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Build a goat shed or chicken coop: for the cost of nails!


My wife, Janice, started talking about dwarf milk goats early this spring and we agreed that it was a good idea, since we like the idea of self-sufficiency. So, I drew up a brief set of plans, and calculated the cost of new materials to build with, and needless to say, with the costs of said material being what they are today, I was given pause. However, I love my wife dearly and did not want to see her disappointed. As it turned out, she came up with the best idea yet--why not build it from material already available on our property and save the expense of materials?

We live in central Virginia on a six-acre tract and in addition to the oak, poplar, and maple trees, there are quite a few tall, skinny Carolina pines. Now, they are essentially an unwanted volunteer here, since they attract ticks and other bugs. They are messy and full of sap, and it is simply not worth anyone's time to cut them for pulp wood or whatever. That being the case, we found the perfect building material, and I got started right away. Let me say this at the very beginning of this article--it was not half as unpleasant a labor as I expected it to be, required minimal tools, and the only outright expense that we shelled out was for 20-penny nails to fasten it together. Even the chinking between the logs was free, courtesy of the hard clay soil of Buckingham County.

This 8 x 10 goat shed can be built in a day by two people. Working by myself, it only took two days including the chinking. It is watertight and the interior is at least 10 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.

The tools I used: a Husqvarna 18-inch bar chain saw, post-hole digger, digging bar, a mattock, hammer, wheelbarrow and hoe, hammer, tape measure, and a level.

First, pick the trees that you want to use. I will have to assume that any trees will work, even poplar, although it does tend to shrink a lot, and this means re-chinking about once a year. This is no big deal; it only takes about three hours or so to chink the whole thing, so no worries there. Use the chain saw to drop the trees you will use, and limb them from bottom to top; use the whole tree. (You will use them, believe it!)

From the top end of four trees, cut four 10-foot posts, dig postholes in your building site, and set them, tamping them in hard. Do not use any anchoring such as concrete, since it simply isn't needed, and the concrete will eat up the posts, since they are green wood. Once you have them set, start cutting the rest of the tree trunks into nine and 11-foot lengths (so you have a little length for adjustment), and use the chain saw to rip them lengthwise. It's just as easy to do by eyeballing as it is taking a bunch of precise measurements, and it will work out fine.

Just one point here: If you're working wood that has a lot of sap in it, such as pine, those long rip cuts will force you to sharpen your chain a little more often, since the chain loads up with sap faster than it does in cross cutting.

Take the first 11-foot half-log and lay it at the bottom of the back-wall posts, and drive a nail through the half-log into the post so it will swivel up and down a bit. Use a level to adjust the angle, and then fasten both ends to the post securely. I used 20-penny nails, but if you're working with large material, you will have to use larger size spikes accordingly. Keep on coursing half-logs up the back wall until you come to the height that you require. (I went up a little over five feet). Once you are done with that, take the chainsaw and trim off the excess length, which will neaten the ends considerably. Do the same thing on the sides, and then start on the front. First, remember that you will want a roof slope for drainage, so plan on putting up at least one, if not two, extra courses of half-logs in front. Cut an extra post to place between the corner posts for a door post. My door is a little over two feet wide and go ahead and lay your courses up. Save your trimmed ends since you will need them a little later.

Once you have the four walls built, cut five or six small-diameter poles from the limbs of the trees and use them for the rafters on the roof. Nail them in place equidistant across the span between the front and back walls.

Use your trimmed ends from the wall logs inside to make platform posts for the floor if you plan to have one. Otherwise, use a mattock to level the floor as best possible, and you are done with the interior.

For the roof, I used a bunch of old insulation batts and laid them across the rafters, then used a spare piece of tin roofing to roof the shed. It was a snap to use tin snips to cut it to fit, and took about 10 minutes. Once you have nailed down whatever roofing material you happen to use, you are done with that phase of building!

The easiest part of this job is the chinking. You can use any soil that will make mud, and if you have children, you won't have to do any work to speak of! In a wheelbarrow, mix the dirt, clay, or what-have-you, 3 to 1 with straw, dried grass clippings, dog hair, or any material that will act as a binder. I used raked-up straw from some wild oats I had cut down, and some dog hair, and some cat hair from the vacuum cleaner bag. (We have seven cats and six dogs ...) Add water and use a hoe to mix it up until it is nice and stiff and holds it's shape when you handle it. (Wear rubber gloves, by the way, otherwise the constant rubbing will blister your fingertips.) Rub the chinking mixture into the log cracks firmly so it packs in well, and smooth it out as you go.

Take a spray bottle or a hose to the site and gently spray it once in awhile so it doesn't dry too fast and crack badly. Allow the chinking to dry for a couple days, hang a door in the doorway, and it's a done deal!

The total cost of my goat shed was $5. Granted, it's a lot of labor for the time you're building it, but in my case, a labor of love. Not just for Janice, but for the farm life!
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Title Annotation:Livestock housing
Author:Set, Taylor Wind
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Previous Article:Draft horses: as useful today as ever.
Next Article:Raising healthy calves.

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