If I’d ever been asked what a pig’s preferred sleeping arrangements might be, I’d probably have scratched my head. I suppose I might have imagined those arch shaped pig houses that can be seen on modern pig farms, or pictured them burrowing into some hay, but I never imagined that a nesting pig would create something so, well, nest-like!
Shortly after arriving here in central Portugal, I welcomed two little Vietnamese potbellied pigs to my smallholding in the hope that they’d mow my grass for me, produce some manure and maybe dig a bit too. They didn’t let me down, and in fact have become fabulous members of the family, but they did have a surprise for me.
I have five acres of land and the pigs roam free on most of it. Not long after they arrived I was walking across the terraces when something stopped me dead in my tracks. Under the fig tree in front of me there was a GIANT nest. It was impeccably constructed, like a beautiful Easter nest you might buy with some chocolate eggs inside, but huge – I mean HUGE! It was easily a metre and a half across, and I froze in sheer panic, glancing nervously from side to side. Was there an enormous bird of prey in the immediate vicinity that might just be able to swoop down and catch me for it’s dinner? Some undiscovered species of gargantuan proportion that the wildlife of Europe guidebooks just didn’t cover?! No, that was ridiculous. I pushed aside mental images of giant flying lizards from the Jurassic era and retreated to a safe distance to observe.
What a gorgeous site it was to see two little potbellied pigs make their way out of the undergrowth, each with a mouthful of bracken which they lovingly tucked into the neat sides of the nest. From that point I became rather obsessed with observing this careful construction. The pigs would tear foliage with their mouths and gather it all up, before carrying it or nudging it with their noses towards the nest.
Since then the pigs have built many nests, but their finest construction came about as winter approached. Rather than stopping building when the nest walls were nice and high, they just kept going until they’d created a perfect green dome! Well, of course we had to dub it the “Piglu”! Each night they squeeze in to curl up together and can’t be seen from the outside at all. With such entertainment I don’t mind at all that they rejected the stable I’d built for them. What clever little creatures they are!