How to build a pig enclosure from pallets
Pigs can be an incredibly useful element on a permaculture smallholding but housing them can often be an expensive business. Alan Bishop shows us how he made not only a DIY hog shed, but also an entire enclosure from salvaged materials.
Pallets! I'm scavenging these things all the time for various other building projects including gates, fences, or blackberry/raspberry trellis systems. We had been talking about adding a smaller type of hog to the homestead for quite some time and put a ton of thought into the phenotypic traits we would be looking for within the genetics of our line but hadn't put much thought into the available materials with which to build their shed! Then it occured to me.... I had recently come accross some eight foot long pallets and some brand new standard four foot by four foot ones, as well as various other sizes via two local businesses that just pile them by their trash bin for disposal. So the newest sustainable building experiment to hit the ground here at Bishop's Homegrown is a hog shed made nearly 100% of pallets!
Re-use, recycle and salvage
I started by cutting some posts from the fence border of the farm and I salvaged a couple of posts from the neighbors throw away pile as well (and a couple "old bones" dead cedar posts I cut while gathering wood for winter). The dimensions came out to 8 x 12' and required a total of 11 short posts.
Building the shed roof
The roof is made of two 8 x 4' pallets nailed to the inside of the posts and then nailed accross and to each other via the 2 x 4' support board of the pallets. The sides are two standard sized pallets nailed to the posts and the roof. I then covered these with heavy duty plywood, scavenged from shipping boxes by fastening them to the existing structure. The back wall is cobled together by some short 3 x 3' pallets and covered with whatever scavenged lumber I could find from pallets that weren't in great shape or in their whole form.
Cheap farm yard fencing
This is just a night time shelter, during the day the pigs will be pastured, but I decided to build the fence that surrounds the yard out of pallets of various sizes too. The fence pallets are recessed into the ground about 6 inches to dissuade the hogs from burrowing out of the enclosure. They are reinforced by nailing scab wood between pieces to tighten the joints but also by using some old greenhouse frame (bent) driven into the ground and woven through the pallets. Since we are dealing with small hogs, they will not have the brute physical strength to push their way through the fence and once they bump their nose on the hard surface, this should dissuade them from even trying.
Feeding the pigs
Along the fence, I intend to build a feed trough out of two pieces of rough cut 2 x 6' nailed together in a V shape. An automatic waterer will be provided in the form of a 50 gallon plastic drum (salvaged from a food processing plant) with a screw in antique pig fountain. The roof is going to be covered with an old piece of bilboard tarp (advertisement side down so as not to give any free promotion to passenger planes above!) though you could go old school and simply create a hay stack or thatched type roof which would shed rain water and snow, while providing insulation just the same.
Book: Build it! With Pallets
Article: Les Porc in Permaculture
It is nice to see work from other pallet warriors. Pallets are great and provide a cheap way to experiment with design elements.
I have a few experiments going using pallet material as a fence and also a living roof material that creates shade for ducks.
Eventually I hope to build an outdoor shower area that will also provide shelter and storage area in colder months.
Rats and squirrels are always a concern.
I am getting into the habit of substituting the word element with "medium" as in "conveyance or a tool". When using the word medium you have to ask yourself what is the message. It's a fun thought experiment.
Did you consider a tin roof for you pig enclosure?
I think the best use for a pallet is its intended use that of transporting goods from one place to another, every time you use a pallet for another purpose someone makes another pallet to replace it. I am not sure this is an appropriate use of technology; wood extracted from a forest which would otherwise be wasted or burned might make better material and be better suited to the task in hand. I live near a timber yard which rejects a certain amount of its production and sells it for use in such situations and of course to make pallets, this comes in a form more easily used in construction projects without building in habitat for unwelcome guests like the aforementioned rats.
Albert, glad you enjoyed, as soon as I get my camera fixed I'll get some photos up of the finished fence and enclosure. I also have some other pallet based projects I plan on writing about here in short order. I did think of a tin roof but had no tin on hand and since I tend to try to work within the confines of what is available freely or cheaply (preferably on hand at the farm) the bilboard tarp seemed to make the most sense. I should be able to get three or four seasons from it pretty easily.
Steve, while I appreciate you eco-minded thought consider this......these pallets were not on their way to being picked up by a manufacturer or a re-building company, they were instead on their way to my county landfill so as you can see the options are only two fold, use what would otherwise be waste (biodegradable yes, but waste none the less) or allow it to be thrown in a hole in the ground to rot. This is more than an appropriate use of technology, no amount of eco posturing will stop pallet manufacturers from doing what they do for better or worse. This is in essence as you said: "wood extracted from a forest which would otherwise be wasted or burned might make better material and be better suited to the task in hand."
In terms of ease of building with pallets......I've not yet had a problem with it that was so overwhelming that I thought to myself; "This is a waste of time, surely there are better materials." It is what it is and we work with what we can, that is what being sustainable is all about.
In regards to rats, there is nowhere within the shed for a rat to hide, besides, we don't seem to have a problem with rats (field mice ocassionally) and no amount of any type of building material will completely keep such rodents out from under foot.
Steve, I also am glad to hear folks thinking through the ecological impacts of what appears to be a good re-use without just accepting claims at face value. However, Alan is right. Most pallets are made to be "tossed out" not reused. It has to do with the cost of transportation. It simply costs too much in human power and gas to go fetch the pallets and bring them back. The one exception seems to be those that are made to carry certain heavy products, like cement. Many cement companies actually put a deposit on their pallets to be sure they see them again! So, I say, USE PALLETS!
The only criticism I have is regarding aesthetics. I know the pigs don't care, but I suspect I am not the only one that wants to see a more pleasing (yet still functional) design (sorry Alan!).
I have seen photos on-line where people have created wonderful structures out of pallets. They may not be worth everyone's time for an animal enclosure, but it is amazing what can be done.