Monday, May 23, 2011

Territorial Pigs and Children

I have had a couple of people ask me about biting pigs and children so thought I would post some info I have saved on this subject over the years. There are as many methods as people you might ask. So you have to see which method might work best for you.

I am a firm believer that our pigs need an area to call their own in the house where we do not bother them. It is their safe place. When Z&F were alive it was their sleeping area. For Oshay it is his crate. Crate training him was the best thing that we ever did.

I do not have children in the house so can't give my personal experiences, but will tell you what others have used and what works for them.

Phyllis wrote: We have all said it more than once...pigs don't like company very much. They don't like strangers as a rule and it gets worse as they grow. They are territorial by nature and this is part of them being a pig. My house pigs are the same way and once in a while they even challenge me.

There are two schools of thought on this. One is ....the more company you have, the more different people she meets the better and try to teach her that it is OK.. My school of thought on this is to give her a space of her own, her own private place that no one is allowed to go except you and her.

I would give her her own place before company comes and tell the company that this is her space and don't cross the line into it. I well remember when my grandkids were little and because of my pig they had to learn to walk on top of the furniture to get from one room to the next!  It was almost like he knew that these were little people and if he charged them they would run...which is exactly what he did! We found a safe place for him and it worked great even though he was away from everything until they were grown up enough for him to consider
them big people.

Before my husband had his stroke Arnies biggest thrill in life was chasing my husband around the kitchen table!! (Hubby would throw Arnie a treat not to chase him. Ha! What he ended up doing was rewarding Arnie for his bad behavior.) Even if hubby was outside Arnie would look him up and make him run. It does no good for you to correct him unless its you the pig does it to. Those being chased have to stand their ground  and deal with it themselves and that's hard for kids to do so just put the pig where she doesn't have to defend her territory from the start.

Sandy wrote: Now that my P&B are four, they are actually better with people.  But that's because I read on the lists that it would be good to have people come in frequently when they are young to try and get them used to it.  So we did. We practically pulled people in off the streets for a long time. Bessie didn't like it when she was young.  We had Thanksgiving dinner here one year, I think the pigs were 1-1/2 or so.  Bessie stood in one doorway and yelled at everyone the entire time. My MIL came over from England when the pigs were around 1-1/2 or 2. Bessie gave her a hard time, never hurt her - we didn't allow it to get that far, but made her opinions known.

Fast forward to the piggies being almost three years old and we bring Lydia into the picture, she was 10 months old. Lydia had no fear, she laughed at them. Bessie used to nip at Lydia's toes when she'd be in her highchair, to scare her. She never hurt her, it was winter and Lydia had the pj's with feet on them. I would reprimand Bessie every time. She finally accepted Lydia. By accepted I mean she wouldn't nip her toes any more.

Now, however, Bessie and Lydia are great friends. Bessie used to be very nervous, very jumpy.  I worried about her with a loud toddler.  Our house is small, the pigs sleep next to my bed and they go to bed by 5 p.m. every day. Lydia can run through their screaming and playing all she wants. Of course at first the pigs went through the ceiling.  I spent a LOT of time with the pigs (still do) making sure they knew they were loved and not being pushed aside.  Lydia can even sit on them when they are laying down.

Porgy was Lydia's buddy almost from the start. He went through a period of challenging her because he's not the alpha pig. He would snurdle the front of her shirt, pushing her a little (very little, not even hard enough to knock her down and she's only 25 pounds).  I knew what he was doing.  He finally realized he wasn't getting anywhere.  I taught Lydia to say NO to him.  Now I have to un-teach her, she orders them around!

My point is, it can work with kids and other people, but maybe not with every pig, I'm not sure. We worked very hard at it.  P&B don't mind anyone coming into the house anymore. Sometimes they come out to say hi, sometimes not.

It can and does work. You just have to find what is going to work for you and your family.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pigs and Kids!

