Article Index "Goat Shelters - Do's and Don'ts" Article Index


By: "Gary Pfalzbot"

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    An Ozark 'Goat Castle'
    When we purchased our first goats to raise, we were not ready. I'll openly admit that. We had built them no shelter and the goats were basically free to roam about and sleep on our patio which did offer some protection from the frequent rainstorms here in Southwest Missouri. This arrangement did not however keep them out of the cold wind that would blow from time to time.

    Our situation was a bit unique however. Straight off our yard is about a ten foot drop that is built by railroad ties. As I began to realize that we definitely needed a goat shelter, I knew that I could possibly use these railroad ties as a wall for the shelter.

    My first concern was stabilizing the shelter with solid 4" x 4" posts sunk into the ground about 3 feet. The overall measurements of this shelter are 7 feet deep, 5 feet high by 16 foot wide. In the very front of the shelter is an opening which allows the goats to come and go. All other sides are for the most part enclosed.

    The roof of the shelter is made out of 2 pieces of 4" by 8" 3/4" thick plywood. There is a small cantilever overhang on the front of the shelter to let rainfall drip off away from the shelter entrance. The roof is angled at about 20 degrees slope forward. I also managed to black tar the roof and cover it with composition roofing. All in all one would think that this is a very solid and sturdy shelter that would provide adequate protection for the herd. Or so I thought.

    The first problem came in the way of the railroad ties. Seems the water from the yard drains down through the ties thus making the entire shelter floor muddy. Unless a floor is built above the actual ground a few inches, the goats end up sleeping in mud. The other problem with this arrangement is that the actual ground is sloped about 20 degrees just like the roof. The water does run down hill and into the pasture, but so does any straw and hay bedding that I've spread out for their comfort.

    This shelter was a big mistake on my part and while it may have seemed a good idea at the time, has taught me a thing or two about building a goat shelter on the spur of the moment. So now that I am armed with that experience, I am about to tell you my next planned design that will hopefully last forever and eliminate all of the problems of before.

    As I mentioned, we are dealing with a "sloped" pasture that is also abundant with rocks and lots of them. My initial idea is to utilize these rocks and build a soild foundation with them. A bit of concrete to hold them together and you've got a good solid base on which to build. But one problem with that idea - not a good idea to make the floor out of concrete or rocks. This would surely beat the goats feet to death and not be too comfortable for sleeping.

    So, I've come up with an even better plan. As we also live in tornado alley, I think that building a solid concrete shelter with a soft dirt floor would not only behoove us, but the goats as well. I will eventually put up a sketch of this idea but for now you'll have to follow along in your minds eye.

    First, I plan to make this structure at least 8 feet deep by either 16 or 24 feet wide. The height will be roughly 6 feet so we do not have to stoop upon entrance. Around the perimeter I plan to dig footings at least 3 feet deep by three feet wide. These footings will be filled with two cinder blocks, concrete, rock and 1 inch rheebar every 12 inches. The side walls will also be double cinder block filled with concrete, rocks and rheebar. This should provide solid reinforcement against heavy winds, rain and all the other elements.

    The roof is a different matter. It definitely needs to be sloped to permit immediate water runoff. This time the lower end of the slope will be towards the back of the shelter and not towards the front so we do not get drenched (nor the goats) upon entrance. The interior ceiling will be 4' x 4's spaced every 2 feet and secured by reebar bent into a U shape and fastened into the cinderblocks with concrete. All 4' x 4's will be pre-treated with Copper Penta as will the 1"thick plywood that rests above these. The plywood will also be sealed with black tar or creosote for added measure. The ecxterior roof will be corrugated tin also coverted with black tar at the seams.

    As per the entrance of the shelter, this time I will build it on the upside of the land slope with one cinder block height to step over. This feature will prevent water from running into the shelter. The door to the entrance will be a "Dutch Door" arrangement with the hinges fastened into the cinderblock with concrete.

    The actual interior of the shelter as I mentioned will be a soft dirt flooring. One feature of this floor that I should mention is that it will have two drains that are made out of concrete and will permit periodic cleaning of the shelter with a hose. The actual drains will simply be channels that run out the back of the shelter at the floor level and through the wall. The diameter of these channels at the wall will be approximately 6 inches. I should also mention that I plan to plumb in hot and cold water for watering and use of a garden hose.

    I know as I begin building this shelter, more features and planning considerations will come to mind. I generally build this way and the end result is usually remarkable. I have turned out some pretty strange structures in the past though - ask my wife. Who else but me could build a dog house with skylights?

    One last note about my cinderblock shelter - I've watched a few programs on tornadoes and severe weather. If a F3-F5 tornado hits, it is most likely that not much is going to survive the fierce updraft winds unless the structure is built extremely deep in the ground. But the actual concern is that I watched in amazement as they tested the strength of a cinderblock wall by shooting a 2" x 4" at 2000 mph directly at the wall. The results: the 2" x 4" penetrated the wall completely.

    This is pretty amazing as one would think that concrete is stronger than wood and that the 2" x 4" would shatter. Not so at 200 mph which are the speed of the winds in your average tornado. And it's not far fetched to think that it could not happen either. Your neighbors house being ripped apart and the fragments becoming "your" deadly projectiles. But hopefully my design of using solid rocks, 1" rheebar, concrete and double thickness of cinderblocks will lessen the flying projectile penetration.

    An Odd But Effective Shelter
    One farm where we purchased goats from used culvert pipes to shelter their goats. While this was a pretty ingenious way to provide shelter for the goats, getting the goats we purchased to come out was another and almost impossible matter. With a little grain as bait, they finally showed themselves. I asked the man if he left the goats out during the winter with the culvert pipe as the only shelter and he replied yes. I really think that this is not a good way though as I noticed a couple of his goats to have arthritic conditions. Probably from sleeping on the cold metal. Ouch.

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