Pens for Sows, Boars, and Feeders

This weekend we need to wrangle some pigs around. We have some sows that need to get in with some boars. We have been trying to schedule a couple litters per month. In order to do that, each month we need to rotate sows to be with our boars. I have 2 sows that need to get in with the boar this weekend. In order for that to happen, we need to take 3 sows out.

Feeder Pigs needing to be sorted
Feeder Pigs Needing to be Sorted

It is going to be a struggle this year, we are growing our herd and feeding out more than we have in the past. We currently have 5 pens being used just to grow out pigs. We have pigs that range from 25 lbs. up to 230 lbs. We try to keep pigs together and grouped by size. As some of our pigs grow at different rates, we have to keep an eye on the pens and keep moving up the pigs that are growing quicker. If there gets to be too great of a size difference, there will be bullying,  and the smaller pigs will not get their share to eat.

We have split up some of our bigger pens in order to divide the feeder pigs according to size. This weekend we are needing to divide another one of our larger pens to make a new pen. I have a size difference starting again and no good option to separate them. So a new pen must be built. As we have been adding new pens,we have been struggling to keep up with building new shelters and water barrels.  Soon I am also going to run out of pens that we can split and we will have to start expanding out to new areas. Splitting a pen is a lot cheaper than buying panels to make an entire new pen.

We have designated farrowing pens, boar pens, and grow out pens. Soon we will be getting our farrowing pens ready to have little babies, but for now we are using them to house our breeding groups. I am short one boar pen, which I will need to create before we switch over to farrowing, but I am still not certain how I where I want it to go.

 

 

 

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Building a Homemade Hoop Shelter for Pigs

 

My daughter and I made this hoop shelter for our pigs 5 years ago and it is still in great shape. It is fairly easy to build with just a little elbow grease.

Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering
Pig Hoop Shelter without Covering

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This shelter is built from common materials and goes together easily.

2- 16′ cattle panels cut down to 12′

2- 4’x8′ sheets of untreated plywood

4- 6″x4″x8′ treated posts

4- 1″x3″ untreated boards

1- 10’x12′ tarp

Misc: Screws, Lag bolts, metal plumbers strapping, and fence staples

We started by notching the ends of the treated posts. The notches enabled us to overlap the ends of the posts to be glued and nailed together while still giving us a flat surface all the way around. We notched the posts with a circular saw, we used multiple passes to create slices half way through the post. The slices were then chiseled out and smoothed. Update to our original build- We would at this point in the build add a sealed floor of some sort.  Hindsight is always 20/20.

In order to secure the cattle panels in a curved position, we put lag bolts on 2 alternate sides. The lag bolts were put in 2 inches from the outside edge of the posts. We used 6 bolts per side and spaced the bolts evenly along the post. The bolts were left out about 1.5 inches so that the wire panel had a good point of contact.

We wired the to cattle panels together along their length and put one end up against the bolts. The panel was then carefully pulled down so that the opposite end rested inside of the bolts on the other side. We have at that point a base and a hoop. The ends were secured in place with some large fencing staples, and all of the sharp edges of the panel and wires were removed to prevent injury.

The end panels were the next piece of the build to tackle. We held one plywood panel up to the end of the hoop and traced the outline onto the wood. We cut out the curved end piece and secured it to the wire with plumbing strap and screws. The entrance side will have a doorway cut out as well before it is attached. We cut two 1″x3″ boards that ran from top to bottom inside the end pieces. we attached them with screws to give the end pieces more stability. We double checked again for sharp points of screws and made sure to grind them down to prevent future injury.

Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the End Panel
Attaching the Interior Support
Attaching the Interior Support

We covered our hoop buildings with tarps secured with lathe around the bottom edges. This worked great right up to the point when the sows started their nest building phase. They tore huge sections of the tarp off to add to their nest even though they had plenty of straw. We have since corrected this by adding sheet metal strips to the bottom of each side, and we completely covered a few  huts and removed the tarp all together.

There is always improvements to be made, and the first version is just a starting point. These are great huts, but by all means not perfect for everyone. Like I mentioned earlier we would have added a floor to these, and when we build more we will add that option. We have had these huts for 5 years and have only needed to replace the tarps.  As are farm grows I will need to start building more.

http://burninr.com/portablepigshelter.html

 


 

 

 

 

 

Adding the Pullets to the Laying Flock

This last weekend we cleaned the chicken coop. . We have a three section coop. Section one is the main coop and it is 10’x15′ and houses the feed and water for the laying flock. Section 2 is 10’x5′ and it houses the roosts and nest boxes for our main flock. Section 3 is a section we use as an extended brooder, rooster pen, and isolated breeding pen. What we clean out gets spread onto our hay field as fertilizer.

We have had last falls hatch of chicks in section 3 for the winter. The little pullets are looking very nice and were ready to mix into the main laying flock.  After we cleaned the coop we left the pullets in with the older hens. I figured there would be a ruckus while they all got used to each other but they all blended in nicely. The young pullets did look a little confused, but started to eat well after a short time. The 2 pens were only separated by chicken wire so they were weren’t really strangers.

New Pullets with the Layers
New Pullets with the Layers

I am looking forward to the young pullets to start laying soon.  There are still 4 young roosters that need to go into the freezer. Hopefully this next weekend we can start to work on that. Fried chicken really sounds good about now!

I need to order some chicks or get some eggs set to incubate. I need to have a clutch of spring chicks so when my fall hens molt,  the spring chicks will hopefully carry us through. We are trying to decide which breeds to keep and if we would like to incorporate a new breed. We do not have Buff Orpingtons, and since we both are partial to that breed, we will probably add a few.

I will be ordering a few broiler chicks to raise to sell at the farmers market as well as to put a few our freezer. I have not decided which breed of those to get either. I am trying to decide between the red broiler cross and the Dixie Rainbow type chickens.  I do know that the White Cornish cross is definitely not an option. I need to get my chicken tractor cleaned up and ready to roll.