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Building a Small Farm Barn

Barn raising is rewarding both emotionally and financially. Learn a few tips with this guide.

| March/April 1970

  • Small Barn
    Get in the homesteading spirit by building your own small, efficient barn.
    Photo by Fotolia/Innocent
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    The Robinson's small barn housed goats, chickens, rabbits and more.
    Illustration by Carolyn Robinson
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    How to make a building square: Measure six feet on the end sill and eight feet on the side. If a cross piece, then measures 10 feet (from outer edges) the building is square. This is often called "the rule of six, eight and 10."
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    This "breakaway" drawing shows the interior of the Robinson's small barn. We found that this 16-by-30 foot barn efficiently houses 30 hens, 60 broilers, 20 or more rabbits, four goats or a cow and calf, three or four sheep and a dozen squab. Barn cost $200 to $400 (1970 prices).
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

  • Small Barn
  • 002-026-01a
  • 002-026-01b
  • 002-027-01_01

When our small "concentrated barn" was finished, we thought it deserved a celebration. And so we invited all the neighbors and our friends to come and see it. We had planned and built our small farm barn to house not only our milk goats and their kids, but a couple of sheep, 25 to 30 laying hens, a battery brooder that would produce 30 broilers a month, a six compartment rabbit hutch, a squab loft, plus storage space for grain, straw and baled hay. Yet, the size of the barn was only 16 by 30 feet, as large as a fair-sized living-room.

Of course, my wife, son and I thought our small barn a thrilling place, but when we discovered how interested our guests were in all the animals and the compact, efficient layouts we had worked out for them, we saw that perhaps many people would be interested in the idea of a family producing a large part of its food in spare time on a small amount of land. Eventually, with the prodding of two friends at the party who are in the publishing business, we got this "Have-More" Plan written.

Now after producing about 75 percent of our family's food for four years, we realize there are three main fundamentals that set a productive country home apart from the ordinary "house in the country." First, the layout of the grounds should be planned for efficient working of the land. Second, a harvest room, or a large kitchen, carefully planned for the processing of food, as well as the preparation, is needed to make the wife's part enjoyable. Third, an efficient small barn is a necessity: A homesteader's livestock can account for 40 to 50 percent of a family's food.

When we planned our barn we had almost nothing to go by. We wrote to all the barn equipment people, the lumber companies, the state and federal departments of agriculture, asking if they had small barn plans to house goats or a cow, laying chickens, rabbits, sheep, ducks, a pig, pigeons and geese. Some of the answers indicated that the specialists thought we were slightly crazy. Some wrote of small commercial barns that we might adapt.

Well, we finally ended up with somewhere around $15 worth of miscellaneous plans. None of them suitable for what we had in mind, however. So we set about designing our own barn. It was quite a job. We got the most efficient layout for poultry from one place, the best arrangement and style of goat stalls came from study and visits to a number of goat keepers and goat dairies. The broiler battery we bought for around $30 and the rabbit hutch for $20 — both are of wire, sanitary and efficient.

I was determined that our barn would be easy to operate with the best practices adapted from commercial barns and not cost us a fortune either. We moved to our country house in the fall and didn't start our barn building until the following spring. During the "long winter evenings," which actually flew by as time does at our place, we worked out scale models of goat stalls, brooder, hutch, feed storage, etc.

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