The Rising of a New Barn

New Goat House = Peaceful Herd

For the past couple of winters our expanding herd of goats has lived in a recycled, 19’ X 48’ greenhouse (a goat house in Fat Toad Farm vernacular) with a floor that is insulated day-to-day by the hay the goats don’t eat (by the time winter arrives the insulation layer is at least a foot deep) and heated by the goat manure that is covered up by hay each day and decomposing in the so called ‘manure pack’.

The goat house has proven to be a very comfortable living environment year round, but as the herd has grown, pushing up against the 25 square foot industry recommendation for an adult goat, we’ve noticed a growing disruption of the herd’s social order, evidenced by irritability, fighting, a more pronounced pecking order, etc.

So when the time came last winter to order a new goat house, to make room for continued herd expansion, we decided to buy the biggest one we could fit on the site. That turned out to be a 30’ x 80’ structure on which we began construction in early May with the help of our friends at G. Gilman Excavating, who cut in a new service road to the cheese/caramel room, hauled in fill to enlarge the pad to accommodate the new goat house and cleaned out the 2009/2010 manure pack, which was at least 2 feet deep.

The goat house package had been delivered some time earlier by Ed Person

from Ledgewood Farm in Moultonborough, NH, so as soon as the pad was ready our neighbor, John Lipkvich, who has been the architect and builder of everything  Fat Toad Farm structure to date, laid out ground stake lines for the new goat house paralleling the exterior walls of the old one, and we began erecting the new one right over the old. So, the goats continued to spend the night in their old 19’ X 48’ home as their new and much larger one rose out of the ground completely covering the old one.

These types of structures are extremely gratifying to erect, because they literally go up in a matter of days. We took a little extra time on this one to frame in and plywood sheath the two ends and to build heavy, sliding doors for easy equipment access and ventilation control, but the whole process only took about 2 weeks to complete. On Friday, June 2nd John organized a crew — I had broken my leg a few days earlier and was ‘on the bench’ — to pull the white plastic cover over the frame, stretch it tight and fasten it in place.

By Wednesday, June 7th the old goat house had been completely dismantled — and set aside for use elsewhere on the farm — and the goats returned from pasture to find that their home had grown from 912sf to 2,400sf. We’ve still got sliding doors to hang, a water line to install, and fans, lights and electrical outlets to wire, but from the herd’s perspective it’s time to decide where the furniture’s going and to draw straws for the best bedrooms.

The thing we noticed almost immediately, which ties back to the social disruption I mentioned earlier, is that the atmosphere in the goat house is suddenly very calm and relaxed. Very little fighting, fewer signs of irritability, etc., which we all attribute directly to the enlarged living space. We plan to continue growing our herd from 35 adult does and 15 doelings now to +-60 goats, which will mean that each doe has 40sf of living space. There is little doubt in our minds as we observe The Girls in their new home that bigger is better, at least when it comes to goat houses!

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