No farm too small
It is not uncommon to have either pigs or poultry kept in the garden, either as pets or to provide for the table. They are regularly treated as a pet in the same fashion as either a dog or cat would be and often cared for to the same extent. However from the point of the veterinary medicines they are seen as farm animals and hence will be treated by one of our farm animal vets.
If considering getting pigs there are a few legal issues that need to be addressed. Pigs are classed as livestock whether they are pets or part of a commercial enterprise and as such, a premises with one on is required to have a County Parish Holding number (CPH) which can be obtained from the Rural Payments Agency. When acquiring the animal, either an AML2 form or an individual movement license document should be completed to register the movement of the animal, both of which should be provided by the seller (can be found on the Animal health/Defra website). On arrival you have 1 month in which to inform Animal Health that the animal is present on the site whilst at the same time no other pigs, cattle, sheep or goats may be moved on or off the site for 20, 6, 6 and 6 days respectively.
It should be noted that if you want to take your pig for a walk you must obtain a ‘Pig Walking License’, which will require details of a planned route and can be applied for through a DEFRA veterinary officer.
Pigs: Health and welfare
Pigs are social animals and often do better in small groups as opposed to alone. They will require a large exercise run along with shelter. Remember they are naturally diggers and will forage for food. This behaviour can see them easily digging under many a fence and as such, solid boundaries need to be put in.
Pigs generally have voracious appetites and as such are very prone to obesity, which is their most common problem. Obesity will lead to further medical problems including arthritis, pressure sores and skin fold infections. They should be fed a specially formulated diet and in addition to this given vegetables (avoiding starchy ones such as potatoes) to make up about 25% of the diet. It is illegal to feed your pig scraps from the kitchen table.
A variety of vaccines are available for pigs although the one that is most essential is that for Erysipelas (a bacterial disease leading to sudden death and characteristic skin lesions). This is an initial course 2 injections followed by 6-monthly boosters.
Other general considerations include worming, which should be done every 4-6 months. We will be able to advise you on a suitable wormer. Unless wanted for breeding, male pigs it is recommended to castrate male pigs at 10 days of age. Pigs will usually reach puberty at around 4 months of age, the exception being Vietnamese Pot Bellied pigs who reach puberty earlier at 2 months of age. The average life span of a pig is 8 years.
Chickens, unlike pigs do not necessarily require registration provided the flock is less than 50 birds strong. That said, DEFRA recommend registration on a voluntary basis so as to enable owners to be alerted in the event of a disease outbreak.
If you have an excess of eggs, providing you have less than 50 birds you may sell them door to door without registering with the Egg Marketing Inspectorate (EMI). However, should you wish to sell them to a shopkeeper for further distribution you will need to have registered.
Chickens: Health and welfare
When kept outside poultry should be kept in a coop or inside in a shed. They should have a minimum of 250 cm2 floor space per bird, a perch, an exercise run and a nesting box all of which will require cleaning and fresh bedding every week. It is important to ensure that the birds are free from the threat of predators, commonly in the form of foxes. It is also important to shut the chickens into their coop at night and that the coop is checked to ensure it is secure.
Chickens should be offered proprietary chicken pellets ad lib. Be sure to purchase the correct type, for example layers pellets as opposed to growers pellets for laying hens. Also essential is the provision of grit, tiny stones which help the birds break down and digest their food. In addition corn can also be provided.
Three hens are usually enough to provide a household with enough eggs although it should be remembered that laying will be more prolific during the summer months with more daylight hours.
Stress is a common problem seen with chickens and can be due to a variety of factors including poor temperature control, movement, poor nutrition, changes in environment, parasites and physical disturbances such as noise. Stressed animals produce less eggs and are more susceptible to disease and other problems such as feather plucking. As such, it is important to ensure the correct environment and that any changes are made gradually.
Another common problem seen in chickens is mites which can cause significant disease.Signs to watch out for are loss of feathers, restless birds, loss of condition, pale comb, drop in egg production, presence of grey to red mites and itching of the person handling the chickens. Treatment entails medication of individuals and environmental control (housing).
Before starting the Small Holding
Whether thinking about getting pigs or poultry it is advisable to consult us beforehand so as to be able to ensure that suitable housing and feed can be provided from the day of arrival. We will also be able to help you decide on what worming treatments and vaccinations will be most appropriate for your individual situation.