We have visited a lot of farms this year and peered at hundreds more as we drove past them in our RV. Sadly, so many of the beautiful, functional barns and outbuildings of our nation's farms are falling apart, caving in, and melting back into the earth. Farmers of today are trying to rebuild that infrastructure, often with limited financial and labor resources. Other than the famous Amish barn-raisings, our rural areas and farms often lack the people power to build anything grandiose and lasting. We have quite intently as a nation depopulated the country-side.
Likewise, the vast majority of farmers today are renters- they don't own the land they farm. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that they will build anything permanent and probably not in their best interest to do so unless the landlord offers to pay for the infrastructure. We faced this same situation when we farmed and had to build everything portable because of the annual flooding that was getting worse and worse each year as the creek filled up with sediment from excessive farmland erosion in the watershed. Additionally, building portable structures facilitates the practice of rotational grazing, something we feel is essential for good livestock husbandry. Build it right for good management. Permanent structures sometimes lead to poor management and manure build-up in one place.
Here are a few structures we have built over the years (I say "we" but it was mostly my husband. I provided design feedback and set some screws but that was about it).
Mobile Hen Houses (for nesting & roosting) out of old cotton trailers & recycled metal roofing.
Inside of cotton trailer coop after cleaning out the straw. The end of the trailer contains a water system connected to handing bell waterers accessible underneath the trailer. Keeping the water inside keeps it cool and prevents algal growth.
Mobile roosting house for laying hens. We believe hens should roost separate from where they lay, which helps keep the poop off the nesting boxes. This one resides at Soul Food Farm, CA and was made from a Farm Tek frame & tarps with homemade wooden skids & roosting bars. Roosting only needs to be 4-5 inches off the ground- which prevents hens from pooping on each other.
Mobile shelter for pigs. Made of mostly recycled materials stripped from other broken down structures exept for the 4x6 wooden skids.
Another version of mobile pig shelter, just tinkering with design to see which one holds up the best and the pigs utilize. Again, mostly recycled materials except the 4x6s.
Three different mobile pig farrowing house designs, using old grain tanks and recycled metal roofing. The high board at the entry helps keep the piglets inside for the first week so they will focus on feeding and getting stronger. The sow can come and go as she pleases. A wooden bar on the inside provides a sheltered corner for the piglets to prevent them from getting rolled on by their momma.
All of these structures above were built for less than $200 dollars each (in new materials) and should last anywhere between 5-10 years with only minor repairs. More importantly, they all will improve the lives of the animals that use them, providing shelter, safety, and the ability for us humans to move them around the land. What are you tinkering with?