Over the years we have used many different structures to house our animals. Some worked out well, and others not so much.
Our first building was a very simple structure. It was a 3’ x 5’ structure made of plywood. 2” x 2” were used in all four corners to hold the plywood together. The front side was 4’ tall and the back was 3’ tall. We cut a small opening in the front about 2’ x 2’ to allow entry/exit from the building. We used this building for housing of ducks and geese. In order for us to get in/out of the building, the roof was hinged on the front wall. This allowed the roof to be lifted up and we stepped over the back wall. This let us collect eggs and clean the building. We found that this was not as easy as we thought it would be, and the ducks and geese only used the building to lay eggs. Other than this they never used the building, even in the worst weather.
We then decided to raise chickens. We needed another building. We debated building our own shed or buying a shed kit. Based on cost we decided on buying a kit. An 8’ x 12’ shed kit from Menards was purchased. This kit had an option for a floor. We determined that a wood floor would quickly rot. We bought the building alone without the floor kit. However, without the floor kit, there are no bottom plates for the walls. So pressure treated 2” x 4” were purchased to build bottom plates for the walls. We found many other problems with the kit we bought. This kit came with 2” x 3” studs vs. 2” x 4” studs. The rear wall of the shed was constructed of two sheets of siding held together by 2” x 3” in the shape of a capital H turned on it’s side. These did not even reach side to side to hold the sidewalls to the back wall by anything other than the siding. This kit also needed wall ties to hold the 12’ walls in place on the top.
Windows were added to allow light and air into the building. We used to old wood double hung panes that were removed from our house when we replaced them. These were hinged on the bottom to allow the tops to tilt in to the building. Small chain was used to prevent the window from falling all the way open. The chickens quickly broke the glass in the windows. Chicken wire was placed over the outside of the windows and the glass was replaced with plexiglass. This building housed our chickens for several years.
We then chose to raise goats. The chickens were moved to a 5’ x 18’ building that was built from 2” x 4” and old steel siding that was removed from an old barn that another farmer tore down. This building was attached to the side of our garage and was split in two across the short length making two 5’ x 9’ buildings. One side was used for hay storage and the other housed the chickens.
The goats were then moved into the 8’ x 12’ shed. We also had a male llama at the same time. He was a bit territorial about his pen. So he tended to knock people down when they went into his pen. So we replaced the windows with plywood hinged at the bottom just like the windows were. On the inside of these we placed hayracks. This allowed us to open the window/door and place hay into the racks without needing to actually enter the pen. After a while we had several goats and three llamas and we chose to split them up. So the shed was divided down the center to make two 6’ x 8’ buildings, by building a 4’ high plywood wall. This allowed us to reach over the wall from either side if needed.
We existed like this for several years. In 2011 we finally built a large barn. Well large for us. We bought a 20’ x 35’ carport, from carportsandmore.com. There were several options to choose from. We chose to close in the back and the two sides. Closing in the front was not an option, so we purchased extra siding as well to close in the front wall ourselves. We also chose 9’ walls to make cleaning the stalls easier. The 8’ x 12’ shed has 6’ walls and makes cleaning the barn a little difficult by the outer walls as you need to stoop a little. This made the peak of the roof 12’ high. The 9’ walls also allows for us to stack hay higher and store more hay in the same floor footprint. The front wall was built from 2” x 4” and secured to the roof and the sidewalls using selftaping screws and washers to prevent the screws from pulling all the way thru the 2” x 4”. We made a 6’ opening in the center of the wall in which we placed two 3’ sliding doors, which we also built ourselves. We placed the doors on the inside of the barn wall in an effort to prevent the need to shovel snow from in front of the doors in order to open them. We did not get much snow this year, but it does seem to be effective. We split this building as well. A wall was built 10’ into the building. This gives us a 10’ x 20’ room in the front of the barn. Half of this area is a milking area and the other side is for hay storage. We placed a 4’ wide gate in the wall dividing the two sides of the barn. This allows us to carry bales of hay thru the gate with relative ease. The gate was assembled with brackets purchased from Menards. These brackets cost $25 for a set of four. The brackets have the hinges attached and allows the gate to be assembled without much effort. We double sided this gate and placed a piece of stock panel between.
