Goat barns are essential if you raise goats, regardless of what sort of climate you reside in. When I was big into dairy goats, my family had more time than money, so we built our goat barns out of recycled lumber or whatever we could find on sale. Today those barns still occupy space on our property, standing as reminders of the countless times we re-engineered them. We’ve learned the hard way, to say the least.
Not everyone has more time than money, nor does everyone have the inclination or skills to build goat barns from scratch. Even those of us who have carpentry skills may not have the patience or time to build something presentable (if aesthetics are of concern), so for these folks, I’d like to present plan B: prefabricated sheds.
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Benefits of Prefab
Buying a prefabricated shed is simple and easy. Find a retailer in your area, take an afternoon to look at floor models, and pick accordingly. If you’re not in a hurry you can specify styles, options, colors and such, but if you’re in a pinch, you can simply pick one that’s ready to deliver.
Prefab sheds don’t require concrete footings. It’s advisable to lay stone down where you want the barn for water drainage and to prolong the life of your building, but otherwise, a flat spot on your property is all you need.
Prefab sheds already have most of what you need to make great goat barns. Most necessary modifications can be done in a day or even done for you by the manufacturer.
Prefab sheds look nice. They don’t look out of place and they seldom stick out, unlike the cobbled together goat barns I have. If you, your spouse, your neighbors or the town zoning officials will take issue with sheds that don’t look like they belong in the area, a prefab shed is an easy way to sidestep that.
Prefab sheds are not foreign to town and city zoning officials. Your local zoning laws should already have rules in place for them, so it makes life easier when trying to pull a permit (if even necessary). In my experience, prefabricated sheds don’t require much fuss, but if you want to build goat barns from scratch, you may need to jump through an awful lot of hoops to get the OK.
Before you run out and buy a prefab shed, you really should sit down and think about what you need your goat barn to be. Do you only have two goats? Are they lawn ornaments, production livestock or companion animals? Will a small run-in shed be enough? If you have only a few pet goats, you can likely get away with a really small barn, such as a shed-roofed structure or even one of those oversized play houses (especially for pygmy goats).
If however, you’re looking to take advantage of goat milk benefits, then you may need more barn than you think. Consider how many does you need space for, how many kidding pens you want and how big these need to be. Do you want a milking parlor area? I’ve milked outside in the rain and I can attest to the fact that you want a sheltered area for milking.
Before you settle on a size of a barn, I suggest doing a mock layout on your lawn. Use cardboard, strings, spray paint or whatever to represent the size and layout of your barn. Try walking and working inside those imaginary lines. Does it make sense? Is there room to move? Remember that prefab sheds are typically no more than 10 to 12 feet wide since they have to fit on the roads; so take that into consideration.
When checking out the options available, there are a few things most prefab shed retailers offer that you may want for your goat barns.
Hay lofts are available in many garage style sheds and they are a great way to keep some hay easily available for feeding. Having an elevated loft keeps your hay out of reach from eager goats and doesn’t take up valuable floor space.
Overhangs on goat barns can save you from getting drenched when it rains or having to dig out your front door when it snows. Many prefab sheds come standard with limited overhangs, but some styles offer more roof overhang than others.
Do you even need doors? If you already have goat barns for expecting does, you may only need a run-in shelter like a horse free-stall.
Windows are great, but glass breaks easily. Ask if your retailer can install Plexiglas windows that will resist shattering, or if they can leave the window openings empty so you can add your own Plexiglas.
Large double doors make it easier to get a tractor bucket into the barn for cleaning. If your chosen barn is big enough, having big double doors at the end for easier cleaning and a smaller door for you and your goats will make life easier.
Split doors, like the ones usually found on horse stalls, are a great way to allow ventilation without letting your goats out. Not many standard prefab sheds come with this option, but you can likely order this if you have time to wait. Be sure to add metal corners to prevent cribbing; goats are likely to chew on the top of your door when you have the top half open.
