With some space, patient neighbours, and a sense of humour, you could keep backyard goats for milk, meat, skin or companionship.
Goats? You want GOATS? Don’t they eat tin cans and jump on cars and do all that crazy stuff?
That’s the reaction you’re going to get if you tell people you’re considering backyard goats.
In truth, it’s not complicated or dangerous, and their reputation for eating and destroying everything is undeserved. There are some important do’s and don’ts of goat keeping, and you’ll enjoy them a lot more if you pay attention to these.
There are practically no sanitary or hygiene issues for your community if you have a couple of backyard goats, so long as you know the basics of caring for them. There are three hundred distinct breeds of goats that have been domesticated for their milk, meat, skin, hair, and companionship. All of them are harmless and do not pose any deadly threat to people.
Okay, perhaps there is one threat – they can be noisy.
When goats are looking for either food or attention, they make an incessant bleating that does bother many people. It’s their way of communicating with people and with each other, and they’re as persistent as any three year old child who wants a cookie.
“Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy …”
But let’s say you have enough distance between you and your neighbours, or you are surrounded by people who love goats, and you want to start raising goats in your backyard.
You can do this!
You Need a Fence for Goat Keeping
Yes, you need a fence. But …
Some goats are jumpers.
We had one little one we called Houdini. She could leap six feet up from a standing position – something we didn’t think possible until we watched her do it. She could also get through the tiniest gap in the bottom of the fence. Our pasture was surrounded by thick rosebushes and blueberry plants, so she couldn’t go very far. However, someone had to go after her, and that wasn’t a lot of fun. We sold her after about a month because no one wants to go hunting through thorn bushes twice a day after an escapee goat.
And even our more agreeable goats jumped the fence at times.
But you do need a fence around your backyard goat shelter set to at least 4′ tall and with no openings large enough for a goat kid to get through. The easiest and most cost effective way to fence pasture for goats is to put up solar powered electric fencing. Don’t use it if you have children around, though.
Keep in mind, though, that a fence will only keep in a goat that wants to be kept in.
That’s advice given to me by an Old Order Mennonite friend with thirty years’ experience keeping goats, and my own experience confirmed it. Keep their enclosure interesting and enjoyable if you want your goats to stay inside.
You Need Multiple Goats
Goats do make great companion animals for horses, but generally if you have a goat, you’re going to want to have another goat. They are social pack animals, and don’t do well when they’re alone.
In fact, being apart from their herd can put a goat off its feed.
It will also make your goat very loud, and they’ll jump any fence they can manage. We had a goat that reliably stayed in the pasture and never caused us problems – until we separated her from her kid. Suddenly she was leaping high buildings.
You Need a Watering System for Your Backyard Goats
Goats eat shrubs and bushes.
Contrary to myths, they don’t eat much grass. If you want a lawnmower with four legs, you want sheep.
But more than that, goats need a lot of water. They’re very fussy about their water, so it has to be kept fresh and clean at all times. Having a supply of fresh water for them is important if you don’t want to be hauling buckets of it several times a day.
An automatic waterer is what we used with ours, and it worked well.
Even with that, they’ll back up to it and leave droppings in the water, so be sure to clean it out regularly.
Once you’ve gone to all of that effort, what do you get in exchange?
Well, if you’re raising goats for milk or hair, there’s that.
And if you’re raising them for meat (which you’ll likely do with at least some of the male kids anyway), there’s that.
But goats are funny and adorable. They all have their own very distinct personalities. Baby goats are like extremely energetic puppies. Even male goats are far more pleasant than their reputation says. A gentle-tempered line will produce gentle-tempered males.
Since they are social pack animals, if you’re accepted as part of their pack, they’ll always be happy to see you.
Give them some love and they’ll love your right back. It’s a good trade.0