Several years ago Kitty and I found ourselves owning two pigs. It was a bit of an accident as to how we came to own these two. I was keen on getting into Rabbit breeding for meat and to this end I had constructed a rabbit enclosure adjacent to my chicken run. It would have been large enough for a male and maybe two females (or so I believed), and once I have finished I began looking for rabbits to buy. Instead of looking online, as I would now, I was looking in the local newspaper every few days until one weekend I found someone that was selling some rabbits. I had a few books on rabbits, as well as all farm livestock (I have all of the Storey’s guides on livestock. I found Storey’s books to be very useful for this. When I called the Rabbit seller there was no answer… I attempted to call several more times and no one picked up. It was then that I noticed that immediately below the Rabbit classified, someone was offering Slips (baby pigs) for sale. I thought to myself that I did want pigs eventually and so I called the seller. It turned out that he lived 10 minutes from my home and I went to check his property. He had an elaborate set up with around 2 dozen pigs of various ages and types. He had set up his Pig pens using wooden pallets that he had wired together to form a fence. It was a very impressive set-up with Pigs contained in specific locations and dozens of chickens living amongst, and in some cases standing on top of, the pigs. We bought two 9 week old piglets, a boy and a girl from different litters, both Large Black and called them Han and Leia. I decided that my rabbit run would be a suitable location for the pigs until I had collected enough pallets to build a pig pen like I had seen.
Collecting pallets is a bit of an art-form. I spent the next few weeks walking around Hobart, looking for pallets. I would ask many different businesses if I could take them and by the end I had developed a great speech, quickly explain who I was, what I wanted and why I needed them. For a long time it was hard work and I would be lucky if I gathered any. Then I came across a business that had great stacks of pallets. They were more than happy for me to taken them and from then on I became known to them as the “Pallet Man”.
It was about this time, when I had collected around 40 pallets, that the piglets broke through the fence between them and the chickens. Kitty and I were a little concerned as we didn’t like the piglets sleeping in the chicken house, yet apart from that we were not concerned as the place we bought them from had chickens with the pigs. Even the pig books mention that chickens and pigs co-exist very well. This arrangement worked well until I found a chicken’s face on the ground in the chicken run. Yes, you read correctly, a chicken’s face. It appears that a pig killed and ate a chicken and the only part remaining was the face. The pigs ate the feathers and everything else. I immediately started work on a pig pen made out of pallets and a whole day building it. During that day I lost another chicken to the pigs (I had nowhere else to put the pigs until the pigpen was ready).
I finished the pigpen late that night and went to bed exhausted, planning to put the pigs in there in the morning by coaxing them in there with their breakfast. The next morning I was enjoying my breakfast when I noticed out the window the pigs walked by the house. They had apparently broken out of the chicken run and were walking around. I led them to their new home (built not a moment too soon) and locked them in. So much trouble! Over the next few years they enjoyed living in the pig pens I created for them and the only issues I encountered with them were the discovery of a Possum tail in the pen (I suspect it had tried to cross the pig pen one night and the pig instead decided to eat it) and the time that Han almost killed me (will save that one for another time).
The creation of the pallet fence for the pigs incorporated two different methods of creation. The part of the fence that adjoined my garden was created by using multiple 3 meter branches that were nailed to the posts. The other three walls were created by measuring the area of my intended fence and arranging pallets to fit that distance. I needed posts for the fence and as purchasing them was too expensive for me, explored my 15 acre forest and found many fallen trees. These trees were 60-80cm in circumference and would be suitable to act as posts. I cut them to length (2 metres long) with a chain saw and erected them into holes 50cm deep. I braced them in place by forcibly jamming rocks into the hole. This proved to be a very strong hold which I then filled in with dirt that had been taken from the post hole earlier. I then used branches I found in my forest for the horizontal beams. The gap between the posts was 3 metres so I found sturdy branches of 3 metres of longer that had fallen off larger trees. I would then nail these to the posts and cut of the excess with a hand saw. I then stood the pallets up against these beams and nailed them to the beam using long nails. The pallets often had gaps between the wooden slats, some wider than others. To fill this gap and prevent smaller animals walking through I used the off-cuts of the beams and other small branches, which I nailed into the gaps.
This whole process took around 2 weeks of work and by the end I was sick of digging holes for the posts. To finish off the work I strung a single strand of electric wire along the top edge of the pallet fence to prevent losses to climbing predators. Since it’s erection, this fence has prevented almost all flora loss in the garden and is still standing. While I sometimes look at it and marvel at the crooked fence, I am still quite proud of my creation… especially considering I made this method up myself, finished a huge amount of work that is still functional, and it cost me almost nothing to build. The only costs was the cost of the nails and the hinges I needed for the gates I built. The fuel I used to bring the pallets home was going to be used to bring me home from work regardless of the pallets, so I don’t count that in my costings.
The fence for the pigs was created using a more simple method. I decided on the length of the fence… 9 pallets by 9 pallets. I lay down all the pallets along the intended fence line to determine the length of the pen and make sure the sides fit together. I drove a star picket into the ground on the corners, and another every three pallets. I then used some heavy gauge wire to string between the pickets… as I did this I stood the pallets up and threaded the wire between the back of each pallet before using wire strainers to keep the wire taught. On one side, I kept one pallet out of the side and replaced it with a heavy wire gate. This fence is still standing and withstood the malicious attention of a male boar.