As a country girl, I've been raising pigs for most of my life.
Hog pens are, obviously, an essential part of pig keeping and small-scale pig farming. But, if you’re new to keeping pigs, you may not realize just how many different types of pigpens there are. Depending on the scale and type of your pig-raising operation, you may need only one or several types of pens. Bear in mind that some areas have additional regulations regarding sanitation and other health-related issues for pigs that are being raised for meat or breeding stock.
This article will cover the most common types of hog pens, starting with the beginning of a pig’s life and moving forward throughout the different needs at each point in the pig life cycle.
Types of Pigpens
- Farrowing pen
- Grow-out pen
- Finishing pen
- Breeding pen
- Holding pen
Stage 1: Farrowing Pen
If you’re raising pigs from birth, your top priority will be the farrowing pen. This is where a pregnant sow will live from shortly before delivering her litter up until her piglets are weaned. While the farrowing pen is one of the smallest types of pigpens since it is made to accommodate only one adult pig per litter, it can be the most difficult to build correctly.
Unique Considerations for Farrowing Pens
When building a farrowing pen, it is absolutely critical to keep certain factors in mind, such as the weather, time(s) of year that you will be breeding and farrowing pigs, and the number of breeding sows you intend to keep.
Although many hog pens can be left with a natural dirt floor, a farrowing pen has to have excellent insulation and plenty of shelter, and it must be off the ground. While some smaller-scale pig breeding operations use sheds on skids with a wood floor for farrowing, this requires vigorous cleaning and disinfecting in-between litters, and there is still a much higher risk of disease than with other floor types—this is better than a plain dirt floor, but that’s about it.
Preferably, your farrowing pen will be fully enclosed, have a concrete floor, and come equipped with a drain for easy cleaning in between litters.
Farrowing Sheds for Multiple Sows
If you’ve created a farrowing shed fit for more than one sow at a time and they will be dropping their litters at slightly different times, then you may want to build in concrete barriers several inches high around each individual pen in addition to wood slats or metal panels. This barrier will not do anything to keep pigs separated, but it will prevent water from seeping into an occupied pen during cleaning. Excess water can provide excellent breeding grounds for bacteria and poses a risk to newborn piglets.
Stage 2: Grow-Out Pen
Weaned pigs are ready to move from the farrowing pen to their own pen where they will put on weight and live for the next couple of months of their lives. While it is possible to combine the grow-out pen and finishing pen into one, if you’re consistently breeding pigs then this could waste a lot of space. In addition, when selectively breeding pigs for a specific trait, many weaned pigs will be culled out of the bunch before they’re old enough to move on to the finishing pens.
Unique Considerations for Grow-Out Pens
Because the grow-out pen still deals with fairly young pigs, it still must be very sheltered and protected from disease. In colder areas or more unpredictable seasons, it is highly recommended to have some kind of heat source inside the shed associated with the grow-out pen. These piglets no longer have their mother to rely on for heat and for direction when it’s time to seek shelter, so the pen must be constructed in a way that will provide for them while they still have a very low body mass and are susceptible to all manner of outside influences.
Stage 3: Finishing Pen
For the third stage in the life cycle of a pig, the finishing pen is probably going to be the largest in your entire pig-keeping operation. This is where your pigs will be kept from the time they’re about 50–80 pounds until about 200–300 pounds.
Unique Considerations for Finishing Pens
As they grow, these pigs will need a lot of space, increasing levels of food, a clean environment, sufficient shelter for all the animals in the pen, and ways to easily cool off in warmer weather. While many finishing pens will have natural dirt floors, the size and quantity of hogs that it will hold requires extra care in stability and durability of the pen. This is the hog pen designed for the most active part of a pig’s life, so it really has to be built to last.
There are also some pen types used in specific operations, such as breeding and meat production.
In a pig-breeding operation, you may choose to have a separate pen in which to breed your pigs, especially if you opt not to practice artificial insemination. These pens will generally be relatively small, built to hold a breeding pair, trio, or small group. Boars will only be left in the pen until the sows can be confirmed pregnant, and then the sows will likely stay in this pen until they’re ready to move to the farrowing pen.
Pigs that are being raised for meat are occasionally held in an area near a personal smokehouse, or somewhere easily accessible to buyers or wholesale transport trucks for a short period of time before going to their final destination. A holding pen has to be large enough to be comfortable for butchering-sized pigs, but it does not necessarily have to have a ton of space or elements that make it easier to clean.
While the holding pen does have to be sturdy, the pigs will probably not be here long enough to root under fences, chew on welded wire panels, or otherwise cause much damage to this pen. As a result, this is a relatively easy pen to build, and it can even be a temporary or easily-portable pen. Bear in mind how the pigs are going to be moved from this pen, and consider building loading chutes or chutes that lead directly to a smokehouse or processing facility.
Considerations for Building a Pigpen
Overall, it’s important to always keep the following things in mind when planning a pigpen:
- The number of pigs you’re going to have.
- The maximum size they will reach while living in the pen in question. Remember that various pig breeds can change dramatically in size, so always do research on the specific type of hogs you intend to raise.
- The function that the pen will perform.
- The durability of the materials. Pigs are extremely powerful, though often docile, creatures that will test the durability of any pen. In addition, they do get bored easily and will likely chew on anything wood or plastic, and have been known to chew metal as well.
Bear in mind that a healthy environment will require more room and resources than large-scale farming, but you'll end up with healthier animals and a better meat quality by taking these minor extra steps.
- How to Build a Pigpen: Essential Elements of Hog Pen
The basic considerations for building a pigpen start with knowing what it's going to be used for, the size of the breed you plan to raise, and the number and age of animals it's intended for.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
PRINCE YEMI AWODIPE on July 03, 2020:
Good evening sir. Please what are the necessary requirement and equipment to use in raising 500 to 1000 pigs for commercial purposes?
How much do I need for the cages? I am just planning to start pig farming soon
Adrian Ricohermoso on March 27, 2019:
Did you have a good design o pneumatic hog pens
hammad clacio on February 17, 2018:
please give an estimated amount for building pig cages ..
Ana Maria Orantes from Miami Florida on December 22, 2014:
I like your hub. Having a farm full of pigs can be a lot of fun. It looks a lot of work to keep them. They are delicious in bacon. If you used your imagination. They can give you a lot of money in return. Thank you for writing about these precious animals.
maricris tiosan on September 14, 2011:
thanks,now i know,it helps me to have an assignment in epp
Rebecca Mikulin (author) from Sheridan, Wyoming on March 20, 2011:
Thanks :D. I've been raising pigs for most of my life, and it took a little while to realize that not EVERYONE knows how to raise all sorts of different farm animals, or the ins and outs of keeping and riding horses, etc. Silly little country girl I may be, but I do know critters :).
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on March 20, 2011:
This sure brings back memories!
Great Hub. Well written and knowledgeable.