We built six pens in the remaining portion of the barn (20’ x 25’). These pens are each about 8’ x 8’, with a 4’ wide path down the center. (again for ease of moving hay bales) The pens were built from 2” x 4” and sections of stock panels. The 2” x 4” were cut to length and the stock panel was attached with large poultry staples. The gates were made the same way as the gate discussed earlier. We used mailbox post holders to anchor the gates. The top end of the gatepost was run all the way to the ceiling and attached to the roof structure with selftapping screws and washers. Each pen has an outlet to power heated buckets for winter use. We also placed a hay rack, made from half a plastic 55 gallon drum, stock panel pieces, and 2” x 4”, between each pen.
These are the latches that we mostly use. The goats are not able to open these if they are mounted outside the pen – where they can’t reach it. If they are on the same side as the latch, we have one goat that knows how to lift it, slide it back and push open the gate. The only way to stop that completely is to put some type of lock – dog clip, carabiner, or something similar – through the hole in the end so the latch can’t be slid back through the handle. Our goats have managed to figure out how to open every other latch we have used, with the exception of a carabiner and chain. These are not as convenient as the latch shown in the picture.
Now that the goat barn is complete, we shifted gears to the pigs. We started with a dog crate. The vents were covered with a piece of 1” x 6”, some fender washers and nuts and bolts to hold them on. We then covered the bottom with hay and the pig was happy as could be. This worked out well while we were using portable pens for the pigs, but it got to be too hard on the little area we had to move the pigs around on. It was becoming a giant sloppy mud pit that the pigs were unable to find any dry place in. So they were moved into the old goat barn. One pig on each side. We then placed the male’s pen in between the two girls so we could let him in with either female with little effort. This seems to be working out much better for us than moving them around.
- Pig shelter
We also built a couple of triangle style buildings out of 2” x 4” and steel siding panels we had left over from the building of the goat barn. These are 3’ deep x 4’ wide x 3’ high. The piglets and younger pigs fit in this quite well, but the adults do not. We will need to build larger versions if we find the need to keep adults in these buildings. The siding is held on with wood screws and fender washers.
We have also tried many types of fencing. We have found that chicken wire does not hold up very long. It is also not strong enough for most other animals either. What we found that works best for us is stock panels. They are just over 4’ tall and 16’ long. We use T posts every 8’ minimum to hold the panels up. They are then wired to the posts. We place the posts on the outside of the fence if possible as then if the animals push on the fence (and most will) it pushes the fence against the post and not off the post even if the wiring comes loose. One thing we would do different is to use combination panels instead of stock panels. Combination panels are basically the same as the stock panels except the lower third has the horizontal rails spaced much closer together to keep smaller animals in.
We used stock panels for the chicken pen and then wired 10’ ½” conduit to the T posts so that 2” x 4” farm fencing could be wired to the top section of the fence giving an overall height of about 9-10’. This is quite effective at keeping the chickens in the pen. We like to let the chickens run loose in the yard, but they make quite the mess on the sidewalk and steps to the house.
I have built a milking stand out of scrap lumber. The farmer who owns the property next to ours built a large barn for storage of equipment. The pieces of the barn were sent on pallets made from 2” x 4”. He gave us the pallets as scrap. We took them apart and used the lumber to build a milking stand. The base of the stand is about 2’ x 4’ with the legs 16” tall. This seems to be the right height for our goats. Too much higher and they have trouble getting on the stand. Any lower and it is difficult to milk them. The stanchion is adjustable to hold the goats in place. A large bolt is used to pin the stanchion in place. A chain is attached to the bolt to keep it from getting lost. An eye bolt is screwed into the top of the adjustable portion of the station to act as a handle for closing the stanchion and as an anchor point for the chain. We attached a feed bowl to the stanchion. On our first version of this stand we built a box to hold feed. This is permanently attached and is difficult to clean. The bowl is easily removed for cleaning. The basic plans for this milking stand are below.
