Up until this point, I was thinking about my chickens as mostly a hobby-and-I-can-eat-my-own-eggs kind of thing. My Dad, on the other hand, had BIGGER PLANS. We were chatting by phone several weeks ago, and he suggested turning the former milking barn into the chicken barn and WOW does that ever open up possibilities.
I don’t know the exact dimensions, but I would guess there is easily 2,000 square feet of space inside the former milking barn (see photo above). It contains a large number of concrete-and-steel stanchions that run down both sides of the barn; the stanchions were used to milk the cows. Prior to my father’s suggestion, I had not considered using the former milking barn to house the chickens, but ever since that suggestion, the idea has been swirling in my head. Because I have no plans to restart the farm as a dairy, that enormous barn will either sit empty or need to be repurposed. Housing chickens seems like an excellent idea!! There are small windows that run along the top edge of the longer north and south walls of the barn, letting in ample natural light; and there are two enormous fans on each small end of the barn to help with ventilation.
There are still lots and lots of questions running around in my head, things like can we work with or around the stanchions? What of those stanchions can be easily removed and what cannot? How would I house the chickens in the barn but still let them forage? Can I just let them out to pasture during the day?? If we do decide to raise fiber goats or hair sheep – and both are in consideration – where will they be housed? Will the horse & mule barn suffice or should I reconsider the plans to reclaim the building materials in the tin-and-wood night barn?
Bottom line is that the former milking barn has real potential as a chicken house!! It would provide ample space for multiple breeds of chickens as well as space for brooding chicks and space to introduce new chickens to the existing flock (and I would use one of the smaller outbuildings to house any ill birds). It would be fun to design the enclosures within the barn – how to equip each with nesting boxes, roosting bars, places for food and water, and ideally make them super easy to clean and easy to move chickens in and out of.
Although where we house the chickens is not yet decided, it will be one of my first to-do items on the farm because sometime in early March, the 26 chicks I ordered from McMurray Hatchery will arrive (read this post and this post for details). Can’t wait to hear their peeps!!