If you find yourself contemplating coexisting with pigs and children, take heart. . . pigs and children can live together in harmony, if you do your homework and follow some simple suggestions. Much like with our two legged children, consistency is mandatory when training a pig to be a house pet. Don’t forget, these precious porkers are not nearly as domesticated as dogs or cats, in fact the similarity to a dog ends with the fact that both walk on all fours.

Now before Porgy and Bess arrived, I joined a potbellied pig e-mail list. This was the single best thing I could have done. All I knew about pots was they were cute, I had NO first hand experience with pigs of any kind. I have just always loved them! I haven’t a clue what I would have done without these folks, some like to say they raised my pigs with me and I tend to agree! I was warned plenty to make sure a pig knows who’s boss and I really took that to heart. I tend to be a very strict disciplinarian, with my human child as well as with my pigs. Having said that I never laid a finger on either Porgy or Bess. These are very smart animals, they will catch on quickly. Use brains, not brawn. Pigs are herd animals, and will take top pig position if you let them. I taught my pigs that I was the boss with a combination of persistence (some call it stubbornness!) and a lot of love.

These two came to know me as their mom pretty quickly. I helped Bess especially overcome a lot of her fears by spending a LOT of time showing her things like the big bad gate to her pen was not a scary monster, the vacuum is our friend, stuff like that. We also spent a lot of time socializing them. When anyone expressed even the tiniest bit of interest in seeing the pigs, we scheduled a visit on the spot. We practically pulled people in off the street to visit the pigs. All the exposure to a lot of different people has paid off big time. We have had a yard full of little ones playing, petting the pigs, giving bellyrubs, the whole bit. Bessie was a very timid, frightened little pig . . . today she’s quite a brave little girl in comparison.

When P&B (as the list people nicknamed them) were around 2-1/2 years old, Jon and I went to China to bring home our ten month old baby girl, Lydia. Let me tell you it was very, very difficult leaving P&B for those two weeks! We arrived home at around 2:00 a.m. with Lydia. Her first reaction when Jon carried her into the house and she saw P&B - she laughed! This set the tone of her relationship with these two porkers. They of course were very wary, all these new smells and sounds to get used to.

Our plan of action was attention, attention, and more attention. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want a 200 lb. animal feeling jealous of anything! I recall people at my workplace making comments like “boy are those pigs in for a rude awakening when the baby comes home, they’ll be going way down in the ranks in that house for sure” usually followed by laughter, imagining the pigs losing their happy home. I knew in my heart of hearts we’d make it work. For one thing, we don’t believe animals are disposable. For another thing, there’s no way we could part with these two piggers, they were firmly implanted in our hearts and souls. Absolute worst case scenario, we’d build a small heated building for them on our property if they proved to be a danger to Lydia. But I was out to prove the world wrong. (They don’t call me Nazi Mom for nothing!)

So we figured in our favor was the fact that I would be home with P&B all day now, as opposed to them being home alone during the work week. This had to be seen as a bonus in their eyes. It was winter, so we were all in the house all day. Did I mention our house is small? All they had to do was come lumbering out of their blankie pile and they could get at the least a belly rub or back scratch with my foot. Lydia was at a great age to introduce her to animals - she wasn’t afraid. She loved touching them and after a short while she would climb on them when they were laying down. Mind you she was very small, I wouldn’t suggest a heavier child do this.

VERY IMPORTANT POINT HERE: We never left her alone with the pigs. Ever. Pigs and kids is still a big unknown. To this day we are cautious, although not nearly as much as in the beginning. When she would be on the floor petting them and start to climb on them, if they moved at all we’d grab her. She never did anything that they minded, and that was key. We always kept their best interests at heart as well as hers. Another key thing - respect your piggy, allow her to have her space to herself. Pigs need to have a place to go to where they won’t be bothered, such as their blankie pile or in some cases their own room. Follow their lead when it comes to their space, they deserve it.

