Converting A commercial Chicken House into a Horse barn

My husband and I just recently purchased his family farm that came with two commercial chicken houses.
We are planning to convert them into a horse barn/indoor arena. I breed, train and show miniature horses, but I do own a few big guys and would like for them to have stalls as well. Has anyone here by chance have pics of any other farms that were converted from chicken houses into horse barns? I’m interested in flooring suggestions, the best way to do the windows for the stalls, ventilation, etc. I am not interested in riding in the indoor, but do intend to use it to break the miniature horses to drive, do h/j with them and set a round pen up inside.
If anyone has any experience with this I would love to see pictures or chat about your experience with it.
*Edited to add- it has been scrapped out to the bottom, will be pressure washed, bleached and limed well before the horses are in.

What do you have left? A giant metal barn with a wide span and no internal partitions? That sounds fabulous.

I saw a Friesian breeding farm run by a man who did dairy cattle as his main thing. He had a big open metal barn and I think he had round pens with moveable panels set up inside. Larger than stalls. With Minis as you know the fences can be lower but need much less space between bars! I bet you could zap tie boards or wire if some kind to the bottom half of panels.

I think your biggest decision is whether you want to the stall spaces to be multi functional or if you are OK with Big Horse and Little Horse stalls. It will be more flexible if you can multipurpose everything.

A second decision is if you want horses to each have an individual stall or if you have room to put multiple horses in one enclosure. For me there’s a minimal size below which I think it’s dangerous to have two horses in the same paddock 24/7 but if I had a giant flexi space and compatible horses, I would consider letting them live in a herd in the largest space I could carve out. Especially minis because I think they can’t do as much damage to each other as 1250 lb brutes fighting to the death (I could be wrong).

As for indoor training space think about how much turning room you need for your carts. You likely want to max that out. And footing, I assume fairly firm sand? That will determine the amount of housing room you need.

Though if it’s your private place, there’s no reason the minis can’t just live in the arena in a herd most of the time. Lure them into feeding paddocks and do a quick poop scoop run before you work.

Of course I don’t know what your outdoor space and climate is like. Where I live in the PNW you need to stay off pasture in the winter or kill the grass and being able to hunker down inside a giant metal barn with dry covered turnout in rain and snow sounds wonderful.

1 Like

It is basically a giant metal barn with no partitions… it’s literally 40x500 ft of empty footing! I had thought about doing moveable panels but I have fortunately been able to get my hands on 15 miniature horse stalls (6x12’s) and am planning to do one side in the miniature stalls, and the other side in standard horse stalls, likely 12x12’s.
Each horse will definitely have their own stall as I have several studs and mares and a few 2 year olds. We had talked about doing a couple “turn out pens” on the inside but I’d mainly like to leave the opposite end of the barn as open as possible for driving and in hand stuff. But that will be able to be left pretty clear so if this winter it’s wet and nasty they definitely can be turned out in groups in the indoor and run around. Currently the footing is a clay based sort of footing inside. We will have turn out paddocks for groups of the minis also. I live in Eastern North Carolina so our winters are basically chilly and wet. Never super cold or snowy, just wet enough to be miserable and not want to slop through mud to feed everything or catch something!

That sounds fantastic!

Could you put your stalls in the middle and use the perimeter for driving / working horses?

I’ve been at barns that do that and leave one side more open for turning around in their carts and it was super handy.

We’re only going to put stalls on one end which will end up being less than 1/2 the house. So the other end will be 40’ wide so that shouldn’t be an issue to turn around in there. I’ve seen barns like that too and like them but I don’t think that is economically feasible for us unfortunately.

OP this sounds so cool. Would you mind posting pictures when youre finished setting up?

1 Like

I’ve often wondered about this myself. I live in a very large poultry area and my concern (when contemplating buying a property and trying this same thing) has always been the height of these buildings. At least here, they are rather low for horses. For minis that wont matter, but for your full sized guys it could be an issue. Perhaps utilize a portion of the center of one of the buildings for stalls for your big guys with smaller mini stalls on either side?

1 Like

What few things I have found from people that have done this before is that they dug the footing down to allow sufficient space for the big horses. I considered doing this for the big horse side digging down enough that I feel comfortable with them being stalled in there for safety reasons. I believe the aisle will be sufficiently high enough, it would just be where the stalls are.

For sure!

1 Like

Before you dig down for the horse stalls, make sure that drainage around the barn is set up sufficiently so that you are not going to have flooded stalls during a rain event.

I too am looking forward to photos. Be sure to take before, during and after photos. This is exciting!

Edit to fix bad typing.


This is a wild idea, but could you raise the height by disconnecting the barn from the ground, then putting in new supports, then sistering with the existing?

I mean, you’re talking $$. I don’t know how much $$, but probably not as much as a whole new building.

Just a crazy idea, I don’t know if it’s even possible!