Welcome!

Welcome to Independence Homestead’s website! This site serves our two main goals:

1. To Provide Health-Promoting Food & Farm Products

We believe in the importance of nutritious food that contributes to health and fights disease, and we seek to provide such food to those in our community. We also offer various other products that contribute to a healthy lifestyle, such as the best soaps ever. Please join our mailing list so you’ll be the first to know about new offerings, sales, and events!

Want to learn more about our products? Click through the description pages, and read our blog posts.

Ready to order? Order Now! Visit us on the farm by appointment or when we have farm hours. Have any questions, contact us and we’ll get back to you as soon as we get a chance between farm chores!

2. To Help The Homesteading Community

Homesteading can be tough, and we’re here to help others succeed. We maintain a blog here to contribute to the collective homesteading knowledge available. When the internet isn’t enough, we offer how-to classes on a variety of topics.  We also offer quality, healthy livestock for sale.

Visit Us During the Loudoun Farm Tour This Weekend May 20-21, 10am-4pm

We are looking forward to welcoming new and returning visitors during the Loudoun Spring Farm Tour May 20-21 from 10am-4pm.

The farm store will be stocked as always with rabbit meat, pork, eggs from our free range chickens and ducks, organic bath and beauty products, beeswax candles, and more! Stop by and load up on amazing local products for yourself and gifts.

Address and directions are on our website here. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Local, Delicious Meat for Sale on Farm Tour

Be sure to bring your cooler and ice packs as we will have delicious pork and rabbit available.

Pork is fully stocked! As a family farm, we only take pigs to the processor a few times a year, and the most popular cuts sell out quickly. This weekend we will be fully stocked will all of our delicious pork. We have pork chops, bacon, sausage, boston butt, ham, ham steaks, spare ribs, and more!

We are also stocked up with a lot of our delicious heritage rabbit meat for sale at $8/lb. Rabbits are whole, like a whole chicken, and typically weigh 2-4lbs. Rabbits are all white meat, and there are many wonderful preparations possible. I often baste it with olive oil and seasonings, then roast in the oven at 350 until the internal temperature is 160 degrees. If you’re more adventurous, feel free to try any of the recipes detailed here.

Saturday: Chicks for Sale

On Saturday Lauren from Boot’s Shire Homestead will be here with just hatched Buff Orpington and Easter Egger chicks for sale. Birds are straight run, and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure you are prepared with chick supplies such as a brooder, heat lamps, chick feed, etc.
Prices are: Buff Orpington: $3/ea or 4/$10, Easter Egger: $4/ea or 3/$10.

Let us bring our farm fresh goodies to you! We now offer delivery to the towns of Leesburg, Purcellville, and Round Hill!

Leesburg delivery is every other Tuesday evening.

Purcellville and Round Hill delivery is every Friday morning.

There is a $20 minimum for delivery, and no additional delivery charge. We can bring you any of the items listed on our How to Buy page. If you live outside of town, we can coordinate meeting you at a location on our delivery route.

Contact us to sign up or ask questions.

We JUST received a call from the processor that our latest batch of pork is ready! We’ll pick it up from the processor tomorrow morning, and it’ll be for sale during our farm store hours 12-4pm tomorrow. We are so excited to be fully stocked on pork once more! Come get your favorite cuts before they sell out (warning: the bacon won’t last long!).

To see a full list of what we have for sale in the farm store, checkout our how to buy page (just updated!).

Farm Store Open This Saturday, May 6th, 12-4pm 

This Saturday welcome the warm weather with a visit to the farm! We have two litters of piglets to see!

In the farm store we’ll have rabbit meat, chicken and duck eggs, bath and beauty products, beeswax candles, handmade magnets, coasters, and more!


Address and directions are on our website here. We are open the first Saturday of every month. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Visit During the Loudoun Farm Tour May 20-21

We are looking forward to welcoming new and returning visitors during the Loudoun Spring Farm Tour May 20-21 from 10am-4pm. One of our dairy goats is going to kid in mid-May, so there will be a goat kid to pet!

We will have delicious pork available, so be sure to bring your cooler and ice packs! We will have pork chops, bacon, sausage, boston butt, ham, ribs, and more!

