Just like any other type of livestock, pigs have three basic requirements: food, water, and shelter. Compared to other animals, housing for pigs can be fairly minimal as long as it protects them from wind, rain, and the elements. Whether it is made out of wood or metal, an A-frame or hoop house, a three-sided shelter will suffice. During the heat of the summer months, the open side should be positioned so it is facing the prevailing the wind as an added measure to stay cool. In the cold months, it should be positioned away from it, or have a windbreak added to prevent drafts and keep in the warm air.
Before deciding what style you’re going to build or buy, there are other things you need to take into consideration first. How many pigs will you raise at once? Will you keep them year round or just during the summer or winter months? Will they have access to fresh pasture? If so, how much?
Despite the stereotypes, pigs are naturally clean and hygienic animals. They will not urinate or defecate where they sleep, as long as they are given the space. Some people, however, mimic confinement factory operations at home when they raise a pig for meat because they reach slaughter weight quicker. In these situations, pigs are typically raised in a barn stall or a similar type of setting where their space is strictly limited to move around. In these scenarios, they require more space in order to be comfortable, although that doesn’t mean they are given it.
If you’re raising pigs on pasture, you can get away with a smaller shelter because of the amount of outside space that’s available for your pigs to move around comfortably. In my four by eight-foot Port-A-Hut, I easily housed two 300-pound hogs on pasture. Because they were rotated to a fresh paddock of roughly 1,500 square feet bi-weekly, this shelter size was sufficient as they only used it as a place to sleep.
There are various designs, shapes, and materials you can use to make housing for pigs that come at varying costs. Some are better suited for rotational grazing setups than others, while others make better housing during cold winter months. Let’s take a look at some common designs seen in free-range pig farming and their benefits and drawbacks.
Port-A-Hut: The Port-A-Hut is a metal-framed hoop house style structure and is one that I use. I got mine from a friend, but there are local dealers across the country and if you’re lucky, they can be found used online. I have used mine when rotating pigs throughout their paddocks and currently it is housing my 800-pound gilt. The benefits of this structure are also its drawbacks. It is sturdy, and heavy which makes it a bit cumbersome to move. When rotating pigs at the frequency that we do, it is not an ideal housing option. It is however well suited for housing a boar, gilt, or sow that is rotated less frequently or has a permanent pasture space. It is able to withstand the abuse that a pig that size can inflict on it, and is sufficient to overwinter with deep bedding in the cold months.
A-Frame Style: The A-frame design can be easily made at home as a two or three-sided shelter, and is similar to the Port-A-Hut. It can be open on both ends if used during the summer months or be used to winter pigs if it’s three-sided. Rather than having a hooped top, it’s a peaked A-frame shape. When making this structure at home, it can be made as heavy duty as you want, or as big as you want based on the number of pigs it will house. If it’s going to house pigs that are rotated, consider making it out of lighter materials or attaching wheels to the base for easier moving like a chicken tractor. If this is going to be in a more permanent or semi-permanent location, a well-built pressure treated frame with metal roofing is an investment that will last for years.
Cattle Panel Design: For a frequent rotating setup, or if you’re raising pigs strictly in the warmer months, a simple two sided design with hooped cattle panels wrapped in a tarp or heavy plastic is a great option. Each side of a cattle panel is secured to the inside of a pressure-treated frame creating a hoop design like the Port-A-Hut, but with both ends open. The top can be easily covered with tarps or heavy plastic to protect the pigs from the rain. This is a relatively cheap design, and is what I am using for my summer pigs as it will keep them protected from the elements, allow a cross-breeze to stay cool, while being lightweight and easy to move as they’re rotated. Although the cattle panels and pressure treated frame will hold up over time, even heavy duty tarps and plastic won’t be able to withstand the weather for long. This design does require some maintenance, as the tarps will occasionally need to be replaced because of wear and tear.
There are many different variations within these designs that you can use when constructing housing for pigs. They can be modified with heavier duty or lighter materials depending on whether the shelter is going to be moved frequently or if at all. The climate the pigs will be raised in can guide you in the materials and design needed. Housing for pigs doesn’t have to be overly fancy or an expensive project. Depending on your pasture set up, and climate, pigs can get by and thrive with minimal shelter.
Do you use one of these designs or a similar one for your pigs? Let us know what housing for pigs works best for you in the comments below.