November 16, 2014

Make-Do Pig Digs

Polly & Waldo, always hopeful for something to eat

The time had come for the pigs to have their own place. They'd been sleeping in the buck barn, but with the newly planted buck pasture coming up, I didn't want them rooting it up when I let the bucks back in. Plus I'd seen Gruffy and Waldo squabble over entry to the little log barn, and that had to be dealt with too. When Waldo was just a little guy, he would stand at the gate and squeal for his meal. Gruffy made great sport over picking on him. The more Waldo would squeal, the more Gruffy would push him around. It's always the smallest, youngest, and newest animals that get picked on the most and I suppose Gruffy, being the shortest goat, always got the brunt end of it. Waldo was the first four legged critter that was smaller than himself. But Waldo got bigger (and heavier) and apparently didn't forget. Gruffy was now getting payback.

The more important reason was to put the pigs where we need them. They are excellent natural tillers of the soil. My pasture maintenance scheme calls for putting the pigs in the forage area that needed the most work. For that they need shelter.

We'd toyed with the idea of a wood structure. Many are portable: either on skids or easy to knock down are reassemble elsewhere. Our setup isn't conducive to hauling a small structure around, neither do we have the tractor to do it. Instead, we decided to make a more temporary structure, a straw bale pig house.


We started with a cattle panel, bending it into a curve and tying it to the welded wire fence. Top and back (the side which will get the most winter wind) were covered down with tarps.


Dan also staked the sided to further make sure it doesn't go anywhere.


We lined it with bales of straw, tying these to the cattle panel too. There was enough tarp overhang in front to tie down for a pig height entrance.

No Gruffy! It's pig digs, not pyg(my) digs!

I wish the tarp had been long enough to cover the sides completely, but this is a make do situation. I may add more later if funds allow.


One thing I can tell you is that it is certainly warm inside! I'll add loose straw for them to burrow into as needed. We can even make "repairs" if needed because bales of straw are certainly cheap enough.

I'm curious as to how long this will last. That information will help us improve upon it next year. The beauty of such a house is that it can be disassembled when the pigs are moved. The cattle panel and tarps can be moved to the new location, and the straw can be used for mulch and compost right where it is. A win-win all the way around.


Carolyn said...

I've been going back & forth on what to use as temporary shelters for the goats. THIS would be a perfect & warm shelter....if the darned goats wouldn't jump on, chew on and "eat" the bales of straw. I love the way that this is totally renewable and able to recycle the parts for a new one though. Maybe it would be a good way to house the meat birds during the Fall here next year. Now I'm just thinking of which critters I could put in there!

Leigh said...

Carolyn we're thinking of lining all our critter housing with bales of straw! It's that cozy and warm. I wondered if the goats would eat, nibble, or otherwise pull at it but except for a first sniff, they've ignored it. That said, I have one doe who would probably try to figure out how to pull the tarp off, LOL. The curved cattle panel prevents jumping and allows for rain run off. Another idea, people make straw bale houses!

Farmer Barb said...

In my neck of the woods, straw bales cost $11 per at the cheapest! I do, on the other hand have more leaves than I have sense. I could use leaves to stuff around their little hardware cloth house and then use a tarp to hold them in place. Hmmm...So easy and so FREE!

Leigh said...

Barb, $11 per bale! Whew! We bought ours for $2 each. Cost does keep things in perspective, no doubt about that. We would have done something different if we couldn't have gotten them so cheaply. Of course, you get all that free wood chip mulch, while it costs me $22 per front end loader bucket. And that's a good price.

Unknown said...

I've seen compost piles built like that, looks good!

Nina said...

That's a great idea. Straw is a great insulator. We've used it for winter outside camping insulation when it's well in the negative temps. Even if it lasts only a season or two, it's still a great idea as all that straw will make great compost, once it's no longer useful for the shelter.

Sarah said...

Looks like their going to be some cozy little piggies!

Ngo Family Farm said...

We actually housed meat birds this way last year and it worked great! Their bale house was built inside an outdoor run attached to the laying hens' barn, since we needed to make it predator-proof at night.

(Oh Leigh, your humor is the best - no "pygs" allowed! Haha!)


Ed said...

Hopefully the Big Bad Wolf doesn't find their home and Blow their house down! If he does, perhaps you should try sticks the next time. ;-)

Renee Nefe said...

we used to make little forts like this only using pine needle straw when I was a kid. Of course they wouldn't stand up high enough very long as we didn't have the straw in bales, just piled up in walls. nice and cozy while it lasted.

small farm girl said...

Please keep us updated on how this works! I could see a few more animals in my future if it does. Now if I can only find cheap fencing. hmmmmmmm

Anonymous said...

What a fabulous idea! I bet they will both be nice and snug in that little hut :)

Unknown said...

We made a straw bale cold frame a few years ago. The straw bales lasted all through winter, and we used them for mulch in the garden in the spring. Those pigs of yours will keep warm!

Sandy Livesay said...


What a fabulous idea!!! Our straw is running about $9.00 a bale.