Introducing 2 Frightened Pigs To Existing Herd

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catslovelycats

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Three weeks ago I took in 2 pigs from RSPCA that had been illtreated. Age approx 1.5-2 years.
They are very nervous, but eating and beginning to not run and hide as soon as I enter the room.
HOw soon should I try bonding them with my others (a herd of 5 sows)?
At the moment they are all indoors but i'm hoping that in the Easter hols it will be warm enough for everyone to go back into their free range of the shed.
I've tried introducing the newbies to my 2nd most dominant sow using the indoor run. she tried to attack one of them so I separated them.
One of the rescues is long haired, so I'm thinking I might try bath-bonding her with my other long-haired diva later and give them both a hair cut while I'm at it.

My questions are:
should I wait for the pigs to be more secure before introducing them to the herd?
should I do the introductions with all of them together at the same time, or do it in pairs/singly?
should I try introducing them to my 3 more nervous pigs first?

I tried to bond a rescue pig a few months ago and had to take her back to the rescue as they just wouldn't accept each other. I'd had no problems with bonding them before (am often taking in waifs and trays). I rally don't want this to fail and I want my newbies to know the security of a happy herd and not have to cower in hiding all the time (and I know this might take time).

Thanks for any advice or anecdotes you can share!
 

Wiebke

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Please let your new girls live next to your herd for at least a few days so they can get used to each other. The mor extraneous stress factors you can eliminate, the better. Acceptance into the herd happens first and foremost by the top sow and then travels down the hierarchy, the same goes with following dominance phase. You have to sit through it all unless the dominance behaviour goes over the line or a hierarchy issue cannot be resolved; usually between the two top sows.

Buddy bathing is not necessary for first intros and will only serve to further set skittish piggies on edge. If you wish, you can vicariously wipe all piggies down with a soft rag so the scents mingle, but be aware that in the end any success totally depends on how the personalities mesh. Always conduct the intros on neutral ground and only move the sows to a cleaned out cage when they have worked through the roughest bit of the dominance. this can take two days of tensions are stubbornly high on the first day. If they stay high on the second, I would consider looking for other solutions as the bonding is likely to not work out. The full dominance phase is usually lasting around two weeks in a group. The worst of the dominance usually comes from the sow placed just above in the hierarchy.

Please make sure that you haven't got any hideys during the intro, and no hideys with just one exit during the dominance phase. If there is aggression, you will have to work out whether it is fear-aggression or character incompatibility.
PS: I have never noticed that single intros pre-full intro have contributed much to the success; it is much better letting the piggies get to know each other through the bars in their own time and then doing a full group intro.

Here are more tips:
https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/introducing-and-re-introducing-guinea-pigs.38562/
https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/dominance-behaviours-in-guinea-pigs.28949/
https://www.theguineapigforum.co.uk/threads/sow-behaviour.38561/
 

catslovelycats

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Thank you Wiebke.
Do you think an indoor puppy pen would count as neutral if I put fresh fleece down etc? I use it over the winter for giving pigs a change of scene, so not sure if it is theoretically neutral or not. It's just ideal for me to be able to sit in with them in case I need to intervene and it's what I used yesterday.
The new pigs have been in the same room as the others for two weeks, so they are all aware of each other's existence.
Thanks for the links. I've never realised there was phases to intros.
I'm wondering whether to wait to do the intro when they all go into the shed as it will be neutral to them all.
 

Wiebke

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Thank you Wiebke.
Do you think an indoor puppy pen would count as neutral if I put fresh fleece down etc? I use it over the winter for giving pigs a change of scene, so not sure if it is theoretically neutral or not. It's just ideal for me to be able to sit in with them in case I need to intervene and it's what I used yesterday.
The new pigs have been in the same room as the others for two weeks, so they are all aware of each other's existence.
Thanks for the links. I've never realised there was phases to intros.
I'm wondering whether to wait to do the intro when they all go into the shed as it will be neutral to them all.
You can use the puppy pen. I would also recommend to put the indoor cages next to each other beforehand, ideally for a few days, so they can meet and interact through the grids; that is in my experience the one thing that really helps! The territory question is not so much an issue if singles or couples join a larger group, but reactions are always stronger and usually negative if there is a feeling of intruding into somepig else's territory. That is also the reason why it is better to spread the intros over more than a day if intros are not running smoothly, provided that the piggies still have got plenty of time to work through the dominance.
Acceptance is usually quite short; if it doesn't happen or there are scuffles/high aggression straight away, please abort. Then there is a small break of a few minutes after which the dominance sort out begins. In a group, the measuring up generally travels down from the top until the new piggy has found its place in the hierarchy (or not). Top sows usually have a harder time fitting in, as one of the sows has to give up their status, and not all piggies will accept that. Some piggies can also react aggressively from fear. You have give them extra space and time to work through that. No bonding is ever same and you can never quite predict how things are going to go. I've done over 40 group bondings now, successful and unsuccessful ones.
 

