If you own a pig or two, you definitely have learned by now that having them outside is better for you, if possible But what happens in the wintertime? Unlike most other farm animals and pets, they do not have a lot of furs, so you may want to reconsider your outdoor only policy.
Keep reading for plenty of great solutions to keep your pigs warm when winter comes around.
1.Keep Pigs Inside During Winter If You Can
Obviously, the best place for a pig is any animal (yourself included) is a warm and comfy home. If you have the ability to do it, keeping your pigs inside for the winter will certainly keep them warm. Will they enjoy it? Somewhat. Will you enjoy it? It depends on how much you like them.
The pigs will certainly enjoy not freezing outside, but simply being warm is not all they need. If you choose to leave them in the house, they still need:
- A lot of space to roam around
- Safety from hazards
- Bathroom breaks outside
Does shavings or straw provide better insulation for your pigs? Find out the important differences in my post here.
You Pigs Need Space
Although we commonly see pictures of pigs lying around and sleeping, a lot of the time, they are actually rather active. They like to move around every so often, especially if they are nice and warm in your home. If you are keeping them somewhere like your basement, make sure it is big enough for them to roam around a bit with the lights always on, not a caged off corner.
If your pig is particularly well behaved, you may have them comfortably lounging around your own living spaces. That is great, but they still need a wide-open, unobstructed space every few hours to stretch their legs. You do not have to take them for a walk like a dog, but a fenced-in backyard will certainly do the trick.
You can let your pigs out there for just a few minutes but be sure to let them in when they are ready, so they do not freeze. Alternatively, you may want to buy the extra-large version of this Pet Safe doggy door from Amazon so that they can come and go as they so, please.
Even when inside in the Winter, it’s important the pigs don’t live on a surface that is damaging to their hooves, find out if concrete is safe for pigs in my post.
Keep Your Pig Safe from Hazards
Speaking of dogs, you need to be careful of certain hazards for your pig that can be found for them inside your house. They will be pretty cozy, but this is not exactly a natural environment for them. Safety hazards inside the house for pigs include:
- Dogs- They are a natural predator of the pig, so watch out!
- Fireplaces- Pigs might be attracted to the toasty fireplace, so put up a barrier to prevent them from burning themselves.
- Concrete basement floors- Put down some hay or straw, so they are comfortable and not constantly walking and sleeping on a hard surface.
- Other pet hazards- Like any pet, you should keep anything toxic or harmful to your pig well out of their reach.
Pigs Need Bathroom Breaks
Here is where that doggy door might especially come in hand. While your pig will be plenty warm, eventually, other features of nature will come calling. If you have the doggy door installed, your pig should know enough to take it outside. If not, consider sending them outside once in a while, at least just for a bathroom break.
Pigs Need Attention
This is the pig need you are most likely to take for granted. Pigs are naturally rather social and playful. However, simply having them inside the house in the warmth does not give you a pass to ignore them. And since they do not have items from nature to occupy themselves, they very well may become bored.
Pigs becoming bored might lead to fighting, for a guide on how to deal with your pigs fighting check my post.
Make sure you have things for your pigs to do during those long winter months. Obstacle course structures are a bit tough to construct in your sunroom, but at least acquire a couple of dog toys or even some branches from outside.
For a guide on what toys to get your Pigs see my post here, it’s about Chickens but pigs will enjoy most of the toys in the article.
To see more about keeping your pigs’ warm check out the pigsite here.
2.Keep Pigs Inside, But Not in the House
For some of you, you might be torn. Keeping your pigs inside definitely sounds like the safest bet, but the thought of having them in your living room sleeping on your couch does not exactly sound ideal.
Thankfully, there are other structures you can set up, still within your pig pen or the vicinity, that will at least get them out of the wind chill and all the snow:
- Obstacle courses
- Small barn or house
- Large barn
At the bare minimum, a cheap and easy way to have your pigs removed from at least the harsh wind chill is fencing. Obviously, a wood post or chain link fence will not be sufficient here. Consider solid wood fencing instead. Just make sure you dig the foundation deep enough, so it does not fall over.
You need to build a fence anyway, so be smart and keep the fence solid wood fencing to protect your Pigs from the harsh winter winds.