Hopefully with the photos and diagrams above you can build one of these stands for yourself.
We started out just using 5 gallon pails for water. These are simple and inexpensive. In winter these will obviously freeze. Since we live in northern Illinois, water tends to freeze here in the winter. So for winter months we swap to 5 gallon heated buckets. These work fairly well as long as the buckets are not outside. If they are inside any sort of structure they do not freeze, unless it gets really cold. We did change to half a plastic 55 gallon drum cut from top to bottom for the warmer months. This holds much more water (about 20 – 25 gallons) and requires us to fill it much less frequently. Also more than one goat can drink at a time. These are nice features. They also clean up easily. We place these outside the fence, as the goats can stick their heads thru the stock panels and drink without problems. This keeps them from pooping in the water, which they tend to do when the buckets or containers are on their side of the fence.
Currently the hay racks are also made of ½ of a plastic 55 gallon drum surrounded by a 2” x 4” frame which has sections of stock panels attached. This holds quite a bit of hay, and keeps the goats from spilling most of it out on the ground. As these are placed between the pens, they are accessible from all four sides, if the pens are open. With this setup we can give hay to all six pens with just three hayracks.
We recently decided to build chicken tractors. We wanted something light enough to easily move around but also heavy enough to not blow away in the wind we have almost constantly around here. After doing some searching on line I found a few that had been made of PVC piping. I based my design on these.
These are the two that I built.
I started by making the base out of 2 x 4s. The base is 4ft x 8ft. I nailed an 8ft 1 x 4 to the bottom of each of the 8ft sides to make it easier to slide the tractor on the ground and to support the bottom of the PVC pipes. Here is a closeup showing how this is put together.
The first tractor my plan was to take 10 ft 3/4″ PVC and bend them into a 4 ft arch and screw them into the 2 x 4s to hold them in place. I used an 8 ft 1 x 2 to hold the five arches together by drilling a hole thru the PVC pipe and the 1 x 2 to hold them together. It was at this point that I realized that PVC comes in different thicknesses. The PVC which I purchased was thin wall vs the normal schedule 40. Being thinner this PVC pipe then collapsed where I drilled the hole thru it to attach it to the 1 x 2. So instead of and arch the first tractor has more of a triangle shape to it. It is still plenty solid, but I did not like the way it bent so I used Tees on the second one which gave it a more square shape.
I then cut tees into the upright PVC pipes to allow for the placing of the fiberglass roof panel to provide shade for the birds. A bit of advice. When cutting the PVC either determine the height at which you want the roof panel to be and cut all the required upright pieces and then assemble. Or you could do as I did and cut them after they were in place and screwed into the base. The only issue with this is they are under tension and might just flip out and hit you in the mouth in you are not paying attention to what you are doing. So you may want to hold on to them to prevent this. Not that this happened to me.
As can be seen in the pictures below, the PVC pipes are placed to hold the fiberglass roof which covers the food and provides shade for the birds. The food area is fenced of with 2 x 4 in fencing. This keeps the birds out of the food, but still allows them to stick their heads thru and eat the food. They can’t spill it or poop in it or generally make a mess out of it, keeping loss to a minimum. I then placed another piece of this fence over the outside to keep the other animals that may be around out of the food so that the chicks are the only ones who can get at it. The four small bowls fit just right and allow the food to be spread out better than one large bowl. This is hinged using wire ties along the top edge so it just flips up out of the way.
The original idea was to use chicken wire to cover the tractor but when I got to the store to buy it I found this UV protected netting and decided to try this instead as it won’t rust and was much easier to work with. It is held on with wire ties with a 50# strength. The bottom edge I held on with 1 x 2 nailed to the top of the 2 x 4s.