Wednesday, August 11, 2010

gimme shelter

Surrey approves

There have been many times throughout our brief but lurid livestock keeping adventures that we have found ourselves woefully short on shelter. Call us irresponsible, but sometimes these things just...happen, despite one's best intentions. Animals arrive when you don't expect them, or must be separated or moved, sometimes quarantined. It's the way it goes. These predicaments, however, sometimes give birth to our best ideas.

We were hard up to devise a goat shelter for our yard of boys. It's not that they had NO shelter, but well, they're goats. They were, let's just say, a bit hard on every solution we had devised. Spring and the rainy season were upon us, and we had to act fast. We needed a shelter that was extremely quick to construct, could be made from materials on hand, and easily be moved around. It had to keep them reasonably dry and comfortable, and perhaps most importantly, it needed to be climb-proof. This last is no small task. Goats will climb on things you never imagined possible.

We devised the pup-tent shelter. It is essentially a large sawhorse - built with dimensional lumber to whatever size is suitable for the circumstances, then sided with whatever durable material is available; we used corrugated tin, as we have loads of it already.

This one is about four feet tall and eight feet long. It can be easily moved by two people, and one person could probably drag it without much trouble. It's large enough for our full-sized Nubian goats to stand fully upright in, and three of them can fit inside at once. It's not apparent from this picture, but we left an inch or two along the bottom uncovered for extra ventilation and to make moving it a bit easier. The grass covers the gap here - I think next time I'd leave a few more inches. We have more trouble with heat than anything else, so if you need more warmth, skip that part.

There are plenty of plans on the web for building a simple sawhorse. Any of those should work fine, as long as you adjust the size to suit your use. Many plans include extra wood about halfway down the sides - this is optional and we didn't bother with it. They also often include some plywood pieces on the ends (I'm not a woodworker, so I don't know the name of this bit). I recommend deliberately leaving that off, as it shortens the "entry" and limits the clearance. Our goats would have to duck to get in had we put those pieces on.

The tin is long-lasting and reasonably light, so it works great as a covering, but use whatever you have; painted plywood would do, or if you need more ventilation, it could be partly covered with chicken wire or similar. In a pinch I suppose you could cover it with a tarp or some tar paper, but this obviously wouldn't last as long.

It may seem small, but our boys really like it. They tend to huddle together in a pile, so the closeness of it seems to make them feel secure. It is also popular with the dog, and great for goat kids to hide in. The best part is that the steep pitch of the design makes it impossible for them to stand on, but it's heavy and wide enough at the base to not tip over. We've built two of these so far, and now consider them indispensable. If you need something cheap, fast and sturdy, these really are hard to beat.


  1. i so am making these for the pasture. THANK YOU!

  2. can i link to this on my blog? write about it and use your photo (i'll link back to you, of course)

  3. Nice shelter...with respect to the heat concern, you may benefit from adding spacers to hold the roof cap joints open a bit and let the air flow up and thru the peak. it would work similar to a ridge vent on a house. I would recommend a few stacks of galvanized washers that you can lag thru and adjust your openings by removing or adding to the stack. you could also lag thru small pieces of electric conduit to hold out the edges of the cap. In construction we do this to hide any visible threads on an application and it is a nice finished look.

  4. Jenna - you bet!

    SI - great idea, thanks!

  5. It's great! Simplicity usually wins out everytime!!

  6. Very nice! I have been looking for something similar. So simple.
    Tara, my wife and I are following in your footsteps. We are buying ten acres and are going to be just down the road from you near Aquilla. I had been following your blog for months and got distracted but am back and will be rereading to catch back up on what I missed. Looking forward to it. John