The farm store will be stocked as always with delicious rabbit meat, eggs from our free range, non-GMO chickens and ducks, organic bath and beauty products, beeswax candles, and more! Stop by and load up on amazing local products for yourself and gifts.

When you visit farms on the farm tour and buy their products, you are making a huge impact on the local economy. A study found that “a dollar spent buying directly from a farmer has about twice the impact on the local economy as spending a dollar on food that goes through a middleman- a supermarket, for example.”

On Saturday the 20th, Lauren from Boot’s Shire Homestead will be here with just hatched Buff Orpington and Easter Egger chicks for sale. Birds are straight run, and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Be sure you are prepared with chick supplies such as a brooder, heat lamps, chick feed, etc.  Prices are as follows:
Buff Orpington: $3/ea or 4/$10
Easter Egger: $4/ea or 3/$10

Goat Milk Herd Share

Our dairy goats kidded this spring, providing us with delicious goat milk, and we have a few spots available in our goat milk herd share.

Did you know that goat milk is a frequently consumed milk worldwide? Compared to cow milk, goat milk has many benefits including that it’s easier to digest and higher in calcium (source). Often those with cow milk allergies enjoy goat milk with no issues!

Read all about the herd share here, and contact us to sign up or ask questions.

Senior Breeding Rabbits For Sale

With so many endeavors on the farm, we’ve found we need to streamline our rabbitry. This is one of the rare occasions where we have senior, breeding age rabbits for sale.

All of the does listed below are $100. Some are already bred; the others can be bred before the sale. For full details on each rabbit, including pictures, visit our Rabbits page.

Contact Us to reserve one of these rabbits or inquire further.

Oh my goodness the last few weeks have been BUSY! You may have been able to tell that based on the lack of blog posts. So much has happened: pigs taken to the processor, springtime work completed, but today I’m going to focus on the new life that’s joined the farm this week.

Piglets Born

On Sunday evening Rizzo the American Guinea Hog gave birth to 6 sturdy piglets. Sow and piglets are doing great. The piglets are nursing well, and Rizzo is an attentive mother. After a couple of days the piglets are exploring the world outside their house. Soon I expect them to be running around the pen!

Goat Kid Born

On Monday Sunflower kidded one buckling. This was Sunflower’s first kidding, and she did great. As soon as the kid was born, she was there cleaning him up and taking care of him.

The buckling is healthy and very friendly! After initially letting him drink colostrum from Sunflower, we’ve been bottle feeding him. He loves people, and has fun playing with Rebecca!

This buckling is available for purchase. He can be left intact, or wethered to be a pet. Price is $75. Contact us for details.

 

This is your last week to order a hog share as reservations must be in by this Friday, April 7th. Visit our hog share page now to place your reservation!

This Saturday we’ll be open from 12pm to 4pm. No need to schedule an appointment, just come on out and stock up on all our great farm fresh goodies! Be sure and check out all the special offerings this weekend like chicks, ducklings, and hog share signups!

Chicks and Ducklings

Chicks!

This Saturday, Lauren from Boot’s Shire Homestead will be here with just hatched Buff Orpington and Speckled Sussex chicks, as well as Khaki Campbell ducklings, for sale. Birds are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Prices are as follows:

  • Buff Orpington: $3/ea or 4/$10
  • Speckled Sussex: $4/ea or 3/$10
  • Khaki Campbell: $6/ea or 4/$20

The chicks and ducklings are straight run, meaning they will be male and female. Once the birds are a few months old you’ll be able to tell if you have any roosters or drakes. If you end up with any males that you can’t keep, you can bring them back to the farm.

Be sure you are prepared with chick supplies such as a brooder, heat lamps, chick feed, etc.

Hog Share Signup

Want to fill your freezer with a bunch of delicious pork at an incredible savings?

This month we have several pigs available as half or whole hog shares.

With a half or whole hog you get to request the exact pork cuts you want, and enjoy plenty locally raised delicious pork while getting your pork at a significantly reduced cost!

Shares are $4/lb hanging weight plus tax and processing fees. You’ll end up with around 75 lbs of pork for a half share and 150 lbs of pork for a whole share.

More details are available on our hog share page, or talk to us at the farm store hours for more details!

