How to convert a shed into a barn. Use what you already have and turn it into a DIY goat barn. Use what you have to create what you need.
When folks ask me about getting started with goats the first question that comes up is “Do I need a barn to raise goats?” While a goat barn would be ideal, it is not necessary. The main goal when housing any type of animal is to protect them from the elements. This will obviously be different depending on where you live. Whether it be from the rain, cold, wind, or heat of the sun. All animals need a place to go that is always warm and dry.
If you are in a warmer climate area, then a lean-to (AKA a shelter with only 3 sides) will probably be enough to keep your goats housed. If however, you live in a colder climate area such as Northwestern Pennsylvania as I do, then you will want a bit more. We actually do not have a barn so much as we have a shed that we converted into a barn. The nicest part is this barn is specifically built to house goats.
Let me just jump in here quickly and let you know that building a barn is expensive. Really REALLY expensive. Right before we were ready to break ground we were hit with a few financial bullets, for us this is pretty much how it goes and we had to stop and rethink things pretty quickly.
After taking a walk one Sunday afternoon, Hubs pointed to our large shed and suggested we instead just convert it into our barn. This would save us quite a bit of time and a crazy amount of money. Yes, it was close to the house and nowhere near where we wanted the barn to go, but we knew this was our best option so we decided to push ahead.
Now, more than a decade later, I can say it was the best decision we could have made.
When Hubs and I designed our DIY goat barn project we knew we wanted to raise both goats and pigs with goats being our main focus. This is important to know before doing any major construction project on your farm or homestead. Know what you plan to raise and what they will need for housing so you can create a setup that will work going forward.
After a little (well quite a lot actually) of research, we found a few things held true. Goats need room to move around and you should have a place to house sick or birthing goats.
Most goats require about 10-15 square feet of indoor space. A number we upped a bit since we raiser larger breed goats.
Once we had an idea of how much space we needed we could then expand our shed so it would fit our herd now and as it grew.
SLCG PRO TIP: If you are brand new to any kind of animal and you live in an area where others raise livestock make a phone call and ask to tour their set up. I did this with several farms and I learned more from those visits than any book, online blog, or forum. Seeing first hand how someone has their housing set up gives you a unique insight that is invaluable. And folks LOVE to show off their farms, so don’t be afraid to just ask. 🙂
Not sure what goat breeds will best fit you, your setup, or your family? You can jump over to my resource page and get the breakdown of each breed of goat so you can make the best choice.
If you are looking for a setup that will work specifically for raising and breeding goats, this I have found is the best way to do it.
Before we begin you will want to determine just what you need so you can see if it will work with any of the structures you have now. Let’s call this our wish list. A list of the perfect goat raising set up. These are not required but the more you can check off as you go, the easier it will be to raise your herd for years to come.
Characteristics of the perfect DIY goat barn.
Have a communal area for your goats.
Over the years I have found it is best to have a large open area to house my herd as a group. This encourages the goats to get along or at the very list establish the hierarchy, AKA pecking order, more safely. With goats or any livestock, your goal is to ensure they have enough room to move around and are not overcrowded. This is even more important in the winter when your animals will be closed up. Give them the option to huddle together if needed but still have room to move around.
For our barn, we added two communal sections one on each side of our shed. They are each 14′ x 24′ and can easily house up to 4-7 full-grown large breed goats if needed. Having 2 communal areas is nice but not necessary. I like to have two because I prefer it to help regulate breeding more efficiently (since I have 2 bucks). With two sides I can keep younger doelings together as I wait for them to join the main herd.
SLCG PRO TIP: It is recommended to not breed doelings under the age of 10 months but I prefer to wait until they are at least a year. This will ensure they are strong enough to hold the weight of our large Nubian buck and to also better withstand the rigors of breeding.
Why you need a sickbay in your goat barn.
Another convenient part of a goat barn is a place to house any goats or does that ill or are kidding (AKA in labor). I like to have my does separate when they are kidding as this gives them privacy away from the rest of the herd. Having my kidding does separate also allows me a better chance to observe and intervene if necessary.
