Is it possible to buy weaned piglets and raise them outdoors with nothing more than an electric fence for containment? Yes it is, and I’ve been doing it for years.
There is a catch…
To do this successfully, you must be smarter than the pigs. Yes, we return to Scott’s universal rule for livestock handling. You have to be smarter than the …. “blank”. Every year I hear horror stories from people who have heard that you can contain pigs with a couple hot wires and learn the hard way that sometimes its not as simple as it sounds.
If you buy a couple 40 lb pigs, bring them home, and turn them loose into a little paddock with 4 hot wires; I can predict what will happen. The piglet touches the fence and gets zapped, the piglet is startled and jumps through the fence. Now that he has learned what happens when you touch the wire he has no intention of going back in. He is scared to death and starts running for home. He has no idea where home is, so he just runs. The human starts chasing the piglet and tries to catch it. Chaos ensues, the rest of the day is spent catching the pig. People are tired and exhausted. Angry words have been spoken. A promise is made to NEVER do something as stupid as this in the future!
Now the above story actually happened. I know because it happened to me many years ago.
When I told my father about it he just shook his head and said, “Scott…. You’ve got to be smarter than the damn pig.”
He was right.
How To Be Smarter Than A Pig
After that day, I’ve never had another piglet escape. I took dad’s advice to heart and thought it through the next time. I came up with a pretty good system and I’ve raised many, many, butcher hogs outside with an electric fence ever since.
Here’s what I do.
Inside my little “pig yard” I have a wooden shelter for them. The day my piglets come home they go into the shelter and I screw a piece of plywood across the front with enough room for me to put some food and water inside from the gap in the top. The piglets spend several days in there, so that it becomes their new home. Its well bedded and comfortable, they have food and water, and above all they feel safe. Now after they have settled in and made it a home, I take the screws out of the plywood and open the front of the shelter up. They peek out, look around, and then slowly start to explore the outside world. When one gets zapped, they turn and run back to the shelter. Even if they jump through the fence they will jump back through the hot wires to get back to their home, the one place they feel safe. Another option that you might consider is keeping the piglets in a sturdy pen in the barn for a little while. Run a hot wire along the wall. If the wall is wooden, you can just use nail on insulators to run the wire. Pigs are smart and after they figure out that the wire will “light them up”, they will respect it a lot more when they see one outside.
What About The Fence? How Should It Be Built?
I don’t do anything very fancy. I use steel T-Posts for the corners and plastic step-in posts in between. I use a good quality polywire and make the fence 3 or 4 strands. After the pigs get bigger I remove the bottom wire so they don’t root dirt on it and short it out. When they are little, I like a bottom wire that is fairly close to the ground so they can’t slip under it. Use a good quality fence charger and make sure it is well grounded. Another important thing to remember is that you need to test the fence with a with a fence tester every day. If you don’t keep the fence hot and free of shorts, the pigs WILL get out.
Give It A Try
If you plan to keep little pigs in an electric fence or if you have had bad luck doing so in the past, try these tips. They work at our place and I’m sure they will work at yours!