Horses, Hay and Homesteading
By Nikki Alvin-Smith
Everything old is new again. Horse owners are increasingly adding value to their lives by returning to agricultural practices to produce organic produce and animal products on their farms.
The notion of going ‘old school’ and designing the barn to keep everything under one roof has seen a rise in popularity as a result. Naturally, there is a sincere convenience this provides as daily chores can be completed without venturing into the elements whether the weather is hot or cold.
If the barn owner is away from home, the completion of these tasks can easily be taken care of by a friend or family member, without the need to trudge back and forth from building to building.
It also makes the storage of provisions such as hay and grain supplies easy to store and access. The provision of water and electric is also directed to just one building, which saves on costs of installation. In fact, the idea of keeping a variety of animals and planting projects under one roof is an efficient method to homestead.
The modular design of farm structures for horses, mules and donkeys, miniature horses, milking cow, goats, alpacas, chickens and poultry, dogs, storage and potting sheds, lends itself to the creation of the perfect multiple use building.
Many horse owners keep a miniature horse, pony for the kids, or donkey alongside their horses for company and use by the smaller members of the family.
When you ‘hatch’ your own little person, along with this new responsibility often comes the desire to create an organic food source for the health of the family.
During my experiences giving dressage clinics across the USA and abroad, I have come across beautiful center aisle barns with a Jersey cow standing in a stall mooing for milking time, a goat trying to escape a miniature horse stall or seen chickens and geese pecking about in the stalls and marching through the barn as if they owned the place. The horse crazy twelve year old that will ride in our clinic and diligently showcase their talents in the saddle, will later be found collecting eggs from the chickens and offering them up to make a little extra cash from the visiting equestrians.
The knowledge that children gain from being taught the responsibility of caring for livestock and seeing where their food comes from is invaluable.
Fresh herbs and vegetables can be started early in a potting shed area within the building, and children delight in learning how to seed and start the growing process and watch their efforts evolve into full grown plants and vegetables they can eat.
Some folks start a line of products and operate a small business of jams and jellies, pickles and provisions, dairy products and poultry offerings and other farm to table delights.
The Boarding Barn
The addition of a kennel where your family pets can be safely kept during busy times or where boarders can safely leave their dogs out of the dangers of a hot car provides added value to your farm operation.
These same boarders can also become customers of your homegrown products and will also enjoy bringing their kids along to visit with the critters. Who knows, maybe the same kids will join in your summer camp sessions or take a few riding lessons and become hooked on horses.
How Do You Design This Multiple Use Structure?
Integration of stalls for your horses and other wee beasties, storage for your ATV or electric golf cart or other farm equipment, and an area for hay and provisions, tack and equipment, does require expertise in design to be successful.
For example: For chicken coops there are many easy care design options and size requirements to consider; for dog kennels you want a tear resistant flooring material, the right gate size to a run, kennel sizes to fit your breed of dogs and drainage; for storage you may want to keep it easy access with an overhang design or wish to have a secure space you can lock up. For this advice it is wise to seek experts in the field that know what each type of animal needs for proper care and comfort, and what you need to make care of the animals user-friendly with an efficient design for daily chores.
There is a lot that the entire family will enjoy and benefit from with the homestead lifestyle. Our forefathers had it right. But we don’t have to work with an old, cold, antique barn with low ceilings, lack of hygiene and an absence of modern conveniences.
With the right planning you can execute the perfect structure for your needs. Seek out a manufacturer that encompasses the experience you need in all facets of animal housing and care and leverage the wealth of their advice.
Expert Advice is Crucial to Success
When you plan a horse barn build alone, there are plenty of questions to be addressed. What size stalls? How high should you go with the kickboards. What materials should you use? And importantly, how much is it going to cost?
Now you add in the equation of other animal’s needs and the questions that need to be answered become more complex and more plentiful.
The ease of modular design brings a lot of added value to the buying and building experience and to the ultimate functionality and longevity to the structure if you find a company that has proven experience across multiple livestock and pet care needs. We consulted with Horizon Structures L.L.C. based in Atglen, PA, to learn more about what we don’t know from their team of experts in everything from goats and chicken care to horses and hay storage.
