We are very fortunate that our property came with a barn. It’s an old tobacco barn with a lot of boards rotten or missing, a few support posts held up by rocks, and until recently it was full of trash and our neighbors’ game chickens. These are some of the “before” photos of the barn and surrounding structures:
TS spent a lot of time during the past few weeks clearing the small pasture area in front of the barn and covering holes in the sides with boards, wire, and salvaged metal siding, most of which was salvaged from the various trash piles around our property (left by the previous owners). It took a lot of work and a lot of time high up on a ladder for him to secure the barn from the dozens of free range chickens who have lived in the barn for years. The rather large opening on the front is covered with poultry netting – the kind you’d use to keep birds from eating your garden or heron from stealing your Koi. We’ve set up our electric poultry fencing around the front of the barn and small pasture to both keep dogs out of the barn as well as in preparation for future dairy goats. We have had some trouble with keeping the fence charged. We are using a solar powered charger which *should* get enough sun where it is positioned. However, any time a leaf falls on the fence or a weed grows high enough to touch it or the wind bends a reed the fence is expending energy shocking whatever twig or clover stem is touching it…hence, draining the power quickly. Sometimes if it’s an overcast day the battery drains more quickly than the sun can recharge. But for the most part it seems to work. The rabbit cages are in the barn and they seem quite comfortable in the shade and cooler weather. I no longer have to give them ice bottles and hang wet towels with fans blowing on them to keep the rabbits from dying of heat stroke (yes, that was a daily worry when we had them in Auburn!). We haven’t yet gotten all the trash out of the barn, but it’s mostly in piles. Our chickens are really enjoying the barn. They can scratch through the dirt and hay (they love dust baths!) and perch on high rafters. There are 8-10 nest boxes in the barn so our hens have a lot of choices of where to lay their eggs. It has been really fun checking for eggs each day! Today we got 4 eggs, the most in one day so far. We are definitely going to get some more hens. I’d like to get a dozen eggs per day just for us and hopefully a few extra dozen per week to sell. We only have 5 hens now, so 4-5 a day is really the most we can expect from them. But we have plenty of room in our barn for more chickens, all the rabbits, and future dairy goats. TS did an excellent job with the repairs, especially considering we needed the barn to be usable as quickly as possible and wanted to spend as little as possible.
We also have a dilapidated structure near the barn that previously served as runs for multiple dog, but is really no longer usable for anything. It was unfortunately built on the edge of the creek and as the creek meandered over the years, the ground eroded from under much of the structure. We may be able to salvage some more wood and wire from it, but as it is, it’s a tear-down. The final outbuilding we inherited looks like it was once a chicken coop with an attached run. The run and roof were gone and it had 6-foot-tall weeds growing in it until SJ and I cleaned it out. It was filthy work, but she had a blast! I added wire mesh over the open side to close it off and TS used more salvaged metal siding to make a new roof for it. At the moment it is empty and I am trying to figure out the best use for it. Option one is a Guinea coop – the Guineas will mostly be free-range once they grow up a little more, but they would be safer from predators if we lock them up in a coop at night. Option two is a rabbit colony – we have the rabbits in individual cages for now, but I have always wanted to have a rabbit colony where 3-4 of my breeding does can live together and have more space to run around. Option three is a secondary chicken coop – a coop for breeding/raising some purebred chicks. I would love to raise some heritage breeds, so this would be a good place to start. We still have a lot of random trash to get rid of including some abandoned/half-rotten dog houses and more sheets of metal siding, etc – it’s a work-in-progress.