Pigs, like most animals, drink water. If you’re going to raise a pig you need to give it water. Also, you don’t want to spend the whole day filling up glasses of water for your pig and putting tiny umbrellas on the side, firstly the pigs will try to eat the umbrella, secondly, you’d look like an idiot.
Seriously though, when it came time to get the pigs in the middle of summer we needed to have some sort of watering plan. A pig will drink 2-6 L a day, so 3 or 4 pigs can drink 20 L easily. This is way too much to haul out every day, unlike with our chickens where we fill their waters as needed. When we picked the location of the pig pen it was mostly about having an area that was already fenced off, it was fortuitous that it was also located between two electrified buildings and a source of water. The pumphouse is right beside the pen, and initially the pigs were watered using a simple method of a garden hose running out of the building, connected to a watering wand mounted on the fence and it would pour into a bucket on the ground. Now, this sounds good except a pig will play with a bucket of water and flip it over or pull it around where it wouldn’t get filled anymore. Also, you don’t want the water running all day long. I had installed a timer switch on the well pump which would let the garden get 3 hours of soaking a night, and the timer was good enough I could program in 7 events. Initially I had it go an hour in the morning, an hour in the early afternoon, an hour in the later afternoon and an hour in the evening. Seriously, they didn’t need the shower on that often. My next task was to figure out where the water was mostly going from the shower and dig a little pool for the pigs so the water would hold for a while instead of just running into the ground, this has worked well and while our pigs don’t appear to be big wallowers I have caught them in the pool from time to time.
With this sub-optimal solution to buy me some time I tried to figure out a way to get an on-demand system for the pigs. Erron had done some reading about nipple waterers where the pigs could drink from a tap they turned on themselves. This sounded great if we could get something set up. I couldn’t have the well pump running 24/7 so I had to come up with a reservoir for the water. At first I considered using the 300 gallon plastic tank we had hiding behind the garage as this could get filled once a month maybe and hold enough water. I then calculated the pressure that the water would exert from the 1 m height and figured it would be too low to get good flow for the pigs, plus the tank might get overgrown with algae and that was another possible headache.
So I had to find a pig waterer and come up with a way to hold a reserve of water. I thought about the city water hookup I had just finished and how I had 2 pressure tanks that were pretty much useless since the pump I installed didn’t need them, one could be a good reservoir if I could keep it filled. If you don’t know how a pressure tank works, here is a simple description. Imagine a steel tank, and in that tank is a balloon. If you have an opening at the bottom of the tank and put pressurized water into it the pressure of the water will compress the balloon until the balloon air pressure matches the water pressure. So a pump that operates at 50 psi will be able to crush the balloon down until the air inside is at 50 psi. If you turn off the pump the water doesn’t lose pressure because the balloon is still doing some pushing. As you draw some water out the pressure will drop, but a hell of a lot more slowly than if there was no balloon pushing it out. This would be great, except when I turn off the well pump the water gets sucked back down the well so the pressure tank would just empty out the wrong way. I had to get a valve that would allow only a one-way flow of water, a check valve! So I had an idea for a tank, and a valve, but what about the actual watering attachment? I checked Co-Op and Peavey Mart, the 2 bigger farm stores in the city and they had nothing. I then thought to check a pet store as they might have something useable. Sure enough I found the lixit at petsmart, pretty much exactly what I needed but marked for getting fresh water for your dog in the summer. Add in a run of hose I already had on hand from the city water project, a bunch of connectors and hose clamps, and we had a plan!
Here is the main parts of the water system in the pumphouse, you can’t see the 3 taps behind me that control where the water goes when the pump is turned on.
And here we have little pink pig demonstrating the proper “Push with your nose and drink” technique. Within a day all the pigs had it figured out, they’re just that smart.
And… just for fun, here is the little pink pig demonstrating the puddle wallow. Nobody would go in while I was taking pictures so he might have been picked to demonstrate because he was the easiest to toss in.