Chickens require a secure environment where they can be protected from aerial predators such as hunting hawks, as well as the sly foxes, slithery snakes, wretched weasels, cunning coyotes, rascally raccoons and even neighborhood dogs.
Mindy Rinier is the expert on chicken coops at Horizon Structures, and she explained what you need to consider to ensure that the chicken comes first and stays safe, and hopefully shortly after that, a wondrous supply of fresh eggs for family and friends. Before you channel your inner baker, consider the following facts from Mindy:
• Build the chicken coop off the floor to help deter predators.
• Ensure your chicken coop has strong doors, windows and vents. Place vinyl-coated metal mesh over all windows and hinged vents, that is as chew proof as possible to thwart predators attempts at access.
• The siding for your coop must be thick (Horizon Structures provides 1” thick white pine panels or 5/8 inch thick LP Smartside wood siding) to deter chewing or clawing from the hungry mob of predators.
You may require a special design to incorporate your chicken coop and run into your horse barn structure. This is the realm of Horizon Structures crew foreman, Dan Dienner, who is blessed with creative ingenuity and an innate knack for on-the-spot engineering. If you need a special coop design or modification, Dan welcomes the opportunity and never fails to rise to the challenge to create something unique.
If you are starting to figure out there is a lot to learn about chicken coop design you’d be right. The issue of light, ventilation, heat, cooling and the other myriad of factors that should be considered in providing a house for chickens when they need to be ‘cooped up’ are extensive. Click here to learn more about things to consider.
If you haven’t read the very popular article ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ that encompasses a ton of ideas on how to add kennels to your horse operation to house not just your family pets, but also make some extra money from boarders at the barn, then check it out here.
When you consult a company about kennels and canine care, consider consulting a company that provides both residential and commercial grade kennels so that you can resource advice and products that will cater to you individual needs.
Long gone are the days of noisy metal-coated floors, concrete blocks with no light and tiny holes in the wall for a dog to wander in an outside pen. Today there are brilliant products to floor the dog kennel that even the most brutish dog cannot destroy through digging or pawing. The easy clean surfaces with correctly placed drains that are properly sealed to prevent rust or leaks, ensure the kennel is simple to maintain in a hygienic state.
The designs are light and airy, replete with electrical package options for heat and cooling options, special feed bowls and gates that can be left open or closed to prevent drafts in winter or to keep dogs outside while the interior is cleaned.
Once again there are many factors to consider before you integrate a kennel into your multi-use barn building design. And once again Horizon Structures has the answers to all your questions including ones you don’t know you need to ask.
Click here to take a look at some of the features that are available.
All Creatures Great and Small
If you have arrived at the conclusion that Horizon Structures is unique, in that it is truly a one stop shop for all your outside structure needs on your property you would be right.
The company has successfully designed and delivered housing for many creatures and they have completed multi-use builds that integrate the expertise of their full team so all the animals are well situated and your life as their care-giver is made as easy as possible.
You can add shedrow stalls under overhangs, provide loft storage over monitor center aisle designs, add a shed or garage to one end of the structure, incorporate chicken coops and dog kennels or whatever size stalls and structure your cows, goats, alpacas or other livestock require.
The variety of layout and designs is limited only by your imagination and of course, your budget.
Horizon Structures also has that covered. Take a look at their Finance Options here.
Their team of friendly experts is available to help you develop the structure that you need and provide you with an accurate quote that includes the delivery of the component parts, as well as the set up.
Modular design has the added advantage that the actual build is all done in a factory setting at their facilities. This means no weather or material delays.
Another plus is the fact that your property is not a melee of various construction crews, with piles of building materials strewn everywhere and you are not left with a mess of left over debris after the build is finally completed on their evasive date for project’s conclusion.
I guarantee that you will not miss the incessant noise from saws and nail guns, worries of fallen nails or flying plastic garbage from piles of wood and metal tin, around your horse world. Over the weeks or months that stick-built construction requires, the daily hassle of avoiding the entire building site certainly gets old, and there is only so much time in the day for the cup of tea relay to the construction crew and time to spend pushing a one foot magnet on a stick to pick up the dreaded nails that always manage to find a horse’s sole or an ATV tire.
So yes, by all means go back to agricultural life and bring the ways of our forefathers back into the world of your family. A fully-fledged homestead or a partial homestead lifestyle is very rewarding.