Before we got pigs, we just had a bowl of food out for the dogs free choice. Those days were so innocent, so pure, so carefree. Then came the pigs. <cue ominous music>
Now, I’ve had all kinds of livestock for most of my life, but nothing prepared me for life with pigs. They are an entirely different animal altogether. I remember the first time we were moving two of our little sweet adorable piglets out of one pen and into another. Everything was going great, they were following a bucket of grain and we were thrilled with our success. Then they quit coming. I looked back to see those two sweet little angels ravenously devouring a whole chicken we’d fed the dogs, bones crunching in their mouths as they contentedly snorted and chewed. Whoa.
The good news is they are highly food motivated and easy to do whatever you want with as long as you bring food. The bad news is they are highly food motivated and must. eat. everything. Our previously good natured dogs had to learn quickly to fend off the aggressors if they hoped to get any food scraps and their calm, placid mealtimes turned into snarls and scarfing. Something had to be done.
Enter the feeding station. We’d heard about jump gates and how well they work for transitioning between pens, allowing LGDs to go here and there to protect everything without letting the critters they protect have access to other pastures. Why not use one of those to create a safe place for the dogs to eat?
Since we often feed whole carcasses and cuts of meat, we needed a place that was big enough for the dogs to spread out and eat comfortably. It also needed to be close by for ease of access but in an area where they aren’t going to have interference from their invisible fence. This area happened to be along a line without the invisible fence because it goes into the yard so they only have one short side to stay away from the fence.
This feeding station is about 8’x16′, or one full cattle panel and one half cattle panel. The 2x4s are to sturdy up the hole we cut and provide structure for the opening. The adult dogs can jump through, though it takes a bit for them to learn how. Interestingly, the escape artist dog who can climb straight up field fence was the most reluctant to go through the jump gate. Once they know how, they jump easily and unhesitatingly through. The puppies you see in the photo are still small enough to fit through the cattle panel, but would have needed separate accommodations for a few months until they get big enough to jump through.
The feeder in this station is a 25-pound Little Giant galvanized feeder, one I highly recommend if you’re feeding kibble. We’d feed about once a week for the two adult dogs. I love low maintenance solutions like this – this feeder is one of the things I miss most about switching to homemade dog food. Now we feed twice a day and that’s a whole lot more trips out there than we used to make. Worth it, but it sure was nice to feed once a week.
Here’s our first try at a jump gate feeder. It worked great for feeding only kibble but was far too small for allowing multiple dogs to eat raw food. This one also had a tin roof so it doubled as a shelter, a great option if you’re limited on space. It also tripled as a really cute baby containment system, with leaks. 😀
Out of about 30 adult Nigerians that have passed by these gates, 2 figured out how to get through to eat dog food. Those 2 found new homes. One chicken also figured it out, so it needed to be hung up off the ground and out of reach of greedy chickens. Also, we ran 3 standard size spring lambs last year and 2 of those figured out how to get in and eat dog food. They were already destined for a different ending. Now that we’re feeding homemade dog food it gets eaten quickly enough to not be an issue, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind if you’re building your own.
This feeding station has been a lifesaver for us. The pigs can snort and shove all they want, but they can’t get in and mess with the dogs…or eat all their food. For a total cost of under $50, it is well worth the peace of mind!