Since we got the new brooder all setup with a propane brooder, we’ve not had need of our old Hover Brooder for the chicks. But this being Minnesota in the spring, we did have a few cold snaps that left us in need of supplemental heat for our piglets.
All but one of our sows have farrowed (given birth) so far this spring. The piglets and their mother spend the first three days inside the barn in a farrowing pen. On or about day three, when the time of greatest danger to the piglets has passed, they’re processed and turned out into group housing with their mothers.
This year we’re using our three-sided pole-barn for community housing for all of our lactating sows. The pole-barn doesn’t have electricity, but it’s close enough (one extension-cord length) to the chicken coop that an electric hover brooder is an option.
The hover brooder for chickens is a pretty good starting place for a piglet brooder, but there are a few important modifications, because pigs.
First up, piglets don’t need to be as warm as chickens. Chickens need brooder temps of at least 100°F, pigs can get by with 80°F
Since we needed less heat we pulled out two of the five sockets in the chick brooder, leaving us with three sockets in a straight line. With three bulbs we can go up to 750 watts, but we used smaller bulbs to end up with 375 watts of heat. That turned out to be plenty to keep the piglets cozy.
The next problem we needed to address was the porcine propensity to play around with absolutely anything they can lay their snouts on. In a situation where a heat lamp is in proximity to said porcines, the heat lamp bulb will presently meet an untimely end.
Which is to say that piglets will break every heat lamp bulb.
Every. Dang. Time.
Usually snapping the bulb off at the base, leaving it to your friendly neighborhood farmer to painstakingly extract with a pair of needle-nose pliers.
Not cool pigs.
So you see my problem. Fortunately, I figured that simply covering the bulbs with a bit of 2×4 fence wire would be enough to keep the pesky piglets at bay.
As it turns out I had an even better bit of fence-type-stuff to make a bulb-guard out of. Once upon a time we had a baby crib that was broken by an overly rambunctious toddler. This toddlers father, being a connoisseur and collector of choice junk did endeavor to save the wire frame that held up the crib mattress because it looked an awful lot like a heavy-duty bit of 2×4 fencing. Waste not, want not and all…
And don’t forget the usability considerations, the wire guard needs to swing out of the way for easy bulb changes (heat lamp bulbs have the life expectancy of a mayfly, so there will be lots of bulb changes). We used three eye screws and three hooks to keep the thing in place.
Obligatory piglet pile photo.
And Margo, because sometimes a momma just wants in on a piglet pile too.