Thursday, December 4, 2008

The pinball pen

The piglets that I don't sell as piglets to folks who want to raise them for their own families or to eat them immediately need to respect the fence lines. A pig(let) doesn't automatically assume that a white rope is to be avoided. To learn to respect it they need to spend some time looking at it and getting shocked by it. After a few weeks in the pinball pen, when we release them to pasture they are much less likely to escape.

We have four pinball pens, to accomodate different litters and sizes. Each one is 20x20, and has an metal feed bin and an automatic waterer. For the smaller piglets who haven't figured out the waterer, I put in a rubber bowl and drip a hose into it. So every pig has all the food and water it can eat.

The basic elements of this pen can be seen in the picture above. It has a 36" woven wire fence, and an inner electric fence. The outer fence prevents the piglets from taking a good running start and running through the electric. If they do that, they hit the woven fence, and are held there as they get shocked a few times. Usually you'll have one piglet do this, and the other ones watch it squeal and decide as a group that that's not a good time. The first few times they get shocked they pretty much shriek. EEEEEK! EEEEK! So do I, when I get shocked by the fence. I get shocked once or twice a week. Guess I'm a slow learner. Both the inner and outer fence are on 4' T posts that I salvaged from a highway project. They were throwing away thousands of them in a dumpster, so I dove in and pulled out 3,000 fence posts. I figure i have a lifetime supply. Such tremendous waste.

The white dome is a really a calf dome, used for raising calves, but in this case they're tough, relatively cheap shelter. We bed this calf shelter with 6-8 bales of hay, so the hay inside is at least a foot or two deep.

Welcome to the earth

I've found it easier transition if I put an older, experienced piglet or two in with the new litter. The older pigs know where to sleep, where to eat, and how to drink, so they show the new pigs pretty quickly how it works. Later I'll remove the older pigs. Here, the new pigs are slowly exploring the new space. This is the first time these pigs have been on any sort of dirt -- the farm I purchased this group from raised them on concrete.

Here the bravest pig of the new group says hello to the older piglets -- who have figured out that the hay is pretty darn comfortable, and were snoozing before I pulled up in the tractor.

Later that evening i went back and put every pig into the shelter. Once they've spent the night in comfort they'll find their way back. Pigs like to sleep in groups -- warmer for everyone. The original pigpile.


Carter said...

Thanks for the idea of using the PolyDomes for small animals. I wasn't aware of this product and was comtemplating a far more elaborate and expensive solution for two sheep!

Bruce King said...

You're welcome. I like that they are tall enough to work inside if you need to, light enough to move easily and will last for years if you use them with smaller animals. Bigger pigs eventually break the dome at the bottom of the door.

To make them even handier buy a stock panel/hog panel. If you form it into a circle and tie the ends together it fits nicely over the dome and allows you to contain animals easily. Just lift off to release animals or enter dome. Means that I can easily contain ewes during lambing or whatever I need to pen. When youredone roll dome away. No shoveling bedding or manure