Cupolas are those square structures planted at the peak of a roof, usually where weather vanes reside. They are more than an aesthetic touch if they’re functional. Since heat rises, the most logical place to put a heat vent would be at the highest point in the ceiling, which is where a copula sits. Help keep your goat barns cool by ordering a copula kit.
Pressure-treated floors are a debatable topic. Pressure treated wood is impregnated with toxic chemicals to prolong the life of that wood. Think of it as a rot resistant stain of sorts. Many people will argue that it will leach toxic stuff, and they may be right. I for one am not personally concerned about it and I ordered my prefab shed with a pressure treated floor, but it’s your barn and your choice.
Converting Prefab Sheds
Converting prefab sheds into goat barns is easy, but there are a few things you’ll want to add before letting the goats in. Goats like to butt things with their heads, and if you let them do it to the inside wall of your prefab shed, they will eventually tear the siding off the goat barn. Since most prefab sheds are built like a house with studs at 16” or 24” on center, I find the easiest way to add an inner wall is by sheathing the inside with plywood. I don’t suggest anything thinner than ½ plywood, nor do I recommend using chip board in lieu of the more expensive plywood, because it won’t last.
When buying a prefab shed, either ask your retailer to add nailing to the corners for interior walls or be prepared to add a few studs to the corners. This is an easy addition and shouldn’t take much effort, but unless you do this first you will have nowhere screw your plywood ends.
If you want electricity in your goat barns, have an electrician install Ground Fault Interrupt (GFI) plugs, shielded light fixtures and shielded switches. If you want your electrical wires enclosed (hidden inside the walls), be sure to have the electrician run everything before you put up insulation and walls. If you want your electrical system to be surface mounted with conduit, I suggest using metal conduit and housings so your goats don’t chew them.
Insulating a stud-built shed is easy, and if you plan to have kidding pens in your goat barn, then it’s a great idea. If your studs are 24” on center, it may be a little harder to find 24” wide insulation, but it is available, and it goes in just like your typical house insulation. Don’t forget a vapor barrier!
If you plan to feed inside your barn, adding a 2 x 4 or 2 x 6 railing to hang your feeders on is a nice touch. If you need hay feeders inside the barn, you can get versions that hang on a 2 x 4, or you can get direct mount styles, which would likely be best if you added interior walls.
If you plan on using a deep bedding of pine shavings, be sure to add a kick plate to your doorways to keep the shavings in. I suggest a 2×6 or 2×8 board for kick plate duty but don’t use pressure treated wood since this is bound to be cribbed on.
Make Your Life Easier
Consider buying quality steel show pen panels to make your seclusion or kidding pens. These panels pin together easily, disassemble quickly and are easy to clean. Sure, you can build cheaper dividers from 2 x 4’s, but the steel panel system gives you the flexibility to change your barn to suit your needs, without having to deal with built-in obstructions or heavy home-made panels.
If you expect to keep dividers up most of the time, you can save money and space by adding eyelets to your walls for your panels to pin to. Be sure to screw these eyelets into wall studs. Use re-bar or steel ground rod as a pin to attach panels to you wall eyelets. When it’s cleaning time, you’ll be able to remove your panels for easier shoveling.
Consider feeding outside. Nothing is worse than having to fight a matted floor of hay come clean out time. Having a free-standing hay feeder outside will allow you to use a pine shaving bedding inside your goat barns, which is easier to shovel, is more sanitary and stays much drier than hay or straw.
Baby cameras are great, but if you’re already running electricity to your goat barns, I highly suggest adding a Cat5E cable to your barns so you can install a high-quality IP camera. During kidding season a quality IP camera could be the single best investment you’ve made all year. It can save you unnecessary trips to the barn just as easily as save your doe if she has a hard kidding. Many times intervention is necessary, a quality IP camera can let you know when that intervention is needed.
That Was Easy
Building goat barns out of prefab sheds is about as easy as it gets. If this worked out great for you and you’re thinking of doing the same for your chickens, see our article on how to build a chicken coop out of a garden shed for more great tips.
I’m sure I missed some great ideas and tricks, what ideas did you come up with? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published in the September/October 2017 issue of Dairy Goat Journal.