Friday, July 8, 2011

Question from email - pigpens

Question from email:  I'd like to keep pigs; what do you recommend for a pigpen? 

 This is a simple pen that is pretty much foolproof.  Here I've got it backed up to a fence, but you can construct one yourself out of 4 panels and 8 4' T posts.  I've put a calf dome in the center (I get them off the local craigslist for about $150) but you can substitute a dog house or a simple plywood box, or a couple of hay bales with a piece of plywood on top instead.  This particular pen measures 16' square, and has 10 piglets in it.  Plenty of room for the little guys.  On the right side of this photo you'll notice a piece of rope.  that's electric fence polyrope -- it's got stainless steel wires woven in it -- and I'll run a strand of it inside this pen, all the way around it.  I want the piglets to get shocked by it and learn to respect it.  Later that poly rope will be the only fence that they'll need most of the time, allowing for easy movements on pasture.

Condition pigs to electric fences
It's very important that the first pig area you use with your new piglets is hard-fenced.  That means that if the piglet takes a running start that the fence will completely stop the pig.  You want the pig to be stopped and then get shocked by the electric fence.  You DO NOT want your piglet to learn that a good, hard run at the fence means freedom -- once they learn that they will never forget it.  So don't give them a chance 
To construct the pen I use baling twine to tie the posts to the panels, and to tie the panels together.  That means when it comes time to take it apart it's easy, and none of the panels is damaged -- maximum life and re-use of the panels. 

If you'd like your pigs to be in a larger area -- say a pasture or paddock -- you put this up in a corner somewhere.  Let them hang out in it for a week or two, and get used to you, and your routine.  Take the opportunity to tame your piglets down and get them used to seeing you, getting fed by you and having their ears scratched and belly rubbed.   Once they're conditioned to the electric fence, open a corner and let them venture out as they please.  You'll need your polyrope to be pretty close to the ground for these little guys. 

Here's an example of a pig fence on pasture

that single strand of poly rope will be sufficient to keep pigs if they've got everything that they need inside their area.  food, water, friends and shelter.  It will not contain them if they're panicked or if something motivates them to move -- with boars, love conquers all, so be prepared for romeo if you have an intact boar.   In the picture, the double-line of fencing is because i'll have two different sizes of pigs.  Aim your polyrope height for nose-height on your average pig.  If you have multiple sizes, you'll need multple strands.  If you have cows, and you want to exclude them, aim for mid-chest on a cow for your top electric line. 

Don't fence gates with electric line
Finally, pigs will remember where an electric fence HAS BEEN.  Don't fence across gates or lanes that you'll want to move pigs through later.  They'll remember the fence even when its gone. 

1 comment:

Joanne said...

Thanks Bruce for this tutorial on fencing. I'm planning on adding pigs to my farm next year and I've been doing a lot of reading on pig appropriate fencing.