As we discussed earlier, whether you decide to keep your pigs outside or inside, they need activities to keep them happy. Obstacle courses, which you can easily design yourself out of 2 x 4s and plywood, are one of the best ways to do that.
When you are at the drawing board, though, be smart: make sure there are some overhangs or spots raised off the ground. That way, they will have a roof over their heads to protect them from snow as well as rain. Also, when the rest of their living area is buried in snow, they will have a dry, warm spot to lounge.
The roof from an obstacle course is great, but then you have the opposite problem of the simple fence: no wind protection. How do you have both? Well, you are going to need to build your pigs, a small barn or house within their enclosure. That way, they have the option of going inside or outside on their own accord.
You can certainly design your own if you have the know-how. Otherwise, any basic shed will do. Just make sure there are not any tall steps that might make it difficult for the pigs or their future babies to climb in and out.
It sometimes is difficult knowing if a pig is happy or not, to know for sure see my post.
The best solution is keeping your pigs in a large barn in the first place. This will give them plenty of space to move around in, in addition to being protected from the elements. You can even make them climate-controlled if you wish.
To see how Gould Farm keeps their pigs warm with a regulated barn see their post here.
3.Basic Climate Control
If you are going with the small or large barn option, you still need to do at least a couple of things to keep your pigs warm beside a structure itself.You need to have good ventilation and lower humidity to keep the snow out while the air stays fresh.
The obvious best way to do that is to leave the doors open on the barn throughout the season, except during extreme cold or a big storm. You can always put some plastic sheeting up over the doors as a temporary barrier.
If you have not built your pig barn yet, allow some gaps in the wood. They should be small enough to allow fresh air to cycle through but without a significant amount of cold wind blowing its way in. To see why ventilation is so important check farm progress’s blog post.
4.Plenty of Hay
Like all farm animals, hay serves a lot of different purposes for pigs such as:
- A softer surface to stand and lay on
- A way to keep clean
While all of that is true, hay is crucial for all animals to stay warm in the wintertime, but especially pigs. Make sure you stick a lot of hay in their barn or living area. When they are cold, they can easily dig themselves into the hay and keep themselves warm.
Most importantly, do not simply throw a bunch of hay in your pig barn and leave it alone for the whole winter season. It will become dirty, meaning your pigs will soon not feel comfortable in it anymore. Change out the hay at least every two months.
For ideas and tips on how to keep your pigs warm see the Little Mountain Ranches video above.
5.Keep Pigs in A Blanket
The best recipe for pigs in a blanket is to use full-size hot dogs and crescent rolls from…wait, wrong pigs in a blanket. Well, that recipe name certainly did not come from nowhere; yes, literal pigs do quite enjoy blankets. Like humans, who share their lack of fur, pigs love blankets and other soft materials to stay warm in the wintertime.
Hay is cheap and easy, but if you have any old, worn-out blankets or sheets, you were thinking of disposing of anyway, through them in your pig pen instead! However, any old blanket might not work: if you notice your pig rejecting it, remove it from their area. Do not force material on them that they do not like. Try a different kind of fabric instead.
Just be careful when you are using blankets that you pick a soft and loose material. Watch your pigs when you first give them a new blanket, especially if they are babies. If they are having trouble with them, and keep getting caught, remove the blanket from their area immediately to avoid possible suffocation. Never use a fitted sheet.
The best materials for blankets for your pigs (besides crescent rolls) that will be soft and loose would be:
Pick a choose from a variety of different cotton blankets on Amazon here.
These materials would not make sense to buy outright for your pigs, but it is certainly better than throwing old quilts and blankets in the trash. For 7 other tips for making sure your pigs stay healthy this winter check this post out.
6. Put Your Pig In A Sweater
Similarly to blankets, another way to keep your pigs warm while also being kind of cute is to give them sweaters. We are not talking heavy coats here, as pigs already have a decent amount of fat on them; we do not want to risk overheating.
However, a simple sweater could be just what your pig was looking for. You can knit them if you prefer, or simply use an old sweater that has a hole or two in it. But make sure it is loose-fitting. The last thing you want to do in the winter is hampering your pigs’ mobility by putting them in clothes that are too tight. Loose and baggy is always the way to go.
