The Cooling off the Barn Saga, Part 1

I love a barn. I mean REALLY. Ever since my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Warner, read Charlotte’s Web to the class, I have been somewhat enamored with barns. I don’t really care what they look like, but if there are hay and animals in there, I love it. After all, that’s where Fern took care of Wilbur, and where Wilbur became friends with Charlotte, and…well, I’m sure you know the story.

Cooling Off the Barn - Stone Family Farmstead

One of the things that really excited me about moving to this property was that there was a barn on it. A small one, but hey–it’s a barn. We even painted a shed we had at our old house to look like a barn, but here at our new place, we have an honest-to-goodness barn with an attached chicken house. It’s fabulous.

The Problem

As fabulous as it is, our barn gets SO hot inside. Even when it’s 80 outdoors, the temperatures inside the barn are quite comparable, which can be really tough on our rabbits, even during spring time. To combat this issue, we bought a large indoor swamp cooler just for cooling off the barn, because we keep our rabbits in there. Our thinking was that we could put it inside and shut the doors and that would be all they needed. Nope. No dice.

Barn Resident Alice the Bunny - Stone Family Farmstead

Barn Resident, Alice the Bunny

This week marked the beginning of the real fight between summer heat and my rabbits’ health. It’s been in the upper 90s to low 100s outdoors, and that’s not great for the bunnies. We’ve been running the swamp cooler unit from morning to night, and the fan part of the unit overnight, and while it is keeping the rabbits cool enough, it isn’t the most comfortable situation for them.

Barn Resident Michelle the Bunny - Stone Family Farmstead

Barn Resident, Michelle the Bunny

If you have known me for the past few years, you might remember that I fought this battle at our old house when our rabbits lived outdoors. With a bit of tweaking and thinking, and thinking and tweaking, I was able to keep them relatively cool with a combination of misters, fans, and overhead shade. I know I can figure this out over here, it will just take time.

I Have A Couple of Ideas

Well, maybe they aren’t my ideas, but they are good ones. My friend Stacey from Mr. Joe’s Farm was over the other day and I took her out to the barn to see what I was dealing with. She’s been running her farm for over 10 years, so I knew that she would have some ideas for me.

Inside the Barn at Stone Family Farmstead

Our cooling unit in respect to the rabbit hutches.

One idea that I started with was to cover the cooler refill hose that is running from the spicket to the swamp cooler unit. The hose just sits on the ground out back, and its full length is in the sun. Stacey pointed out that the refill hose, full of hot water, was likely causing the cooler to put out warmer air than it ought to. I tested out the theory the next morning and covered the full length of the hose with just cardboard boxes. It worked well enough to bring down the temp inside of the barn about 5 degrees from the day before.

Cooling the Barn - Stone Family Farmstead

The cardboard box test worked to bring the barn temperature down 5 degrees.

Over the weekend, I began digging a trench and filling it with water so that I can bury the hose underground about a foot to see what that does. If it brings the barn temperature down 5 more degrees, I will be very happy with that. If not, I’ll have to try some other ideas having to do with cutting holes in the barn structure for extra windows and/or vents. Todd is reluctant to do that, though, because there aren’t really any eaves on the roof to keep the rain from seeping into any holes we make in the structure. I don’t blame him–we had a lot of water damage for that very same reason at our old house, and once mold sets into a structure, it’s not easy to rid the building of it; and I’m not trying to get my rabbits sick that way.

Trench Digging - Stone Family Farmstead

I wanted to cover the long trench with the boxes again to keep them from drying out too much before I could get back to them for more digging. Stay tuned for part 2 for the results!

Stay Tuned

I’ll be continuing to work on this issue and sharing along the way. The goal is to have a comfortable place for the rabbits to live during the high summer temperatures. It can get to be around 107-110 in these parts, so protecting their health and safety is going to be foremost this summer. Who knows, if I can get the temp down cool enough in the barn, I may be able to begin my chinchilla farming adventure—but that’s a story for another day!

Can You Help?

If you have had any success in cooling down a barn or other building in a simple way, please let us know. We would greatly appreciate having a pool of ideas to work from!

