This is prototype three. The first pig shelter I built was very heavy, barely lift-able by two people, but moveable by a large sow, apparently, as I found it upturned in their paddock, and over time shifted to the bottom corner. The converted apple box works for a couple of smaller pigs, but isn’t big enough for a fully-grown breeder. The second type of shelter I used is a halved water tank with straw bedding. They’re braced with star pickets hammered in at an angle, then strapped across the top of the metal arc using fencing wire at tension. These worked, too, for a year and a half on and off, just needing occasional adjustments. The hardest part was finding old water tanks to cut in half. And then cutting them in half. I found out after doing the first one that angle grinders have blades with which to cut metal and blades to cut stone. Stone blades don’t work very well on corrugated iron, I can tell you.
This new version of a pig shelter is one I’ve seen on free-range pig farms here and overseas. An A-frame house means one where the sides are difficult for the pig to rub against. (Rubbing by a leaning 200kg-plus boar can lead to a flattened shed quite quickly.) The bottom of the metal is hard for them to bend up and destroy, and it’s a self-supporting structure so you use less materials. It’s lighter, therefore, too, though you wouldn’t know it from the one we built. The base is heavy, but manageable, but not with the (hopefully pig proof) A-frame struts. Add the metal roofing and it becomes something you finish building in the middle of the paddock. We realised that after it was nearly complete in the driveway, blocking the gate to the barn.
Dismantled then reassembled, the shelter now rests in one end of the new vegie garden area, ready for the porkers and their parents to come in and turn over the soil. Left to its own devices, a pig will spend around 60% of its waking day looking for food, whether it’s actually hungry or not. In fact, they don’t really know whether they’re hungry or not. Like a labrador, you have to regulate their feed or they can become obese. A free-range pig will spend most of this 60% of the day with its head in the dirt. They root around looking for things to play with, to manipulate, and to eat. Allowed to express their instincts, they keep busy moving dirt. Hence they’re known at our place as the black-snouted tractor, ploughing up ground at a phenomenal rate. This became a problem for the last few months as we ran out of fresh, dry ground after a phenomenally wet winter, but the ability is a useful thing with new ground to be dug up.
New ground they will have. About half a hectare for the time being, while their new paddocks are being built. New shelters, too, though I might wait a week or two to see how the A-frame holds up.