Portable Sow Hut
A bunch of people have asked about the sow huts we use which have appeared in the background of various photos here on my blog. Most recently the questions have been about the type shown here.[1, 2, 3]
This sow hut is half of a several thousand gallon water tank. The tank was broken when it was unloaded from the truck – not my doing but they kindly gave it to me for free. I cut the damage out of the side of it by cutting a sinusoidal hole creating two doorways, one above the mid-line and one below. I then cut the tank in half through the horizontal plane creating two huts. The top hut is show above. This is the better of the two as it has a domed roof, pickup handles and a peek-a-boo portal on top that we can look in to check on piglets or leave open for ventilation. The bottom hut is flat roofed but still works. The flat roof is not as strong and also suffered a crack in the unloading incident making it weaker. Still, it’s a house to call home out of the wind.
Flo and Newborn Piglets in Sow Hut
I’ve written before about our various winter farrowing housing experiments. In the warm months the sows farrow easily out in the margins of our mountain fields, in the brush, where they build nests of straw, sticks and stones. Yes, Virginia, the story of the Three Pigs is real but the Wolf was just guarding them. Total confusion there – you know how the media distorts these incidents!
In the winter life is not so simple. The herds group together much like deer do, confining themselves to a smaller area of a few acres each instead of ranging over the 70 acres of our mountain pastures. In winter the sows do not seek out privacy since they’re not incline to go so far from the herd and other pigs want to snuggle with them.
One trick is to bring together sows who are going to farrow very close to each other in places like the South Field Shed where they can have some privacy in the stalls but still socialize and have access to the group waterers and whey trough. This works.
Alternatively if a sow chooses to farrow out in the open like Flo did in the marginal season we can lift a sow hut up and set it down over her nest. This blocks the wind and rain. When she’s done with it we can lift it up and use it somewhere else.
Interestingly, sows may or may not choose to use a hut if it is simply in the field. I haven’t figured out their thinking on this, yet. Sometimes they’ll build a nest in a hut and other times they’ll do it out in the open or under brush.
There are a lot of little details that make a sow hut work or not work. The ones I’ve seen being sold on the market are wrong – The designers weren’t thinking like pigs. Over the years I’ve been experimenting with making our own. These latest ones work pretty well but I still have a lot of improvements on the drawing board I want to implement. It’s a cyclic thing of making models, letting the sows try them and getting their feedback for improving the next version. User feedback is critical to product development. I want happy sows.
Outdoors: 34°F/29°F Cloudy, Evening Hail & Snow
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/67°F
Daily Spark: Sowsma Hall – South Field Shed