Shared at The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Good Morning Mondays, Tuesdays with A Twist, Maple Hill Hop, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Homestead Blog Hop, Our Simple Homestead Blog Hop, From the Farm, Front Porch Friday, Old Fashioned Friday, Simple Saturdays Blog Hop

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Kristi Stone

Kristi Stone

Honestly? I'm the author of this blog...sometimes. My family and I live in Sunny Southern California on a one acre hobby farm where we are working diligently to one day produce our dairy, eggs, and produce. That takes A LOT of work, so if you don't hear from me as soon as you'd like, give me a shout out in the comments and I'll chat back as soon as I can between the garden, goat kids, chickens, husband, human kids, and playing with my grandboy, Kieran. And in the mean time, if you'd like to see more frequently what goes on at our farm, please feel free to join my Facebook group (see the right column) where I am more active. I'd love to get to know you! 🙂
Kristi Stone

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  1. I have the same problem with my hen house and rabbitry. I let the water run in the garden until the hot water in the hose has circulated out. Then, spray the roof. The water coming off the roof will be too hot to touch. Keep spraying until the water runs cool. The temperature inside drops 10° even in the heat of the day. I do it at least twice a day on the hottest days.

    Can you put a different top on the hutches for summer? The solid top is holding body heat in and keeps air from circulating as well as it could.

    And ice. I froze two liter bottles of water and put them in each hutch.

    • I love the water idea, Robin. I wish we could do that, but in California, we are sort of limited on how much water we can allow to run off our gardens and all that because we are in a drought (what’s new, lol). I would definitely do it on 105+ days, though if I needed to.

      Actually, a funny thing about the hutches—we have one that has open walls (wood top, though) and the double hutch has a metal roof and wood walls, with only the front open. The enclosed hutch “rooms” end up cooler than the open one. I can totally see what you mean about the solid top holding in body heat though–that really makes sense.

      I’ve done the frozen ice thing, and I even froze some expired canned beans once and tried to get them to lay next to them. The rabbits sort of look at them as if they are alien intruders to their homes, lol. Silly bunnies!

      Thanks for the ideas, I’ll be thinking about the different hutch roof for sure if I can’t get things under control quickly.

  2. Planting trees closer to the barn would provide shade which would keep the sun from beating down on the barn. This would be a long term solution. When we raised rabbits we used water filled frozen litter bottles to keep the rabbits cool, we raised them on the ground. adding vents so the air can circulate can also help. I use a fan in our Workshop works great. Our outer barn buildings have trees surrounding them so keep them cool has never been a problem. Sometimes if you can leave the door open during the day that can also help.

    • How funny that you mentioned that Carole—my husband and I were just talking about where I should plant my 5 moringa tree saplings, and I chose to plant them on the sunny side of the barn just for that reason. For sure a long term solution, but quite viable. Leaving the doors open during the day is wonderful when it’s 90 or below, but after that, it’s just too hot. The man who lived her before planted 5 trees on the property, but only one near the barn. Unfortunately it’s not on the sunniest side of the barn, though.

      Our rabbits have no idea what to think about frozen water bottles. I swear I think my rabbits don’t realize they are rabbits, because I can’t get them to drink out of Lixit bottles either. LOL They love their fan/swamp cooler unit, but I think the solution for the humidity issue will be to allow the heat to escape out of the roof somehow, like you mentioned (about the vents). We are working up a plan of action for that this weekend.

      Thanks Carole, it really helps to hear what others are doing on their homestead. It makes me feel like I’m not in this alone!

  3. Here in Central Florida, some folks paint their roof white, to reflect the sun. It sounds like you are on the right track!
    Thanks for joining us at The Maple Hill Hop!

  4. My sister raised rabbits and in the summer to keep them cool, she would take plastic bottles fill with water, freeze them, then lay them in the pen with the rabbits, they would lay across them to stay cool, that worked for her

    • Thanks Nina! If I had a nickel for every time someone suggested that to me, I would be SO rich! I just wish my bunnies realized that water bottles=GOOD instead of being insulted by their presence when I put them into the hutch! Silly bunnies! Great idea, though, I just wish I could use it! 😀

  5. Sorry I have no ideas for you, but I love that you have bunnies and it’s great to hear your story! I hope burying the hose helps! I live in CA. too, so I know all about the drought business!!

    • Hi Pamela! I hope it works too! I think it will, but we’ll definitely have to tweak a few more things to make it comfortable. This drought sure does make you think about how to do things differently, doesn’t it? Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I have set a sprinkler on top of the barn (or shed or house:) and leave it up there for summer with a hose that is long enough for me to reach. Run it for a few minutes so the water that is sprinkling is actually cool. Let it sprinkle for just 5-10 min. Drops the temp inside quickly. You can do that a few times per day or at least in the heat of the day. Also, as far as the bunnies go: I save my gallon vinegar jugs, fill about 2/3 – 3/4 of the way with water and freeze. (regular milk jugs will split) You could put these in with them. They can get closer to or farther away depending if they are cool enough or too warm. If you have extra water bottles for them, you can freeze an inch or so of water in the bottom then fill with water so they have cold water to drink. Those couple of things aren’t really for the barn, but will help the bunnies. Also, wet burlap over the windows like a curtain helps a little. We are headed into triple digits for the next week and a half. Ugh! Keep well.

