Applicants to Pig Placement Network are often interested in adopting a young piglet so that their
new family member will grow up in their household, with the idea that this will make him better
adjusted and will help with bonding. This approach can work well, but raising a piglet to be a
happy, healthy, and well-behaved pig citizen is a significant responsibility. While a baby is a
“blank slate” to a degree, some personality traits, such as dominance, stubbornness, cleverness,
and timidity, can be intrinsic from birth. You may not know what you’re getting until you get to
know the pig in your home (if you decide you’d rather start with a pig who is more of a known
entity and past his adolescence, consider adopting an adult instead). But it is deeply rewarding
for many pig parents to watch their little one grow into adulthood and bond with him throughout
the stages of his life.
This article is a general overview of a piglet’s needs and behaviors at different developmental
stages as they grow. Be sure to discuss the specifics of piglet care, particularly regarding health
and diet, with your experienced pig vet. Susan Magidson, President of Pig Placement Network,
also has decades of experience with piglets and is available as a resource.
Don’t forget that a pig grows until he is about five years old, so a young piglet’s size is not
representative of how big he will get as an adult. As a rough figure, a potbellied piglet should
gain about a pound a week for the first year of life. His weight at a year of age will generally
about double when he reaches full size, depending on when he has growth spurts. There can be a
significant range of adult sizes in mini pigs, though, so if your zoning has weight limits or size is
otherwise important to you, it may be wise to adopt an adult pig to avoid surprises as a piglet
Make sure you are feeding your piglet an appropriate diet and quantity of food. It is not
uncommon for irresponsible breeders advertising “teacup” pigs to recommend underfeeding
piglets in order to stunt their growth. While this will result in a smaller pig, it can cause major
long term health problems and a shortened lifespan due to developmental problems. It is also
important not to overfeed, as a pig who becomes overweight at a young age is set up for
difficulties from obesity-related health problems.
Discuss your little one’s diet with your pig-knowledgeable vet, and weigh the piglet periodically to make sure he is on the right track.
First Six Weeks of Life:
For information on raising orphaned piglets, see these resources at Open Sanctuary and
Shepherd’s Green Sanctuary, or contact Pig Placement Network to set up a consultation.
For his first two months, a piglet’s focus is on eating and surviving, but he is also learning
essentials from his mom and littermates, including manners, respect, and generally how to be a
pig. Mom will discipline her piglets, and they will learn social skills from their siblings (even
newborns bicker and jostle for position in the hierarchy!). The piglets should stay with their
mother until they are six weeks old and fully weaned. At that point, move the mother to another
location, leaving the litter together in a familiar space. For behavioral reasons, it is best to keep
the siblings together for at least eight to twelve weeks (preferably twelve weeks) so they can
continue to learn important piggy lessons from each other. Piglets who are placed in homes too
young—and especially those placed as single piglets—can be prone to separation anxiety,
aggression, and other behavior issues.
When placed in pairs, these problem behaviors tend to be greatly reduced. If a piglet is placed in
a home with an older pig, he will generally look to the adult for guidance. Remember that pigs
are prey animals, and young piglets are helpless without a herd’s protection. In nature, a pig
would never be left alone until maturity, so a single piglet will likely feel isolated and vulnerable.
Unbelievably, male piglets become sexually active by eight weeks old, so it is important to get
them neutered by six weeks of age. Otherwise, it is possible for them to impregnate other pigs
they are around, including potentially their mom or sisters. Females can get pregnant as early as
three months old and should be spayed as young as your vet is comfortable performing the
surgery, usually between six weeks and three months of age. Spaying or neutering early will also
curb hormonal behavior issues as a piglet grows, as well as preventing reproductive health
problems later in life.
Six Weeks to Three Months of age:
When you bring home a new young piglet who is away from his family for the first time,
remember that this is a scary new experience for him, and focus on helping him feel secure. If
possible, adopting a pair or group of siblings will really help them feel comforted as they
transition into their new home. It also saves you the challenge of having to introduce an
unrelated piglet for companionship; piglet introductions can be a challenge, depending on the
Set your new little one up in a controlled space, such as a pen inside a laundry room or large
bathroom, where he can have his own home, but you can still see each other and interact. Young
piglets should be confined to a small (about 4’x8’) area inside the house, such as a crate or pen,
when you’re not there to supervise. This will keep them from getting into mischief or developing
bad bathroom habits. The enclosure should contain a bed, a shallow but heavy non-tip water
dish, and an appropriate litterbox. If you keep your piglet in an exercise pen, make sure it is
secured to the wall or floor so he can’t move it or knock it over.
