Pig in a Poke

Pig in a Poke

This little piggy is dining on cheese.
In a barrel.
It did get out.
I had my doubt.

The barrel had come to us full of cheese with the hole that big. When we put the barrel full of cheese out the hole was big enough. But pigs grow. Quickly. With all their hay, whey, water, cheese and treats they’ve gotten a lot larger. Where once the hole was a fine fit it now is a tight squeeze.

After the pig got done munching I had Will take the sawsal to the barrel and cut off the rest of the inner top leaving the ring so the barrel is structurally strong. Since the opening was now larger the pigs finished the cheese off faster. I suspect that the narrow opening was keeping out some of the larger growers.

When the barrel was fully empty it became a waterer for farrowing sows in the south field shed. Thus the need for the structural strength of the top ring. That barrel is now set 80% down into the ground. The warm ground. The ground is heating the water which helps to keep our winter water fluid. It isn’t quite ice free – we have to break a thin crust in the morning sometimes. But it does help.

Use and reuse and reuse.

Outdoors: 20°F/10°F 8″ Snow
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/67°F

Daily Spark: Conspiracy theorists are simply better at finding patterns in random data.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Pig in a Poke

  1. Julie says:

    At first glance I thought what a wonderful idea but then a couple questions came to mind. How do you clean the barrel? Are you worried about your pigs ever falling in?

    • No, we don’t need to clean the barrel. I have found these waterers to be self-cleaning.

      The pigs drinking out of it are 500 to 800 lb sows. They’re far, far larger than the barrel so falling in isn’t an issue. But! I do put a concrete block in the middle of the barrel so that should a smaller pig fall in it has something to kick off of to get out. This is the same trick I’ve mentioned we use in our whey troughs and other waterers.

  2. Teresa says:

    I’m amazed that not-so-little piggy made it out of there. I love the way you are creative in reusing things and helping to keep you water thawed.

  3. Duck says:

    Heh… I’d have to worry about my ducks getting themselves stuck inside the barrel, and then have to dig it up to clean it every time that happened. It’s a really good idea for bigs pigs though! :)

    Perhaps it would work for smaller animals if the barrel was up off the ground higher and had small holes cut around the sides so they could only stick their heads in…? Of course it would freeze easier I imagine.
    I need to rig up something for my goats eventually. And their hoped-for kids!

    A stick-your-head-through watering area would only work for disbudded goats though… Hmm, sorry for rambling!

  4. Julie says:

    Thanks for answering. With pigs over the 500lb mark there would be no worries.,
    I know from experience with our pigs that they love water and many of times I have gone out to see them standing in their water barrels, which are the same type of barrels you use but cut in half, the concrete block (not a cinder block) or rocks would definitely solve the problem if we were to use your idea of placing 80% in the ground to help keep the water from freezing in this cold Vermont climate..
    I would have to find a way to clean them though. I would be filling them with a hose and would not be comfortable leaving them for long periods of time without cleaning..

    • We have several of these setup in a line so the water from a spring flows to the first, the output of that flows to the next ad-infinum down the mountain through the paddocks. The barrels stay remarkably clean.

  5. Jessie says:

    Speaking of alternative animal housing :) my parents in Massachusetts are building up their courage to get chickens this spring. We’ve been talking a lot about how to house and fence them (no dogs to keep them safe from the raccoons, foxes, etc.). What keeps nagging me is that they are bound to want to change the chicken arrangement over time as they gain experience. So, drawing on your winter hoop coop on hay bails for inspiration, could they just stack up some bales into a rectangle, put a few branches in between layers for a perch, incorporate buckets with screw on lids and no bottom in a wall for nesting boxes with outside access, and top it off with a corrugated roof held down by rocks? I figure they could rebuild the structure several times a year, harvesting the hay for mulch in their new vegetable garden. For protection from predation I’m thinking step in posts and hog panels making a chicken mote around the veggies (they lost almost everything to hungry deer last year). Again, something that can be easily reconfigured. Your blog is wonderful, thank you for all the stories and information! ~Jessie

