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Building a Sturdy & Simple Pig Pen on a Budget
Having a sturdy (& simple) pig pen is the secret to success when raising pigs on your homestead. But simple doesn’t have to mean flimsy, and sturdy doesn’t have to mean expensive. We built our pig pen for $500. Which, admittedly, was a bit of an investment our first year, but it means that we have everything we need to raise pigs year after year. Plus, not having to worry about the pigs getting out is a priceless peace of mind- worth every dollar of our pen build.
We use our pen to raise feeder pigs from spring to fall every year. (A method of pig keeping I would suggest to new homesteaders. Feeder pigs are small, and only being committed to their care for a summer is a good way to dip your toes in and decide if you want to have pigs year-round.) This means that our pigs only needs to handle a few weeks of wintry weather- hence the super simple pig pen.
We do not keep a sow year-round in this pen, though we could modify a few things to make it winter-ready. We also don’t need to go into their pen every day, so the gate is extremely simple (just part of the fence really). Our piggies have a plywood shelter to get out of the sun and rain, but it isn’t insulated or particularly fancy. We use a pair of bulk feeders so they never run out of feed, and a DIY waterer so they don’t get thirsty.
Raising pigs is much easier than you’d might expect. They need very little care day to day, and are pretty docile critters. And as long as your pen is truly sturdy, they are a headache-free critter. The return on investment for pigs is huge too. What other animal can be kept so easily, in a relatively small space, and yield so much, high quality meat? And to do it all in a single summer? Pigs have worked their way up the list and are easily one of my favorite animals on the homestead.
I hope that you’ll be inspired to take the leap and keep pigs too.
Designing your simple pig pen
The first step to planning out your pig pen is deciding how many pigs you plan to raise at once.
Raising at least 2 at once will be better for your pigs. They are social animals. Having a buddy to cuddle with will keep them warming, and encourage better feed consumption (perceived competition). We’ve alternated between raising 2 or 3 pigs at a time, depending on how much pork we’ll be selling in the fall.
Each pig will need a minimum (MINIMUM) of 50 square feet each. That means 100 square feet for your pair of pigs, or an area about 10 feet X 10 feet. I’ve found that 10 x 10 is quite small for pigs though. Our pen is 16 x 24 (384 square feet), regardless of whether we have a pair or trio of pigs. You’ll find that they have no complaints over the extra space.
Once you have a rough idea of how much pen space you’ll need, walk your property and determine the best place to put the pig pen.
Where we live, 100*F in summer are common. Since we raise pigs through the summer, this is the most important thing to plan around when we set up our pen every year. A lot of shade is a nonnegotiable for us.
If your summers are also sweltering, plan to build the pen in a place with less sun exposure during the middle of the day. If you get a lot of rain, consider building the pen such that their shelter will be uphill, so that rain will run away from it. If you’ll be butchering your pigs at home, consider how you’ll move them around on slaughter day. If you need to be able to load them in a trailer in the fall, plan to build an alleyway or set the pen up so that you can drive to the gate.
Other factors to consider include where your neighbors are, where your house is located, if there’s a faucet nearby, feed storage, etc.
Once you have a good area in mind, walk out or mark the perimeter of the pen in the ground. This can be approximate. You’re just trying to visualize having the pen in place. I like to do this a few days before beginning construction so I can see when the pen is shaded too.
Getting supplies for your simple pig pen:
Remember how I said that a sturdy pen is the key to headache-free pig keeping? That means no pallet builds!
I know Pinterest says that it’s the best ever. I know you know someone who’s built their entire farm out of pallets. But look, doing it right the first time is the right way to go about housing pigs. They have a reputation for being escape artists only because people build pig pens out of pallets and other flimsy materials. If you’re just dying to use pallets, use them as a component of their shelter, to hold up their feeders, or to store grain.
The main components of our simple pig pen are; the fence, the gate, a shelter, feeders, and waterers.