It’s spring! In typical springtime fashion, temperatures are about freezing this morning, but we should have a high of 64 today. As the weather warms up, our outdoor chore list is exploding. We have so many exciting things to do, and finally the weather is nice enough to do them! Here are the adventures from the last week:

New Hen Roosts

We needed more roosting space for our laying hens, so on Saturday afternoon we threw these together with scrap wood we had on hand.

Each roost is 4′ long and about 20″ wide. The doorway to our hen hoophouses is 24″ wide, so we made sure the roosts were narrow enough to fit through. One roost is 18″ high, the other 24″. Those heights were dictated by the lengths of the scrap wood, and both work just fine.

The frame pieces are 1x4s or 2x4s for strength. The roosts are 1x2s to make the roosts as light as possible. We rotate our hens and their houses a few times/year based on where we need them, so portability is nice.

Storm the goat was very interested in the new roosts when we moved them in the hen house!

Pink Pigs the Destroyers

The pink pigs are making it really easy to take them to the processor. This week they knocked over their barrel waterer, moved all of the cinder blocks it was sitting on, and crawled inside it. I don’t know how they moved those cinder blocks, which were pretty stuck in the mud. You can see in the photo how the barrel’s tied to that t-post. There were more strands of twine attaching it, which the pigs easily broke.

To fix the waterer, I replaced the cinder blocks, reset the barrel on them, and pounded in four more t-posts around the barrel. Well, first I pounded in two more t-posts, so there were 3 total. Before I could fill the barrel, the pigs had knocked it on its side again, but at least it was on top of the cinder blocks and not completely moved. I uprighted the barrel again, and added another two t-posts. I’m hoping that’s enough to keep it upright! The barrel has been filled, and it’s still standing about 18 hours later. Let’s hope it stays that way!

While these pigs may be trouble, they’ll make delicious pork. Order your hog share now if you haven’t already.

We are expecting our first major snowfall tonight, with 8-12″ forecast. I’m thankful we’ve made it until March before getting some major snow. I am also thankful our worst case scenario is 1 foot of snow, not 3 feet like we experienced January 2016.

We had a few preparations to make before the snowfall, one of which was to reinforce our rabbit hoophouse. The hoophouse is about 2 years old, and the weight of the rabbits and cages has caused some wear.  (One of our projects this year is to build on to our rabbitry and move the cages from this hoophouse to the rabbitry, retiring the hoophouse completely).

Unfortunately I did not get a “before” photo, but the hoophouse was listing heavily to one side, and we worried it didn’t have the structural integrity to withstand the weight of snow. We needed to prop it up so that it had more of a proper arch, giving it strength.

We achieved this by pounding in t-posts to use as support, and using 2x4s and 1x4s to push the hoophouse back into an arch and hold it there. You can see the bracing setup in the photos above.  A 1×4 was attached to the hoophouse with twine tied through the tarp to the cattle panels underneath. 2x4s where wedged between the 1×4 and the t-post, held in place at the 1×4 by screws. This bracing exerts enough pressure to hold the hoophouse in its original shape, giving it more structural integrity. We are confident it should now withstand the snowfall.

I hope all of our local friends are ready for the snowstorm. May your livestock be safe and your house be warm!

This week’s nice weather has brought out all the farm helpers pictures above: Noah, Ghost, and Rebecca!

This past Saturday was a busy one at the farm store. Many people came by to see Lauren of Boot’s Shire Homestead and the chicks she had for sale! Remember she’ll be back with chicks and ducklings on Saturday, April 1st and during the Loudoun Spring Farm Tour May 20-21. Plan on getting your laying hens or ducks then!

Since Saturday, this has been a quiet week where all the animals have stayed in their pens, and there’s been no chaos to speak of. It’s nice to have a week like this every now and then!

Remember last week’s post about the feeder pigs’ hoophouse destruction? Those pigs are going to the processor in April, so get your hog share order in now. There is limited availability and we expect to sell out!

We are now accepting orders for half and whole hog shares for our next batch of pork.

Hog shares are an amazing way to order the exact cuts you want, and get the pork at a discount! Fill your freezer with delicious farm-raised pork, and enjoy it all summer long.