    • Yes indeed, hay bales will work. I would suggest vertical poles to help hold the load of the roof. We have done this. Even better is to bend a section or two of cattle panel over. I’m just about to post about how to make a ultra simple hoop house over a waterer to create a micro-climate that protects it from the wind. The same thing could be used for an easy temporary hen hoop house. Some five gallon pails or crates on their sides with hay in them would make good nests. It is good to start out with simple structures you can move as you figure out what you want to do and what it is like dealing with the animals. Reading only takes one so far – real world experience is that critical next step where you find out how you (the practical element) interfaces with the theory. Different things work for different people and situations and the beauty is so many different ways do work.

  6. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    Walter, on your rocks in the ripples ideas, When I had a bit of land and kept small stock, I had some bee hives. One of the things that necessitated was some sort of gravel or even tree branch route for drinking bees to escape ALL the waterers on the place. Your idea, but on a smaller scale! Drinking bees at a pail or plastic pool often drift off from “shore” and drown. Wasteful of free labor. A bee hive in summer will consume as much water as a large goat. Once they pick a water site they will return dependably, and letting them have water near the hive is a saver of bee flight time, but sometimes, despite all the encouragement one can give, they will start using a discovered water source anywhere in their territory, so all the open water must be bee prepped.

  7. mellifera says:

    Indeed, there has been more than one suburban beekeeper who got in trouble with their neighbors when the bees settled on the neighbor’s pool as a water source…. (The advice they gave me to prevent this was to provide water within your own yard- and if that doesn’t work, “Build a tall wood fence so they don’t know the bees belong to somebody.” : D)

    FYI Walter, when we discuss with the little one- 27 months old now- what our dinner is and where it came from, if there’s pig anywhere on the menu we’ll tell her “It’s ok to eat pigs, ’cause they’d do the same to you if they had the chance.” Only half joking. The other day we gave her a piece of ham and she said unprompted, “Mmm, ham. Pig eat you!”

  8. Beth says:

    What a great idea to use the warm ground to prevent complete water freeze! I have been going nuts filling 5 gal buckets in the bathtub (no running spring here, either) and carting them around to the various animals. On Cape Cod we get a lot of breaks from the freezing weather, but the goats, ducks, chickens, and pig need water every day. Let’s see, sunken bucket… the goats will step in it, the ducks will swim in it, the chickens will fall in, but the pig won’t be able to turn it over! Yay! Wonder if it requires a certain size barrel, or if a 5 gal bucket would work…
    By the way, I saw a technique for bee waterers using wine corks to cover the surface of the water. Our bees have ponds around and seem to understand their shores, but it might be handy to save up some corks and pop them into any standing water.

  9. Eliza says:

    How much water do you think pigs need in the summertime if you’re feeding them 3 gallons of whey/100 weight/day?

    Another unrelated question: if I’m reseeding pasture after pigs have worked it, would it be best to seed it while the pigs are still there, so they can trample it down?

    Thanks so much!

    • Yes, I love doing seeding with the pigs there – this is called mob seeding. The rain will also do the trick. Just spread the seed and then have it rain hard to drive the seed into the soil. Hmm… Or you could just seed prior to a coming rain storm if you can’t control the weather. We also use frost seeding.

      I would be hesitant to set a number of gallons per day for drinking water on the pigs. The reason is that if you’re wrong and they get thirsty they may die. Pigs are very sensitive to salt sickness a.k.a. salt poisoning which is when they are drinking a salty thing like whey and then don’t have enough fresh water to balance it. The other issue is that how much a pig needs changes as it grows. The safe bet is to simply provide an essentially unlimited supply of fresh water.

      All that said, if you provide twice as much fresh water as the whey they’re drinking you’ll probably be okay. One trick is to have two different sources of water, that way if one gets dumped, stopped up, etc the other is still available.

  10. Eliza says:

    Never mind my second question, I realized you answered it in a question I asked last week.



    p.s. we’ll be following your recommendation about the home base using the tic-tac-toe pattern. thanks a bunch!

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