How to Raise Pigs Naturally on a Small Farm

how to raise pigs naturally

Before we started to raise pigs naturally, we discussed what that would mean on our farm. Since then, many litters of piglets have arrived, showed off how cute they can be, were weaned, fed for a few weeks, or even months in some cases. All were sold and the waiting time would begin again.

How To Raise Pigs Naturallly

The sows had some time off after each litter, to gain some weight, rest and completely dry off. Then, Charlie would welcome them back into his pasture area and the breeding cycle would begin again. We started raising pigs with two sows and Charlie, the boar. Soon after another sow was added.

How to Raise Pigs Naturally
Wet, early spring weather leads to mud, no matter what you do.

Learning to Raise Pigs Naturally

We have learned a lot about how to raise pigs naturally on our farm. It’s been a bit of trial and error on some issues as we tried some conventional ideas, and some of our own. One thing we knew from the start, we wanted the pigs to have as close to a natural existence as we could provide for them, in captivity. The project was started by one of our adult children and he has been successful with the whole thing.

Inspired by books on pasture rotation, and sustainable agriculture by Joel Salatin and Gaining Ground by Forest Pritchard, we learned about how to raise pigs naturally in a  pasture setting. We agreed, from the start, that a certain level of cleanliness would be necessary. There were large fenced pastures available but it was a limited space. Fencing in more pasture ground might be possible in the future but it would have to wait. And we have neighborhoods and a road near the farm so security and safety were of high importance.

What We Felt Was Important

The other thing we agreed on was that we absolutely did not want pigs living in close, crowded conditions of filth and manure.  Raising pigs naturally has added a new dimension to our small farm.

How to Raise Pigs Naturally

Instead of using cement slabs and metal fencing, we used run in stalls open on one side, soft straw and sawdust bedding, along with pallet barriers with wood fencing. The entire area is wired with electric fencing and the interior of the pig acreage is broken into different parcels, fenced and wired. This allowed us to separate pigs as necessary, give the sows some space to raise the piglets and the piglets to be weaned.

Raising Pigs Takes a Lot of Preparation 

Make no mistake, it was a lot of work to get this set up to raise pigs naturally. The buildings were already in place as the area had previously been used as horse paddocks. But they needed repair and needed to be pig proof. Pigs love to escape.

how to raise pigs naturally

And, when separated, they like to try to get back together. Charlie, Mariah and Layla were quite the bonded family. When each sow would deliver, or right before if we were on our game, she would be escorted to a birthing room with a fenced in area surrounding some lush green grass and weeds. She would be pampered with lots of table scraps, fresh composting veggies and extra hay and feed. The babies would thrive and follow Momma around. All well and good, but while the sow was being treated as queen of her pasture, poor Charlie was looking on from the other side of the fence, forlornly. 

How to raise pigs naturally

What Really Happens in the Pig Pen

I think this is a good time to back up and explain some pig behavior. Telling you how good the sows are and how Charlie hates to be alone, might lead you to think we treat the pigs as pets. This would be far from the truth. We respect the possibility that the pigs volatile nature means they can turn on us at any minute. A sow protecting her piglets is a force that you do not want to cross. We respect that and take precautions. A pig board is a must between you and the pig at all times. If the piglets need to be handled, at least two people should be on hand, so one can  keep an eye on momma. Pigs might be cute and they sure are smart but they are still livestock and have a volatile nature.

How to raise pigs naturally

How We Handled Things

Charlie missed his sows and they missed him too. They all paced the fence line trying to spend quality time together. 

With future litters of pigs we tried something a bit different. Layla delivered first and was moved to a maternity suite. Three weeks later Mariah delivered her litter but instead of moving her to a separate area and run in shed, we left her with Charlie.

how to raise pigs naturally

A lot of  references will tell you that this can end badly with the boar killing and or eating the piglets but if you observe pigs in the wild, that does not happen. While Charlie may not take an active role in raising the piglets, he doesn’t bother them, either. He behaves the same as he always does towards Mariah and is tolerant of the babies. Hopefully this won’t change and of course we keep a close eye on the whole situation. The piglets don’t stay long on our farm before moving on to whomever buys them. 

