Last Saturday was one of those days when I woke up knowing exactly what I was going to do. I had been mulling pig shelter designs for the past couple of weeks … this mulling usually takes place around 2:07 a.m. when the dogs join the local coyote chorus and wake me up. What I decided on was a low, floorless shed that would be relatively easy to move around and that could be stuffed with straw for our little Mulefoot pigs to make into whatever kind of bed they desired.
During one of those sleepless early morning sessions, I mentally inventoried all the used lumber accumulated and left behind by the farm’s former owner. My initial reaction to all the wood was negative … the stacks are messy, and I loathed the idea of removing them from the barn and burning them. But that particular sleepless morning, I realized that we had everything in the barn that I would need to build the pig palace … everything except the roofing, that is. But as luck would have it, the sagging metal-roofed shed that the insurance company made me push in (it was a liability hazard, don’t you know) was still in a heap inside its limestone wall foundation, and most of the 12-foot tin roofing panels were relatively intact.
In a nutshell, this pig house began with a topless shipping crate turned upside down. I cut away part of the front framing to make room for the opening and clad it with some exterior-grade plywood I found … it was painted green on one side, so I installed it green side out. I screwed three purlin-like affairs to the bottom of the crate (roof side) to support and provide purchase for the metal roof. After careful consideration, I decided that 6-foot-long pieces of roofing would be ideal. I used this as an excuse to purchase my first power sheet-metal snips. They only had an el-cheapo version at Tractor Supply, so try as I might to add another Milwaukee tool to my chest, I paid less than $50 for a more or less disposable version. It worked just fine though, and who knows how many times I will really need to cut a lot of sheet metal.
Kate gave me a hand with this project, and she was invaluable as an extra set of hands, photographer, general morale booster and moving contractor. Since I haven’t had the Kubota loader tractor out of the shed for a while, it is kind of buried … lazy old me didn’t want to un-bury it to move the completed pig house to the pig paddock. So with Kate’s help again, we tipped the entire house onto a little foldable garden cart called the Fold-A-Cart and even though the house’s weight caused the cart's tires to compress to almost flat, we rolled the shelter into place in no time.
After stuffing the house with straw and placing the pigs’ dog-crate inside, the growing Mulefoot hogs began to investigate. By the time the temperature had dipped below freezing, they were nestled, four-abreast, inside the dog crate, inside their new house, with the straw all neatly arranged.
Who ever heard of building a palace for $49.99 and a couple of boxes of fasteners? In time, we plan to freshen up the green paint and paint the roof with Rustoleum … Kate
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.