    • Thanks Lady Locust! Great idea about the vinegar jugs and the water bottles. I’ve never been able to get them to drink out of the Lixit-style water bottles, but I can probably put a few ice cubes in their water, I’ll bet they would like that. I love the idea for hosing down the barn, but in California that would be a huge no-no, unfortunately. 🙁 We are in a drought and I’m already paranoid about overwatering the garden! Burlap is an interesting idea! Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

      • I did think of one more thing. If you have bales of hay, you can stack them against the hottest side of the barn. It’s just good insulation. We are just north of you (in Oregon) and are headed into a 10 day forecast of triple digit weather. Keep cool.

        • Oh, Lady Locust, that is a fantastic idea! I was actually thinking of getting some hay delivered, but I wasn’t sure where to stack it. Thank you, and you guys keep cool too. I had no idea y’all ever had triple digits in Oregon!

  7. I can’t tell you these things are “tried and true”, because I haven’t tried them yet. But they are on my “to-do” list. I plan to paint the roof of my galvanized chicken barn with a a reflective white roof paint. I believe the walls (at least the south and west walls) are going to get a coat of white paint too. We installed two roof-mounted wind turbines in there already. On days when the wind blows, this helps. Unfortunately, the very hottest days tend to be still. We also intend to add screen doors to the south and north doors in the barn. We’ve noticed that even though all 4 windows are open all the time, it makes a huge difference if just one of the doors is also open.

    People who live year-round in RVs will sometimes build a carport- type shelter over their RV. This has the effect of keeping the direct sunlight off the RV in the summer. The same effect that mature trees would have, without waiting for them to grow. If you decide to try this, you might experiment with greenhouse shade cloth (remnants can be bought at a discount) before committing to a permanent structure.

    • Ahhh, Mel—painting the galvanized roof is a FANTASTIC idea. I don’t know that my barn or coop is covered with galvanized metal–I think it’s roofing material. I’m going to check today and see, and if so, I’m definitely using your idea. We have purchased a solar powdered attic fan for the barn instead of the wind turbines, probably for the reasons you mentioned (my husband did the research on that, so I’m not sure about that). I’m planning on planting some Moringa trees on the sunniest side of the barn to help block the summer afternoon sun, but that’s more long term because it would take a while for them to mature. I think that might be more conducive to our property than adding a carport, but I can completely see why that would work! Thanks for sharing your ideas, and for your visit!

  8. I saw the frozen water bottle suggestion has been made already. Even if rabbits don’t lay right next to the bottle, just being close to it makes a difference on hot days. You could plant a few rows of sunflowers or corn on the eastern and southern sides of the barn for now and plant some fast growing shade trees. Air circulation is going to be a key player too, if you can leave doors open. Good luck!

    • Great ideas, OlivYew! I didn’t realize that water bottles would help at all if the rabbits wouldn’t lay on them, so that’s good to know. Love the sunflowers and corn idea. I am able to leave doors open, only both of them are facing the sun (letting the sun into the barn) during different parts of the day. I sort of shift around which doors I leave open and when. Thanks for sharing!

  9. We use to raise meat rabbits but the heat was just too hard to manage. You have given me some great ideas, maybe we can get back to them. Thanks for sharing at Good Morning Mondays. Blessings

    • Hi Terri! There are lots of ways to keep rabbits cool. If yours were outdoor rabbits, you could use misters, fans (or a combination of the two, wet towels over the hutch/cage, and many people swear by water bottles in the cage and ice in the water (or frozen fruit). I usually relied on bringing the temps down versus food because my buns are not into eating when it’s hot. We used a really great fan/mister combo and that by far was THE BEST for bringing temps down for outdoor rabbits. Since ours are indoor now the rules are totally different!

  10. For our coop (hot in Boise!) we added some scrap fiberglass insulation right under the roof. Keeps it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. We added vents but we’re in a drier climate. I would also suggest to add shade too. Plant some bushes, fast growing trees, for some shade. That might help…

    • Thanks Nancy! The scrap fiberglass might be a consideration if our next few steps don’t bring the temps down enough. I really hate handling the stuff, but I may have to resort to that–and now that you mentioned that it has worked for you, it makes the idea a bit more worth handling it. Working on the shade part! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  11. We have had to resort to frozen water bottles to help keep our bunnies cool…but I can’t wait to see how this turns out!! thanks for adding it to From The Farm! Another great favorite!

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