Sickbays are also nice to have if you have a goat that is being picked on or bullied and you want to get them away so they can catch their breath a bit. This will allow them to strengthen up before going back in with the herd. More often than not the bullying will continue but you can at the very least support your lower-ranking goat until they are strong enough to fend for themselves.
Here’s an example: I am breeding at the time I am writing this and my wether (AKA a castrated goat), Peanut, is getting beat up by the does and our breeding buck. Since I have a place to keep him I am able to safely pull him out of the herd and house him while the herd is breeding. Once done he can go back into the main pen and everyone should be calm and a bit more friendly by then.
When you have a sick goat for any reason it is important to get them out and separate. This will keep any sickness from spreading and give you a more hands-on environment. Medicating a sick goat is much easier in a small pen rather than a big open area.
Our main shed is where we set up our kidding and sickbay pens. Since this has a concrete flooring it is much easier to keep neat and clean. Each pen measures approximately 5’x7′ with the interior walls screwed in so we can remove them if needed. This is helpful if you have a few goats you want to pull out for a certain time frame and you want to ensure they have enough room.
In our goat barn, we have 5 pens set up that I can easily remove interior walls and add additional sections if needed to make them either larger or smaller depending on what I need them for.
For goat sickbays, you will want to make sure to reinforce your pens where you can to better keep your goats in. Corner braces work perfectly for this.
Along with sturdy gates that can withstand the weight of a curious goat.
SLCG PRO TIP: Get into the habit of checking structures routinely on your farm or homestead. This will alert you to any issues before they get worse and affect your livestock. Fencing, sickbays, roofing, etc are all parts to check and repair just as soon as you see an issue pop up.
When building your goat shelter use supplies that are durable and sturdy. This will be a costly investment at first but it will save you money in the long run. Sturdy locks, concrete flooring, durable wood, and framework are all crucial to a good livestock shelter.
SLCG PRO Tip: When creating your set up it is best to make things adjustable. I learned early on that what I thought would work didn’t and I needed to change things up. Setups need to work not only for your animals but for you as well. Be open to changing things (more than once) until you find what works best.
Have a place specifically meant for milking goats.
If you have dairy goats you will want to dedicate a stall that you can use just for milking. When you milk a goat, your main goal is to keep things neat and tidy, preferably separate in a milking stall. This will help you to ensure your milk has a better chance of staying fresh and clean. For that reason, a dedicated milking stall should be high on your priority list for your goat barn.
Most barns I toured had separate milk houses, but our budget just could not handle that. What we did instead was to convert one of our sickbay stalls into a dedicated milking area. This stall is close to the main area, important to keep the goat on the milk stand free of stress, yet far enough away that I can milk with little distractions, important to keep me free of stress.
SLCG PRO TIP: No you do not need a separate room or stall to milk your dairy goats. I have seen plenty of setups where milking is done in a corner, in the aisle way, or outside. This all depends on your climate, how much room you have to work with, and your age. Yes, older folks need to consider a few more things when setting up a barn. I have found the more “old lady” friendly my setup is the more my back thanks me at the end of the day. 🙂
Have sufficient space to hold hay and any feed in your DIY goat barn.
I learned early on that the more room you have to store hay and feed the better off you will be. For us, since we do not need all 6 stalls in the winter we are able to use 3 of those stalls to hold our winter hay. I am easily able to hold 50-75 bales that will get our herd through a full 3 months of cold winter. A perk I am grateful to have. (old lady here…remember!)
Remember, when storing hay be sure you have good airflow. This will keep your hay dry and free from mold. Since our shed has a garage door right next to the hay, we simply keep a large board in front of our hay pile to keep any snow or rain away that may blow in when I open it.
SLCG PRO TIP: It is extremely important to never give your goats any feed or hay that has mold. This will not only make them sick but could potentially kill them. Keep all feed and hay protected from the weather and dry at all times. If you are not sure you can smell the hay for any off or foul odors. Still not sure? Toss it. It is better to lose money tossing moldy hay than to lose goats if they eat it.
In the beginning, we did not have a room set up to hold more than a few bales of hay. That meant we had go out and buy hay weekly. This got old pretty quick, especially in the winter. Now we stock up and keep this chore seasonal and down to a minimum.
Have a feed room.