How to raise pigs naturally

Rotating Pastures

 Rotation is one key to our pig operation. This allows the vegetation to regrow and the fields from being over filled with pig manure and mud. Since this system works with nature instead of against it, the vegetation regrows quickly and a lush green area is ready for use every three months or so. Of course, if we have a rainy season like we did this spring and early summer, its hard to keep anywhere from becoming muddy.

how to raise pigs naturally

Escape Artists at Work

Keeping pigs from escaping takes some vigilance and they do eat a good bit of food, vegetation and grain. We try to feed them as naturally as possible but we do have to supplement with some grain. More woodland will be fenced in eventually, and we will see how they do with a more wooded environment, too. No matter how long you farm or homestead, there is always something new to learn. That is my idea of a life well lived. Learning to raise pigs naturally fits into our farm goals.

how to raise pigs naturally

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raise pigs naturally Before we started to raise pigs naturally, we discussed what that would mean on our farm. Since then, many litters of piglets have arrived, showed off how cute they can be, were weaned, fed for a few weeks, or even months in some cases.

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Pig Pens or Pig Pastures by Timber Creek Farm

How to raise pigs naturally

Adding Animals to the Homestead

adding animals to the homesteadSomewhere along your homesteading journey, you will probably get the itch to start adding animals to the homestead. Or, the opportunity will present itself in an offer you can’t refuse. Perhaps someone is giving away a flock of “free” chickens, or you fall in love with a baby goat and decide this is the right time for adding animals to the homestead.

What Is the Right Time for Adding Animals to the Homestead?

Adding Animals to the homestead

Whether it’s a well planned adventure, or a series of events, you should have an idea beforehand of what each type of care the animal will require. We have raised and kept many kinds of pets and livestock at Timber Creek Farm. Our first animals were horses and ponies, followed by goats, a donkey, chickens, rabbits, ducks, sheep, turkeys, cows and pigs. There is much to be said for practical, hands on learning. I will be honest, and tell you that I have not always followed the advice I am giving out now. As they say, hindsight is 20/20!

Read and Ask Questions Before Adding Animals to the Homestead

Ask lots of questions and be prepared for on the job learning! But, that said, try to be as prepared as possible, BEFORE adding animals to the homestead!

1. Build suitable fencing and secure housing. 

This can be a hard point if you are not sure what the animal needs. Different animals and poultry require different housing and fencing. Chickens will be safely housed in a secure coop with appropriate ventilation and interior accessories such as nest boxes and roosts. Pigs don’t require an enclosed building necessarily. An open shed will serve as adequate shelter but the fencing for pigs most likely will need a line or two of electric to persuade the pigs to stay put. Know what each species needs in order to be raised successfully.

2. Be aware of predators in your area and learn how to keep your animals safe.

If all of this is new to you, ask other neighbors or the Extension Service agent in your area for information about possible predators, in your area. Use the appropriate fencing to keep predators out of the animal’s area. Using the wrong wire fencing can lead to tragedy. You can read more about the different fencing for chickens in this post.

3. Make sure you have a way to get plenty of water to the animals, even in subfreezing temperatures. 

There aren’t many things that happen around the farm that I don’t enjoy. Except for carrying water to the animals when the hoses are frozen and the water tanks are solid blocks of ice. We need about 15 gallons of water in the morning and evening to keep everyone hydrated. That’s just the animals who don’t have floating tank deicers in their water. Water is a big concern during extreme weather. In the event of possible power outage from a big storm, we stock up by filling all the tanks before the storm hits. Yes, think about water. These electric heated water bowls can help with water staying thawed during the day. I recommend uplugging them at night and refilling in the morning. Chickens don’t need water available while they are sleeping.

4. Having all things in place before the animals arrival, will  add to your enjoyment of raising livestock.

I preach this. It’s my mantra. Unfortunately, I don’t often take my own advice. Yes, I too succumb to bringing home animals without making the proper plan ahead of time. Fortunately, we have lots of available options for temporary housing when my heart gets ahead of my better judgement. But it all goes smoother if you plan ahead. Believe me, you will still have plenty of reasons to make adjustments once you get to know the new arrivals.

  DSC_2091 Adding animals to your homestead timber creek farm

DSC_3278 Timber Creek Farm Add Animals to you farm

What is the best animal to start with?

I can’t tell you which animal type is the best one to purchase first, when adding animals to the homestead. This depends on your ability to care for them and your particular passions. If you love fiber crafts and yarn then you may want to raise your own sheep or fiber animals. If the thought of caring for a large sheep scares you, perhaps an angora rabbit would be a good choice. Large families or those with specific dietary needs, may consider raising meat animals might help the food budget.

Urban homesteaders may have limitations set by the town government, on what can be kept within the city limits. I put the information that you can use  to make a decision into a table format. The dollar estimates are based on an average cost in the mid Atlantic region at the time of writing. Your local feed store or veterinarian prices may vary but this will give you a starting place for your planning. 

