Straw has become one of my favorite insulators in winter. Our neighbor in CO had a straw-bale house covered in stucco, which was surprisingly cozy. We use loose straw for the rabbits to nestle into in freezing weather and to line the nest boxes prior to kindling in cold weather. We use loose straw to add traction in areas prone to icing, and we layer it thick in the more open-air shelters for the larger stock. It is my favorite material (other than natural pasture grass) for birthing of larger stock.
This season, I took it a step further. Our pigs were slower growing than we anticipated, so we had to carry them into cold weather. The only problem was that they were still out on the forest lot (now void of foliage and, thus, shelter), and I had no shelter for them. So, I ran to the store, bought some rebar pound-in posts, a few bales of straw, and assembled a nice, cozy shelter for them one afternoon. I had some scrap lumber and some leftover roofing material from other projects, which became a quick roof. It ain’t purty, but it sure works!! It could easily be made prettier with some trimming and a little more attention to detail, but I really wasn’t worried about it this year. I was more concerned with whether the pigs would tear it down by the next day.
After assembly of the bales with 2 high and about 2 wide (lengthwise), I drove the rebar down into the bales and further into the ground to stabilize the structure a bit. Finally, I stuffed the inside with lots of thick loose straw for them to bed into, and VOILA! Perfect hog hut!
About 3 weeks ago, it finally got cold enough I had to move their drinking water bucket inside the hut. I was absolutely shocked how warm and cozy it was when I crawled in there. We have only had the water bucket freeze twice so far–and both times the temperatures were well into the low 20’s before the metal nipple froze up a bit. The water itself has yet to freeze.
I will note that I have been surprised the pigs haven’t bothered the bales at all, and they have been using the shelter for almost 2 months now. They don’t soil in it at all, so it is perfectly clean on the inside even now. Finally, I put about a full bale worth of loose straw inside the shelter when I assembled it, and they have kept it surprisingly fluffed up as they burrow down and make nests for themselves.
In summary, economically, it wasn’t the cheapest route, as I could have easily used scrap lumber to build a shelter for much cheaper. However, it was by far a warmer option, and I didn’t have time for actual construction. I am hoping though, that the investment will pay off in the meat they put on, rather than having to use excess energy just to stay warm. I was hoping to get a photo of the girls inside for you, but that just isn’t going to happen. No matter how sneaky I am, they seem to sense me coming and I rarely get within 100 yards before they are at the fenceline hoping I come baring feed.