When planning your DIY fence installation always remember: A good fence should be horse high, bull strong and hog tight—and for goats, water tight as well, some might say. But describing a good fence and building one are two different things! No one enjoys chasing cows or pigs out of the garden, and most people don’t even like to think about the goats devastating the pine trees or orchard. But then, few of us relish the thought of the work involved in fence building either…to say nothing of its cost.
There was a time when wood fences in various forms were the norm. In some areas, logs or lumber may still be plentiful and cheap, but more commonly alternative materials must be found. Here are a few suggestions regarding hog fencing.
For the suburban-type homesteader who wants to tackle raising hogs for meat in a fashionable way, either because of neighbors or personal standards for the appearance of the homestead, a combination of logs and concrete has much to recommend it. A small, say 6′ x 12′ concrete slab, with a 6′ x 6′ shelter included, would make a very comfortable home for a couple of feeder pigs; it would be very easy to clean and maintain, it would be made quite attractive; and it wouldn’t have to cost a small fortune even if such expensive (but hog tight) materials as welded wire stock panels or poured concrete walls were used. You can also learn how to make your own homemade hog feeder to keep your hogs happy.
The main point homestead fencing, of course, is to keep the animals in their proper place, but if that were the only consideration, it would be a simple matter to build a Fort Knox. The problem is, you’d have to own a part of Fort Knox to afford it. On the other hand, a very inexpensive fence is worthless if it doesn’t perform its task of confining the pigs. Finding cheap fencing ideas that work can be a difficult task.
Electric fencing is by far the cheapest form of DIY fence installation, and with metal or fiberglass rod posts that can be easily pushed or driven into the ground (or pulled out when not needed) it’s by far the easiest to install and remove.
But pigs do have to be trained to recognize and respect its authority. Fortunately, these are intelligent animals and training them is no major task. However, perhaps also because of their intelligence, they know when the fencer isn’t working.
Woven wire fencing works well when doing DIY fence installation, although it’s more expensive and more work to erect. Furthermore, pigs can easily work their way under such a fence unless additional measures and precautions are taken, such as digging a five or six-inch trench along the fence line and nailing 2” x 12” planks or cedar or locust poles to the posts and fastening the bottom wire of the fence to these. More expense—and more work. It’s much easier and cheaper to put a hot wire inside the woven wire. You won’t always need the protection of this double fence, but it provides good insurance. The woven wire prevents an eagerly rooting pig from absent-mindedly wandering through the hot wire, and serves as a backup system in the event the power goes off. The hot wire deters the pigs from rooting under, rubbing against or otherwise thwarting or damaging the woven wire. Using the “two fences” doesn’t really double the cost, because they utilize the same fence posts, which are a major expense and effort—especially if you’re digging post holes by hand.
And speaking of that, remember that doubling the size of the lot, yard or pasture doesn’t double the fencing costs. To dramatize that: One square acre measures 208.71 feet on a side, so it takes about 835 feet of fencing material to enclose one acre. But if your pasture is two acres, you need not another 835 of fencing, but only half that much. And if your pasture is only half an acre, you won’t get away with only half as much fencing; you’ll need about 625 feet, or two-thirds as much.
The shape of the field is important, too. A piece of land one rod wide and 160 rods long contains one acre and requires 322 rods of fence to enclose it. (one rod equals 16-1/2 feet.) A piece of land 12-3/4 rods square contains one acre, too… but it only requires 51 rods of fence to enclose it. A 10-acre field (40 rods by 40 rods) requires 160 rods of fence to enclose it, or an average of 16 rods per acre, as opposed to 51 rods or 322 rods!
It’s evident that the larger and more nearly square a field is, the less fence per acre is required to enclose it. Likewise, two adjoining fields can be fenced more cheaply than two separate fields of the same size, because one portion of the fence answers for both fields.
“No man should attempt to raise hogs without adequate fencing of yards and pastures,” an old agricultural bulletin bluntly states. “An animal of any kind, but especially a hog, can make himself an intolerable nuisance if not confined within proper bounds. For pastures woven wire is the best fencing material, all things considered. From motives of economy it may be desirable to run a fence of woven wire around a field to a height of 30 to 36 inches, and above this to stretch two or three strands of ordinary barbed wire. This will make a hog-tight fence, and if horses are necessarily placed in the field the fence will be much safer than the ordinary one made entirely of barbed wire. Midway between the posts the lower strand in the fence should be stapled to a small post or stake; this will prevent hogs from working their way under the fence, ground wires may be put down to moisture at frequent intervals to give stock protection from lightning. A board fence makes, perhaps, the most secure enclosure for hogs, but its expense precludes its use generally except for yards and pens. Barbed wire is a very poor material for a hog fence. It can hardly be made close enough or strong enough to prevent a shoat from crawling through. In this respect, it is only a little better than a hedge, which is expensive and unsatisfactory when used to confine stock. Gates must, of course, be carefully made, hung and fastened.”
Ah, there’s the rub: No matter how good your fence, sooner or later someone is sure to leave the gate open, and your fine fence might as well be made of kite string!
But even if you can never relax entirely when you have animals, a good DIY fence installation project can take a load off your mind … most of the time.
Originally published in 2002 and regularly vetted for accuracy.