The pigs are going to the processor in mid-April, so orders must be placed by April 1. The pork will be available mid-May.

For details, and to sign up, visit our hog share page here.

Farm Store Open Saturday

The farm store will be open tomorrow, Saturday March 4th, from 12-4pm. Come by to scoop up fresh eggs, pork, soaps, and more! Chicks will be for sale, too. Address and directions are here.

Hog Shares

We are now accepting reservations for half and whole hog shares for our next round of pork. The pigs will go to the processor in mid-April, and the pork will be available around mid-May.

Hog shares offer you the opportunity to get our delicious pork at a discount by buying a large quantity of pork at once. Another benefit is that you get to order the exact cuts you want!

For more details, and to reserve a hog share, visit our hog share page.

Pink Pig Update

The pink pigs have been growing at a great rate, and we are excited for all of the pork they’ll produce! We are also excited to take them to the processor because they are destructive troublemakers! You can see in the below photos the damage they’ve caused to their hoophouse. Thankfully it still shelters them well enough!

Since it seems we’re going to enjoy above freezing temperatures from here on out, we setup 55 gallon barrel waterers in both our pig pens. This should make chores easier since we’ll fill these barrels once or twice a week instead of watering the pigs daily.

 

The farm store is open this Saturday from 12-4pm. If you’ve been wanting to stop by the farm and see the animals while stocking up on some goodies, this is the time to do it! No appointment needed, just come on by!

AGH Piglets

We have just 2 barrow American Guinea Hog piglets left for sale from our last litter. These guys are just over 8 weeks old and ready to go to your farm this Saturday! These are castrated males so will make great feeder hogs for people wanting to experiment with raising hogs in a low risk manner. They are just $75 each! Please plan on bringing a small animal crate to transport them this Saturday. Send us a message to reserve your piglets for this Saturday now!

 

 

Chicks!

 

This Saturday, Lauren from Boot’s Shire Homestead will be here with just hatched Buff Orpington chicks for sale. There are about 30 chicks total, and they are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Chicks are $3 each or 4/$10.

The chicks are straight run, meaning they will be male and female. Once the chicks are a few months old you’ll be able to tell if you have any roosters. If you end up with any roosters that you can’t keep you can bring them back to the farm.

Be sure you are prepared with chick supplies such as a brooder, heat lamps, chick feed, etc.

Rabbit Hides for Sale

When we process rabbits for meat, we take pride in using all parts of the animal. That includes the hides of the rabbit.

Tanned Hides

We have a supply of rabbit hides we have processed and tanned that are available for sale. These hides are $30 each, with discounts on bulk purchases. The tanned hides are for sale in our farm store, which is open 12-4pm the first Saturday of the month.

Raw Hides

We are offering the opportunity to purchase rabbit hides fresh from processing for those who would like to tan their own hides. These hides are available for $3 each. Contact us to coordinate getting the hides after processing.

Senior Rabbit Doe for Sale

We have more breeding does than breeding cages right now, which means someone has to go. Banana is looking for a new home to grace with her good mothering skills and productivity! Born here on 7/12/2015, Banana is a chocolate rabbit that carries the dilution gene for blue/lilac (bbDd). We have had many great litters out of her. She will be a great addition to anyone’s breeding program. She is available now for $100. Contact us to buy Banana today.

 

Rabbit Hutches for Sale SOLD

We have two rabbit hutches for sale that might be a good fit for someone’s rabbit operation. With two levels that can be separated, you decide whether to have one large house or two smaller, separate areas. Both levels have pull-out trays to facilitate cleaning. Remember it’s important to keep rabbits off their droppings for optimal health!

The hutches are stained, but work fine. All original pieces are included. Retailing new for $243 each, we’re offering these for $75 each or 2 for $120. For dimensions and full details, see the new hutch for sale here. Contact us now to buy one or both of these rabbit hutches.

 

The adventure of this week was when one of the American Guinea Hogs escaped from the pen! On Wednesday morning I looked out the window to find Hillary rooting around the front yard, right outside the house. Let’s take a quick look at how this happened and what I did to fix it.

