In warm weather, when the nights are short, pigs may choose to sleep under the stars. However, in almost all circumstances, you will need to provide some kind of housing for your pigs. If you are simply keeping a couple of weaners over the summer, you can probably build a temporary shelter using straw bales and pallets or corrugated iron, particularly if your soil is free draining. Otherwise, you will probably need something a bit more robust.
We bought a purpose built pig ark from Pig Paradise. It looks OK, it's robust and the pigs seem to like it. I tried it and it was certainly warm and dry inside. It came flat packed and took us about an hour to put up. It has a wooden floor and is raised off the ground so it keeps dry.
There are many pig houses on the market now, so you have a choice. You may also have an existing building that you want to use. I’m assuming that you will want to give your pigs as natural a life as possible, with access to the great outdoors, but don’t rule out housing them especially during the wet, winter months.
Taking pigs off the land will reduce damage and allow it to recover for spring and while pigs like to wallow, living in belly deep mud is not good for either pigs or their keepers. A open court or well ventilated building with a good, deep straw bed will still allow the pigs to display normal pig behaviour.
Pigs need good ventilation but don’t like draughts. Cold isn’t a problem so long as there’s a good straw bed and the pigs can huddle for warmth. Bear in mind though that pigs in winter will need more feed to grow, as some of the feed intake will go towards keeping the pig warm. They also don’t like a wet bed, so a house with a floor is preferable.
A non-slip floor is best as a combination of liquid, straw and a smooth floor is bad for pigs. If the house you buy has a ply or smooth wooden floor, nail some battens across it to give some grip.
Pigs like to nest, so a good straw bed is the order of the day. Pigs don't usually dung or urinate in their sleeping area, so cleaning out the house is never unpleasant. In fact, it is quite fun because the pigs like to help!
The used straw can simply swept out of the house on to the ground in front. This helps to keep the new straw clean by giving the pigs somewhere to wipe their trotters before going to bed. Unless it is very dry, the old straw is trampled into the soil pretty quickly, perhaps even improving the structure.
Pigs cannot regulate their body temperature well, so consider this in choosing and siting their house. A metal house will be like an oven in summer and a fridge in winter. Wood is better and there are now plastic and similar houses, some with insulation to keep them cool in summer and warm in winter. Siting the house in a sheltered, shaded area will also help.
Small-Scale Outdoor Pig Breeding Wendy Scudamore
Pig Ailments: Recognition and Treatment Mark White
Know Your Pigs Jack Byard
Pigs for the Freezer: A Guide to Small-Scale Production Linda McDonald-Brown
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