Pigs have a reputation for eating almost anything, filling their bellies with whatever scraps and leftovers that you offer them. This has also given them a reputation for being dirty animals, but in reality, pigs are clean and tidy and are actually somewhat picky about the food that they eat when given the choice.
Pigs have become massively widespread animals, thriving in the wild, commonly kept as pets, and wildly popular in animal agriculture. Since these animals are so hardy, prolific, and widespread, it’s natural to assume that they can survive on scraps and forage, but they actually have specific nutritional requirements that need to be met in order for them to thrive.
In this article, we look at what pigs eat in the wild and what to feed them as pets to keep them healthy and happy. Let’s get started!
What do pigs eat in the wild?
Wild or feral pigs have a highly diverse diet in the wild, and their diet will change depending on their species and the environment they live in. Pigs in the wild are opportunistic eaters that forage whatever food they can. In forests, fallen fruit is a staple for many pigs, and they are even known to follow primates through the trees in the hopes of scoring fallen fruit. They will also forage on roots, shoots, various insects and worms, and even a dead animal’s carcass should they happen across one. Acorns are another favorite of wild pigs, if they are available, as well as mushrooms and fungi.
Wild pigs also feed on various animals depending on what’s available to them. Small mammals, like mice and rats, are popular meals, as well as reptiles, amphibians, and eggs. Wild pigs are known to eat small rabbits and hares and even young deer if they come across them. Any injured or frail adult animals will also be seen as a potential meal by wild pigs, as well as small birds.
If there are any crops or vegetable gardens around, you can be sure that wild pigs will seize the opportunity for a meal, and the same goes for enticing-smelling garbage cans! This why wild pigs are considered pests by most farmers, due to the damage that they can swiftly inflict on their crops.
What do pet pigs eat?
Pigs are omnivores, so in the wild and as pets, they need a varied diet of both plants and adequate protein. Also, a pig’s diet needs to be changed at different points of their life because they have different nutritional requirements as juveniles and adults. On a farm, pigs are mostly fed on animal feed consisting of various grains such as soy and corn. This diet, however, is to fatten pigs up as quickly as possible for market and is not ideal nutrition for most pigs.
You’ll want to vary the vegetables as much as possible, so your pig doesn’t get bored with their meal. You can include eggs occasionally as a treat for added protein, and you should give fruit sparingly due to the high sugar content.
While pigs in the wild do eat meat, you should avoid giving meat to a pet pig. There are several reasons for this, namely the health of your pig and the possible transmission of disease and parasites. Pigs still need protein, though, and this is why the best staple food for them is special pig pellets that provide complete nutrition. You can then provide them with fresh vegetables daily and eggs for an extra protein boost every few days. Pigs that can freely roam around a farm or garden will also feed on small insects and worms throughout the day.
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Foods to avoid feeding pigs
With a pig’s reputation for eating almost anything, you’d think that there are few foods to avoid giving your pet pig. While it’s true that pigs have “stomachs of steel” and can eat a wide array of foods, there are definitely some that can adversely affect your pig’s health. These include:
- Spoiled foods and leftovers. While leftover slop is a common food for pet pigs, some of the contents may not be appropriate for them. Pigs are certainly capable of eating a wide variety of foods seemingly without negative effects, but in the long run, these foods will affect their overall health.
- Too many fruits. Fruits are packed with sugar, and too much fruit can be harmful to your pet pig. Also, fruit seeds are safe for adult pigs to ingest but can cause blockages in piglets.
- Wild mushrooms. Even though wild pigs are known to snack on mushrooms and fungi, many poisonous varieties can be tricky to identify, even for experts.
- Pet foods. Cat or dog food should not be given to pet pigs, even though they will eat it. These commercial foods are made specifically with the nutritional needs of the respective animal in mind and are not suitable for pigs.
- Processed human foods. Cereal, crackers, breads, meats, and any other processed human foods can cause a host of health issues for pet pigs.
How much do pigs eat?
In general, pigs will eat 3-5% of their body weight per day, which is around 10 pounds of food per day for an average-sized pig. For most wild pigs, plants make up 80-90% of their diet, with the rest being insects, fungi, and small animals.
While it is true that pigs will eat almost anything to ensure their survival, they also have specific nutritional needs that need to be met for them to live long and healthy lives. Keeping a pig as a pet means you’ll have total control of their nutrition, and special pig pellets and fresh vegetables are the best choices for pet pigs.
Featured Image Credit: Wallula, Pixabay
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.