The Back Story

Over the weekend we installed temporary electric fencing to cut the guinea hog pen in half. We wanted half the pen to be pig-free so the ground could rest and start to rejuvenate. Here are photos of the fencing and the part sectioned off.

We knew there’d be some growing pains as the pigs became adjusted to the new boundary. A few times pigs went through the fence, and usually  they’d go right back through it to be with their friends. The fact this only happened occasionally showed the electric fencing was working, and they were learning not to go through it.

On Tuesday evening, as we were driving away from the house, we say Hillary on the wrong side of the fencing in the newly restricted area. We figured she’d make her way back to the other side like the other pigs had.

The Escape

Apparently Hillary found a better alternative to going back through the electric fencing, she managed to make her way under the perimeter fence and out of the pen entirely! Here’s where she escaped. You can see the field fencing is pushed up slightly at the bottom.

While we have a strand of electric fencing along the inside perimeter of the pen, apparently she could squeeze under it here.

Hillary must have squeezed out in the evening and spent the entire night outside of the pen, judging by the damage to our yard.

Catching Hillary

After seeing Hillary in the front yard, I went out to the garage and grabbed a bag of pig grain. I carried that to the guinea hog pen, opened the gate and left it open behind me, and dumped the bag of grain for the pigs to eat. Hillary was right on my heels the entire time, walked right in behind me, and starting feasting with the other pigs.

Luring pigs with grain is so easy, a toddler could do it! Rebecca can attest to that.

 

Wind Damage

We are thankful we had no notable damage from the significant wind that swept through the region this week. The worst we suffered was that a tarp tore on the rabbit hoophouse, and a small hoophouse feed area cover flipped over. Trouble is, when the small hoophouse flipped the goats walked on it. That bent it pretty badly, and I don’t know that we’ll be able to bend it back. I was able to stand it back up, but I don’t know how well it works in its new bent shape. So overall the goats did more damage than the wind did.

Barn Cats

Since we haven’t posted about it recently, let me remind how you much we love our barn cats! Here’s Hunter, keeping the feed free from mice.

Enjoying Rabbit

One of the joys of raising rabbits is getting to enjoy delicious rabbit meat! This week we made roast rabbit, and it was tasty! It was so simple, too, just like cooking a roast chicken. I preheated the oven to 375, coated the rabbit with olive oil and seasonings, and put it in the oven. I flipped it halfway through to ensure even cooking. It took about an hour to cook. We always recommend using a meat thermometer to tell when meat is done, and rabbit should be cooked to 165 degrees, just like chicken.

Internships Available

Spring and summer are just around the corner! We currently have availability for 1-2 week internships through February and March. We are also looking for a long-term intern starting mid-June.

If you live locally and would like to intern on a part-time basis, we have an opening to help Mondays or Tuesdays from 9am-noon.

If any of these options sound like a good fit for you, contact us today!

 

The prevailing wisdom when starting a rabbit breeding operation for your own meat consumption is to start with a trio of 2 does and 1 buck. Rather, we recommend starting with a quartet of 3 does and 1 buck. Using our own personal experience, plus running the numbers of meat production, let me explain why we say this.

Our Experience

We started with a breeding trio. The rabbits were 8 weeks old and just weaned, and they were great. We fed them, watered them, and watched them grow. We were SO excited to start breeding and getting little rabbit kits, but we to be patient; we had 4 months of waiting since rabbits should be 6 months to breed.

After a couple of months, we realized just how darn easy it is to take care of rabbits! Feeding and watering takes just minutes a day. In fact, it took us longer to walk out to the rabbitry than it did to do the feeding and watering portion. Stopping at one more cage to put a scoop of feed in the feeder each day to effectively get 50% more production from your rabbitry seems like such an obvious choice! The cost of a 4th rabbit, when purchasing them all from our farm is also significantly reduced due to the fact that we offer a 10% discount on rabbits when you buy 4 or more at a time, making the effective cost of that 4th rabbit only $30 (when you are buying all standard black/blue colored rabbits).

The rabbits were so low maintenance, we had the space for more, and we started doing the math on how much meat we’d get from each doe (see below). We also considered how the price/lb would decrease with a third doe because the cost of the buck would be spread across 50% more meat! All of that combined to our decision to get another doe.

