Sow Hut v0.7.2

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

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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12 Responses to Sow Hut v0.7.2

  1. Emily says:

    Walter I have read about your many ways of housing your animals and even uses some of your designs over the years. I love this pig house. I bet it would work great for grower pigs too. Have you ever thought of mass producing your own? I hope you do with all the little tweaks for a real winner. If you do put me on the list of buyers. I would get a couple for our little farm.

    • Actually, I am working on a commercially produced version of our sow hut design. The goal of the first run will be to provide additional shelters in the field for our herd. Once we have some I can make them available to other farms and homesteads as well. There are a lot of little things that we’ve tested in one or the other shelter that I would like to bring together in a single unified design. I it to be very ruggedly so that it holds up in the sun, cold, snow loads and real world usage out in the field. Pigs are rough on things. Because we’re designing it to be tough, it will not be cheap based on the production costs I’ve gotten from manufacturers. It is also heavy – figure on it taking three people to move and better done with a bucket loader for long distances. I’m designing it specifically with farrowing sows in mind but it will also do well for shoats, growers, roasters, finishers, chickens and other small to medium sized livestock. It would even be able to be used as a min-greenhouse or compost cover in cold climates.

      • Farmerbob1 says:

        Have you considered simple shells that can fit on 4×8 utility trailer beds? Basically a 4×8 crate, whatever height is right. 4×8 flatbed utility trailers can be pretty darn cheap if you keep your eyes open for deals or buy used. The crate could be put together from a few long timbers and used pallets, for maximum cheapness, or from purpose-built materials if you want a commercially sellable product.

        Drag the trailer out to the field, then flip or drag the crate off the trailer. Take the trailer back to the barn, or the other pasture, and put another crate on it. Rinse, repeat.

        It would work just like what you have above, but would be a standard shape, and easily transportable over moderate terrain without needing to have a bucket loader or several people. On flattish terrain, you could probably haul it around with a 4-wheeler.

        • On flat land that would make sense and I have seen people use them on other farms. Our land is rough and tilted. This makes trailers dangerous. You’ll note we have our tractor tires set to the full 8′ width as shown here so we don’t roll down the hills. We do have some boxes that go on the tractor forks for carrying pigs and things but pulling a trailer won’t work until we build more roads so for now we have no trailers.

  2. Michael says:

    Sounds like a great ferrocement project as well – although it wouldn’t necessarily be very good as a greenhouse :)

  3. David says:

    I love the way you make use of found items on your farm and in your home. Your very resourceful and I admire that in a person.

  4. Neil says:

    Check out these calf domes…very similar to the one in your photo – though much more expensive. I have been looking for something to winter our pigs through the cold canadian winters too.

  5. Jamie says:

    We use straw for housing. The 1100 lb bales work best because they can not be moved as easily but if you fence around them the smaller bales work great too. They really hold in the heat! Our pigs all prefer them to the wood built ones they also have. if you scroll down to shelter I have a pic of a large one we built against a pump house. Good web site and very informative!

    • Hay bales are great. We end up making some hay bale houses just about every year. Hay bales a great way to add another house in a moment and are wonderful for blocking the wind. If we don’t want the pigs eating the house then we put stock fencing between them and the bales. Big bales are very heavy so be sure they don’t fall on anyone, animals included.

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