When we posted about the great pig escape a few of our awesome readers suggested testing out a pallet pen the next time. Instead of releasing them into an area solely protected by electric fence, maybe put the electric fence inside a pallet pen and let them get used to it first. It sounded like a good idea, and an affordable idea, so we went with it.
In order to construct the pallet pen we first headed over to a neighbor’s place to pick up some used pallets. We thought eight would be good for each pen, the boars in one, the gilts in the other. He didn’t have 16 pallets, so we just got 8 and put all four of the pigs in it. Then a few days later we got 8 more from a different neighbor and built another one. One thing's pretty certain around here: there ain't no shortage of old pallets.
We placed each pallet on its side and put in screws at the top and bottom to hold them together. We also attached braces along the sides. Behind the pallets we pounded some old rebar into the ground to keep them from falling over. Then we tied the pallets together with rope. Yeah, we don’t want these little guys to run away again.
We left one pallet a little less fortified so we could get in and out, but the others are like Fort Knox. Inside the pen we put three strands of hot polywire. That way the pigs can test it out and better understand that they shouldn’t run underneath it. Also in the pen is a water trough built for them to cool down in (pigs can't sweat for temperature control, and it’s hot out there). There's another water trough with a small opening in it so they can get fresh water without mucking it up. And the third trough is for food. They have nearby trees for shade and in addition we put some OSB over one corner to provide extra cover.
Before we put the pigs in it was a nice grassy area with some small saplings. As you can see in the photo above, after about two days it was dirt and mud. We expected that to happen, obviously, but they made pretty short order of it. Within the first ten minutes of being in there they were already rooting around. I don’t think I ever connected the dots on where “rooting” came from. You could actually hear the pigs popping the roots left and right as they ate, it was cool. I enjoy simple things like that. Root little piggies root. I can't imagine a pig with a ring in its nose not being able to root, or even worse on concrete all the time. That's the first thing they wanted to do. First pig ammendment: humans shall not prohibit the freedom to root.
By the end of a couple days, however, they had nothing left to root. They still buried their snouts down in the dirt and dug little holes to lie in, but nothing left to eat. So we gave them some hay to eat and play around in. They loved it. Below is a video of them eating some of it. They like to get underneath the hay pile and pile on top of each other. Pigs like to be close together, always jockeying for prime position. Lightly grunting and throwing their weight around. I could probably watch pigs all day and not get bored. Even when they’re sleeping they’re fun to watch.
So thems the pig pens. We’ll keep 'em in there for another week or two. Then we’ll test out a small electrified area to see if it works. If it doesn't work at leat you'll get another pig caper.