The great thing about eating pigs is that they can eat just about anything. Have leftover meat? Your pigs can have it. Want to give them some corn? No problem. How about surplus fruits and veggies? Absolutely.
Pigs can have almost anything… I said almost: even some seemingly wholesome and nutritious vegetables aren’t okay for pigs in unlimited quantities. Some veggies are downright contentious.
Probably the most contentious one is the humble onion. So what’s the truth? Can pigs eat onions and are they safe for them?
Onions are safe for pigs but only in small amounts and served occasionally. Onions do have vitamins and minerals that can benefit them, but they tend to cause significant in digestion and can potentially cause issues with their blood.
Well, it turns out that onions aren’t purely poisonous for pigs, but neither are they a-okay. Your herd can have onions from time to time, but you must be very diligent about the serving sizes and be cautious not to overdo it.
There’re several other issues you need to be aware of too, before you decide to do that. I’ll tell you everything you need to know down below…
Do Pigs Like Onions?
Generally, yes. Most pigs are happy enough to munch away on onions, but I would say they aren’t their favorite food. They won’t get nearly as excited for onions as they would for corn, fruit, and many other foods that they like better.
If your pigs like onions and will eat them, that’s fine, but you need to keep that in the back of your mind because they have a tendency to overindulge on whatever it is they’re eating. If they get into a large quantity of onions that can be disastrous…
Are Onions Harmful to Pigs in Any Way?
Yes, they are. But, onions are only likely to cause significant harm to pigs if they are allowed to overindulge or if they get onions too regularly as part of their usual diet.
Concerning negative outcomes, like with most foods that have bad side effects they are on a sliding scale of intensity.
If pigs get just a few too many onions in their diet, they’re only likely to suffer from indigestion, bad gas and diarrhea. No, that’s not great, but it is rarely fatal and will take care of itself most of the time if you discontinue feeding the onions.
But, things can get a whole lot worse than that. That’s because onions contain a compound called thiosulfate.
High concentrations of thiosulfate accumulating in the body can lead to thiosulfate poisoning, symptoms of which include compromised blood clotting and even anemia.
This is seriously bad news, but as bad as it is, even this might not be fatal right away – though complications can certainly kill a pig if they are already injured or sick.
Worse, it takes time for these compounds to be broken down and cleared from the body. That’s why you’ve got to be so cautious about not overdoing it with onions…
Thiosulfate accumulates over time and by the time you realize you’ve gone too far, your pigs might be in for a rough time.
Also, onions have a somewhat disturbing tendency to taint the meat of a pig that is destined for slaughter. And when I say taint, I don’t mean give it an appealing onion flavor!
Pigs that eat lots of onions and other vegetables that have thiosulfate tend to yield meat with an off-putting, gross, sulfurous taste.
Can Onions Be Good for Pigs?
Yes, they can, as long as they don’t get too much. Onions again provide pigs with some energy but more importantly vitamins and minerals that they need to stay healthy. The trick, as discussed, is that you don’t give them too many.
Onions are not tremendously nutritious, but they do contain an assortment of B-complex vitamins including B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and folate along with a good shot of vitamin C. Not much to write home over, but every little bit helps in a pig’s diet.
The mineral content is similarly sparse, but it does add up over time. Onions have calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc with a somewhat elevated level of manganese.
Not too bad, all told. But considering there are many other veggies and foods that are more nutritionally complete for pigs and don’t have potentially harmful side effects, you don’t need to go all in on adding onions to their menu.
Are Raw Onions Okay for Pigs?
Raw onions are okay for pigs to eat as long as they don’t get too many. Raw onions have the most nutrients, but tend to be the most likely to cause indigestion.
Are Red Onions Safe for Pigs?
Yes, Red Onion varieties are safe for pigs.
Can Pigs Eat White Onions?
They can. White onions are also fine for pigs.
Are Yellow Onions Okay for Pigs?
Yes, they are. Yellow onions, just like all the others, are safe for pigs in moderation.
Are Green Onions Safe for Pigs to Eat?
Green onions are fine for pigs also, but note that some tend to avoid green onions more than other kinds.
Can Pigs Eat Onion Skins?
Yes. Pigs can easily eat the papery outer skin of an onion with no issues whatsoever.
Are Onion Peels Okay for Pigs to Have?
They are. That thick outermost layer in an onion, while not very palatable to us, doesn’t bother pigs in the slightest.
Can Pigs Eat Cooked Onions?
Yes, pigs can have cooked onions. More than most other vegetables, you might be better off cooking onions that you want to give to your herd. Cooking, by any means, reduces the compounds that can interfere with a pig’s bloodstream.
Cooking will also significantly reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals inside onions, but they can still provide calories at least.
Should Pregnant Sows Have Onions?
Expecting sows shouldn’t necessarily get onions, but they don’t have to avoid them totally, either. A pregnant sow can eat onions with no problems for her or her unborn piglets as long as she doesn’t get too many of them.
In any case, even if she does overeat it is unlikely to cause harm to her babies though she herself will suffer the side effects detailed above.
How Often Can Pigs Eat Onions?
I recommend you give your herd onions no more than twice a week, and keep those serving sizes small.
And remember, as with all supplemental foods the smaller the pig the smaller the portion: don’t put down a huge bin of onions and let pigs free-eat from them or chances are good they’ll get way too many.
How Can I Feed My Pigs Onions?
You can chop onions into quarters or slices prior to serving them to your pigs. You don’t even need to peel it; they can eat that papery skin and thick outer layer with no issues.
But, especially if you want to give pigs a larger serving, consider cooking them first. This makes them easier to digest and also reduces the concentration of compounds that can cause serious issues for your herd.
Cooking onions and then mixing them into a medley of other veggies and various other foods that pigs eat is a great way to give them something interesting and tasty while minimizing risks.
Can Piglets Have Onions, Too?
Yes, piglets can have onions also, but very, very cautiously. I highly recommend that you wait until a piglet is well into eating only solid food before you even let them try onions, though…
This is because their digestive tracts are even more prone to being upset by harsh foods, and their significantly lower body weight means they can’t tolerate toxic compounds as well before they start suffering ill effects.
Some More Questions You May Have
Can pigs eat old or sprouted onions?
Yes, as long as the onions aren’t molding, rotting, or slimy. Still, dry produce is one thing but spoiled produce can make pigs very sick.
Can potbelly pigs eat onions?
Yes, potbelly pigs can eat onions just like any other pig. That means only occasionally and in small quantities.
Can mini pigs eat onions?
Yes, but cautiously. Many pigs are much smaller than standard breeds and cannot tolerate as many onions before they start to make them sick.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.