Introducing A Second Pig...
Although my experience in introducing indoor pet pigs is limited, I do have a lot of experience doing this with outdoor pigs; I even have experience doing this with some larger commercial hogs. With that said I want to offer up the best ways to properly introduce a new family member to your existing pig(s).
Drawing from our first behavior article that discussed a fighting or poorly behaved pig in the home, we must remember that pigs naturally adhere to a very ridged hierarchical system with each other, which is why they also tend to challenge their humans for rank and status. Again, this is natural behavior. So the same thing goes for a new pig being introduced to an existing pig. They are going to fight, there will be a scuffle and possibly blood; you must expect at least a little of this. You may end up with slightly worse or you may be pleasantly surprised and they take to each other really well. It totally depends on each pigs unique personality, no two introductions will be exactly alike!
At Pet Pig Education we always recommend getting two pigs of the same sex from the same litter; especially if they are to be outdoor pigs. As they grow, litter mates will play hard but they have already established who is in charge long ago as piglets and tend to get along really well. I have never seen two litter mates fight with each other or draw blood, as they age, for dominance or status. However, not every one can have or get two pigs at the same time and we run in to those that are strictly looking for a pig as a house pet but decide on another at a later date, or even want the opportunity to bring in a rescue. These situations can and will be a bit tricky to navigate, you just need patience and time.
Here are a few things to always be aware of regardless of whether the pig(s) are indoors or outdoors:
1) You always want the pigs to be relatively close in size before ever attempting an introduction. You do not want a 150 pound pig being introduced to a 35 pound piglet, the piglet is destined for destruction or failure! Especially if the larger pig is violently dominant or protective of it’s surroundings.
2) Make sure to have a sorting board handy in case you feel things are getting out of hand or over the top violent. Never throw your body or hands in the mix of fighting pigs, they will not stop for you, you will get injured. Always have a sorting board or something similar like a trash can lid or a piece of plywood board handy.
3) Always have separate enclosures/rooms picked out, prepared and already set aside, away from each other after brief periods of introduction. Never expect that after the fence introduction, your pigs can just be tossed in together. Have a separate area available for them to destress and recharge their batteries for the next meeting.
4) Always watch the interaction even between fences, closely. Never just leave the pigs there assuming there is a barrier between them, then hope for the best. Stay and watch! Always use your best judgement!
5) They will foam up at the mouth, smack their jaws, take the “fighting stance” and you will see the mohawk in full force but this is all normal behavior. Let this happen freely.
6) Never hit your pig(s)! Don’t yell and scream at them because the fighting starts and you feel worried that one of them is acting inappropriately. The pigs have to fight even if a little, to establish hierarchy, you punishing one or the other will not stop that behavior.
7) Always have your pigs spayed or neutered. the chances of altered pigs getting along better from the start is better than unaltered pets, this starts with having both parties fixed! An unaltered pig is always more aggressive! An altered male and female will always get along better and tend to bond more readily. Even if only one is altered, the male/female combination usually results in less fighting and dominance issues. Never put two boars, unaltered males, in together unless they are small piglets, came from the same litter and you are preparing to neuter them. Unaltered females will fight with each other. Some of the most violent fights are between the same sex (female/female and male/male), even if they are altered. In both sexes, the raging hormones to fight will slightly subside if altered, the odds are still better in this scenario. .
Indoor pigs will most likely pose the bigger risk of not getting along and fighting more violently. This is because they have only known their home, their humans and their smaller spaces to be THEIRS. Even if you don’t have a poorly behaved pig and have a clearly defined leadership role with them, that has no bearing at all when a new pig is thrown in to the mix. All hell is destined to break loose. With indoor pets we recommend having a very sturdy baby gate installed. Install it by screwing it in to a door jam, do not rely just on the tension of the gate alone; a pig can and will, easily jump at the gate and knock it down. Introduce the pigs slowly between the gate. Once in front of each other, the fighting behavior for dominance will start. Some may be more intrigued/curious, some will become instantly agitated. We recommend brief sessions of introduction through the gate a few times a day, especially if the initial confrontation through the gate was pure agitation in nature. Even if things went smoother than expected, we still recommend short introduction session to start with. Unless extremely violent, we recommend doing the short sessions between the gate for at least a week minimum time frame, if extremely violent, longer. Once the confrontations through the gate seem to calm down and a week has elapsed, you can try and put them in together. Have your piece of board ready in case the fight gets way too aggressive but remember, they WILL fight, they have to, this establishes right off the bat who will take the leadership role. The fight can range from very violent to mild, if you have a pig that is very mild in temperament and would prefer to immediately walk away, you might get lucky.
With outdoor pigs the fight may be intense but if there is a lot of space or room for retreat, the fights may not last as long. You still want to have a separate pasture/enclosure ready for both pigs before ever bringing the second pig home. Instead of a baby gate, you will let them adjust with a piece of fencing between them. The type of fencing doesn’t really matter just as long as they can’t get through it or knock it down; we prefer, no climb fencing, hog panel or chain links fences. Always adhere to the week long rule of thumb, give the interaction session between the fence a week before trying to put them in together. Once in together, let the scuffle happen but watch very closely. Even if one immediately retreats, that is most likely not the end of it. Stay and watch.
There are instances when the fight may get too intense. By this we mean, there is simply too much blood shed and violent fighting. At times, the pigs may go for each others ears and deep wounds will happen. Just make sure they aren’t so deep that sutures may be needed or blood isn’t flowing freely all over the place. You have to expect a few scrapes and bites though, this is totally natural and part of the process. Once the fighting has subsided and dominance has been established. Make sure to clean off any wounds and apply Vetracyn spray or some Neosporin on the cuts/abrasions. There are rare cases where the pigs may never adapt to each other and you need to be prepared for this as a possibility. With dedication, time and patience, this usually wont be the case but every now and then, it does happen and you need to be prepared for that outcome. Always have a back up plan, my back up plan is simply separate enclosures and finding a pig that will work for that individuals specific personality.
Many pigs do well in large herds and in spacious pastures where they have the room to roam and get away from each other’s personal space if needed. We see a lot of rescues and sanctuaries like this. Most sanctuary owners/workers have a very knowledgeable understanding of their herd dynamics though. Herd dynamics is having a good understanding of each and every animals unique personality with in the herd’s hierarchical structure, from all behavior angles like playing to feeding time. This allows the owner/workers to place a pig or animal in an appropriate herd where they feel they would be more likely to succeed and thrive with like personalities. Most of us don’t have this option at our disposal though and thus, we need to be prepared to use other resources and introduction options.
Written by Jodi Register (2015)