As we continued to expand, now we have the largest Silver Fox rabbitry in the area, we believe that for those starting a backyard meat operation, should at a minimum, start with a quartet of 3 does and 1 buck. We have worked hard to have a large genetic pool in our rabbits. This allows us to provide our customers with ideal combinations of breeders to get their desired color combinations while maintaining low inbreeding coefficients.

The Numbers

First, consider how many litters you’ll get from each doe once she’s of breeding age. The gestation period is about 31 days, which we’ll call 4 weeks. We rebreed 5 weeks after kindling. That combines to 9 weeks between breedings. Wtih 52 weeks in a year you get 5.78 litters/year. Let’s just say that’s 5 litters per year because you may take time off in the heat of summer, if the doe needs more down time, etc.

Based on our production in 2016, each litter leads to about 6 weaned kits (live birth litters are larger but you generally lose some kits along the way). So 5 litters with 6 kits is 30 kits/year from each doe.

The recommended time to harvest each kit for meat is when it weighs 5lbs. After this point, the feed to meat ratio increases, and the growth rate decreases, meaning your cost per pound of meat goes up. Dress-out percentage is 50%. So from each rabbit you’ll get a 2.5lb carcass of meat and bone.

2.5lbs per rabbit at 30 rabbit kits is 75lbs of meat per doe per year. Two does would give you 150lbs of meat per year. That’s just under 3lbs per week. If you follow our recommendation of 3 does, then you’ll get 225lbs of meat per year. That’s 4.3lbs of meat per week, or nearly another 8 3oz servings.That has a significantly larger effect on your grocery store bill, don’t you think?

The average American eats about 271lbs of meat per year, and the world average of meat consumption is about 103lbs/person (source). So getting 225lbs of meat from your backyard is a very reasonable amount for a family of two or more to utilize.

Other Factors

One of the great things about rabbits is that you get that meat in small, manageable amounts over the course of the year. It’s not like a cow, where you raise one animal for 18 months and then have hundreds of pounds of meat that you have to fit in the freezer. It’s easy to make homegrown rabbit a big part of your diet because of this.

Rabbit is also a versatile and delicious meat! It can be used in any chicken dish, plus there’s a whole world of delicious rabbit dishes to explore! From basting with oil and spices and baking it whole, to pulled rabbit, to rabbit stew, there’s no end of mouth-watering ways to enjoy rabbit.

I hope this has convinced you that a breeding quartet is the best way to get started with your backyard meat operation. Visit our breeding stock page now to get started!

 

Another wintry week has passed! This one had record high temperatures, though, so we are thankful for the mild winter weather. We try to cut back to “maintenance mode” in winter with no special projects, but things always pop up. That’s when we really appreciate the mild winter weather!

Since it’s not too frigid outside, Rebecca often gets to “help” us with farm work. Here she is after one work session in the carrier; I think we’ve all felt this way before!

Piglet Castration This Weekend

This weekend we will be castrating the male piglets from the litter born at the beginning of January. Here’s our last post about castration; we will have several helping hands this time around, so I’m hoping to get more photos!

We are selling these piglets at $75/each. We have one female and 2 males still available. They will be weaned and ready for a new home on Saturday, March 3rd. Please contact us to reserve piglets today!

Rabbit Sales Spring Rush Starting

People always seems eager to start new projects in the spring, and that includes starting a rabbit breeding operation! Springtime is our busiest season for rabbit sales. If you want to get rabbits this spring, visit our breeding stock page now and contact us soon. You’ll want to get on our reservation list immediately to make sure we can meet your needs!

Rebecca says our rabbit kits are the best! She loves to hold and pet them.

In Part 1 of this series I posted the considerations we take into consideration in our pig housing. In Part 2 I detailed the first pig houses we made. Today in Part 3 I will detail our second pig house design, a hoophouse!

Here are some prior posts about hoophouses for more tips and tricks:

Building a Hoop House: Part 1

Duck Hoop House

The Hoophouses

We now have 2 hoophouses that we utilize as pig houses. One thing we like about this design is that it’s universal. These houses have served goat, ducks, and chickens before. They could easily return to being used for these other animals, too.

