Building New Lambing Jugs

Reader Contribution by Keba M Hitzeman
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The former horse feeding area, now to be lambing pens!

Now that the sheep have their new pasture fenced in, I’m thinking about what needs to be done for spring. Lambing and kidding will most likely begin at the end of February and continue through April, and the slapped-together lambing jugs I had last spring just aren’t going to cut it again. I used a combination of short panel gates I found in the barn and a few of the sheep fence panels for those jugs. Everything was tied together with baling twine, and I’m very glad no one tried to escape because they could have knocked those pens down with one good push! On top of all of that, the large pen where I had these jugs needed to be cleaned out, so the “floor” was all lumpy and bumpy with old manure, hay, and straw, which meant that none of the panels were stable on the floor. Not the best situation at all.

After several brainstorming sessions and some wandering around the barn looking at the available areas, we decided the best area for the new lambing pens would be the former eating area for the horses. Way back when we had horses, my dad built partitions so each horse could eat their hay and any grain ration in peace from the others. We would throw hay down from the barn’s main floor through a hatch in the floor, then fork it into each “stall” for the horses. The last horses left a few years back, and this area turned into storage for gates because we had no other use for it at the time.

Lambing jugs are usually 4’x4′ – enough space for mama and babies to move around, and small enough to encourage bonding between them, especially if it’s mama’s first time birthing and she’s not really sure what to do with that squalling little thing trying to nurse. The small size also makes it easier for me to keep a close eye on everyone to catch any problems. That’s much harder to do in a large pen, or if they are lambing in the field – trying to catch a lamb once it’s up and moving is not an easy task!

The lambing jug panels will look just like our temporary pasture panels, just sized to fit the lambing area.

To make things simpler for me when building the new jugs, they will fit the feeding stalls’ dimension, which is 3.5′ and will be about 5′ long. That will give me 8 pens total, plus access to the hay and an aisleway along the stone wall into the main barn. I will make the panels from sheep fence and EMT conduit, just like the 10′ panels we made for the portable pastures. I will run an 8′ EMT from the ceiling joists into a hole drilled into the concrete to provide some stability for the pens’ front, so the sheep and goats can’t wiggle the pens out of alignment. Everything will be removable, so if I need larger pens, I can remove a panel and have a 7′ pen available. That will also make clean-up much easier once lambing season is over, and everyone is outside on grass – collect the panels, shovel the bedding out, replace the panes, and done!

The most labor-intensive part of cleaning this area is complete – I moved the gates to another location and shoveled out the last of the manure and old hay on the floor. It won’t be a quick process to build the panels, but after I get the EMT conduit on hand (and depending on where I purchase it, they will cut it to size at the store), it’s a matter of attaching the MakerPipe fittings to the conduit, cutting the sheep fence to fit, wiring the fence to the frame, and putting the pens together. I can do all of that in the barn, so even rainy days won’t stop the progress!

How have you repurposed areas around your farm/homestead to meet your current needs?

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