Swine

Straw, Sticks or Bricks: How Do I Build a Pig Pen?

Traditional : Care and Management

Mariela Lachmann

Ph.D. - Senior Nutritionist, Swine Technical Solutions

Are you thinking about raising pigs as pork for your family?

One thing to consider before you bring your pigs home is where you will keep them.
 
You won’t need to worry about the Big Bad Wolf blowing your pigs’ house down, but you will need to keep them safe from the elements. And, you will want to keep your yard safe from your inquisitive, strong-snouted pigs. A sturdy shelter with room to move around will keep your pigs comfortable and your sweet corn patch safe.
 
Pigs instinctively establish separate areas for their daily activities. Be sure your pigs have enough room to move between the spaces they choose to:
  • Eat
  • Drink
  • Sleep
  • Eliminate waste
Indoor pigs
Inside a barn or shed, plan for at least 50 square feet per pig. Ideally, your pig pen would be twice as long as it is wide. An 8- by 16-foot pen would be enough so two feeder pigs could stretch their legs.
 
Pigs kept indoors should be protected from drafts but must also have good ventilation. Windows should let in fresh air but keep out rain. Fans can help with ventilation and with keeping pigs cool during the heat of summer.
 
If you are building a new pig pen rather than using an existing one, be sure the pen is at least three feet high. This height is tall enough to keep your pigs in as they grow. 
Galvanized mesh panels are ideal for pig pens, but wood or other fence options will also work. No matter where you keep your pigs, be sure the fences and gates that make up your pig pen are secure and sturdy.
 
Outdoor pigs
If you are raising your pigs outdoors in a pasture-type setting, plan for at least 20 square feet per pig. Even though they are outdoors, you pigs will still need shelter from the weather.
 
A three-sided shelter will give your pigs shade in the summer and help them keep dry in rain or snow. The size of the shelter will depend on how many pigs you have. When it’s cold, your pigs will sleep curled together like puppies. If it’s hot, your pigs will want room inside the shelter to spread away from each other in the shade.
 
Pigs raised outside will likely rooting the soil with their snouts. You will need to keep an eye on the holes they are digging in the dirt and fill them in as necessary – especially holes near the fences. Holes could become escape routes to the other side of the fence or hazards that make your pigs trip or fall.  
 
Room for your pigs to move
Regardless of where you keep your pigs, you need to allow space for separate, distinct areas for feeding, bedding and defecating. Pigs will instinctively eliminate their waste away from where they sleep. Be sure to position their bedding accordingly to keep the wet and dry areas of the pen separate from each other so your pigs can rest in a clean, dry space.
 
Placing feeders and waterers in separate areas will encourage pigs to exercise. Pigs don’t need to run to release energy like many breeds of horses or dogs do. But they do need to move around to encourage muscle tone and bone development. If pens are too small, the dominant pig in the group could assert control over the feeder.
 
Giving your pigs room and encouragement to move will support their wellbeing. Providing a sturdy shelter will keep your pigs safe from the elements and discourage them from digging and rooting where they’re not welcome. 
 

Fournier, Michael P. "Raising Small Groups of Pigs." Extension.psu.edu. April 20, 2016.