Dimensions and Framework

The hoophouses are made with a 2×4 base and cattle panel roof/sides. The houses use 2 cattle panels next to each other, so they’re 8ft deep. The back can be made of a cattle panel or field fencing/horse fencing. For the base, we use screws and brackets to reinforce the corners. The hoop exerts a notable amount of outward pressure, that’s how it stays up, but that requires strong corners. We use fencing staples to attach the cattle panel to the base.

The cattle panel was cut to about 11ft before assembly, and that makes a hoop about 4ft high when the house is about 5ft wide. We cut the cattle panel with a metal cutting blade on our circular saw.

For the back we have used both the piece of cattle panel cut off and fencing to make a solid rear wall.

Roof and Sides

The roof and sides are simply the cattle panel covered by tarps. Zip ties easily hold the tarps onto the cattle panels.

The pigs periodically ruin the tarps by biting/pulling/rubbing them. Tarps are inexpensive at Harbor Freight, so we just add a new layer of tarps periodically.

How it Works

Right now our American Guinea Hogs have one hoophouse and two triangular shelters to use. All eight of them (plus 7 piglets!) choose to pile into the one hoophouse and the triangular shelters sit empty. They seem to prefer the hoophouse, and I believe it is because this house is large enough for all the pigs to live together.

I hope this short series about pig houses helps you in caring for your pigs!

Farm Store Open This Saturday 12-4pm

This Saturday is the first Saturday of the month, which means the farm store will be open! Come by to get some of our delicious pork! We also have duck eggs on sale, 10% off this Saturday only.

Piglet Update: They’re Eating Solids

The piglets are a month old now, and they are healthy and adventurous. While they are still nursing, they are starting to explore with eating solids. Here you can see them chowing down on grain with mama Hillary and the other big pigs. Come see the pigs on Saturday!

Now that we’ve talked about the considerations that go into developing our pig housing, in this post I will detail the first pig house design we ever used. Next week I’ll detail the second pig house design we use. Both are good, they’re just different.

The Triangular Structures

These are the first two pig houses we made. Over time the pigs have helped us improve these houses by destroying all weak aspects of the houses and allowing us to rebuild them stronger than before. Yes, that’s what pigs do.

These houses were designed with the need to balance sturdy construction (pigs are destroyers) with minimal weight (we would be moving the houses).

Dimensions and Framework

Each house is about 4ft high, 4ft wide, and 6ft deep. The 4ft wide dimension makes it easy to use a sheet of plywood for the roof, you only need to make one cut for the length.

The base is a frame of ripped 2x4s. We ripped them to lessen the weight, and they have been sturdy enough. The pigs have never managed to break the base!

The vertical supports at the front are 2x4s. We cut one 8ft 2×4 in half to create the 4ft sections. You’ll see where the vertical supports meet the base we use scrap wood to create a triangular brace. That adds a lot of strength to the structure.

Also note the 2nd pair of vertical supports in the middle of each side. These supports help the roof, and they also provide an extra place to secure the fencing on the sides.

Roof and Sides

The roof is thin plywood on one house, and thicker OSB on the other. I prefer the thin plywood as the different material makes the house significantly lighter. When we’re carrying the house to a new location, that makes a world of difference.

The sides of one house are field fencing. We attached it with fence staples we hammered in to the wood frame. The other house has horse fencing (2″x4″ squares) attached in the same manner. That house has a tarp over the fencing.

If you try simply using a tarp for the sides, the pigs will run right through it. If you try stapling up chicken wire covered by a tarp, the pigs will run right through it. If you want the sides enclosed, use sturdy fencing and cover it with a tarp.

How it Works

This house design functions very well as a pig house. They snuggle in the house at night, and it keeps them out of inclement weather. It’s heavy enough that they don’t often move the house around, which is nice, but light enough that we can move it without trouble. We’ve been able to construct these houses from scrap material, so they don’t cost us much. We spend a few bucks on a new tarp every year or so.

We value multi-functional structures, and these houses also work as goat houses. We used one for our goat kids this past spring.

We have been very happy with this house design, and would be happy to use it again in the future.

 

It’s been another wonderful week on the homestead! There’s been a good amount of mud and dirty clothes, yes, but also warm weather and sunshine. We are thankful for the rain we received as well as the sunshine. Some of us (pigs!) are more thankful for the rain than others.

