and smarter than we give them credit for. I wonder how in the devil (and why) the prior owners put that ring in the sow's nose? People sometimes just aren't very nice. It's good you have given them a quality home where you can mutually benefit one another. Voted up +++ and sharing.
Beth Eaglescliffe on December 21, 2013:
I love the idea of a pig weeding the garden. Fascinating hub. Voted up.