How Much Time is Involved in Animal Care?

All livestock require everyday care. We feed all of our animals twice a day. I am sure there are folks who feed once a day but feeding twice a day gives you twice the opportunity to head off a potential problem. Sometimes, twenty four hours can make a difference in the health of your animal, and catching an illness early can often save the animals life. Each week, more intensive labor chores are completed, such as moving hay bales to the barn, cleaning stalls and pens, and filling up water troughs. Basically, the larger the animal, the larger the cleanup effort!

Refer to the following sections for my estimates on the physical strength, costs and care required for various species.

Care Needs of Different Homestead Livestock

Physical Strength NeededAverage CostsTime requirementConcerns or notes
Chickens and Ducks
(laying hens for eggs)
Other than being able to clean the coop regularly, carry water to the coop and hold a chicken if it should need medical attention, strength needed is average. Raising poultry is suitable for those learning to homestead.In a coop and enclosed pen situation, estimate 50 lb bag of layer ration for 12 - 15 mature hens. Costs will vary but an estimate of $12- $16 dollars a week is an average. If you are able to free range, the feed cost will go down. Minimum of twice a day care needed to freshen the water, remove old feed and distribute fresh feed. Cleaning weekly as needed. Less cleaning is needed in the winter months as the accumulated bedding will help warm and insulate the chicken coop. Free Range can mean a free dinner for the foxes and racoons. Having a sturdy coop that can be tightly shut will protect your hens from predators.
RabbitsNot a significant requirement. Similar to poultry.1 rabbit estimate of 5lbs of feed per week. Will vary with the cold weather. Rabbit will eat more during cold weather. Approximately $3- $8 dollars a week plus fresh food supplements such as leafy greens, carrots, bananas, applesTwice per day check and refresh water and food. During below freezing temperatures, water may need to be refreshed more often.Nail clipping needed and general body condition checks needed. Hutch must be secure and predator proof.
Goats - for milk, fiber or meat, field buddy for a horseYou may need to lift a goat onto a stand for examination or to give meds, shear fiber, or general care. Strength can be a factor although there are ways to work smarter and not harder. Goats prefer browse to pasture grass so the hay can be of lower quality, weedier except for lactating dams and last stage of pregnancy. Commercial goat chow cost average $13 - $18 for a 50 lb bag. We feed half a cup per goat/twice a day, with free choice hay and browse. Approximately 1 hay flake per goat per day (hay bales separate into portions called flakes)Basic care for a herd of goats will take about 30 minutes, two times per day. Check fences, observe the goats, feed, and water.
Weekly, clean up the stall area and remove soiled hay. Replace bedding. General stall cleaning and maintenance.
Goats require yearly vaccinations. You can learn to do this on your own, except for the rabies vaccine which in many states has to be administered by a veterinarian. Hoof trimming needs to be done two to four times a year. Breeding animals may require more care,
Pigs More cleaning will need to be done so more strength will be required. The pigs can be pushy and aggressive for food. Pigs are very resourceful and can use many different food types to convert to muscle mass. Kitchen scraps, garden waste, hay and commercial feed can all be used to produce a healthy animal. Pig feed average cost is $17. Whole corn is another alternative and can be a cheaper choice. Fencing for the pig area or pig pastures will be a time consuming factor before bringing home the piglets. I believe the use of electric fencing is a must with pigs. We use both post and board fencing with dual electric lines inside the fence line. I do not recommend raising pigs as a first homestead animal choice. I recommend developing some homestead instincts and animal knowledge before venturing into raising pigs
Cows - beefyes physical strength is required. varies. Pasture with strong fencing is a must. Finishing the beef cow on grain will run about $11 and $14 dollars a bag.daily care may not amount to much depending on your property but in the big picture, raising beef cattle can be very time consumingI do not recommend starting a homestead with beef cattle.

I hope this gives you a good start on gathering information before adding animals to the homestead. Remember, homesteading is a journey, not a race. Having a field full of livestock, but not enjoying caring for them, is not worth the effort or expense. Add what your family needs and can care for slowly. Enjoy the journey!

