Piggin’ out

I always imagined what it would be like to have a pet pig after first seeing pictures of pigs in teacups online. Even though I later found out that these so-called “micro” or “pocket pigs” grow up to be an average of 50-150 pounds, I still had this idea I could litter train my future pig, and it would grow up thinking it was just one of the dogs.

I somewhat blame memes for perpetuating this fantasy of what it would be like to live with a pig:

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When we drove a few hours away to pick up Dobby (our boy Corgi), the pigs were the first stop on the trip.

Before we hit the road, we had already done a little research to find the best tasting pork and came across a breed called Gloucestershire Old Spot (GOS). These pigs originally come from England and are known for their long floppy ears and as the name implies, for their black spots. They seemed like a good fit with the Highland cows and Welsh Corgis we already had. When we spoke with the breeder, he praised GOS pigs as friendly and said they do very well in pastures. He claimed we would never want to go back after trying their lean, delicious meat.

At the last minute we asked the pig farmer to throw in a meat pig in addition to the two breeder pigs, male and female, that we were planning to pick up. This way we could have a pig to eat for the holidays this year. The breeder told us to bring some dog kennels in the truck to transport them back to the farm.

I had high hopes for this moment–meeting my pet pigs for the first time–but it was nothing like what I had pictured in my head. When the farmer forklifted a crate of pigs over to our truck, the noise coming from the box was drowning out our conversation in what could easily be mistaken for prehistoric dinosaur, raptor-like, shrieking. It was terrifying.

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The breeder pigs fit inside the large kennel in the bed of the truck, which we covered in blankets and a tarp to keep out the cool weather.

The breeder casually mentioned we should stuff the dog kennels with lots of hay, you know, in case the pigs get scared and go diarrhea all over themselves. The way he said it made it seem like it was pretty likely. The meat pig went inside a smaller kennel in the back seat of the truck, occasionally rattling around and making her presence known.

As we pulled away from the pig farm, I turned to my husband and asked incredulously, “What have we done?!”

All we could do was laugh. He responded genuinely, “I love our life!”

It was turning dark when we picked up the pigs, and it was really late when we got back to the farm. There was a temporary pen already set up in the big barn, so we decided to release these squealing, stressed piggies into this area and wait to move them to the smaller barn the following day when there was more light.

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We had to call the breeder the next day and ask the important question, how exactly do you move pigs around? He recommended leading them with some food as a bribe, but we ended up chasing them back into the dog kennels and moving them inside the crates.

After polling our family and friends for creative suggestions, we settled on the following names:

  1. Female breeder – Hogsmeade or Hamela Anderson (depending on the day)
  2. Male breeder – LiHam Neeson
  3. Meat pig – Barbie-Q
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We threw in this rubber ball from Dave & Buster’s, once we learned pigs like to play with toys like old tires and water hoses.

Feeding the pigs is equal parts fascinating and horrifying. These guys will eat anything, including bones, which they chomp through like potato chips. It makes you cautious to put your shoes or fingers too close, especially when they get worked up and are making a squealing symphony.

We’ve been supplementing their bags of hog feed with table scraps from our home and whatever our family members want to contribute. For awhile we even had a partnership with a local restaurant to pick up their food scraps weekly, until the owner recently decided to close the diner. We’re looking for another partner, perhaps a bakery.

Not wasting any food is my favorite part of owning pigs so far. Watching their ears flop as they run is a close second. I like to buy in bulk at Costco, but I hate throwing away any produce we don’t get to before it’s overripe. Now, we just keep a scrap bin by our back door to take out to the pigs. Coffee grounds are about the only thing they can’t eat, but they really like fruit, vegetable peels and old bread, for example.

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One lucky pig gets first dibs on table scraps. Their hog feeder is on the right side of the pig pen.

The pigs have escaped a couple times since we brought them home. Our neighbors once directed them to go back home by pointing, and they smartly obeyed. The other time I was busy with a very poopy diaper, so my mother-in-law used bagels to lure them back into the pen (like a pro).

The pigs have grown considerably since we brought them home, but they haven’t reached the 500-600 pound average weight yet. Still, I wouldn’t want one of them to accidentally step on my toes.

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For size perspective, here are the pigs temporarily sharing a pasture with the cows. Barbie-Q is looking particularly sassy.

My husband likes to tell our guests, “We’re turning leftovers into BACON!”

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