If you have decided to raise pigs, you will need to consider how to fence them in, what type of shelter they will have and supplies for feeding, watering and simple veterinary care. With this guide, you will learn the benefits and drawbacks of different containment solutions so you can decide what will work best on your property.
This article is part of the series The Complete Guide to Raising Pigs in your Backyard. Click here to check out the rest of the series!
The two most common types of fencing used for pigs are electric wire and metal livestock panels.
Electric fencing requires an electrified fencing material such as electric netting or polywire which is connected to a power source or a solar powered AC/DC adapter. The electric fencing will also need to be attached to steel fence posts with clips to secure it in place. Electirc fencing can be used in conjunction with metal field fencing or livestock panels for added security. This type of fencing works great for large areas as it can be easily taken down and moved if needed. However, safety can be a concern with pets or children that will have access to the fence perimeter.
Hog panels (or feedlot panels) are 16 feet long and 34 inches tall with horizontal bars that are closer together at the bottom to contain piglets and wider at the top. These can be purchased at Tractor Supply or other farming related stores. For tiny piglets, a fencing material with smaller gauge holes may need to be added. Hog panels are extremely rigid and strong, you cannot substitute lightweight fencing rolls for them. Livestock panels can be installed using either metal or wooden posts. These panels are safer for the animals and visitors but are labor intensive to move so plan to build this type of fence in a permanent location.
Pigs are happy in a wide variety of habitats from forests to pastures. You will need to ensure that your site provides shade and shelter. You can save on feed by providing fresh forage of plants, roots, and other food resources. Different pig breeds have varying levels of foraging abilities, so consider your selected breed’s strengths when planning the site.
Two tiny piglets can root up a 30ft x 30ft area in a matter of a week, so unless you have multiple acres of pasture for them, their enclosure will be converted to a dirt patch. You can use these rooting activities to your advantage by enclosing an area you want to be cleared or allowing them to till your farmland or garden plot.
A helpful design feature to include in your pig pen is a double gate or loading chute. Think of it like a vestibule. It creates a small area where the pigs can be kept for loading or separated from the rest of the herd if need be. It is also a great way to contain a pig that needs medical attention.
If we ever have pigs escape, we leave the outer gate open with a rope tied to it. We leave a little food in the “vestibule” as bait and close the gate behind the pigs when they go in to eat. Then just open the inner gate to let them rejoin the herd.
Pigs need a place to sleep that is warm and protected from the elements. They do not need to be elaborate or large, pigs like to snuggle up with one another when they sleep and don’t mind being a bit crowded in their shelter. Be sure to provide ventilation and air flow inside any enclosed livestock space. Always provide bedding in the form of straw or another soft material to help keep the pigs warm and dry. Some options for a pig shelter include:
Barn – A barn with access to an outdoor fencing enclosure is the ideal set up for pigs. Barns are especially beneficial when running a larger farming operation or breeding so that boars can be separated from sows and piglets. Young piglets also need a space that is heated in cold winter months.
Straw Bale House – Straw bales can be stacked in a brick pattern to create a 3-sided structure in minutes. The straw bales need to be secured with wire fencing or metal t-posts to protect them from the weight of the pig’s bodies. Then it just needs a roof. This can be as simple as placing 2×4’s over the top with a tarp stretched over, or could be a framed rectangle with metal sheeting attached.
This type of housing is temporary and wont last more than a single season. (Do not place this type of house next to your perimeter fence. If the pigs start to destroy their walls, they can create stairs out of the straw and jump the fence.)
Log Cabin – If you have wooded land and ax or chainsaw skills, you don’t need to go to the store to buy materials for your pig’s shelter. You can build a shelter out of tree trunks/branches by cutting notches on the edges just like Lincoln logs. The logs could also be constructed vertically with a few horizontal pieces attached for stability.
Tunnel House – These structures are shaped like an arch, similar to a greenhouse. They are inexpensive and easy to construct in large quantities. Hog panels can be bent in an arch shape and covered with metal or even a simple tarp for a more temporary structure.
Farrowing House – Farrowing is the process of breeding and birthing a litter of piglets. A farrowing house will contain only sow’s and their litters. They must have ample ventilation with the ability to heat and cool the structure. The floors should be cement or another material that is easy to clean and disinfect to prevent the spread of disease. They also need to have appropriate bars along the bottom edge that prevent the sow from lying on and crushing the piglets. The bar should be adjustable or high enough that only small piglets can fit under it.
The best design we have come up with for watering our pigs is to use a 55 Gallon Water Barrel and attach a Pig Drinking Nipple to it using a Brass Water Container Spigot. We fill this up every few days to a week and it’s easy to add more water barrels or use a larger container like a 275 Gallon IBC Tote for a larger drove.
Be sure to secure your water barrel to a fence or structure. Otherwise, it will become a plaything and get knocked all around the pen. It is very helpful to elevate the water tank on bricks or some kind of platform. The area around it will inevitably become very muddy.
If you want to avoid constantly having to refill your pigs water source, an Automatic Water Feeder Trough Bowl is a great option. These need to be connected to a hose or water line that is constantly flowing so they are typically found in barns or other permanent structures.
Feeding and Diet
Hog feed can be purchased at your local feed co-op or Tractor Supply. Single or Double Hog Feeders need to be mounted to the fence with tie down straps or other hardware to prevent the pigs from knocking it over.
A Feed Bucket with Handle is helpful for carrying non-bagged food to the pig pen (also known as slop). Pigs enjoy eating a wide variety of food from table scraps and leftovers to overripe garden produce or fruit that has dropped from a crabapple tree or orchard. Provide a trough for slop so the food will stay clean, a Heavy Duty Rubber Bowl or Fence Mounted Feeder Bowl work well for this purpose.
Health and Care
For small lacerations or skin problems, Lanolin Ointment is great to have on hand. It helps protect open cuts and sores from becoming infected and speeds the healing process. Pigs can pick up a variety of internal parasites from rooting in the dirt. Add De-wormer to your pig’s feed at 8 weeks of age and again every 2-4 months. They will also need to be de-wormed prior to breeding or butchering. For any more serious ailments within your pig population, be sure to consult a farm veterinarian.
To Learn More . . .
If you’re interested in learning more about raising pigs, check out the rest of the series The Complete Guide to Raising Pigs in your Backyard!