Keep an eye on your pigs when they try on their sweaters, though. Some pigs like it, but others do not. If your pig stops moving as much, this could also be a sign that they really do not like the sweater, and it should be removed.
7.Keep Your Pigs Well Fed
This might run counter to conventional wisdom on eating, but it is true. When we humans eat, we generally feel colder, since blood is rushing away from our extremities and to our digestive system to keep that process moving.
Pigs work a little differently, though. Think of it more like a fireplace: when the fire runs out of fuel, it goes out. Similarly, the more food you give a pig, the higher it is able to raise its body temperature and fight off those brutally low temperatures in the outside air.
You still do not want to overfeed pigs, though. Although popular belief may say otherwise, pigs being overweight is just as unhealthy as it is for humans. Still, you do want to increase the amount of food you are giving them by at least a third in the wintertime to keep them warmer.
There are other reasons why your Pigs are not growing aside from a lack of food, see my post here to know how to put weight on your piggies.
Luckily, pigs are really not that picky with food and will eat just about anything. Keep doing what you did in the warm seasons, but you can go ahead and add an extra serving or two of:
- More hay
- Old bread from the dollar store
- Low sugar fruits
- Special pig feed
Pigs are mostly herbivores, so you will generally want to avoid meat and fish. In addition, stay away from things like:
- Cracked corn
- Food for other pets like dogs and cats
- High sugar fruits
Pigs generally have a lot of trouble digesting items packed with sugar and starch. They also do not have the sharp teeth needed for some denser food. To know what foods are bad for Pigs see my post.
8.Ensure Your Pigs Are Hydrated
We may think of water as inherently a summertime thing: it cools us off and comes through when we are thirsty. However, we all still need water in the winter as well; we just do not think about it as much. The same is true for your pigs: water indirectly is crucial to keeping them warm in the winter.
One half to two-thirds of a pig’s body weight is water. Pigs use that water weight, so to speak, to help regulate their body temperatures. So, if they are not receiving enough water, dehydration sets in, and their body temperatures lower.
Water comes even more into play when pigs are eating because they need it to keep their digestive systems working. Therefore, make sure you a big tub of drinking water set up for your pigs and keep it clean. Also, keep it inside the barn, if you have one, so that there is less likelihood of it freezing. And be sure to use a tub that they cannot easily knock over.
Take a look on Amazon for different waterers you can give to your Pigs.
The other major use of water for pigs, of course, is to keep them clean. Without the heat and the inevitable smells that come with it, it may be harder to notice when your pigs are becoming dirty.
However, it is important to keep them clean with some water every now and then to keep them warm. Otherwise, dirt and possible infection could be especially dangerous in the wintertime’s dry air.
To see other ways of keeping your pigs healthy this winter see Farm Fit Livings post.
9.Install a Heater
One of the best ways to give your pigs the warmth they need in the winter is to install a heater. Ideally, you would place this within their barn if you have one, or you could consider setting up something outside. Follow these safety tips:
- Create a thin barrier between the pigs and the heat source so they do not burn themselves.
- If you can, put it on the ceiling or somewhere out of reach.
- Never use a propane heater in a closed barn. This causes Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
- Try to use something quieter, as louder machines will be bothersome.
Try one of these heaters specifically designed for these uses and conditions:
Comfort Zone Ceiling Lamps
This heater from Comfort Zone on Amazon gives off a really impressive amount of heat and is installed easily. They can be screwed to the ceiling of your pig barn, keeping them safely out of reach. Plug them in outside to a standard three-prong outlet, so no complicated, hardwiring required.
With the bracket being adjustable, you can also turn the heater as needed if some of your pigs are hogging the heat from the other ones. Some of the neat safety features on these lamps include:
- Metal safety grill, on the off chance the pigs can reach them after all
- Automatic shut off to avoid overheating
- Purely electric, so no dangerous gases to worry about
Comfort Zone Multi-Purpose
If you want a heater for your pigs that is a little more basic and cheaper, you can pick up this other model from Comfort Zone on Amazon for around $20. The nice thing with this one is that it is portable, so no need for installation in the barn ceiling and risking a leak.
Like all Comfort Zone products, this heater also will shut itself off before overheating and has protection over any hot surfaces to keep your pigs safe.
