Homestead pigs can be pretty easy work once you have your infrastructure set up. The price tag on those little piglets can be a real doozy though. Depending on the breed, you can pay anywhere from $60 to $250 or more when you get into breeds like Kunekune pigs.
Such a high cost may have you wondering why you aren’t breeding your own pigs. The process can be pretty intimidating if you’ve never dealt with farrowing pigs before though. My husband and I purchased piglets for two years before we were brave enough to breed them.
Don’t worry, with a little bit of research, some farrowing huts, and a good source of food and water, the sows take care of the rest. Follow these steps and you’ll have healthy piglets in no time.
What You Will Need for Farrowing Pigs
- Artificial insemination kit or boar
- Physical or electric fence to contain the pigs
- Trough, feed bucket, or automatic feeder
- Water source
- Hut to shield them from inclement weather
- Straw for nesting/warmth
- Ideally, a shaded area where they can escape the sun
Preparing for Farrowing Pigs
1. Start With Pregnant Pigs
So how in the world do you end up with pregnant pigs anyways if you don’t have a boar?
It’s actually not as hard as you would think. If you don’t want to deal with taking your pigs somewhere or having a boar come to your own farm, then you can try artificial insemination.
Typically your local agriculture extension agency can help you find someone with AI experience so you can see it done before trying it yourself. The cost varies widely based on breed and you must order the boar semen as soon as the sow goes into heat.
Read more: 58 Practical Homesteading Skills
If you prefer to do things the old fashioned way, then contact another small farm in your area and work out either bringing their boar to you or taking your sow to them. We have American Guinea Hogs and my husband has a friend with a Kunekune boar. He brought their boar to stay with us for a few weeks until we had three pregnant pigs.
The gestation period for pigs is three months, three weeks, and three days. Pretty easy to remember, right?
If you don’t artificially inseminate, it is a good idea to keep a close watch for when the pigs mate so you’ll have an idea of the due date.
2. Build the Farrowing Hut
The farrowing hut needs to be large enough that the mom and babies can all lie down comfortably and should not be a tight space. The mothers will lay down and crush their babies if the space is too small.
It can be as simple as a few 2x4s nailed together with a slanted plastic roof, a metal barrel hut, or I’ve even seen people use an IBC container with one side cut out. It just needs to be a space where they can get out of the elements.
Once you have the structure, then fill it with straw so they have a place to nest. Yes, pigs nest. This is especially important if the pigs are farrowing in colder months.
Read more: Grow Your Own Animal Fodder
3. Increase Food Supply
Just like humans, when pigs are pregnant they will need more food.
Our pigs are fed by an automatic deer feeder (we use a Moultrie feeder, which you can find on Amazon). When they were pregnant we increased the feedings from three to four times per day and ten seconds each with the fourth time increasing to 20 seconds.
The amount to increase the feed is based on the weight of your sow and for every 100lb, you should increase their ration by 1/3 lb per day. Take a look at this article about feeding a gestating sow by the cooperative extension program for more information.
Read more: Expert Advice for Feeding Hobby Farm Animals
4. What to Do During and Just After Farrowing
Most sows will make it through the birthing process just fine, but there are a few issues that could come up. While you hope to have a smooth farrowing process, it’s always a good idea to know what you’ll do in case something does go wrong.
One of the major issues is a piglet could be turned at the incorrect angle and create a blocked birth canal. This would be a case best handled by a veterinarian. Make a list of a couple of vets that you could call in your area in case of an emergency.
If the due date is in colder months, it is a good idea to dry the piglets off so they can get warm quicker. Any interaction with the birthing process needs to be done very quietly and do your best not to disturb the sow.
The piglets’ natural instinct will be to find the mother’s teat and begin nursing. Make sure that each piglet begins nursing quickly so they get the milk with colostrum that the sow only produces just after birth.
Be sure to watch the sows and piglets over the next few days. Make sure the sows are eating and drinking and the piglets are nursing well.
New Piglets on the Farm
Did you enjoy this tutorial? Once those new piglets arrive, you’ll love watching them run around and play with their brothers and sisters.
Piglets are a great addition to the farm and the ones you don’t plan to keep for meat can bring in some good revenue (see more ideas for side hustles and homestead income here and in our “how to make money farming 5 acres” article!)
As long as you are well prepared with the proper environment and know what you will do in case something does go wrong during birth, farrowing pigs can be a fun and educational process.
Let us know if you’re doing anything differently for your pigs in the comments. If you loved this article then be sure to share it!