How To Build A Pig Shelter.
I would readily admit that the Elliotts, in general, tend to be a little bit behind on the ball. Like that one time we actually took our children to church without shoes. I feel like that's metaphorical for our life in quite a few ways.
So it came as no surprise to anyone really when our sow Ginny's belly began to grow whilst we sat around scratching our bellybuttons wondering when someone would show up to build her a shelter in which to have those babies.
I kid. Sort of. While she was growing that belly, we were off filming a Food Network pilot, putting the finishing touches on Family Table (which you can preorder now!), and ya know – raising children and all that jazz.
And yet, animals wait for no one. So it was time to capitalize a bit on the glorious winter weather and get this pig a shelter built! Currently, all of our pigs live together in the pig palace – a large strip of land that sits at the top of the farm. There, they have more room than they use and get to interact with one another all day every day. This is great for most days! But not for birthing.
When an animal gives birth, they seclude themselves from the others and get all sorts of introverted. They're in the zone. And one must respect the zone. Problem is, when trouble arises, it's often necessary for a farmer (me!) to be in that zone. So building a shelter with optimal accessibility, but also one that allows her privacy from us and from the rest of the pigs, was key. The other super important factor here is that pigs are so, so, so hard to move. They're not herd animals and moving a pig is much like pushing a 500 pound boulder on flat ground. Good luck with that, Sparky. Last year, we had a beast of a time moving the litter of piglets (who at the time weren't but 75 pounds each) into the larger pig pen where they would grow out. I swear it took us multiple attempts, over the course of three days, to finally move them the 20 feet from their birthing pen to their growing pen. What a waste of time! So now, instead, we built the birthing pen inside the growing pen. All that we need to do, when they're strong and grown up a bit, is to remove the hog panels that separate the pen into sections. Wow! And it only took us two years to figure it out. Go us!
In pondering how to build a pig shelter, we've gone many different routes over our years with pigs. Yet this shelter continues to be my favorite. It goes up easily, in just a few minutes time, and can be switched up, moved, and removed with little effort. It's also incredibly inexpensive, as far as shelters go, so that's a victory as well. In the summer, I switch out the tarp for cheap white canvas cloth.
How To Build A Pig Shelter
You will need:
– 8 t-posts and fence pounder
– 3 16′ hog panels
– Large tarp (we used a 10'x12′ for this shelter)
– 2 solid metal panels, optional
This shelter can be built in the middle of a field, but in this case, I wanted it to be built into the corner. The pigs naturally lay there anyhow and we could capitalize on the solid metal panels that already line the pig pen.
1. Establish where the pen will sit. On one side, sink 4 of the t-posts deep into the ground. Pigs are hefty animals and press against things with great strength! So even with these solid sides already in place, we still sunk 4 t-posts on the opposite side as well to strengthen it all the more. Sink the additional 4 t-posts on the opposite side, about 8′ from one side of the shelter to the other.
2. Bend the hog panel between the t-posts, allowing it to press against them as you arch it. Twine the panels together where the arches meet after allowing them to overlap by about 6″ to reinforce the seams that will run over the top. This will create the arch look that you see here.
3. At this point, you have the option to place the solid metal panels between the hog panel and the t-posts. This will create a solid barrier to protect against snow, rain, etc. The pressure from the bent hog panel will hold the solid metal sheets in place. And now the fun part! The twine! You could use wire, if you're a responsible adult, but I used twine because it's easy to cut off if need-be, it's free, it's in large supply 'round here, and because I'm just a wee bit trashy like that. Use 8″ pieces to secure the shelter, tying the panels to the t-posts, the panels together along the seams, etc.
4. And lastly, spread the tarp over the top of the shelter. Secure it with twine as well. Just keepin' it classy, man. This is, after all, life on the farm. Welcome to it.
A wee bit of fresh straw and Ginny was pleased as punch. We've kept the shelter open to all the pigs for the time being, but as her time gets a bit closer and she begins to build a nest (yes, pigs do that), we'll close a large section of the pen off for her to have privacy and space. Everybody needs a bit of space. Amiright? Children? Are you reading this? Space? For mothers? Hello? Never mind…
Oh! And lest we forget another very important mother on our farm, Cecelia is pleased to announce that she's officially with calf and is due in June with a new little bovine. Last year's heifer calf, Pepper, is growing up to be quite the sweetheart. Swoon.
What is it about cows that speaks to me so?
And what is it about Old Spot pigs that also does the same?
And ducks? How about those? Sheep? Chickens? Rabbits? Geese? Dogs?
I think I have an animal obsession. And I think I like it.