July 6, 2013

Barn Brainstorming

One thing this year's kidding season has shown us, is the inadequacy of our set-up for goats. We started with the existing outbuildings on the place, and have certainly been thankful for them.

Photo from January, 2010 of one of the two original outbuildings. Dan cut 
out the door on the right & added the gate to make a goat stall. Chicken 
coop is on the right, feed storage & milking room are in the middle.

Living with them, however, has helped us see problems that need to be addressed:
  • space for does, birthing, newborn kids (all at the same time)
  • traffic flow
  • mud and manure
  • goat social structure & doors

Photo of the new goat shelter. It's best if hay feeders have more
than one side, otherwise there are arguments as to who owns it.

With all the rain we had this spring, the area around the goat shed became
a muddy, mucky mess. Putting down straw and cardboard are temporary at
best. We finally scraped away the soft stuff on top, dug a small trench, and
put  down plywood. Then the problem was who would possess the plywood. 

We've been dabbling with barn ideas ever since we moved here four years ago. I showed you one idea, in a post entitled "The Princess Is Peeved". That idea was only the beginning and has off an official barn brainstorming session. The idea we are favoring now uses the other outbuilding, the one we call the coal barn.

The "Coal Barn"
Another January 2010 photo. We call it "the coal barn" because the section on
the right still has a goodly bed of coal, once used to heat the 1920s built house. 

This building, including its carport on the left, measures 14 feet by 32 feet. The building is 14 by 18, and the carport 14 by 14. The carport has a cement floor and is currently used to store hay. The middle part has been Dan's workshop. We opened up the part on the right for garden tools and equipment storage.

There are several reasons for tearing this down and building anew in it's place. For one thing, it's begun to lean a bit more since we've been using it, and the floor in the workshop is getting unsteady; we aren't entirely certain that it won't fall down on it's own. By using the same footprint, our property taxes won't be raised as much as if we built a larger barn.

The new building would look roughly like this...

Just an idea. Nothing on this sketch is of proper proportions! A loft would
be 14 ft by 24 ft. The bottom would be 14 ft by 32 ft. Milking room, 14x14

From the end. The overhang on the left would extend the loafing area for the
goats and protect the ground from becoming muddy. We considered another
overhang on the right, which would function as a carport for our two vehicles.

The hay loft would be open, but the proposed floor plan for the bottom:

click for larger view

The goat area would be 14 feet by 18 feet most of the year, opening to a covered outdoor area. Inside on the right, I want to be able to set up portable panels as needed, to make kidding stalls, either two, 5 by 7, or one big 5 by 14.

The hay feeder would be centered in the remaining space. Being accessible from both sides means no goat could chase all the others away, not without running around in constant circles anyway. We found this worked well in the new buck shelter. There would be a hay shoot over it, from the upstairs loft.

A wide, 8 foot door will open out into an open, covered area, giving access to forage. The door would be either 2, four foot sliding doors, or perhaps a garage door, depending on what's most economical at the time. Our current 4 foot wide shed doors make it too easy for one goat to defend the shed, keeping all others out. A lean-to roof will not only provide a larger covered loafing area, but also protect the ground from rain and the ensuing mud!

The carport would become the feed storage and milking room. The concrete floor means it could be hosed down if needed. I want entry and exit doors for the goats to prevent crowding at the door, as well as blocking to prevent the next goat from entering. The doors here would be half doors, so that I could see into the goat area. A sink with a point-of-use water heater would be wonderful. Cabinets and shelves would store equipment. Trash cans with stored feeds would likely be in the middle.

Also in the milking room would be stairs going up to the 14 foot by 24 foot hay loft. Hay would be loaded into the loft with a pulley system. That's the plan at the moment.

Good ventilation is important, but the exact location of windows is yet to be determined. Doors I'm more certain of. And of course any of it is subject to revision.

There is much to be said for being patient and living make-do. I am thankful we have two outbuildings, even though they are old and in need of repair. They have not been ideal, but they've been a starting point. Even so, it's almost impossible to imagine this barn actually being built. Even a small barn will be expensive. Still, if we approach it like everything else around here, one day at a time, one step at a time, we may eventually see it done.

Barn Brainstorming © July 2013 


Sue said...

I am envious. My "barn" is a 3-walled shelter, just 8 x 16 (it was originally 8 x 8 but I cut it in half and added an extra 8' in the middle. I can easily fit 4 lambing jugs into it (6 in a pinch), and my sheep are bigger than the dairy goats.

I'm still trying to figure out a milking parlor. Milking in the great outdoors is fine for right now (nice weather and only 1 doe), but it won't work in a few months or when I have multiple goats to do. Dan wants a working vacation out west, right?

Tombstone Livestock said...

