Pigs have a reputation for being dirty animals. And I suppose that’s because they wallow around in mud regularly and eat some pretty gross stuff, so part of this reputation is deserved.
But pigs really aren’t that filthy, are they? Well, as it turns out, pigs might be even nastier than you think in one regard…
Some folks assert that pigs will even eat their own poop. It doesn’t get more disgusting than that, but is it true? Do pigs actually eat their own poop?
Yes, pigs will eat their own poop. If they don’t have enough food, are kept in crowded conditions or are stressed, they might well resort to eating their own droppings.
Ugh! Well, I take back every nice thing I ever said about pigs! Jokes aside, there are lots of animals that will eat their own feces for a variety of reasons and pigs are no different.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that this behavior is generally pretty predictable and if you notice that a few of your pigs or even the entire herd is doing it, you can get to the bottom of it and usually put a stop to it.
I know it’s the last thing you want to think about, but this is stuff you need to know if you want to keep pigs on the homestead. Keep reading and I’ll tell you more about this interesting fact below…
Do Pigs Like Eating Poop?
Honestly, I couldn’t tell you for sure. But I can tell you this: pigs always seem happy when they are eating anything, and I’ve seen more than I’d like to admit that seemed plenty cheery to tuck into a pile of poop. Sad, and gross, but true!
What Drives a Pig to Eat Its Poop in the First Place?
Let’s get the most important stuff out of the way first. Why on Earth would any animal, including a pig, eat its own poop? Out of all the things they could eat, how could they even go through with eating a disgusting turd?
The bottom line is that this activity is instinctual in many animals, and that includes pigs. Pigs are driven to eat, and eat as much as they can, to get the nutrients they need to survive and thrive.
In a sense, if they can detect undigested food in their own feces, they’re going to eat it again in order to recycle it, done by running it through their digestive tract one more time. This can give their body an extra attempt to pull out even more nutrients and calories.
Yes, it is indeed absolutely hideous to contemplate, but that’s why pigs do it… Basically, they look at it as just another opportunity for food. However, that doesn’t mean it is something that you should go along with or encourage as we will learn.
But Why Would a Domestic Pig Eat Poop if it Has a Steady Diet?
A very good question, and one that most people overlook. A domestic pig might still eat its own poop, even if it’s getting a steady diet and plenty of calories, for any number of reasons.
For starters, it might be missing an essential vitamin or mineral in its diet. If that’s the case, the pig will instinctively start eating its own poop in an attempt to get as much of that missing nutrient as possible.
Another, more obvious answer is if the animal just isn’t getting enough to eat…
If a pig’s calorie deficit is too large, or it’s just hungry, it will start eating poop in order to satiate itself if there’s nothing good around to eat. This might be a result of an actual calorie deficit or an unpredictable feeding schedule. That’s a stressor that can sometimes trigger poop eating.
Other causes include boredom, where a pig that lacks stimulation will just start eating poop, and crowded conditions. If the pen is too small or you add too many pigs, or if those pigs grow too large for the pen, instances of feces eating will rise.
Just something that happens; as we will learn in a moment, pigs greatly prefer to be away from their own poop if they can.
Is It Safe for a Pig To Eat Its Own Poop?
Not really. As you might expect, the eating of feces even by an animal greatly increases the likelihood of them contracting various diseases from bacteria or viruses and also parasites.
Just because this activity is instinctive doesn’t mean it is okay or healthy! It is understandable, and pigs might even be forgiven for doing so under certain conditions, but it’s absolutely disgusting and can hurt their health.
Will Pigs Eat Other Animals Poop Also?
Yes, they will. I’ll tell you right now that pigs will eat any kind of poop that is lying around. They’ll certainly eat their own poop, and they’ll also make a pass at horse, cow poop, rabbit, dog and cat poop, along with chicken, duck and goose poop. And, yes, human poop also if they can.
The bottom line is that if it comes out of the hind end of any living thing, a pig can and will try to eat it if you let them. I know what you must be thinking, but that’s just the way it is!
Should You Ever Deliberately Feed Poop to Pigs?
No, not deliberately. This is another misguided opinion I see pop up from time to time. The notion that, because a pig can eat feces and will, it is okay to deliberately serve it to them or encourage the eating of poop as a way to cut down on feed costs.
This is completely wrong, and a great way to make your whole herd sick in time.
Again, just because they can doesn’t mean they should. It’s up to you to eliminate the eating of feces by your pigs by any means necessary.
If you are a good and attentive owner, this probably won’t be difficult at all for the reasons I will tell you about. But, in case one or more of your pigs is a persistent poop eater, you’ve got to stop it.
Will Pigs Poop Where They Eat?
Yes, in a sense, but if they have enough room they’ll try not to. For pigs that live in an enclosure, they are going to poop in their pen whether you want them to or not.
Pigs go “number two” anywhere from 3 to 6 times a day depending on their age, diet, health and other factors. Accordingly, when they go to drop a load it is going to be in their pen at some point- assuming you aren’t letting them free range over a wide area.
But, there is a little bit of good news in this regard: Assuming that your pen is generously sized your pigs will actually move away from the areas that they sleep and eat in and will go in a designated spot. Turns out they may not be as overtly nasty as some people think!
The only reason that pigs might do this is because they don’t want to eat and sleep where they poop. This is a conscious, and also instinctive, decision to reduce risks to the individual and to the herd.
But, practically speaking, while this gives you some time to get around to the chore you must still remove this feces from the pen in order to keep your pigs healthy and their living area nominally clean.
And aside from this, getting rid of the poop pile will naturally cut down on the temptation and opportunity for your pigs to eat it, and the instances of them actually doing so.
What You Can Do to Stop Their Habit
If your pigs eat their poop, you need to perform a methodical analysis and start reducing the possible causes…
The first and most obvious is their diet:
- Are your pigs simply getting enough to eat?
- Are all of the pigs getting enough to eat, or is the run of the litter missing out on food?
- Is the diet nutritionally complete according to its advertised content?
- If yes, should you get the food tested to be sure?
Then, look at the pen itself: Pigs raised in pens nominally need about 80 square feet per animal in order to be comfortable.
Assuming your pen is of the proper size for your herd this will also allow them space to use as a designated bathroom. If the pen is too crowded, it is more likely that at least some of the pigs will start eating poop.
Are they bored or stressed?: Assuming they have enough to eat, the right nutrition and enough space you might simply need to get the poop out of the pen more often, or make sure the pigs aren’t too cooped up and bored.
They might need a toy or enrichment activity or more human interaction if they are tame and friendly. By methodically assessing all of these considerations, you can likely stop your pigs from being interested in their poop and eating it.
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.