Our fencing of choice are hog panels. They are sturdy, don’t require stretching, and make setup and tear-down easy. We bought our panels in 8′ sections from Tractor Supply Co. At the time, they were cheaper (per linear foot) than a 16′ panel, and they fit in the back of the truck without needing to cut them.
To hold up these hog panels, we used good old T-Posts. The main reason we use T-Posts is because our pig pen is set up in a new location every year, and they are the easiest posts to install or pull up. (No concrete required)
Our gate is of the “ranch” variety, not the fancy variety. We basically just open one panel inwards into the run, and latch it closed with lengths of fencing wire or clips like you’d find on the end of a lead rope.
The pigs shelter is a ramshackle plywood structure. It’s framed with studs that we had after tearing down an old greenhouse. Some of the plywood is leftover from building a brooder, some of it is leftover from a barn repair, and some of it was bough new just to fill in what we were short. The shelter is important in that it protects them from rain and sun, but it’s also the least critical in the sense that most anything can serve as a pig shelter. As long as it is dry and kind of cozy, your pigs will be happy.
Our pigs have 2 kinds of feeders. The first, bulk feeders that hold about 250-275 pounds of their ration at a time. These are instrumental, and worth every cent. Their second kind of “feeder” are big pans. I use these for feeding slop, kitchen scraps, eggs, and other treats. Having them used to eating treats out of a pan will make things easier on slaughter day.
Our pigs also have 2 different water sources in their pen. The first is a DIY barrel pig waterer. It cost us about $45 to build and is a life saver. (We’ve also used a similarly DIY waterer that mounted on our hose, it had a leaking problem over time, but is another good option) Their second water source is a gigantic rubber pan that I keep filled. It’s a good way for them to cool off, and a source of water for wallow-making.
Pricing out your simple pig pen:
When we initially bought all of the supplies for our pig pen, materials were much cheaper. (So was feed, but that’s a post for another day) It was “pre-pandemic” so inflation and all the rest had yet to grip the country. At that time, we built the whole pen and got the supplies for slaughter for $500. Since time-traveling to cheaper prices isn’t an option, I’ve priced out what all of the materials would cost today (January 2023).
To build our 16′ X 24′ backyard pig pen, you’ll need:
14) 7′ T Posts at $7.99 each- $111.86 (OR 20, for $159.80) From TSC
2) 50′ rolls of 2′ chicken wire at $15.98 each- $31.96 (If your piglets are big enough, you can skip this)
1) roll galvanized hanger wire, $13.68 at Lowe’s.
Bulk feeder- $280 new at TSC. We bought one of ours second hand for $40.
Waterer- Our DIY barrel was about $45, the DIY hose waterer about $25.
It may seem like a lot up front, but keep in mind that every year you raise pigs, the equipment cost is essentially going down. If you reuse these pen supplies for 4 years (and you easily can go longer than that), your equipment cost per year is about $169.36. Plus, skimping on your pig pen is a great way to end up with
Constructing your simple pig pen:
With your materials gathered, and the perfect site chosen, we’re finally ready to start construction.
In addition to the pen supplies, you’ll need a post pounder, a pair of pliers, and a tape measure. A string and shovel can be useful too.
Start by marking the corners of your pen. We want to make sure that we have a square pen, with sides of even length. You can check this (before you get to far into pounding posts) with Pythagorean theorem. AKA A squared + B squared = C squared.
Basically, take the length of one side (16′) and multiply it by itself (256). Take the length of the other side (24′) and square it (576). Take those two numbers and add them together (256 + 576 = 832). Now find that number’s square root (28.84441020…) This number is how long your pen should be from corner to corner. (Diagonally across the pen that is)
So to make sure our pen is square, we’ll measure diagonally across the pen twice. (So each corner has been measured to) If these two measurements are the same, our pen is square.
Pound in the corner posts first, in the exact places we figured out before. (I usually half-set those posts before checking for square, and then just finish setting them once I know the places are correct.)
After the corner posts are set, you can either use a string, or the panels themselves, to line out exactly where the remaining posts need to be set.