Although not necessary, a feed room is definitely nice to have if you have the room for it. We had a chicken coop on the back of our shed that we converted into our feed room. This keeps all the feed away from the goats and there is plenty of room for medications, herbs, minerals, grooming supplies, tools, and even my trusty stash of zip ties.
I have a pen-style gate on the feed room with a sturdy lock to keep the goats out just in case they get out of the main pen.
SLCG PRO TIP: ALWAYS be one step ahead of your goats. A gate to a feed room is a perfect example. Don’t think your goats won’t escape a pen, because they will. Having a second line of defense keeps my feed room free from my mischievous crew. Bloat is a serious and delay disease and one that can occur if your goat gets into any feed. For that reason, you will want to do all that you can to keep that feed lock up tight so you do not risk injury to your herd.
All of our minerals and feed is stored in very sturdy containers or bins. This is just another step I take to keep rodents, chickens, and goats out of my feed.
Have an outside area or access to your pasture.
We live in a very wet area so keeping goats here is a bit tricky but not impossible. I learned quite quickly that letting my goats onto a wet pasture is a big No-No. For that reason, we have an enclosed small outside section that can be opened up to the main pasture. This gives my goats access to fresh air and the sun without being on wet grass. To help even further we have a layer of gravel down that keeps the water away from our goat’s hooves. Not too easy to keep clean but our goat’s hooves are in much better shape so it is a good tradeoff for where we live.
We have a fenced-in outside pen that our main pens open up on to. They are approximately 1o’ x 14′ and just enough that they can lay in the sun which they like to do quite often. Once things dry up we can then let our herd outside to pasture. For our area, this is usually around 1 pm or so.
SLCG PRO TIP: Slugs and snails on wet grass can give your goats worms quite quickly. If you live in a wet area you will want to keep your herd off of pasture until the dew has dried up. This will do a lot to keep your herd worm free. You can also use a routine of herbal wormers to help build up your goat’s resistance and keep work infestations to a minimum.
Keep your barn or shelter facing away from the wind.
If you are starting from scratch this tip is extremely important. Make sure your main opening opens away from the wind. This will keep your shelter warmer and the snow from piling up every single day in front of your entryway. Another chore I will do all I can to avoid.
Lucky for us our shed already faced the ideal direction. This has really kept the inside of our barn in much better shape.
Location, location, location.
When you are looking for a place to house your goats keep in mind the distance from your home. Remember you will have to haul feed, possibly water, milk supplies, and other items out to do chores. Keeping things closer will definitely be much better.
Because when you have animals and you are new to raising those animals you will find yourself checking on them constantly. When your barn is just 30 feet from your door, this will make checking on them much easier.
Nothing proves this more than when you are in birthing or kidding season. I was in my barn every hour on the hour during the coldest months of the year. Thank heavens our barn was close and this wasn’t that big of a bother. But if we had put our barn in its original location (over a thousand feet away) I would have needed to use the 4-wheeler just to get there more easily in the snow. The final location is important and something to keep in mind when scouting out a location for your goat shelter.
SLCG PRO TIP: If you have goats that are close to kidding and you want to keep a better eye on them, try an inexpensive long-range baby monitor. It can reach pretty far (in most cases much further than a remote camera can) and you can carry your end of the monitor on your belt. You can then listen to your goats and easily tell when you have a goat in labor. Panting, yelling even will be what you hear so you know it is time to get out there. This was a game-changer for me. Having that monitor kept me from having to check on my mama’s throughout the day.
All in all, our shed to barn project ended up being the perfect solution for us. The cost was just a fraction of a full barn construction, the time was days to construct rather than weeks to months and we could still tailor our setup to fit us and our animals the best and most efficient way.
When housing your animals keep in mind the climate, the types of animals, their heartiness, and finally your financial situation. Finding a solution that will marry all is your main goal. To do this you may need to think outside of the box. Look at your property and what you have to work with.
A full barn and even a shed is not a requirement for raising goats. You can use a lean too or convert any building into a pretty amazing and useful shelter. See what you have a try to make it work. Keep them warm, dry, and free from the wind and cold and hot direct sun and you will have healthy, happy, and productive animals.
Do you have your own DIY goat barn? If so comment below and share a picture, I would love to see it!