Each pig challenged Lydia in their own way. I discovered that Bessie was sneaking up on Lydia in her high chair and nipping at those little tootsies. Luckily it was winter and Lydia had sleepers on with feet in them, so she never was hurt, but she was startled when it happened and scared. I started making sure the high chair was in my vision if Lydia was in it. When Bess would start sauntering over to Lydia I would sit next to Lydia and pet Bessie on the head telling her what a good girl she was. She would whine, she really wanted to chomp, but she wouldn’t do it with me there. Eventually she gave up and hasn’t challenged Lydia since. A while after we jumped that hurdle, Porgy took his turn. He would charge at her, not full force mind you, I don’t think he really wanted to hurt her, he just wanted to take the spot of authority over her. Again I made sure I was right there when he was close so I could stop him and tell him NO, while pushing him back. The way to give a pig a meaningful shove is with your knee or shin, to their shoulder. This seems to get the point across to them. Porgy eventually got the point too, and hasn’t tried anything since. It’s pretty much mandatory that you teach your pigs that all humans are above them in the household pecking order, in order to maintain a relatively peaceful household.

Having pigs in the house with children can be a great learning experience. I feel we are raising one more pig lover to send out into the world as an advocate for these wonderful creatures. Children’s minds are blank slates when their born, and for some reason they will mistreat animals to one degree or another unless they are taught otherwise. We have taught Lydia from day one the proper treatment of all animals, especially our pigs. It is coming up on four years since Lydia joined our herd. She loves posing for pictures with the pigs in their Easter hats, birthday hats, and Christmas hats. The pigs of course know if they put up with mom’s silly hat business they get extra treats!

If you already have pigs when you decide to add a child to the mix, realize you will need to already have things under control with the pigs, and plan to devote enough time to them after the child arrives so they don’t feel put out. If you already have one or more children when you decide to get a pig, think long and hard about it. Do you have the time and energy to devote to a pet who’s temperament will be like a toddler, for upwards of 15 years? Pigs are a very big commitment. If you’re up to the task you’re in for one of life’s most rewarding experiences. Pigs are not for everyone; if you’re one of the lucky ones I’d say you are truly blessed. Sandy

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Yes, you should check with your local zoning board to see if potbellied pigs, or any other exotic pet, are allowed in your community/neighborhood.

There is NOT a listing of which cities/towns are or are not zoned. You will have to go to your local zoning department and check with them. Sometimes this can be done on-line, other times you will have to go in person to check.

If you live where there is a homeowners association you will also need to check with them. Unfortunately many places still do not consider potbellied pigs pets. In many areas they are pigs period (livestock) and are subject to the rules and regulations that cover farm hogs.

Do you rent? If zoned you will still need to check with the owner of the building to see if they will allow potbellied pigs as pets.

We have lived way out in the mountains and away from any population centers, we had no problems with zoning. But, there have been many heartbreaking stories of people getting a pet pig, becoming very attached to their pet, and then were forced to give it up because of zoning. The breeder, pet store, etc.. should make sure that you are zoned first BEFORE selling you a potbelly pig as a pet.

Contact City Hall and ask for the zoning regulations showing which animals are allowed as pets within city limits. Usually for a couple of dollars, they will be happy to send you a copy. Better yet, you should go down to them and see the ordinance for yourself and get a copy then. It's best to get it in writing so that you will have written back up in the future should you have any problems. Don't just take someone's word for it for the sake of the animal.

If you are not zoned, you have three choices:
  1. Do not get the pig. Some of the saddest stories we here are of people that had a pig, were not zoned properly, and someone (usually a neighbor) complained and the pig was taken away. Not only is this hard on the human, it is extremely hard on a potbelly. They become very attached and being ripped away from their home can be devastating. Please, do not take this chance!!

  2. You can move. Yep, this has happened.

  3. You can try to get your zoning changed. There have been successes around the country, and failures. But, more and more cities and towns are changing their zoning to allow pet pigs. Plus, the licensing fees are another income stream for the local government.
You must do all you can do to try and prove that your pet pig(s) are indeed commonly accepted household pets. Have your pet spayed or neutered. Establish a relationship with a veterinarian. Maintain your pet as a house pet, if at all possible. Most importantly be in compliance with your town's zoning. It is almost impossible to sway towns that want to not recognize potbellied pigs as pets.