One neat additional feature here is that it has three different settings, so you can make it more or less powerful depending on:
- How cold it is
- How many pigs you need to keep warm
- How big the barn is
Lastly, it is very energy efficient, turning itself on and off as needed. You will probably not stop using it for the whole season, so this will certainly help with your electric bill.
This heater from Amazon is a more standard type of space heater than the other ones. Keep in mind, first of all, that it runs on propane, so only use it outside or in an open-air overhang, never a barn. It also can become a bit hot, so keep it a safe distance from the pigs.
The major advantage of an old-fashioned convection heater is that you do not need electricity. Let’s face it; not everybody has electric power all the way out by pigs. Their area is probably too far out from the house to bother digging a trench for wiring. And running an extension cord all the way across the yard for four months would just be impractical.
The convection heater sets up anywhere you want it, and all you need is a propane tank. Simply set the tank up outside the pen and run the hose to the heater. Then you will be all set.
Convection, if used safely and correctly, can be the strongest and most effective heater for your pigs, even more so than electric. This is especially true during deep winter when temperatures dip to the single digits in Fahrenheit or even below.
For more information and about ways to heat your pigs like by using lamps see this post by hobbyfarms.com
10.Encourage Your Pigs To Cuddle
Most animals survive through the winter together, not alone. Body heat can be a powerful force, and that is especially true for pigs. Since pigs are generally family, possibly with a few babies, it is important to encourage them to cuddle up together to stay warm in the winter (and also because it is cute).
Pigs are pack animals, but can you raise one Pig? Read my post to find out.
How To Get Pigs To Cuddle
- Build one “bed” or pile of hay for them to sleep in at night, not multiple spots
- One barn, as long as they all fit, rather than multiples
- Keeping them social by giving them toys that they have to share as well as common obstacle courses and paths
The trick really is to encourage them to be close to each other in a physically and mentally healthy way. That means a closer sleeping environment and social time, not allowing them to be unsanitary or cramped.
11. Build Your Pigs A Roof
If you do not want to go through all the effort of building a barn, putting even the simplest covering over your pig pen can help them out. Obviously, this would not be realistic for a big roaming area. But it can be done for a modest 6 x 6 enclosure.
This would, of course, keep the pigs dry, but the other benefit here is to take advantage of the principle that hot air rises. Since, as discussed, pigs produce a lot of body heat, if they are out in the open, that heat just leaves. But by having even the most basic ceiling on their enclosure, you are keeping the air down low near the pigs, keeping them at least a bit warmer.
Buy Some Plywood
The easiest way to give your pigs a roof is to lay out some plywood. Simply lay it over the fence and screw it down, so it does not move around in the window. Make sure it is high enough for the pigs to stand comfortably. Also, if one piece of plywood is not enough, screw two together, taking care that there is no risk of collapse. Never put any weight on the plywood.
Get 3mm 1/8 x 12 x 20 Inch Plywood for your piggies for a great price on Amazon here.
Make a Canopy
Another option is to buy a basic canopy, see the best ones on Amazon here. This is probably your safer option than the plywood. It is meant to be outside for long periods of time and can easily be staked down. It is also a lot taller, making it easier for you to be able to go into the enclosure to care for your pigs if needed. Just make sure you heed some canopy safety advice:
- Stake it down firmly, since it will be up for a long time and have to deal with a lot of different winter windstorms.
- Check for snow accumulation after each storm. If some exist, knock it off away from the pigs to avoid collapse.
- Check fabric every so often for wear and tear. If you notice a leak, you are going to need to buy another one.
- Make sure poles are out of reach of the pigs, so they do not knock into them.
To learn how Pigs’ body heat helps them in the winter amongst other things see pigpetworlds post here.
Keep Your Pigs Warm Recap
Pigs are tough farm animals that certainly do not mind a crisp Fall day. However, without a fur coat, winter presents a significant challenge. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do to keep them warm during these tough months. Coverings, whether inside or outside, are a significant game-changer for more reasons than one.
If you have to result to more significant options, just make sure you do not lose sight of the main goal: the health and welfare of your pigs. Pigs are like us: they want to be warm but in a comfortable way. There are plenty of ways to do that, even more than can be listed here. If you have an idea and it is safe for them, go for it!