By Carole West – Do you really need a barn for small livestock? This was a question I pondered before we acquired sheep. I came to the realization that most sheep owners use a barn for storing feed and lambing season otherwise a sheep shelter will work just fine.
If you live in a climate where winter conditions prompt several feet of snow, then you would find a barn very useful. Perhaps you’d be looking for a cattle shed design to fit your needs. For everyone else a barn can be a questionable expense based on weather, the number of animals you acquire, and which season you will lamb.
I live on a small acre farm, and before spending money building a barn that would increase our taxes, we decided to explore options that would help us provide a natural environment.
My biggest concern was lambing season because I wanted to allow a ram to run with our flock year round. This meant breeding would also be on their schedule. Judging from previous experience, lambing would take place between January and March.
Breeder concerns during lambing season include providing clean living conditions that are dry with good ventilation. When animals are confined indoors in small spaces, bedding must be changed daily. Without clean conditions, the fear of ammonia from fecal decay can cause severe health issues for lambs and adult sheep.
Everything we were currently doing on our farm allows for a natural lifestyle so I decided our sheep would lamb in the field. This meant I would need some type of sheep shelter in case weather conditions were bad during the lambing process.
We’ve experienced all types of weather in North Texas, from snow, heavy rain, freezing temperatures, and our favorite, sunshine. I had to come up with something that would work for all weather conditions that provided a clean space.
We were already raising chickens in DIY chicken tractors. These coops are a very simple design and one afternoon it occurred to me I could use a similar system for sheep shelters.
I began with modifying an existing chicken coop for the first mobile sheep shelter and it worked like a charm. The sheep shelter provides a clean environment for the ewe and lamb at all times because you move this onto clean ground daily.
If the weather turns to snow or heavy rain, I prepare a hay bed inside so they’re snug on dry ground. It’s also important to place your shelters on high ground.
When I realized this sheep shelter was the perfect solution for pasture lambing, we began building them in a variety of sizes. After a couple seasons, I discovered the best size shelter is a 4 x 4 x 3.
Perks of this Size
- Ewe and lamb can relax and bond inside during bad weather.
- They’re warm.
- Sheep will use for shade when temperatures are 90 degrees and above.
- Easy to move.
- Can use for two sheep when full-grown.
- Provides a clean environment.
- Easy to build.
- Won’t increase your taxes because they’re mobile.
If you’re thinking about raising sheep or goats on a small scale you may want to implement these neat sheep shelters for your own homestead. If you’re handy, you can even build your own. Remember to include safety gear; wear safety goggles, work gloves, ear plugs, appropriate clothing, and work boots.
- Six 8-foot 2 x 4 boards
- Two 4 x 8 pieces of thin plywood
- 24 Short Screws
- 40 Long Screws
- Oil base outdoor paint or stain to finish
We’re building a simple box frame that can be completed in an afternoon. If you need several sheep shelters, think about getting a building team together and create an assembly line to maximize your efforts.
- 2 x 4 = Four at 3 feet – These represent the frame height.
- 2 x 4 = Four at 4 feet – For the outside frame wall, top and bottom.
- 2 x 8 = Four at 3.8 feet – For the inside frame wall top and bottom.
- Plywood = Roof is 4 x 4 feet – If you want an overhang, increase measurements.
- Plywood = Walls 3.9 x 2.5 feet – Wait to cut until the frame is assembled.
The first thing we’re going to do is cut our 2 x 4’s for the frame. We’ll lay two at 4 feet for the outside and two 3.8 foot for the inside. Make sure you’re building on a flat surface and double check that the 3.8-foot boards are in between the 4-foot boards; this will give you a 4 x 4-foot frame once we assemble. It’s always a good idea to double check the measurements prior to assembly.
It’s time to connect our corners. We drill two pilot holes at each corner; this will keep the wood from spitting, do not skip this step! The pilot holes will be about as wide as the core of the screw.
Then slowly insert long screws for connection, repeat this process at each corner. Once we have the box connected it’s time to add the legs.
Take the four 3 foot legs and place at each corner of the frame. We’ll be adding each leg one at a time beginning with three pilot holes, two on the long side and one on the short side. Repeat this process with all four corners.
Now insert three long screws at each corner to connect the legs. Once this is completed we’ll set this aside for just a moment.
Make another frame just like we did at the beginning. Remember to make sure those 3.8 foot boards are inside the 4 feet to create that 4 x 4-foot frame.
This next step is the fun part and helpful if you’re building alone. Take your frame with the legs and carefully flip it so the legs fit inside that box frame. Then go around to all four corners and connect those legs just like we did previously.
Now it’s time to add the roof, double check the measurements and if you want an overhang, make sure you cut the roof to the correct size. Then attach the roof using the smaller screws. We’re drilling pilot holes first and then inserting screws all around the frame until the roof is secure.
We’re getting close to completion and I want you to notice that the sheep shelter is pretty sweet without walls. This is an added perk come spring or summer because the shelter can be used as an open shelter by removing one or two walls. Sheep normally don’t like to be closed in.
Before cutting your walls with the table saw, double check the measurements — mine were 3.9 x 2.5 and I left a small gap at the top for ventilation. These walls are added the same as the roof, I used four screws on each side.
Once the frame is completed, notice how easy the shelter is to move. If it feels heavy there is always the option to add wheels. I prefer sliding mine by lifting it up on 2 x 4’s.
The final step is to paint or stain the outside of the sheep shelter; there is no need to paint the inside. If you want to dress it up, you can add some fancy trim to the corners to make it more decorative. Have fun with this project and put your own stamp on it.
This mobile sheep shelter is a good option for those who are raising sheep on a small scale and are focused on pasture grazing. It can also be used as a goat shelter or for other small farm animals. This is an easy build that doesn’t require a fancy carpenter skill set.
Are you going to build a sheep shelter from these plans? We’d love to see your finished product!