How to Build a Hybrid Stall – (And Everything Inbetween)

I  used to have two 8×8 box pens on the back side of my barn. That’s the key word here: used to. They’re gone – I ripped them out last week. Needless to say the bovines have been banned from the barn – a fact which they are NOT happy with. At least they have the old barn to shelter in and I’m so glad Dad built me a manger box in there – it’s come in handy for their flakes of hay every morning and night. But you’d think that if I wanted to change designs I would have thought to do it during the summer – when the weather is pleasant. I’ve got wind burns on my cheeks from working out in the wind so long.

Before I began remodeling, the two pens were built of cattle panel. Each pen had a pallet gate, and another pallet gate connected the two pens. With my super fence pliers (they’re bright yellow!) I cut my panels in 4′ sections (my pallet gates are close to four feet wide). And I attached them to T-posts pounded in the ground – most of them I had spaced out 4′, but for where the cows stuck their heads through an opening I had cut so they could drink from their water bucket which was outside the fence, I added an extra T-post at the two foot mark for added support. The pens lasted a long time. But they were starting to look pretty crappy. Bent and misshapen from cows leaning/rubbing their shoulders on them, I kept tying them up with twine. And it was starting to look really bad tied up with all that twine. More like a spider web gone haywire!

Cleaning them is another reason why I decided to change designs. I use a huge amount of bedding to comfortably cover the 8×8 pens. And since the bovines lay wherever they want to, they make messes all over the place instead of in just one area. Plus, with the panels sitting flush with the ground, the soiled bedding built up and got stuck in the 8″ spaces. It wasn’t very easy mucking out both pens when weather conditions were minus fifteen and cow patties frozen solid.

With my previous layout, hay waste was also an issue. Gosh! It’s so incredibly frustrating to feed them and have the cows dump/fling more than half their hay on the ground, where they proceed to poop and pee and sleep on it! I buy my hay. And to find excellent quality second cut hay it costs me a pretty penny which is why I’m frustrated it ends up being used as expensive bedding.

original pens

So. I decided a new, hopefully more efficient design was in order. After spending several days measuring, thinking, tossing ideas back and forth, drawing ideas on paper, searching the web for detailed plans, browsing forums for added input and photos – my project has now been under construction for 8 days. When one isn’t a carpenter the going is veeeerrrryyyy slow.

Digging post holes was the first step. But it was a DAUNTING first step. Gravel and dirt had mixed like cement and it wasn’t just one post hole we had to dig. There were THREE of them. Yet, we did it: three post holes, all 2 feet deep.

Once the holes were dug we leveled our 2×6’s and screwed the tops in to the joist beam below the barn rafters. It took a lot of monkeying them back and forth, and lifting them in and out of the holes to get the accurate measurement. Each post is exactly 4 feet apart on center.

barn project 2Next we attached the 8-footers. The upright posts we salvaged from our wood pile – they have sat outside in all kinds of weather. Being pressure treated they are still solid and except for a few minor dings are otherwise in really good condition. When we began to screw in the 2×4’s we thought for sure we had goofed up somewhere with our pole measurements because the boards were off by an inch! But then we discovered that the 8-footers were warped. Brand new from the hardware store. Perhaps it’s because they are still green.

The bottom 2×4 is raised off the ground 6″ on the left side – the ground slopes at an angle so to level it we needed to raise it by several inches. Also, having it off the ground will make it much easier to clean the pens.



The first stage completed we moved on to the next step: building the stalls themselves. SpiritedRose had a detailed diagram of her stall design but it wasn’t quite how I wanted mine. {To see her design click here:}

I’m going to call mine a Hybrid Stall – because it’s a modification of two stall designs. 🙂 There are probably more designs out there but the basic three stall types are: box stall, free stall and tie stall.

A Free Stall is an individual stall where the cow sleeps/rests. Her feed/hay/water is in a different location.

A Tie Stall is where the cow is confined to it’s individual stall with a collar and lead, and this is where she sleeps and eats. Her feed is fed in front of her stall.

Both have pros and cons, and there are lots of things to consider as far as cleanliness, comfort and care. I liked aspects of both designs. So I combined the two. During the summer the cows are out on pasture all the time, and unless the weather is bad, they don’t come in the barn. They use the run-in. The only time they come in is when I milk. During the winter though I would like to be able to tie them at night, (during the days they can go outside if they wish and they usually do unless it’s absolutely bitterly freezing) that way I might have fewer messes to muck out. But since my barn is only 16’x24′ space is limited – I have to work with what I have – so I opted to build stalls where I can tie them at night, yet they still have access to shared water with individual hay feeders built in the front corners. My hope is that, with coaxing and routine, the bovines will learn whose stall is whose and eat from their own feeders. My great uncle’s Jerseys knew which stall was their’s so I’m pretty sure Briar and Boaz will learn it eventually. 🙂

The girls weren’t sure why I was following them around with a yellow tape measure (and they surely did NOT like that yellow tape measure 😀 ) but I finally got them to stand still long enough for me to measure their length from mid neck to tail head. Once I got the measurement we decided to build the box frame 5’x8′ – figured it was easier to cut it shorter than to glue pieces on to make it longer.

For better drainage and because cows like to lie with their front end higher than their hindquarters (helps when they lunge forward) we graded the ground so that it sloped down toward the back of the barn. Had to use a pick axe to chop/loosen the dirt/gravel/stone in those pens! Man, it was solid.

Level and square we then attached our angled dividers. Each stall now measures 4’x5′.

Left Stall:

stall 2


Right Stall:

stall side view


This was the easy part compared to building those feeders. The feeders were harder. I almost think building a simple box feeder would’ve been easier than fussing with angles. But we persevered!

There were some old corner shelves in my parents storeroom that they weren’t using so we used those as the base of our feeder – to catch/hold the hay. Each shelf measures 20.5″x20.5″x29″. We cut an angled board 18.5″ as a support which we toenailed to our angled dividers. Another board, cut 18.5″ came out directly underneath our top 2×6. A 30 1/4 inch board we screwed into the angled divider to be the frame, to which I attached my 24″ wide length of cattle panel. The spaces are 8″ and wide enough for the cows to stick their noses in and pull bits of hay out.

feeder front

better corner view

And here is the finished feeder:



corner feeder completed

I have yet to test it out, see if all my hard work pays off – but the stalls are finished! Hoorah! 10 days on the job and it’s done. Started out fun, as any new project does, but towards the end the prospect of traipsing back to the barn to screw, saw and measure more boards was a very gloomy prospect indeed. Latches have to be built for both gates and I have to attach leads to each stall but the bulk of the work is completed and boy am I so glad! That it’s done but also that we actually built this ourselves. Mighty fine feeling. 🙂

finished stalls



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