As the days close in on us and the hair grows grayer, we're reminded that time is a precious commodity and we should always make the best use of it. So at this point, we're ready to move forward and raise more animals. And we're switching it up a bit by building a "Pig Palace" and getting ready for our first breeding pair. At first, we were confused about what breed to raise and then wouldn't you know it, a wonderful blog turns up in my Google search that was instrumental in helping us figure out a way to do it cheap and healthy. I discovered heritage breeds that are grass fed. You just provide a few supplemental foods here and there, and the rest of the time they're a grazin'. Better for them, better for us. I decided to raise one breed in particular: The heritage Black Hog. A semi-endangered, mild-mannered creature with big floppy ears that prefers to eat grass. "Oh good golly! Where do I get 'em?!" And so the research began.
All together now, "WHAT?!!! WHY NOW?"
Okay, let me explain why now? since y'all know we originally planned on getting them a lot later. The hubby and I sat down and talked about the cost of raising the different animals we intend to add to the farm. So we ran the numbers. Besides poultry, pigs/hogs kept coming up as the most cost-efficient way to make extra money for the homestead as well as providing a lot of food for our family. The return is just enormous. I always knew I wanted to raise them someday, but after that conversation we realized it should be sooner than later.
Since we're on a small farm/family homestead, we'll have to limit it to one breeding pair and somehow keep the piggy family confined. And then it hit us. Building the house and paddocks would be practically free. How? Pallets. We found a roofing supply company that allows us to pick up pallets anytime we want. Four truckloads later and we have enough for a nice little corral.
Three pallets are held together with 1x3 redwood boards at the top and bottom. This makes a very strong fence panel.
An opening at either end makes it easy to slip the panels over metal fence posts. A few other things were done for strength and stability like, placing pallets perpendicular to the panels (say that 3 times fast!) and the occasional stake wherever it was needed.
The paddocks will somehow be blocked off at the bottom all the way around to prevent teeny piglets from squeezing through. (It's not overkill, you should read some of the crazy stories of the little escape artists getting out!) The whole thing is just shy of a 1/4 acre. At each corner is a gate. This is Piggy Northeast. It's what we see from the back of our home. Sweet.
Finally get to use hinges the hubby had laying around for ages! Hold onto everything folks, you just never know...
A piece of scrap wood, scrap metal and a torch are more fun than a coloring book and crayons.
The house, Piggy Central, is in the center. We decided to put the house on a diagonal, this way it's easier to divide the space into four equal parts and keep the building as simple as possible.
Update: While designing this I didn't realize that our boar would need more than one sow for mating, and so we've decided to add three additional paddocks (per sow) along the outer edges. One for mama, one for her weaned babies and an extra large paddock as the weaners turn into growers and get close to finishing. Only the sow that is about to farrow will stay in the center and get use of the main house. Whew! That was a close one! But if you choose to just keep one sow, this layout works beautifully. (more)
The property is on a very gentle slope so for Piggy Central, we buried four posts, added a raised dirt floor and leveled it off. We'll top this with a thick layer of hay to make a nice, comfortable bed. More pallets make the walls. (We'll cut out the doors later.) We chose the pallets with little to no gaps because it will help to block most of the wind and it looks like I'll still have some patching to do. We get pretty high winds in the spring and late in the fall so it will be necessary to close up any gaps along the bottom where they sleep if need be. Ventilation will be at the top. The hubby crafted a jig for his sawmill to cut shingles and pig central is the first project to get 'em. It's a standard water-shed roof and I'll dig a channel and hope it runs toward the main drainage for the property. (I'll add a post that concludes this adventure with what worked and what didn't... after the piggies move in.)
After all that, we still needed more pallets. We needed 20 more for the interior fencing. Now thatsa lotta pallets!
So that brings us up to date with this project. But let's talk more about the pigs. When I found a pig farm within driving distance, I called and confirmed they would be ready to sell in about a month. I stood up and shouted, "the piggies coming!" Just couldn't help myself. (blush) Another bonus is they have a sow and a boar for sale that are not from the same family. Instant breeding pair with no shipping. How easy and convenient is that? But we can't decide if we want full grown hogs or piglets to start. We'd better decide quick though... I meet with them in a couple of weeks when one of the pregnant sows will give birth. By the way, is that a precious gift or what? I mean, right off the bat, I can see the babes being born! Awesome.
The kind woman in charge of the pig farm was all too eager to help with any questions and said I could call her anytime. And so I did. I just let it all spill out. What particular grasses should I grow? What supplements can I grow that they like? Do pigs get bored? Is there a natural treatment for deworming and keeping other pests like flies away? (Not sure if she knew what hit her..?) Now with the answers all locked up in my head and piggies on the way, I'm inspired to create a page that is all about raising pigs. Okay, maybe we should just finish the Piggy Palace first. One thing at a time. 🙂