If you have outdoor pigs, now is the time to get their home ready for the upcoming Winter. Best to get things ready and in good shape now before it gets very cold. You don’t want to be fixing things outside when the temps drops and your pig certainly doesn’t want to be uncomfortable in any way, especially when it comes to their pig house.
It is good to start off with a thorough cleaning. Remove any old hay or straw and sweep out the floor and wipe down the inside walls. If your pig is an outdoor pig, they will be spending more time than usual in their house, so you want it to be in it’s best condition for them. While the house is empty, check for drafty spots… make sure there are no gaps at the seams and go over the roof to ensure there are no leaks. If you took off the door-flaps earlier in the year, now is the time to put them back on. We like to use clear thick plastic so it lets some light in and the pigs can look out on days when they don’t want to venture out.
Once it is cleaned out, now you can add a lot of straw. Now is not the time to be stingy. Be generous! Pack that house with straw. It will provide a comfortable bed for your pig and help keep them warm. You can also add old blankets to the sleeping area.
Before we continue, this is where we want to remind you that if at all possible, bring your pig inside for the winter. Maybe in the garage where they can still have access to the yard through a side door. We have many friends who board their pigs with us during this time of year because they don’t have an ideal set up for the winter months. We also want to point out that now more than ever it is so important for your pig to have a piggy pal. Pigs are very social creatures (even the grumpy ones!) and do much better when they have a pig friend. Two pigs in a pig house can really help keep each other warm, too, with all the body heat they generate.
Also, if you are dieting your pig, maybe take a break from that during the cold season. That doesn’t mean give them a ton of extra food, but consider feeding a bigger pig the same as you would a pig who is at the proper weight. Two warm meals a day can help outdoor pigs feel fuller, warmer, and much happier. Giving them a clean bowl of warm water every day is important, too. That should be done first thing in the morning since often water dishes will freeze overnight if the temps dip down below freezing.
Finally, once the pig house is cleaned out and refilled with straw and blankets, check the yard. Remove any larger stones or twigs. If there is a light snow, the pigs may not be able to see where they are stepping, and you don’t want them to cut the pads of their feet on a sharp stick or rock. Check the trees, too, and trim any threatening branches above the pen.
Remember, when you do get snow, you will need to clear off the roof of the pig house as well as make a path for your pig to be able to get out of the house and go to the bathroom. Otherwise, they will pee in their bedding and you’ll need to change that out right away. Some pigs will hold their urine and their stool if they can’t get to the area that they want to eliminate in, and that can result in a host of medical problems. Sadly, we know of pigs who have died from doing this.
Take advantage of warmer winter days and let them graze in a different part of the yard (although grazing is usually very minimal during winter, the pigs will enjoy getting to explore a different space). Throw some food pellets out for them to discover! Make it interesting for them. They are such smart animals and really benefit from some mental stimulation.
Honestly, winter is not an ideal time for pigs. They aren’t fans of being cold. They would pack up their hay and head to Florida if they could. But since that isn’t an option for most, we just make the best of it and try to make them as comfortable and happy as possible. We encourage you to spend as much time as possible with your outdoor pig because you are a part of their herd and they enjoy being with you.