We raise animals on our farm for our homestead use. We are not commercial poultry or beef producers. The information I am conveying here is from this point of view. I welcome your  constructive comments below. Please share with us, your encouraging tips and advice for new homesteaders.


pig in mudDSC_3745-001 add animals to the farm Timber Creek Farm

adding animals to the homestead

 For more in this series please visit –

So You Want to be a Homesteader Part 1

 The Bookshelf- So You Want to be a Homesteader – Part 2


This post was shared on The Homestead Barn Hop

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From the Farm Blog Hop,

Backyard Farming Connection Hop, 

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Raising Pigs to Clear Land

Raising Pigs to Clear LandWe didn’t start out raising pigs to clear land. The truth is we raise pigs and cows for meat. Some of our pigs are kept for the purpose of making more pigs. The correct farm term for this is breeding. The sows or breeders, (momma pigs) live with Charlie Pig right now and there is a new boar being raised to help Charlie with the job as he ages or as we need to vary the genetic pool.

Who is Using Pigs to Clear Land?

Raising Pigs to Clear Land

This was taken when the two pigs were small. As they grew the area became unfit and was a huge mud hole.

So how did we realize that pigs are amazing at the job of land clearing? We started researching the best way to raise pigs before they were brought here. We started with three pigs with the intent to breed them and have some to sell the following year. We read a lot about pastured pigs and also small pen raising. Of course, we came to the conclusion that raising them in a large field or pasture was the way we wanted to do this. One book we read that was very convincing is Gaining Ground by Forest Pritchard. Forest Pritchard writes a very convincing tale of how his family farm recovered from past abuses and turned to pasture, grass fed practices for raising livestock. Although the book is more of a memoir, it has lots of great information on natural farming practices while being an entertaining read.

Mud Holes 

We also had our own experimental areas on our farm. Some areas worked for pigs and some immediately became a huge mud hole. We had a large penned in area that used to be home to some goats. It had been empty for over a year and had grown up with weeds and small trees, along with old hay from the goats. It seemed like plenty of room but the drainage was really bad. After a short time, two feeder pigs made an extreme mud hole out of the area.

Fencing Concerns When Raising Pigs to Clear Land 

Our front pasture used to be home to the kids horses. It had been unused for a few years and was very overgrown. The run in sheds at each end were repurposed into farrowing stalls for the momma pigs. An important addition to the field was electric wiring to keep the pigs from straying out of the area we wanted them in. Pigs raised with electric wire boundaries are much more respectful of the jolt than those that were brought here as grow out pigs.

Raising Pigs to Clear Land


This is how we use the area. Two large areas are divided off for the pigs and two areas are divided off for the gardens. As the garden season winds down, one area at a time is opened up to let the pigs enjoy the remains. Let me just tell you, it takes very little time for the pigs to completely clear a very well overgrown garden area.

The Rotation 

As the pigs begin to enjoy the garden areas, it gives their regular areas some relief to regrow some weeds and grass. This rotation has worked for us for over a year now. Fencing off different areas allows the ground to rest and parasites to die off. Letting the pigs clear the garden and root up all the remaining vegetation prepares the garden area for rest and winter. In the late winter, the garden is again fenced off, well before planting season begins. The field is then tilled well and allowed to rest before planting begins.

Growth Potential with Pigs Clearing Land 

We are limited in how many pigs we can keep at this time, but piglets sell quickly. The  ability of pigs to clear ground though, makes it possible to clear more area and have more fenced off area in the future. Many people let pigs loose in wooded property and they do quite well. Our farm area is completely surrounded by more property that is hardwood forest.

Raising Pigs to Clear Land

So while we may not have begun raising pigs for land clearing, it is clear that this could be a purpose in the pigs future. Letting them clear more land would enrich their diet, improve the taste of the meat, and allow more of the current fenced areas to rest for a longer time.

Raising Pigs to Clear Land

Day One Clearing the Garden 2014

Raising Pigs to Clear Land

Day Two Clearing the Garden 2014


The Benefits of Pastured Pig Raising 

Jack Kittredge from The Natural Farmer, writes more on the benefits of pasture and forest raised pigs. He writes that before World War 2, most pigs were raised in forest land particularly in the southern areas of the United States. For the modern day homesteader with a few acres, pasture raising and forest foraging makes sense when raising one or two hogs for the table. The free ranging hogs are happier, calmer and eat a more varied and natural diet than those fed commercial pig feeds based on corn and soy. We supplement our piglets diet with commercial feed but we are working towards a day when this will be unnecessary. Using the pigs to naturally clear more land on our property will give them a healthier diet and we will have more land to rotate them through. Currently, we have five piglets, some being raised for meat, and four adults in the breeding area.

raising pigs to clear land

How are you raising your livestock animals. Do you do any free ranging, pasture raising, foraging with your farm animals?

For more of our story on raising pigs at Timber Creek Farm check out Pig Pens or Pig Pastures