The hormonal pregnant pig can present several unique behaviors. In a rescue situation where little may be known about the pig’s background it will be important to note the behaviors and react accordingly for the safety of yourself, the mother pig, and the piglets.
A pregnant pig will often become extremely needy toward the middle to end of her gestation which is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days in length. This time is best used building or strengthening a trusting relationship with the pig. She maybe more open to being touched than ever before which can be useful. You may need to assist in the delivery and this is more easily accomplished if you have handled the pig often.
You may notice an increase or decrease in appetite, or a picky eater. You may also notice a week of decreased activity, fatigue just prior to farrowing.
Just prior to farrowing, a day to a week before, the pig may become protective of her space. Dramatically, snapping and barking out of nowhere. If this behavior presents leave the pig alone.
A farrowing/laboring mom will exhibit behavior from needy to aggressive throughout the labor. It is important to be very conscious of where the pig is and to have a boundary between yourself and the pig for safety, particularly if this pig has not been handled much.
When the piglets are born the sow is likely to ignore them as she labors with the other piglets. This is normal behavior. She may even push the piglets aside or nip at them. Keep the piglets safe from mom without disrupting the normal birthing/mothering process too much.
When labor is complete the sow should lie down to deliver placenta. This is a good time for the babies to really nurse. If mom is still in an agitated state, keep the babies back and allow one or two to attempt to nurse at a time until placenta has delivered.
If the sow is extremely aggressive and attempting to harm her babies remove them, but keep them close and warm. Allow the sow to finish delivering and settle down. You may then try to introduce one piglet at a time, keeping yourself and the piglets safe. A pig that has been handled can benefit from a belly rub to calm and relax her while piglets are introduced one by one.
A pig that just refuses to nurse or charges at her babies with intent to kill them needs to be separated from the piglets and left alone to calm. The colostrum she provides in the first days prior to farrowing is incredibly important to those piglets. They can be supplemented with colostrum replacer, but an effort to return the babies should be made every couple of hours post farrowing.
Protective Maternal Behavior
Mother pigs can be docile and happy one minute and protective and angry the next. It is important to always be aware of where the sow is to keep yourself unharmed. She may bark as a warning, or lunge, head swipe. This is the hormones driving her protective instincts. Even the most docile of pigs can become very protective with their litters.
When your sow acts protective you must keep your dominant position with her. Bark back, lunge at her, and she should soften back up enough to allow you to feed, water, and care to the piglets needs. You should keep something between you and the pig if she is aggressive toward you. A sorting board, wooden partition, trash can lid, anything that can provide you safety while allowing you to move without harming the pigs.