I place 2 T-posts on each corner, and another every 8 feet along the sides of the pen. If your pigs are especially rambunctious or if your pen will stay up long term, you should consider using extra T-posts- have them every 4′ instead of 8′. This will also help keep the panels from getting bent or bowed overtime, which can happen with the deep bedding method.
Use the post pounder to set your posts. The deeper you can get them set, the better. We use 7′ posts intentionally; the panels are only 4′ tall, but we have the extra length to make sure they’re set firmly. This isn’t a step to slack on. Take a break, or take turns, but make sure these posts won’t budge.
After you’re finished setting the posts, lean the hog panels up just like they will be when they’re installed. You want the panels on the inside of the posts. This is so that the pigs are pushing against the strong posts, rather than the flimsier tie wire, as they grow. Take the time to get all of the panels lined up and ready to be wired in place. Make sure the panels meet, or better- overlap, and that there aren’t any gaps in the corners.
Once all of your panels are in place, you can start wiring them to the posts. Use the stronger galvanized wire, not the ever-rusting tie wire, and take the time to be meticulous. I like to start in a corner, and connect both panels to both corner T-Posts. I use 4 pieces of wire at each post. 1 just above the ground, the next about a foot up, another foot above that, and then one at the top of the panel.
Work your way all the way around the pen, wiring panels to posts exactly how I’ve described above; except the gate panel.
The gate panel also needs to be on the inside side of the posts, but we’re only going to wire one end to a post. This is the “hinge side,” but it should still be wired firmly to the post. The “latch side” of the gate doesn’t need to be wired permanently. Instead, use 2 loops of wire (hand tight) to hold the gate closed. Or 2 clasps from a lead rope work if you want to be slick.
It’s important that the gate is held closed at the bottom and top. If the pigs think they can get their nose into a gap in the gate, they will. And over time (or in mere moments) they’ll work at the gate enough to let themselves out. Ask me how I know. As long as you keep the gate panel closed tightly, the pigs won’t realize that it is any different from the other fence panels.
Now that the panels are up, we can install the waterers and feeders. This is as simple as putting them in the pen, along the fence line. Then wrap a long length of the galvanized wire around the feeder, the paneling, and a post or two. Repeat this with their waterer.
Finally, if your pigs will be small enough to fit through the panels (as most weiner pigs are) you should wrap the exterior of the pen in chicken wire or other smaller-gauge fencing. This will make your pen look a little junky; feel free to take it down once the pigs are to big to escape. We reused old fencing for this instead of buying new- do the same if you can and save the money.
To wrap the pen, wire the end of the fencing to the edge of the gate opening. Unroll the fencing as you walk around the exterior of the pen. Then go back around and add a few wire ties to keep it all in place.
With that, your simple pig pen is done. Sturdy, affordable, and no pallets necessary.
I realize that I didn’t give any instructions around the shelter within the pen. That was intentional. I wanted this post to focus on the fence and pen. In a future post I’ll explain our pig shelter and our DIY water barrel system. If you’re reading this before that post is published, know that the shelter itself doesn’t need to be too complicated. We mainly need to provide a dry and shaded place for them to get cozy. It doesn’t need to be huge or fancy, and is a good place to use reclaimed lumber from other projects. Just make sure it’s heavy enough or sturdy enough that they won’t disassemble it.
A sturdy, yet simple pig pen is the biggest step towards raising pigs and harvesting pork on your homestead (or in your backyard!). I hope that you’ve found this post both informative and inspirational. Raising pigs is a wonderful project, and a great way to grow even more of your own food. Keep an eye out for future posts all about raising pigs- from prices to processing, I’ll be covering it all.
Thanks for reading, and happy homesteading!
PS Homesteading in a smaller space? Or looking for a smaller critter to start with before you go whole hog with a pair of pigs? Chickens may be just what you’re looking for- you can read all about it here.
For more info about how much our pig project costs us each year, you can find my post about the cost breakdown (and why you should grow your own pork too) here.