catslovelycats

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Thanks Weibke. Their cages are next to each other and I rotate them every few days when I clean them so they get used to seeing different pigs.
I'm wondering whether to let the newbies have some time alone in the pen first, so they aren't too stressed when the other pigs are with them? I'd change the fleeces to fresh ones before introducing the others.
 

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Thanks Weibke. Their cages are next to each other and I rotate them every few days when I clean them so they get used to seeing different pigs.
I'm wondering whether to let the newbies have some time alone in the pen first, so they aren't too stressed when the other pigs are with them? I'd change the fleeces to fresh ones before introducing the others.
I wouldn't, as that impinges on the territory question. I would rather recommend to put them all together into the puppy pen and peg a fleece over the top to make them feel more protected. I've often done my own intros under the kitchen table. That seemed to relax the piggies.
 

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So far so OK. I've pegged fleece over the top and have sat with them armed withy BBQ gloves. Lots of loud squeals, lots of jumping at each other and posturing. Goes quiet then someone moves and sets them all off. Here's a pic after I replenished their veg. Fingers crossed. I know we Arent out of the woods yet. Thanks for your help so far Weibke!
 

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Wiebke

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It sounds about par for the course. Just let them work out through the worst of the dominance until the evening and then see where they stand. If they are settling down OK with just a normal level of dominance, you can transfer them to the cage (minus any hideys with just one exit) and watch them for about an hour there. If things are still rather tense, separate for the night and restart on neutral ground again tomorrow. Things are often a lot more relaxed on the second day.

The loud squealing is submission. Keep an eye on the situation that the lunging/posturing stays just this side of the line until the girls have sorted out who is coming out on top and whether the other girl is going to accept defeat.
 

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Thank you for all your help. I'll leave them alone to it now, and see how the afternoon goes. Oven gloves kept at the ready, just in case. As I type they have started to protestat each other again, but no one is doing anything about it. Hopefully it will stay that way!
 

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Thank you for all your help. I'll leave them alone to it now, and see how the afternoon goes. Oven gloves kept at the ready, just in case. As I type they have started to protestat each other again, but no one is doing anything about it. Hopefully it will stay that way!
Just keep a close ear/eye on any flare-ups. Hopefully, they can settle things.
 

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Thanks Weibke. They are still in the pen together. They settled well this afternoon, but every now and then someone sets it all off again. I think it's my most dominant pig bossing Florence (the dominant newbie). There has been no blood drawn and nothing more than chasing and jumping at each other but not actually trying to attack. The piggie that tried attacking yesterday is very subdued today and not trying anything on, bless her. I need to stock up on more veg as they have eaten me out of house and home today!
I'm going to keep them apart tonight and see how things go tomorrow. It's quite warm enough to put them all together in the shed yet, anyway.
I'm assuming though that as nothing terrible has happened between them that things are probably going to be fine?
 

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An update.

The pigs have been together in the puppy pen since lunch time. There have been a few squeals and mass stampeding but on the whole they have been quiet and eating the veg and hay (seemingly happily). I'm going to keep them in their indoor cages and bring them together every evening until the weather is warmer. Once the Easter holidays start it will hopefully be warm enough to at least put them all in their shed during the day time.

I think the bonding has been a success, thought the BBQ gloves remain at hand and I'm still not totally confident to leave them alone unattended. It does seem to mostly be Angelica (the top pig) who is making sure that everyone knows she's boss. It's noticeable that she sits in the middle of the fresh hay pile and veg pile, which she's never done before, so I've created two piles and put in a 2nd bowl of water so that everyone gets some if they want it! Hopefully that will settle down soon.

Thanks for your help Wiebke and your good wishes caviequeen!
 
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