I had a friend that was milking a large herd of goats, her barn was divided into 3 sections, 1/2 loafing area with acess from outside, 1/4 was kidding area or could be hay storage if needed. And then 1/4 was milk room. She had a platform with stanchions that could hold 4 goats at a time, at the end of the stanchion was a "goatie door" so when goats were done being milked they were all realease out the door into the paddock on the same side as access to the loafing area.

The nice thing about waiting is now you know what you want/need and what will work for you.

Good luck, looking forward to seeing a new barn in your future.

Anonymous said...

So exciting to see how your plans are developing :) And I think you had it right, to use what was there first, to see how it would/wouldn't work for you.

Jocelyn said...

Oh, that will be exciting to see. I hope you get to build it. We have a shelter for the girls, a shelter for the boys, and I milk in the "garage". There were no structures on the property (other than the house) when we got here, so we built quite a few. One day we'll build a milk house--a little one. Having everything in one structure would be a dream!

DFW said...


Love the layout. Looking forward to watching the progress of it being built.

Leigh said...

Sue, the figuring out part seems to be inherent to having livestock! Sounds like you've done well with your make-do situation. I've seen a few other outdoor milking arrangements, and I always wonder what they do when it's pouring rain.

If Dan ever gets done around here, I'll send him for a visit!

TL, that sounds like a lovely arrangement. It's true about waiting. I find I have to live with a situation awhile to figure out what to do with it. That's why we waited so long to renovate our kitchen!

Jocelyn, I hope so too. Or at least build it before we're too old and grey to enjoy it, LOL.

DFW, thanks! The first step is moving everything out of the existing building, but the problem is where to put it!

Renee Nefe said...

That's a lot to ponder. Perhaps you could look around to recycle someone else's old barn. Just an idea. I'm sure that you'll recycle all the usable parts of the old building.

Hope it all goes well and that no one gets hurt in the process.

Unknown said...

Sounds like you have the right idea in the patience department :)

I used to jump without thinking about how I really wanted things to look. Now, at the current house, we have taken our time, and are still figuring and tweaking things here and there.

I will be praying for this barn....sounds to me like it would be a dream come true :)

matty said...

Barns have been our conversations, too. We have a stable that we bought thinking it would do the job. It doesn't. I had a milking parlor made from one stall and we too two stalls to combine for a birthing tall, but it isn't enough, as we use it for hay instead. The remaining four stalls are for the does, but it does get crowded.

Your plan is well-thought out and very good utilization of the space and your needs. I particularly like the drop down for the hay! That is the worst job when they are hungry! Are you thinking of adding more goats?

Sandy Livesay said...


Great looking plans Leigh. Will you and Dan be building the barn yourselves?

Leigh said...

Renee, that would be a good idea if there were old barns around here in good condition. Most of them are worse than ours, LOL. Everyone puts up metal nowadays.

Jaclyn, it's a valuable thing to learn, isn't it? Your prayers are appreciated.

Matty, that's probably true of everyone who has animals. And I wonder if we ever get it "right" :)

The hay shoot comes from old barn plans. Forking down hay from the hay loft was pretty common at one time.

No plans for more goats, necessarily. We just need to be able to accommodate the annual crop of kids.

Sandy, thanks! We will build it ourselves. Cost for labor is prohibitive for one thing. Also, we do everything on a pay as we go basis, i.e. as we can afford. Makes for slow progress rather than a steady job for someone.

Bernadine said...

I like the sketches of your barn plans. I also remember dreaming of the day when I would get a barn or coop... You've done so much already and I always enjoy seeing what's happening on your homestead.

Farmer Barb said...

Sorry, L, I have been off the radar. I have had company. The most important lesson of making do is often what NOT to do. That cannot be undervalued. Traditional barns were made when it wasn't nearly as costly to put them up. I LOVE a hay chute. I went to a very fancy former horse barn that had horses who, individually, cost more than my house. They had a nice sloped floor to aid in pushing the hay to the chute. There was an ironwork gate that pivoted to allow the bale underneath without the hay pitcher going with it. Unlimited budgets! The key is also to make sure you keep drafting and re-drafting until you love it. Then, make sure you build in flexibility. Things like an electrical conduit up a wall could be really helpful later. I have piping for a future outdoor urinal just waiting for the day when I can get a little structure up to shield it. The bathroom was in construction so adding the pipes THEN was only a few pennies. Hooking them up later, not so much!

Leigh said...

Bernadine, thanks! If only we could keep focused on what's been accomplished instead of what needs to be done, ;)

Barb, good to hear from you! Summer is a tough time for blogging. Either company or travel.

It's taken us four years to even be able to visualize a barn. I didn't mention electricity and water, but those are in the plan too. We are going to add rain catchment, but having a faucet off the barn will be a real boon!

Interesting you mention the outdoor urinal. Dan would like to add an outdoor composting toilet (AKA outhouse ;). Someday.