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Winter time with an indoor pot-bellied or mini pig can be a handful. They hate the cold and love food and stimulation. Here are some tips that have been a lifesaver in our house for our pet pig Bently.
It’s been an entire year of waking up at 4 am, 5 am if I’m lucky to feed my adorable always hungry mini pig, Bently. I’ve been in love with pigs since I was a little girl. I showed a couple in 4-H as a kid and never stopped hoping to have my very own one day.
Last year right after Thanksgiving we brought our first miniature pig to our farmhouse. It was quite the learning experience. Now that he is over a year old the winter activities have changed. This, of course, is one of the coldest winters we’ve had in awhile here in upstate New York.
Owning a mini pig can be frustrating. Especially if you are keeping yours indoors. I hope our tips help inspire you to try them with your own mini pig and that you will find a creative frugal way to keep your indoor pig entertained this winter.
The first thing I have learned about mini pigs is they are the happiest when they have a full tummy. Any time Bently is in the house and being obnoxious, pulling my hand towels down, pulling the toilet paper off the roll and running out of the room with it, or just rubbing his nose on my toe, he usually wants one of two things.
Belly Rub or Food
I read many articles in the beginning about not overfeeding your pig. No one wants a big indoor pig, right? Wrong, when it comes down to it, pig owners want a well behaved happy pig more than anything. Do you agree?
The best thing you can do with your pig is to train it. Don’t underestimate how smart they are and how much they are willing to work for food.
Once you train your pig they will do commands just hoping you have a piece of food. In the winter we sometimes have to do this with Bently just to get him to come out onto the porch. If he had his way he would stay inside and not go outside to do his business. Once he has his halter on he knows he has no choice. He’s going out.
Just like with toddlers- you always have to remember that you are in control.
I was determined with our pig to train him to stay with us off the leash. Similar to how I did it with our German Shepard lab. All summer Bently walked up to our woods with us and was always let loose off the leash in the woods. He ended up training so well that he walks with us without a leash just like our dog.
Sidenote: We live out in the country and walk our own land. This wouldn’t be the case in an unknown territory or walking in a city of course 🙂
This is also helpful in the winter. I’m able to let him outside in the morning with our dog so he can do his business sniff around and then come back in grunting away that he’s had enough.
So let’s get into the details of what works for us
Like I was just saying having some outside time is important. They need to satisfy their natural instinct to look for food. We are very fortunate to have a 100-year-old barn that our chickens stay in this winter ( too cold to come out) that he goes in the barn and rummages through the straw. It’s been in the single digits and he’s been out there for 45 minutes. That’s just enough time for him to come inside and take a good two to three-hour nap.
If you don’t have the luxury of letting or trusting your pig outside loose be sure to walk them around your yard or create a pen for them to have some time to search for food.
We did an indoor rooting area when he was just a few months old and he just ended up peeing and pooping in it and it didn’t work. I wouldn’t try an indoor rooting area unless they are 100% litter trained or go outside.
You can see the indoor one I made and more details on it here.
Bently often gets the zoomies. The zoomies is a term used by the pig community to describe their pig running around, barking, scooting their butt on the ground and just being plain out crazy. Don’t be alarmed this is a sign your pig is happy.
It’s the funniest and most entertaining thing your pig may do. When he starts to get the zoomies usually in the living room during the winter months, I’ll take a piece of newspaper and give it to him. He loves to shred it, carry it up on the couch and just have fun with it. It’s cheap, and an easy way to entertain your pig. I’m not sure if it’s the sound they love, or what but our pig enjoys it.
I bought this before Bently came to our home knowing he was going to need some entertainment. We still use the same one and I couldn’t be happier with this purchase. When you think about the strength of a pigs snout it’s amazing that this ball has held up for over a year with our pig. I usually feed him dinner in this treat ball and it helps to settle him down. I’ll also cut up carrots or put blueberries inside for him. Anything you can put into little pieces to have them work for their food is a help in the winter.
This one is nice because you can make the hole smaller so they have to work harder for the treat. I haven’t purchased any other toys for our pig. Mostly because I’m frugal and don’t want to spend money on something that won’t get used. This one I knew from the beginning was a great buy. So far it’s the only one we’ve needed.
Oatmeal is one of my favorite things to feed our animals in the winter. Especially Bently. This will keep him searching for at least a half hour 45 minutes. He had his favorite comforter which he shredded up so nicely, I would just sprinkle the oatmeal all over it and he would just search and search.
I had to get rid of his comforter because he was starting to get it around his neck, the thing was shot. We go to the thrift store to find him new blankies. Beware if you throw out their favorite blanket, they will let you know. The next night Bently had a very hard time settling down, just grunting and groaning that night until I gave him extra pillows. Oatmeal is a great option to put in the treat ball too.
Giving your pig any type of squash, pumpkins guards, etc will keep them entertained. Bently loves to gnaw on these and it keeps him happy. The fall was a great time to give him pumpkins, mostly they were already starting to become soft.
This winter I am buying butternut squash and giving it to him raw. He will eat the entire thing and it will take him some time working it down to nothing. There is a bunch of clanking sounds from the walls of his indoor room but it’s totally worth it. This may not be a good option depending on the type of indoor pen you have for your piggy. As they push it around it’s heavier and they have to work harder to bite through.
Let them sleep
For a while as a new pig parent, I would think “is he dead?” I was so surprised Bently would sleep for hours upon hours in the morning. I have learned to just let them sleep. I really don’t think it’s because he is depressed. In the winter time, they like to stay warm and sleep. So, by all means, let those little piggies sleep. Less work for you and they will wake up. When they do, it’s your job again to entertain them. Again it’s similar to the whole having a toddler is like having a pig saying. 😉
Bently also loves to lay where he can get some sun in the winter. I think that goes for all of us.
Get out The Broom
It is amazing how everytime we get the broom out to sweep Bently will come over and just look at you. He’s wanting to get a good rub down. He loves when we take the broom over his side. Sometimes if you pick the broom up and walk towards him he will instantly flop to the ground. Other things that our pig loves is the fork and drumstick. Many times when our pig is being naughty or won’t settle down in his room he wants attention or food.
Once they get either of these chances are you’ll have a quiet and happy pig. Don’t worry you’ll get your break soon! Pig ownership is just like owning any other animal. You have to be willing to take time to work with them and get to know them to see results you want. Pigs will always communicate with you. They are so vocal, aren’t they?
Many times Bently just wants to cuddle. It’s funny as he is much bigger then he was last year he still tries to sit on my lap. Now he weighs too much and takes my legs for example. They love being next to you.
I hope a few of these ideas inspired or helped you to get your pet pig to fight boredom this winter.
I can’t wait to share MORE articles about our adventure with Bently.
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