Chickens are the gateway animal for new homesteaders and hobby farmers, but pigs have to be a close second. You need a little more to get started with pigs, but not a lot. Pigs need a place to eat and sleep, a physical structure that can keep them where they are supposed to be—and they are notorious for trying to push the boundaries of these structures—and a shelter to protect them from wind and excessive moisture or heat.
Pigs also need water for several purposes. Like most living things, they need to drink water to stay hydrated. But they also need water to make mud. Pigs wallow in the mud to help thermoregulate and also help protect their skin from sunburns and insects. Unfortunately, pigs do not demonstrate a strong ability to plan out and ration their water for these different purposes.
When I first got pigs, I filled up a pool of water for my baby pigs to soak and another container for them to drink–naively thinking they would innately know the difference between the two. When I got home that hot summer day, I found two pigs severely dehydrated. They had knocked over all sources of water and used the pool as a source of shade–instead of the actual structure that had been placed in their pig pen for that purpose. I quickly learned the importance of providing an enclosed, indestructible source of water that impulsive pigs couldn’t dump over or chew up so that they would always have plenty of clean drinking water available.
By adding a nipple waterer to a food-safe 55-gallon drum, I’m able to dramatically reduce the amount of work needed to take care of my pigs because I don’t have to water daily as the barrel holds enough water for our pigs for at least a week. I’ll place the drum in the shade so that neither the nipple nor the water get too hot in our Arkansas heat and will put it on a cinder block to keep it clean and away from the mud the pigs will inevitably enjoy. The pigs won’t be able to knock this over, chew the nipple off, or muddy the water up by wallowing in it, and I can make watering a weekend job when I have more time. It’s a win-win!