Outbuildings are all buildings other than the house and can range from a two story barn to a shed.  They are important for storing fiber, feed, animals, equipment, etc.  If a property does not already have established outbuildings, permits from the county/city will be required to build them (usually over a certain size; bigger than a small shed or permanent structure).  Sometimes, an old barn may need to be renovated, which might also require permitting depending on what is added or changed.  Other times, an outbuilding may not have been permitted originally and will either require a tear down if not grandfathered in.

There are a few outbuildings we will need.  Some may be combined.  For example, the barn may encompass a jut out that serves as a tractor carport, or an enclosed carpentry shop.  The garage may also include space for a shop – options!  This post will include a few outbuildings that are a must for our property.



This all around utility space can certainly enclose animals, but the requirements for the barn can be different for different animals.  Horses require a heated, well lit barn (princesses, they are) whereas goats and donkeys are hardier.

Horse barn from the inside.  Ooh!  Fancy!


Note on heating elements: While heating a barn may sound like a great idea for winters when you are mucking stalls, keep in mind that barns love catching fire.  Just live it.  Arsonists, barns are.  Combine that with a stash of kindling in the form of hay and *phoosh*!  Therefore, heating elements in a barn can be dangerous (especially with curious or rambunctious animals… think climbing goats, barn owls, or rodents.)

Besides animals, here are other things a barn can hold:


  • Animal tacks/harnesses
    • Even if you don’t show animals, they need appropriate harnesses for transportation in case of emergency, vet visits and other training (for their safety and yours!)
    • Every animal needs their own harness.  It needs to fit that animal.  It needs to be sterile from other animals, to prevent transferring possible disease or germs.
    • Harnesses need to be kept dry and clean, usually by being hung up.  Leave wall space where animals can’t get to them but you can easily reach.
  • Hayhorse-hay-storage
    • Hay, as mentioned in a previous post, is food for animals.  It needs to be kept dry to prevent molding and ruining the hay.  It needs to be stored off the floor to keep air circulating.
    • In two story barns, hay can be kept in a “hay loft” on the top floor.  This keeps animals from getting to it and eating until they bloat.
  • Straw
    • Just like hay, needs to be kept dry.  Same conditions apply.
  • Feed
    • Pellet feed or grains can be stored in airtight containers closer to animals (as long it has a good lock) for quick grabs in the morning/evening during meal time.
  • Equipment and tools
    • Gardening tools if shed not available or garden is near the barn.
    • Tractor or plough/tilling tools.
    • Pitchfork and other hay/straw tools; shovel and other barn mucking tools.
    • Wheelbarrows and specialty construction equipment.
    • Tools should be properly cleaned, but those used for mucking should really be kept away from feed.
  • Sick Bay
    • Unhealthy or birthing animals need a safe stall for which to be quarantined to keep everyone safe.

Barn Structure

Barns come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Here are a few that are common.

Gamble Style Room


I tend to be attracted to the classic American red barn with a four sloped roof called Gamble (see image).  Another option is the standard pole barn with wings.  Both wings can be enclosed or act individually for different purposes – carport, lean-to, firewood shelter, and more.  The possibilities depend on the location.  A simple one story pole barn can be built with only a couple people.  Check out more posts on barns for details.


Simply, a three sided structure with a slanted roof.  Useful for animal shelter (although, acceptable dry storage in some areas).  At first it seems kind of cruel to leave poor donkey out in the elements.  Surely he would prefer an enclosed bar with an HVAC system?  No, actually.  Donkeys are hardy animals built for both the cold and heat.  Plus, their limited depth perception makes moving from light to dark (outside to inside) a scary proposition.  They prefer the space of the out doors.  Same goes for alpacas and llamas who are from the unsheltered slopes of the Andes!  Goats require a little more shelter, but not necessarily enclosed and locked.


A lean-to should have it’s back to the prevailing wind, thus actually making it a good shelter.  It can also serve as a wall to rub against for animals, or a place to hold a manger.

While your loving ark of cuddles may get along in the field, they may not all love snuggling together inside.  Therefore, it can be helpful to have multiple lean-tos or one that divides.  Also, goats sometimes like sleeping above the ground, which means that a lean-to needs to have benches attached to the interior walls.


If the barn doesn’t have room for a separate space to do carpentry, a shop may be necessary.  It will need access to electrical or a small generator for larger construction projects.  Space inside a garage may work if not needed by cars or a car can be pulled out.

Root Cellar

Root cellar built into the side of a hill to stay humidity and temperature controlled.

If there is not optimal space below the house or in a basement, one can be built outside of the house – either underground or in a hillside!


This is a building that will not likely be needed for a few years until regular planting is natural and easy to maintain.  However, it does have major perks and if gardening/feeding your family off the land is important to you, at least set aside some space for it.  Greenhouses range in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be cheap or expensive.  They need to be temperature controlled and be hooked up to a water supply (or have an easy access to water).  But, they allow for a potentially longer growing season and the ability to grow things that wouldn’t naturally grow in Oregon, like lemon trees.  A dedicated sunroom is good for this too, depending on the crop yield.


Garden Shed

A barn is great, but if being closer to the animals means farther from the green plot, running back and forth to collect tools can be a pain.  A garden shed should contain garden tools only: trowels, shovel, garden gloves, kneepads… you get the picture.


Cold Frame


More inexpensive than a greenhouse, a cold frame can prove useful for hardening off plants.  They don’t stay as insulated as a greenhouse necessarily, but can be an easier way to protect starts not ready for the garden.  They need to face south (in North America) or, at the worst, face east.  They are easy to make and many refurbish old windows for this purpose.  You prop open a cold frame on sunny spring days, and cover with a blanket on cold winter nights.

Hope this was a helpful basics of different types of outbuildings.  For more details on how to build any of these or how they can be used, browse the outbuildings category.


Photo Credits

Featured Image: dodgeins.com

Barns: remagazine.coop; lusardi.com; myhorseforum.com; succeed-equine.com; barnalliance.org; envinity.com;

Lean-tos: klenepipe.com

Root cellar: harvesteating.com

Greenhouse: altongreenhouses.co.uk

Cold frame: iseeidoimake.com