So, Do Pigs Get Cold?

When you imagine a tough, self-sufficient animal, what do you think of? If you said “pigs,” you and I are of the same mind. Pigs have always struck me as animals with incredible perseverance and hardiness.

pig in front of its pen
a pig in front of its pen

But, what you might not know is that pigs are actually pretty sensitive to their environment, specifically weather conditions. At first glance it looks like pigs would do just fine in cold weather because they have so much fat to keep them warm, but is that really the case? Do pigs get cold?

Yes, pigs do get cold, and prolonged exposure to intense cold can sicken or harm them. Their fat does not protect them as much as most people think and domestic pigs definitely require shelter and sometimes supplemental heat when temperatures drop.

When I first started out I assumed that pigs would do a lot better in cold conditions than they actually do. Luckily, no real harm ever came of it and I got straightened out pretty quickly by one of my mentors but I still think about those mistakes often.

If you’ve got pigs and have cold weather ahead, or you live in a place with harsh winters, this is critical information. Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about protecting your pigs from the cold.

What Happens to a Pig’s Body When it Gets Cold?

Pigs get cold just like all other mammals, and when that happens their bodies undergo many of the same experiences and outcomes. Before anything truly bad happens, a pig will begin to feel uncomfortable and then they will get agitated and stressed.

Ideally, this will prompt a pig to seek shelter and warm up, but if they can’t, as the temperature plummets, their immune system will start to slip a little bit. This makes pigs more vulnerable to all sorts of illnesses generally, and infection from injuries particularly.

A pig’s body will also start using more resources in the form of ingested and stored calories to generate body heat. This means that your pigs are probably going to stop gaining weight when they’re too cold, and in many cases, they can even start to lose weight.

In times of extreme cold, they can take in a tremendous amount of calories and still drop weight which can spell big problems for keepers that are relying on adequate finishing weight for profit.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to properly protect them from cold. More on that in a minute.

How Cold Can Pigs Tolerate?

As a rule of thumb, any adult pig that is in good health can deal with temperatures between 50°F and 60°F (10-15 Celsius) with no issues or intervention from you, though they probably won’t gain weight as quickly when it is that cool. Below that temperature, the risk of illness and weight loss increases.

Note that adults that are otherwise healthy can tolerate brief exposure to very cold temperatures (e.g. below freezing) with no ill effects as long as they can get back into a warm shelter pretty quickly.

However, piglets and weaners can develop hypothermia in very short order in those same temperatures, any timeline shortens dramatically the colder it gets. This is because they don’t have the body mass to withstand the cold nor do they have any amount of meaningful hair that can help protect them.

Do Pigs Get Hypothermic Easily?

No, at least not in the case of healthy adult pigs. I would not say they get hypothermia easily, but neither are they as resistant to hypothermia as most people think. Making this mistake can see most of your herd become severely ill.

Pigs will naturally start seeking shelter when they’re too cold, so if they seem restless or are looking for a way to get relief from the cold, you must take action.

Do Pigs Shiver When They Get Too Cold?

Yes, they do! Pigs shiver just like most mammals and people do when they are cold. And in the same way that we shiver, they do it too; their muscles activate repeatedly to generate body heat.

To be clear, pigs that are merely a little uncomfortable in cool weather won’t necessarily start shivering. If they are very cold and need help they will be shivering, especially if they are still on their feet, so keep an eye out for that.

What are Symptoms Indicate that a Pig is Cold?

Aside from shivering, discussed above, you should also be on the lookout for any pigs that are huddling together in a tight group, or if they’re lying on the ground and have their feet tucked up underneath their bodies: this is done in an effort to help keep them warm and protect from frostbite.

Pigs also tend to generate a lot of snot when they are too cold, so runny noses and coughing or huffing are other signs that you need to take action and get them warmed up pronto.

What Makes Them More Susceptible to Cold?

There are several factors that make them even more vulnerable to cold than they are normally…

One we’ve already talked about, age. Younger pigs are smaller overall and less well-developed, and that means they are far more susceptible to the chill than adults are.

These pigs also have less muscle and fat which contribute to cold insulation, so they must be watched carefully whenever they are exposed to lower temperatures.

Weight is another big one, with larger, stockier pigs being less vulnerable to cold overall. That’s because their core body temperature tends to remain higher, longer, regardless of the conditions.

All other things being equal, they will outlast their smaller brethren before experiencing negative side effects when exposed to cold.

Can Pigs Stay Outside in the Winter?

Pigs can stay outside in the wintertime, but they must have access to an adequate shelter and preferably a windbreak which can protect them from losing even more body heat to wind when they are out and about.

You must also ensure that they get tons of food so they can not only generate body heat through their metabolism but also stop weight loss. Pigs must also be allowed to huddle together at all times if they’re going to be outside during the winter.

As a rule of thumb, pigs don’t do well in truly harsh winters, so make sure you have an adequately warm shelter for them if you live in such a place.

Should You Give Them Blankets?

Only as bedding. Pigs aren’t like horses, and don’t wear blankets well even when you take the time to attach them. Blankets can help them stay warm on cold surfaces, however, if they lay down on them. In short, they work better as bedding insulation than coverings!

Also, blankets can be indispensable if you’re trying to warm up any pig that has been seriously zapped by the cold. Warm water packs and a good, insulating blanket are just the things to help a hypothermic pig snap out of it and recover.

What are The Best Kinds of Blankets for Pigs?

Any kind of blanket that you don’t mind being destroyed! Pigs are very hard on blankets and will often tear them up. Something sturdy that will hold up to abuse and also provide them a barrier against cold ground is ideal.

For warming up a pig that’s hypothermic, a heated blanket set to low works wonders. Don’t leave them alone with it though!

The Best Ways to Keep Them Warm

There are several ways to help pigs keep warm in cold weather…

As a rule, pigs should always have access to shelter which can help block the wind and also provide them maximum benefit from their accumulated body heat. The shelter can either be unheated or heated; in most climates, either will work.

Even an unheated shelter can be comfortably warm for pigs with a little bit of added insulation in the form of clean, dry straw on the ground or floor, or by shrinking the space slightly using hay bales. The body heat from the pigs will do the rest!

You can also heat the shelter using livestock-rated heat lamps, but they must be installed carefully so the pigs cannot get to them or knock them down by any means. While undeniably effective, these devices are notorious for starting devastating fires.

At What Temperature Do Pigs Need Heat Lamps?

Consider the use of heat lamps when your pigs are exposed to prolonged sub-freezing temperatures, and even then, only if their shelter proves inadequately warm when they are inside. Take some measurements at various places using a thermometer to know for sure.

Also, remember that heat lamps might be required to help keep piglets warm even in relatively mild temperatures- they are far more susceptible to cold than adult pigs are!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep my mini pig warm outside in the winter?

You can keep a mini pig warm the same way you keep any other pig warm, but keep in mind that because they’re so much smaller, they are more vulnerable to the cold. Keep an eye on them!

Do mini pigs get cold?

Absolutely! Mini pigs are just like any other breed of pig and do get cold.

Do pigs like hot or cold better?

As a rule of thumb, pigs tend to put up with warm weather better than cold weather, but very large pigs and pregnant sows struggle more in the heat than they do in the cold.

Can a potbelly pig live outside?

Yes, a potbelly pig can live outside as long as you provide adequate shelter and ensure they stay reasonably warm during cold conditions.

How much heat can a pig tolerate?

75°F to 80°F. Much warmer than that is pushing it, and larger, heavier pigs are disproportionately vulnerable to sustained high temperatures.

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