The Pigs Are Porking Up!

Our American Guinea Hog piglets and our pink feeder pigs are growing well. The piglets explore more and more each day, especially on warm, sunny days. The pink pigs are growing so fast we can nearly see it happen! We supplement their feed with spent brewing grain. On Wednesday Rebecca helped me feed the pigs the brewing grain from the pickup truck bed!

Rabbits Are Growing, Too!

We have so many rabbit kits hopping around right now! From just kindled to already weaned, we have kits of all ages.

The farm store will be open next Saturday, February 4th, and we will have 7 litters weaned and ready for new homes at that time. If you’re looking for a pet or breeding stock, contact us now to reserve rabbit(s)!

We’ve had pigs for a few years now, and we’ve learned a lot along the way. Today I’ll share some of the characteristics of pigs that we take into consideration when constructing housing for them. On the next two Mondays I’ll follow up with posts detailing the two types of pig houses we use! Come back then to learn more.

Pigs Will Destroy Everything

People told us how hard pigs would be on their houses, but we had no concept for just how true this would be. Pigs will push, bite, and tear on their house. If they can move or break any part of it, they will. Part of this is that they like to go where they want, even if that’s through the side of the house. Another part of it is that they seem to enjoy playing around with things.

Pigs laugh in the face of chicken wire and staple guns. If you want to use wire on a house, plan on using horse fencing or field fencing. Plan on hammering in fence staples to attach the fencing to the house’s wood frame.

Our philosophy for dealing with their destructive nature is to accept that the houses will get torn up, and to plan accordingly. We do not spend that much time, effort, or money on pig houses.

They’re Tough Creatures

Pigs are pretty hardy, and they don’t need much in terms of housing. They need a roof to keep them out of the rain and snow. They need protection from wind, which is why we always have the closed end of the houses face north, our direction for prevailing winds. When it’s cold, they like the house to be full of hay. It makes for a cozy bed and also provides a snack!

Pigs Like to Cuddle

All of your pigs will want to cram into one house, even if you provide multiple shelters. This means you don’t need several small houses, and your resources would be better utilized building one house that’s large enough to house several pigs.

The notable exception to this rule is farrowing sows. A sow will want her own house when she farrows. Always provide an individual house for a sow that’s about to farrow.

Pigs Are Short, But We Aren’t

A lot of people make their pig houses very short since pigs are short. It’s rare for a pig to be over 3ft tall. I appreciate that a short house is the most efficient use of resources, but we’ve found with all of our livestock that life is easier if we can access every corner of an animal’s house. We make our pig houses 4-5ft tall. Yes, we still have to crouch to enter, but it’s doable.

Our Pig Houses

We use two different pig house designs, one is triangular, the other is hoop. Over the next two Mondays I’ll provide the details of these two house designs so you can create both yourself! Come back next week to learn more.

 

It’s been another week of enjoying our blessed life here on the homestead. The winter season is a time where the pace slows a bit, we can actually complete everything on the “to do” list, and have a few minutes to savor it all. Here are some things we enjoyed this week.

Delicious Pork

We picked up pork from the processor last week, and we have been enjoying it ever since. The mild sausage is great to fry up and put in anything. We’ve used it in soup, omelettes, and nachos. The pork chops are also a flavorful treat for lunch or dinner! Here’s the recipe I used to make the pork chop pictures below.

Piglets Growing

Every day it’s a joy to see the piglets out running around. Their antics are pretty cute. They’re so small they can fit under the fence and out of the pen, but we don’t worry about it as they never stray too far from mama pig. The other day I was able to catch a piglet as it was outside the pen. This would be impossible to do inside the pen because mama Hillary wouldn’t allow it! Here’s a picture of me with the piglet.

Raising livestock is hard work, but we enjoy so many aspects of it such as watching the piglets. We also believe it’s the right thing to do if we want to eat meat. Our pigs have wonderful lives in the environment where pigs are meant to live. We could never buy pork from factory farmed pigs packed together on cement pads. It’s unhealthy for them and us, and it’s not the right way to treat God’s creatures. We are thankful that we can be part of an alternative.

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