Keeping Pigs: An Introduction

Like keeping chickens, keeping pigs promises to be a fulfilling and enjoyable activity. However, they differ in terms of the time and resources you need to allocate: pigs require more space and their size and power are another consideration.

For starters, pigs need plenty of space to roam around in. Half an acre is recommended for two pigs, for instance, which converts to 2,023 square metres. Keeping pigs is therefore an activity best suited to those with plenty of wide open space at their disposal.

As well as plenty of space, you will require strong fencing to stop your pigs wandering into places you don’t want them to. You’ll also need shelter (which we provide), constant access to clean drinking water, and plenty of straw for bedding.

As with any animal, we recommend thinking long and hard about whether keeping pigs is right for you. Pigs in this context can live anywhere from six to nine years if not longer: they are your sole responsibility, and require you to expend a lot of time and energy to keep them happy and healthy.

If you decide keeping pigs is for you, there are also some legal requirements you must meet before moving them onto your property.

Legal requirements

Current government legislation is based on an idea known as ‘five freedoms.’ In a nutshell, this means that an animal’s welfare requires suitable housing, a good diet, the ability to exhibit normal behaviour, its social requirements meeting and protection from pain, suffering, injury and disease during its lifespan. Make sure you can meet all of these needs if you’re thinking of keeping pigs yourself.

Everyone who keeps pigs (and we recommend keeping at least two, for each pig’s sake) needs to be registered with Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. This is a government department responsible for agriculture, food production and environmental protection.

You also need to obtain a County Parish Holding number for the land on which you’re keeping the pigs: you obtain this by phoning the Rural Payments Agency Customer Registration Team on 0845 603 7777. You should let them know you will keep livestock at this point.

New arrivals

Within 30 days of your pigs arriving onsite, you need to contact the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency to register the fact you’re keeping pigs. Once this is done, you’ll be provided with a unique flock or herd mark. This will be shown on official ear tags used to identify your animals and it’s stored on the national database which records livestock movements. It acts as a way of controlling disease in worst-case scenarios.

You must keep all records relating to pig-keeping – including registration, identification and movement – for a period of three years.

For a detailed list of requirements, click here to go to the appropriate government website.

Pigs at Little Morton FarmWhere do I house my pigs?