To start bonding with your piglet and help him get comfortable in his new home, sit quietly on
the floor and let him come up and investigate you. Reading to your piglet can be a great way to
strengthen your bond, and calm music is also great enrichment. Move slowly and calmly, and
allow him to take the time he needs to gain confidence. A little food in your hand can go a long
way in encouraging him to approach you; gradually move the food closer and closer until he is
comfortable taking it from your lap. As you get to know each other, pet your piglet on his side,
slowly working up towards his head, as reaching down to pet his head from above can feel
Also avoid picking up your piglet, as this is generally very scary for them and can erode trust. A
mother pig does not carry her babies the way a dog or cat might, so in the wild, the only reason a
pig would leave the ground is if a predator is carrying him off. His only defense is to scream,
hoping it will startle the predator into dropping him. If the piglet enjoys climbing into your arms,
you can enjoy that interaction as long as he is comfortable and feels secure. But if you need to
lift or move your piglet, put him in a carrier and then pick up the carrier.
Once your piglet has settled into your home and you have developed trust, begin acclimating him
to being handled and touched all over his body, including his face and his hooves. This will be
helpful throughout his life, making grooming, hoof trims, and vet care much easier if he is
desensitized from a young age.
Be diligent in housetraining your piglet, and understand that he can’t hold it for long. You will
need to take him out very frequently, and provide an appropriate litterbox when he is unattended.
Young piglets need to go to the bathroom every two hours or so. At seven to eight months old,
they can start to hold it for longer periods of time.
It is a good idea to have a small pen set up for the piglet’s outside time, as catching a piglet
running around a large yard can be a challenge! As you get to know each other and develop a
routine, you may be able to increase this space. As with a pen in the house, make sure the pen is
secured to the ground so the piglet can’t lift it to crawl under it or knock it over. If he does get
loose, either in the yard or outside of his enclosure in the house, calmly lead him back inside. Do
not chase him! Pigs respond as prey animals, so chasing him will only cause him to panic and
run, making your job much more difficult. Calling more people for backup can cause him stress
and likewise make things worse. Instead, keep things calm. Piglets will naturally follow their
mother, leader, or food source, so you can lure him with food if needed. Stay low to the ground
and move slowly. Make sure to give your piglet time to acclimate to you and his inside space
before letting outside the first time.
Socialization is so important at this age. Even piglets who will ultimately live outdoors should
ideally be in the home for their first year or two of life to socialize. A young piglet will
especially benefit from companionship of another pig, as previously discussed. This buddy can
help him learn how to be a pig, work out excess energy, and speak to him in a language he
Introducing a piglet to an adult pig can sometimes go smoothly, as the piglet readily accepts the
adult as the boss and just wants to tag along and cuddle. But this isn’t always the case; some
piglets with dominant personalities stubbornly insist on fighting with other piglets or even adults
many times their size! Take introductions slowly, introducing them through a fence at first, and
be patient with the process.
3 Months to 1 Year:
Once piglets reach about six to eight months old, they begin to enter their teenage phase, where
they test boundaries and the established hierarchy to see what they can get away with. Whereas
they were eager to please as young piglets, at this age, they often become demanding, self-focused, and stop listening to you. If your pig is still intact at this point, hormones are going to make trouble behavior significantly worse (so spay or neuter right away!). The normal shift in
behavior can lead to frustrated pig parents rehoming their pigs or relegating them to an outside
space without much attention. Others let their rebellious teens get away with inappropriate
behaviors, leading to “spoiled pig syndrome” lasting into adulthood. It’s important to be patient
but firm during this phase, and to remember that your pig will grow out of it with time.
As he develops, make sure that your pig has plenty of stimulation, exercise, and time outside. A
bored pig is a naughty pig, so explore different types of enrichment to keep him occupied,
especially when you’re not home. Teaching your pig tricks will provide mental stimulation and
also help reinforce both your relationship and his manners. Harness training, crate training, and
acclimating him to travel can give him skills that will help him to be a well-adjusted adult. If you
have an outgoing pig who enjoys outings and meeting strangers (not all pigs do), you may want
to consider activities such as walks around the neighborhood or trips to the park to further
socialize him while stimulating his natural curiosity.
Since a pig tests boundaries at this age, he may challenge other members of his herd for position
in the hierarchy, including the humans in his family and guests to the home. It is vital that he
respect humans as leaders in the herd in order to avoid him becoming spoiled, rude, or even
aggressive. This should happen through positive reinforcement, consistency, and patience, rather
than punishing normal behavior and curiosity. The humans are the ones to control his food and
environment, and training is key. Teach your pig tricks to earn the things he wants, rather than
letting him run the show. Make sure that everyone in the household is in agreement on expected
behaviors, rewards, rules, and discipline, and treats him consistently to avoid confusion.
For your sake and his, keep your patience and perspective. Set your pig up for success rather
than failure, reinforcing good behavior—with praise, not treats!—and correcting him firmly but
kindly when needed. Remember that adolescence doesn’t last forever, and that the hard work you
do with your pig now will pay off throughout your life together.
The Open Sanctuary Project has a great article on piglet care recommendations. While it is
geared towards a sanctuary audience, much of the information is applicable to young piglets in a
home as well.