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 Bentley.
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, Bentley. 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.
We now have three mini pigs on our farm and the newest is six months old.
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.
More Pig Stuff to Pin:
- 10 Must Know Tips to Pig Proof Your House
- Can You Feed Pumpkins to Mini Pigs?
- The Best Toys for Your Potbelly Pig
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.
This will change as your pig gets older. Bentely enjoys being outside much more. Of course they always prefer to still huddle up in a snow storm.
( I now have three pigs!)
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 Bentley 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.
Check out my video walking Bentley below.
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. He is now three years old and he still uses this. I use it for all my pigs now.
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 Bentley 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.
This rooting rug a great option to switch between the treat ball and this. One can be for dinner one for breakfast. Although this rooting rug will probably only entertain your pig until they are 1 or so.
Giving your pig any type of squash, pumpkins guards, etc will keep them entertained. Bentley loves to gnaw on these and it keeps him happy. Plus the seeds are a natural dewormer! The fall is 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. 😉
Bentley 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.
- 8 Do’s and Don’ts of a Life With a Baby Mini Pig
- How to Build a Mini Pig Pen Using Pallets in Under 60 minutes
- How to Easily Walk Your Mini Pig
- What Does It Look Like For a Mini Pig to Blow Its Coat?
- How to Prepare Your Pigs for Winter
- The Only Blanket Your Mini Pig Will Ever Need
Sign up for our newsletter so you can read all about it.
Thursday 18th of February 2021
Hi Tasia. Not sure if you remember me, but I commented on another one of your posts talking about Mabel, who was our new found pet who happily wandered into our yard and quickly became ours. Mabel has now been with us since the end of October. She kind of went back and forth between inside and outside at first and until she had gotten spayed (4 days after Christmas), she had been outside. Once she got spayed, she became an indoor pig. We live in Pa, so the cold temps and snow; I can’t keep her outside. But yeah, they wanted her to heal indoors but she became a permanent indoor animal from that point on. Anyway, she’s still biting, charging certain people, and I think what is referred to as head swiping. She has gotten better in some ways, but now she’s going crazy and getting into so much trouble because she’s bored. We’ve given her some baby toys, balls, Kong toys (which we fill with peanut butter), and the list goes on, and she just isn’t a fan of anything. The Kong with pb keeps her attention for a little while but then she gets bored. She doesn’t like the balls and doesn’t like the baby toys at all. She uses that wicked strong snout of hers to topple everything (including no the very heavy and tall trash can), open cabinets and chew everything in sight (including pots and pans), and does everything in her power to push the two computer chairs, long rectangular tote lid we use to help block, and everything else out of the way to get to the cords at the computer desk. We have plastic baby gates and wooden tension baby gates to keep her out of the toy room and living room (since there are toys everywhere!!) and she has learned that if she pushes into the bottom corner, the bottom will flip out forward and she can run under it and escape. She does not get along with our big baby of a 135-lb. 8.5 year old chocolate lab. She’s actually really mean to him and runs up, mouth wide open and attacks him. She’s nice to the cats though. I’m struggling with what to buy her to keep her entertained. She literally just walks around all day looking to get into trouble and I want to keep her happy (and safe!; she also got into the cabinet under the kitchen sink and began eating my Finish pacs and kitchen sponges— UGH!). I tried the raw squash and she didn’t like it. The dog liked it. I tried the newspaper and crinkled it up, put in a box and sprinkled Cheerios inside and she only looked for the Cheerios but didn’t even care about the newspaper in any way. She does seem to like my shag rug I have at the bottom of the stairs so I’m thinking I may buy her one. She is litter trained now and we use cedar shavings/chips for her litter, and we cut a large opening in the side of a large rectangular tote. She loves to take her snout and root up the shavings, but they’re a freaking mess! Pine pellets are worse though; those suckers are along the lines of stepping on Legos— ouch! And then when they get wet; that’s a freaking disaster mess. Literally her only hobby is eating. She’s really getting chub chub, and she’s my dish cleaner as I load the dishwasher, and she rips into more boxes of cereal than I care to admit. I don’t know what to do to keep her busy. Piggies are all new to us so I would love to hear if you have any other ideas. Thanks!!
Friday 13th of August 2021
Hey ladies, Im just curious to see what you ended up doing with Mabel and if she is behaving better for you. Tasha I love reading all the helpful tips you put out there😃
Tuesday 23rd of February 2021
Oh my! It sounds like she needs to be outside for the majority of the time. We live near Rochester NY so it's cold here. But our pigs thrive outside. Some love being indoors and aren't the same way, but Bentley was similar to your Mabel. He loves being outside. I would try even starting her with being outside a few hours a day then coming in and seeing if that helps. You could always leave her outside during the day and bring them in at night. The first year we had Bentley outside in one of the dog igloos because the barn wasn't built yet. He did fine. We tarped around it to keep a wind barrier.
Monday 8th of June 2020
Thank you so much for all this information! My daughter and I are now proud owners of a mini pig, Adeline. She is so sweet and so much fun to watch! She just discovered zoomies the other day and it is hysterical to see. I have a small dog and they both will chase each other back and forth from the living room to the kitchen and back again. We are still in the potty training phase, she is only 3 months, but we are getting there and she amazes me with just how smart she is! I already did some research and bought a rooting mat and a treat ball, but I can see she gets restless at times. She does enjoy pushing my laundry basket all around the room though! I didn't know about the oatmeal, squash/pumpkin seeds and the newspapers! Thanks for that. Anyways, I truly appreciate all the information you have given and I look forward to many happy wonderful times with my sweet Adeline!
Thursday 11th of June 2020
Hi Lee! Thank you for dropping a little peak into life with a mini pig. I love the name Adeline. They are a so much fun.
Monday 3rd of February 2020
My piggy Lola is 15 weeks we adopted her from someone who decided that they couldn't have her. We have had her 2 weeks and she loved her food no she acts like she doesn't like it. Any idea why?
Wednesday 5th of February 2020
Are you referring to her pig pellets? When they are little if you give them sweets, they will be stubborn and only want that. If you have been getting a lot of treats I would cut back. You can always add a little juice back to the pellets to get her to eat sooner too.
Wednesday 10th of July 2019
I always give my pig some belly rubs. As far as I know, I think some environmental enrichment toys for sale from a good store will keep her entertained. Thanks for the idea that I should buy her a treat ball as well, and I'm sure she'll like toys and balls if she uses them regularly.
Friday 19th of April 2019
Our 7 month old pig just eats newspaper when you give it to him! He's eaten the covers of several books too. Is this normal? Everyone seems to suggest entertaining them with newspaper, and he LOVES it, but eats most of it.
Monday 22nd of April 2019
I would think he will be fine but probably want to give him something else to entertain! I've tried applesauce cups in the past and take the cup away once the sauce is all gone.