Six Little Piggies

Karen got six little piggies on Monday. They’re up on the back forty where we could use extra fertility. Pigs dig up the ground something fierce, leaving it rough, but they also leave it fertile.

Pigs are fun and trouble-free if you don’t keep them too long. They’re way too smart and they get awfully big. The last month or so can easily become a battle of wits that the farmer loses.

We keep them on pasture, first in a sixteen-foot square of lightweight hog panels, then a larger area of electric fencing. Pigs can get significant amounts of nutrition from pasture. We use galvanized “Porta-Huts” for pig houses. These can be dragged around pretty easily by hand and tossed into the back of a pickup truck for longer moves.

We sell pork by the half-pig to customers who sign up in advance. This year, for the first time, Karen called the butcher (The Farmer’s Helper in Harrisburg, Oregon — they’re the best) as soon as she got the pigs, and set a butcher date (August 15). That’s farming for you. You don’t even get a day to enjoy the little piggies without considering their future as pork and bacon. Last year we had to keep the pigs about six weeks longer than we wanted, past the dry season and into the soggy Oregon winter, because we didn’t get on the schedule soon enough. Never again!

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Robert Plamondon
Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

Author: Robert Plamondon

Robert Plamondon has written three books, received over 30 U.S. patents, founded several businesses, and is an expert on free-range chickens. His publishing company, Norton Creek Press, is a treasure trove of the best poultry books of the last 100 years.

8 thoughts on “Six Little Piggies”

  1. Thanks for posting more about your piggies. I am hoping to get a couple this spring but for whatever reason they are in extremely short supply here in northern Idaho. Hopefully there will be some available from late litters after the great 4-H piglet buying frenzy in May.

    Do you stake down your pig-panel pens in any way? How about the corners, do you just wire them together?

    Chicks are in very short supply too — everyone seems to want to raise chickens this year. Phinney went out of business and apparently the other hatcheries are having a hard time keeping up with demand. To get chicks through local feed stores you have to put your name on a waiting list at least two weeks in advance.

  2. We have tried a bunch of different things. Pigs are smart and strong, so it’s hard to contain them with 100% effectiveness. Also, the dominant ones seem able to make the other do the dirty work, like knocking down the electric fence so the others can walk out without getting zapped. They escape a lot less if you never, ever let them run out of water or feed. This is harder than it sounds because they grow fast and require more feed every day. It’s hard not to fall behind.

    When they’re small, you can confine them with lightweight hog panels tied together with baling twine. When they learn how to lift the panels with their snouts and squeeze under them, it’s time to stake down the panels with T-posts or use electric fence. Or give up and let them roam free. Can’t do that in my neighborhood. Loose dogs, yes: loose pigs, no.

    The key with getting piglets is the same as with setting butchering dates: place your order so early that it’s almost ludicrous, and you should be fine.

    It’s normal to have to wait a couple of weeks for chicks: we count ourselves lucky if the hatchery can ship the same week we place our order. (Of course, we usually order around 100 chicks at a time.)

  3. Thanks for commenting on how you keep the piglets. I just got three yesterday and want to do the moveable pen, against my hubby’s wishes. I definitely need to build a moveable hut for them… right now we just laid 2x4s and then a sheet of OSB over one end (8 x 16 pen) for a roof but everything will have to be taken apart to move it.

  4. We are hoping to do the same to help clear a meadow but I have no experience with the buggers. What do you use for feeder / waterer? Any pictures? Finally, what do you use to secure the panels to the hut and the ground? Thanks so much! I did find a butcher who will come to our place in the fall so at least I have that end figured out.

  5. Thanks for the kind words, everyone.

    Right now our piggie setup is rudimentary except for the house, which is a Port-a-Hut. Can’t recommend them too highly. They last forever and are not too big to drag around by hand.

    We’re using big rubber feed pans for both feeding and watering. This is bogus, especially for watering, since the pigs muddy up the water instantly by standing in it. We put a float-valve waterer on the back of the Port-a-Hut that is too high for them to get their feet into, but we haven’t hooked it up.

    We also need to add a self-feeder for pig feed, too. We’ll make a stand for it and tie it to the hog panels. Then we’ll need the rubber pans only for feeding hard-boiled surplus eggs and other treats.

  6. I’m having my pigs pork-o-till up next year’s garden addition. 3 pigs in a 16 x 16 hog panel pen, tied down to t posts. Tub water only works for a short while, they flip it over, or walk through and try to lay in it. We had to leave town a few days in July and my hubby rigged up a 55 (?) gallon plastic barrel that had a screw-on lid, with a spigot screwed in near the bottom with that soft white tape to help prevent leaks. Put the barrel up on blocks for better gravity flow, just outside the pen, and attached a short piece of hose from it to a push-waterer which goes through the fence. Works great. Can then attach another 16 x 16 pen section, one at a time, on 3 other sides before having to move the water arrangement to move the original pen.

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