Here is my friend Ann's story about what she and her family did to keep their 3 pet pigs.

My name is Ann, I live in Gerber, CA, located in Tehama County in Northern California. My Parents & I have lived in the area for over 5 years, 3 years ago they were given two wonderful potbelly pigs {Myrtle & Sweet Pea} and in May 2004 we adopted a third {Jasmine} from a sanctuary.

On July 20, 2004 we were informed that this area does not acknowledge potbelly pigs as pets {valued members of the family} they are considered just another swine and fall under the livestock regulations which require an acre of land per pig. We have about ¾ of an acre. We were informed that we had 10 days from the date the letter was sent to remove the girls from the property. The letter was dated and post marked for July 13th which gave us just 3 days. We were frantic!!

On Monday, my father made an appointment with the Tehama County Planning Director, we have been granted a stay till the issue could be brought in front of the Planning Commission for a vote in late September. The Director suggested that we check the zoning polices pertaining to Potbelly Pigs for other cities in California; however he did not pass on to my father how to do this. My father set about calling some of the cities around us and I sent an e-mail message out to several addresses that I found.

One of the responses that I received suggested the LexisNexis Municipal Codes Web Library - This is a wonderful zoning web site. My Father and I sat down and went through the cities one by one printing off every thing that pertained to potbelly pigs. We were surprised at all of the different ways that potbelly pigs were listed. Looking at all of the information that we had gathered we knew that the Planning Commission would not want to go thought the information page by page so I sat down and did what I do best, I placed all of the information on a spread sheet.

The first of September we presented the Planning Director with a huge binder. A cute picture of a stack of pigs graced the cover, then information that were provided by Phyllis with UPPR, letters from veterinarians, a definition of a pet and all of the information that we gathered from the internet. The Planning Director was surprised at the amount of information that we were able to provide him with and assured us that he would share it with the Planning Commission.

Our first meeting was on September 16, 04 after which Jasmine and I were featured on the front page of the local newspaper. That was not quite the end, we went back to iron out little details three more time before a final draft of what will become the Tehama County Zoning Code for Pot-Bellied Pigs could be sent before the Board of Supervisors.

On January 25, 05 the Tehama County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the following Ordinance:


NOTICE IS HEARYBY GIVEN that the Tehama County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on Tuesday, January 25, 2005 at 10:45 a.m., or as soon thereafter as may be heard in Board Chambers, 633 Washington Street, Red Bluff, California, on the following matters:

REZONE #04-10. (PLANNING COMMISSION RESOLUTION #04-2) – To consider amending Chapter 17.08, General Provision and Exceptions, Section 17.08.010. Additional Uses Permitted of the Tehama County Zoning Code; adding Subsection (1), Pot-Bellied Pigs as follows: 

1.    Pot-Bellied Pigs. As an accessory use to a detached single-family dwelling in a RE; Residential Estates Zoning District and an R-1; One-Family Residential Zoning District, no more than five Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs (sus scrofa) may by kept or harbored as a pet. In combination with dogs, no more than five animals may be kept, provided:

a.    The animals are regularly housed indoors, and when outdoors, are restrained by leash or within a durable fenced enclosure area, and
b.    Pot-bellied pigs over the age of four (4) months shall be neutered or spayed. Exemption for neutering or spaying will be considered by the County of Tehama Animal Control Department when presented with evidence authored by a veterinarian stating procedure would be detrimental to the health of the animal; and
c.    The owner has obtained a license issued by the County of Tehama Animal Control Department for the pot-bellied pig, which shall be issued only after proof of neutering or spaying had been provided. The licensure fee shall be equivalent to the dog licensure fee; and
d.    Tusks shall be regularly trimmed so as not to exceed one inch in length outside the outer lip.

According to the Planning Director the above goes into law after 30 days providing the are no law suites – but he was very reassuring that there were no further hurdles to get over! He then congratulated us on the good job.

I would like to thank every one that weathered the storm before us without their efforts we could not have accomplished what we did. THANK YOU

Please check your zoning before getting a pig for a pet.