Poorly designed farrowing pens have long been a problem and cause
about twenty percent of the piglet deaths that are unrelated to
diseases and parasites. When the sow (mother pig) is ready to
feed her piglets she will fall down on her side to give them
access to her teats. If the farrowing pen is too small or poorly
designed and a piglet does not get out of its mother's way
quickly enough, it may be crushed by the weight of her body.
Sometimes injury to a piglet occurs when the sow is getting up
and falls down in the attempt. Such accidents are call "overlay"
in the livestock trade.
It is a sad occurrence that no one has been able to really find a
good way to prevent overlay from happening because the piglets
will cluster under the mother by instinct. Giving the mother and
her litter enough room to move around in their pen is the best
preventative. Mother pigs and their litters need space, even
though, unfortunately, this does not guarantee prevention, it
just makes such an accident less likely.
If you need to build a farrowing pen quickly for your pet pig,
here is one suggestion:
Build a box frame from two by fours (basic wall stud sized
boards). The size needed depends on the size of your pig. For a
small Vietnamese or other pot-bellied breed, five feet by six
feet (one and one half by two meters) and about three feet (one
meter) tall is probably adequate. Double or triple that for a
standard sized breed, more for a White.
To help protect the piglets, add a horizontal board rail about
five inches from the floor all the way around the box as a safety
refuge for the piglets as the mother lies down or gets up, and
brace it at the corners so it will stand the mother's leaning.
The piglets can run under the board and the mother can't smash
them against the sides of the box.
It is a good idea also to divide off one of the narrower ends of
the pen with a wall that stops four or five inches above the
floor so the piglets can walk under the wall, so giving the
piglets a "creep," a small refuge room that the mother can't
enter. You can put a heat lamp over the creep section low enough
to warm the piglets without having to worry about the mother
knocking it down and possibly starting a fire. You can feed the
piglets in the creep area too, once they begin to be weaned, and
the sow can't eat all their food.
The frame can be covered with plywood or siding boards, whichever
you have, and the dividing wall can be made from scrap plywood.
Add a door with a latch at one end or doors at either end as you
There is one patent pending invention that may help to
dramatically decrease the occurrence of overlay. The design
relates to air flows and the farrowing pen itself. It is
understood that piglets will cluster under the sow, so this
invention is designed to make the piglet move before the mother
As the sow rises or lies down her weight shift triggers a panel
underneath her that blows air under the mother pig. This makes
the piglets uncomfortable and they will move as a result. It is
preferred that the invention blow compressed air in bursts or
cold air to make the piglets as uncomfortable as possible so they
move out of the way of the mother quickly.
Plush Pigs & Animals