How to Build a Portable Pig Feeder
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In 2017, I raised two pigs as an experiment. I wanted to see how much work and cost goes into raising feeder pigs. The final cost of the pork was much lower then what the supermarket charges and the taste of the meat was superior. To make the project easier and more enjoyable, I learned how to build a portable pig feeder.
You can find small feeders that start at $100 that will handle two pigs, but they only hold 100 lbs. of feed. I would need roughly 300 lbs. of feed to last a week as they grow. The commercial pig feeders of that size start at $500. That is a lot more than I wanted to spend, so the decision was made to see what was available around the homestead and figure out how to build a portable pig feeder of my own.
I found a food grade 55-gallon plastic drum with a removable lid on Craigslist for $10. A 55-gallon drum holds roughly six bushels of grain, or roughly 250 lbs. of corn, 350 lbs. of wheat, or 288 lbs. of barley. Since I mix my own grain, a 55-gallon drum will hold enough grain for our pigs for the week.
One day at the dump, I found an old pair of downhill skis and used them to slide the feeder from paddock to paddock.
Last summer, I built and installed new kitchen cabinets and used the leftover plywood for the feeder.
I wanted to use the removable lid on the drum to keep the grain rain-proof. I cut a hole in the bottom of the drum, leading to an inverted V so the feed slides down both sides. The area where the pigs eat will has to be big enough so it holds a decent amount of food.
The barrel is supported so the pigs can’t dump it over and spread the feed all over.
Working with a 3D program called Solidworks allowed me to see the project on the computer screen before it was built.
To keep the cost down, I decided to make the feeder four-feet long. This way, eight-foot boards could be used and after cutting them in half, they will be used on both sides. For strength, all boards will be two-inch wide stock.
Here are my supplies:
1 – 2″ x 12″ x 8′ board @ $9.99 each
1 – 2″ x 6″ x 8′ board @ $4.09 each
3 – 2″ x 4″ x 8′ board @ $2.47 each = $7.41
If nothing else is required, this feeder will be built for $31.49, plus tax.
Starting with the 2 x 12s, I cut them to four feet, and cut the angles to allow the lids to close. After nailing on the end pieces, I made the upper two supports and nailed them in place. The skis were laid down to make sure they were long enough. Luckily these seemed to be the correct length.
Flipping the frame upside down allowed me to screw the plywood into the bottom of the frame. Please note that there is a seam where the two pieces of plywood meet. The inverted V will cover it and the grain will not be touching this area.
I picked out some scrap 2×8 and 2×10 stock from my pile and cut them three inches longer than the feeder is wide. This keeps the skis directly under the sides of the frame. Not only giving it strength, but the wider it is, the more stable it is.
Once the bottom supports were screwed into place, the bindings were removed off the skis and screwed into the bottom supports.
The Inverted V was made out of two pieces of plywood. It was installed by using a bead of wood glue all around the boards and then nailed into place using my brad nailer.
Finally, silicone was applied on the seams, the sides, and along the bottom. I then let it dry for the night.
I cut a piece of ½-inch plywood to fit the frame for maximum support. The removable lid on the barrel is a little smaller than the bottom of the barrel, and was used as a template. I used a circular saw to cut a rough hole in the middle of the circle, making sure not to go past the line. The plywood was then screwed into place.
The bottom of the barrel was cut out, notice that the curve at the bottom of the barrel was left, helping it funnel the grain out. The photo is the rough cut before the loose plastic was removed. The barrel was nailed into place using a brad nailer.
At this point I needed to take a trip to the hardware store to buy two sets of three-inch hinges at $2.99 each. I installed the hinges and moved on to the next step.
If you look closely at the photo, you will notice that I have a small gap between the barrel and the top of the plywood. When it was nailed it in place, it was not exactly centered, and/or the rough cuts were too big.
I thought about this for a while. Should a replacement piece be made? Or could it be used as is and waterproofed? I decided to use it as is and figure out a way to make it waterproof.
Still having some silicone caulking left, I filled every crack around the drum a few times to fill in the gap, using my finger to push it into any crevices that were found.
I used rubber roofing material leftover from an old project to waterproof. Starting at the bottom (since water runs down hill) all the seams were covered making sure all the caulking was covered also.
Before putting on the final wrap, a bead of silicone was placed on the rubber, then the rubber was wrapped around the barrel. I overlapped the other rubber and screwed into place. Yes, the screws go inside the drum. They won’t slow the grain down and won’t take up a lot of space.
Next it was time to support the sides of the barrel as much as possible. I definitely do not want the pigs to knock it off the feeder and waste a lot of grain. The supports need to go up at least two thirds of its height.
The vertical supports were nailed into place. The horizontal boards were measured and cut. These were placed at the ribs of the barrel for maximum support.
After both side supports were built, it was time to connect the side supports making it a monolithic whole. I installed a one-inch ratchet strap around the supports and the barrel. After pulling everything nice and tight, I realized that the strap might move over time. I thought about putting a screw into the straps to hold them in place. But putting a hole in the strap might weaken it. I decided to use some wood to hold the strap in place. The extra length of strap was wrapped around the ratchet and tied off so the ratchet is unable to move.
It was time to screw the barrel into both the vertical and horizontal supports. And while inside the barrel, the final trim work of the plywood was completed. Be sure to wear ear plugs as the tool noise echoes inside the barrel.
After trimming, the inside looks good, the grain will flow right past the screws and into the feed area.
The feeder glided nicely and moved without a problem. Admittedly it is empty and is harder to move when full. But it should work well and being close to the cedar slab pig house, the pigs will be able to access it easily.
Although learning how to build a portable pig feeder took some thought and a little work, in the long run it will all be worth it.
Here is the drawing I used to build this portable pig feeder: