City slicker going country - advice for a new barn owner, please

So my wife falls in love with a house out in the country. We’re moving in a few weeks.

It’s 2½ storeys, 2800 sq.ft… It’s huge and it’s lovely. And it sits on an acre. And it has a barn. A barn! The broad side of the barn is as long as my current yard’s frontage. You could probably fit my current house inside this barn. I’m a bit excited too.

But today we had our final walkthrough. We met the owner for the first time - nice guy. He takes me on a tour of the barn saying - “yeah, I did this on this corner, and that over there. You’re going to want to do this other thing, oh and fix that over there before too long. And I’m taking my tin.” All the while I get the sinking feeling I’m in over my head.

I told him so and he said not to worry, the neighbours will help (he pointed at the houses off in the distance and “introduced” me. I’ll definitely make the rounds and introduce myself to everyone nearby).

Like a city slicker, I started researching barn maintenance on the internet. I found surprisingly little (maybe not too surprising - real men are out on the back forty doing real men shit while I’m indoors reconfiguring my VLAN to improve QOS for my VOIP).

The owner used to have over 100 chickens in there (70 broilers, 30 layers) and he was thinking of getting a cow or two. He is leaving 6 chickens, which he showed me how to care for. But once they go, I doubt I’ll continue with livestock (though maybe…)

I’ll keep looking. I’ll go to the library. I’ll talk to the soon to be neighbours. I also turn to you.

What advice do you have for a new and clueless barn owner? Where do I go to learn about barn maintenance? What can you do with a barn? My wife thinks I can set up a hobby shop out there (wood working, glass cutting, electronics?). That doesn’t seem workable to me - wouldn’t it take a lot of work to weatherproof even a corner of it? I plan to use it mainly for storage - maybe we’ll buy a camper (I can also let my buddies store boats/campers in there).

What does he mean when he says he’s taking his tin? He doesn’t mean the tin roof, does he?!

you need to put stuff in it.

something like a hay barn has lots of ventilation, intended and just happened with time, it catches the wind. you need weight to hold it down.

make sure the floor, if elevated wood, can take the concentrated weight of trailers. it can hold lots of mass spread out evenly.

you can make interior walls for clean small environment craft areas.

you will have small animals (larger small like woodchucks) wandering and nesting. you might very likely have mice as a regular occupant; get cats.

so what type of barn, one floor or two? hay and livestock or hay only? stone or block lower? wood upper?

The roof was recently re-tinned (is that the right word?) and he had a stack of left overs.

sheet metal roofing and siding is referred to as tin.

(missed the edit window - johnpost snuck in just before my previous post) johnpost: Not sure the type. It does have two floors. There’s a huge section that takes up just over half its length that’s floor to peak empty space, then just under half that has a loft above some stalls. In this smaller section is the coop with the layers, beside a now empty area where he had the broilers (chicken raised for meat, he told me). Across from that, on the side whose wall splits the barn, are stalls for what looks like maybe three dairy cows, and stalls for one or two horses. The wall has these long horizontals doors that open up into the huge open area - he told me for feeding the cows, horses - pouring the food from the open area into the mangers just under those horizontal openings.

Above the livestock area is an open loft - I guess to keep hay. There was an ancient machine - a conveyor with hooks, that I took to be a bale elevator. He’s donating that to a heritage museum.

The floor in the livestock area is uneven cement. I can’t remember the floor in the huge open area - probably dirt. I didn’t see stone or block anywhere - wood everywhere.

Pics or it didn’t happen.

Wait. Are you implying that if it is empty it will just blow away? This isn’t the Wizard of Oz. I’m pretty sure barns are anchored to their foundation / the ground.


it’s at least good justification for filling it up.

depends on the age and construction and condition of the barn. they can make a lot of noise if they catch enough wind. old wood hay barns can be loose structures.

Sooner or later, you’ll have to re-roof it, which is very, very expensive. The famous red barns of Wisconsin are disappearing rapidly, because they are no longer useful to modern farming, and the owners tear them down rather than reroof them.

Put out a rat-bait station or two. Do this before you have a rat problem.

Can you see daylight through the seams in the exterior walls? Wind driven rain will pass through those too.

If you only have an acre you don’t really have enough room to have any livestock like cattle or horses. You might be able to keep a pig to fatten, but that would be awfully close to the house. Chickens you can do because they don’t require much space.

You might be able to rent it out for hay storage or store stuff in it yourself. If you rent it for hay storage expect to have people coming and going for months as the hay farm sells the hay.

barn owner

Here are some pics.

I’ve been away from this thread: busy packing, etc.

We now have possession. I collected my first set of fresh eggs today (only four - I wonder if I’ve found all of the hens’ laying areas - it’s like every day is now Easter!) Tomorrow we’re moving in (we’ve moved a few carloads already - next is the big moving van).

One very nice part of moving here is it feels like joining a community. We’ve already met three of our neighbours - one brought us cookies. When I was saying to another I was planning on renting a trencher so I can bring power/lights out to the barn, he told me, “before you rent anything come see one of us - we likely have what you’re looking for. If we’re not home, just take it. We know you’ll bring it back - (slap on the back) and if you break it, you bought it” (laughter)

I’m sure the novelty of being a “chicken farmer” will wear off, and tending the chickens/eggs will become a chore. For now, it’s an adventure and it’s pretty cool. Our brand new John Deere D125 (ahem) tractor was delivered today (see pics). I know it’s a riding lawn mower - but the salesperson called it a “lawn tractor” and I choose to omit the “lawn” qualifier when bragging to my buddies.

Still not sure what we’ll end up doing with the barn. Thanks for the tips. Not only will I set out rat traps, the previous owner left a - I’m not sure the term - “mammal trap”?, for skunks, weasels, etc. He also left a couple of watering containers for the chickens - small ones that need to be changed daily. He took his fancy watering/feeding contraptions. I’ll see if I can get my own (needs less frequent attendance).

Chickens aren’t a chore. They’re the easiest (and IMHO the nicest) livestock to look after. Provided you give them fresh water daily, make sure their feeder is topped up, give them some kitchen leftovers every now and again and you’ll be rewarded with golden yolks and happy clucking! You can’t be gloomy around chickens…they’re nature’s own anti-depressant!


Absolutely Kambuckta, you bested me lol.

Chickens (I call them hens) are great fun. Personally I’m not an egg eater so I simply enjoy chickens for their cheerful gossiping company when I see them. Get some Rhode Island reds for colour and a rooster is a good testosterone booster - for you. :smiley:

Geese are fun too, not much maintenance just a bit of food. Peking ducks also.

Chickens need a dusty patch for dust baths and ducks do better with a muddy pool to mess about in. Geese are your guard dogs. Most people are scared of them but they are all hiss…

The important point is fowl require very little effort. Shelter, roosts, and food. I imagine you’ll need to watch out for predators (we only have introduced weasels and rats in NZ) so talk to your neighbors.

Finally I am envious of your barn. There is a similar woolshed/hayshed/stables on our family farm built 130 years ago and slowly falling to the ground. A shame but the time and effort to save has passed.

The barn looks fine but needs some tender love and care. It seems the roof has been done so the next step is to check that the structural beams are solid. They probably go into the ground but whatever, get someone to check that the foundations still have integrity.

There is no point repairing the building itself if the frame isn’t solid.

Not sure what your location is, but rats and mice also equal snakes. You’ll probably wan to learn of the venomous types in you locale and make sure the wife and any kids do as well.

Or get a cat or two who live in the barn. (maybe not a good with chickens)

Get some hay in the loft and roll in it.
Really, that’s all I got.