It Is Amazing To Watch The Natural Behaviour of Free Range Pigs…
The following is 7½ things you didn’t know about pigs and how they behave in a natural environment.
1. Pigs Love To Explore
This involves smelling, nibbling and rooting. This exploratory activity is also directed at new objects, playthings, feeders and drinkers.
While their nature is curious, pigs are also very cautious. This is observed when moving them to a new area, they will explore as they go.
Pigs tend to follow the leader, don’t like moving on their own and if separated want to get back to the group.
They do have a strong “flight” reaction and this can be observed if they get a sudden fright.
2. Social Behaviour
Pigs are social animals and like being around other pigs. They have a very strong social hierarchy and size, sex, and territory determine this.
Aggressive and fighting occurs to maintain status in the group or when resources like food or water is limited.
Extreme forms of aggression include tail biting and ear chewing.
3. Feeding Behaviour
Pigs are prone to obesity if enough food is available to them all the time. Younger pigs prefer to eat in a number of small sessions up to 10 times a day.
Pigs easily get used to feeding routines and if kept in free-range groups there is a strong competition at feed time. This competition will increase if feed is in short supply.
4. Elementary Behaviour
Pigs are very clean animals and in a free-range or natural farming system they will never dung in the direct area were they eat or sleep.
Pigs are most active during daylight hours. Under good farming conditions and if they are well-fed and healthy pigs will spend about 80% of their time resting. The balance of the time is spend on eating and exploring.
These activity patterns will change at oestrus and at farrowing.
6. Oestrus Behaviour
Unmated females will come into oestrus every 3 weeks until they are mated and conceive.
Their behavior changes during this time. They become restless and will actively seek out a boar and will allow herself to be mounted, or will actively “ride” other sows in the group.
7. Farrowing Behaviour
In a free-range system, when sows prepare for farrowing they will isolate themselves from a group and will find a place of shelter to make a nest on her own.
She will go through a restless “nest building” phase 24 hours prior to quieting down and farrowing.
Sows are very good mothers and have a strong maternal instinct to protect their piglets.
It is normal for a quiet and friendly sow to become aggressive towards people at farrowing – to leave her alone is the best option.
Sows will react violently towards intruders and will even attack and bite, especially if her piglets begin to squeal because of the intrusion.
7½. More About Boars
Mature boars can be “dangerous” because of their unpredictability and their changing natural responses towards people or when they interact with other pigs – especially other boars.
Strong aggression can occur in the presence of other “new” boars to the herd – aggression signs are pawing the ground, hair on shoulder standing up, chomping of the jaws and foaming at the mouth.
If unfamiliar boars mix they will fight aggressively by slashing each other at the head and shoulders.