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Housing & Fencing for Goats

Housing


Certain considerations should be made when deciding on what type of housing and bedding to use for your goats.
  1. How accessible is it to you for cleaning, feeding, etc?
    1. Are you ok with bending down to clean out a doghouse sized shelter?
    2. Do you want to be able to stand up inside the shelter?
  2. How much room will the goat have to move around if it becomes stuck in the shelter for an extended amount of time due to weather conditions?
    1. 15-20 square feet for a standard size goat and 8-10 square feet for dwarf breeds is a good approximate shelter per goat.
    2. If goats have pasture during the day they can be crowded a little more than that but be careful if you live in a Northern clime that may “trap” the goats indoors for extended periods of time. Goats will become restless and stressed if crowded inside for too long of a period of time. And stressed goats get sick very easily.
  3. Is there room for a feeder, hay feeder and water device inside the housing? This becomes especially in extreme climates in the North.
  4. Is electricity available to the shelter?
    1. In Northern climes, it freezes which means that waterers are going to freeze. You can deal with this by adding heated waterers or heating elements to your buckets if you have electricity available to you. Be cautious about running extension cords as goats may chew on them. Extension cords can also become a fire hazard – talk to your local fire station to obtain more information on how and why they cause so many fires.
    2. If electricity isn’t available and you’re in a Northern clime then you’ll need to figure out an alternative for dealing with frozen waterers. You could haul water to the shelter several times a day. Some herd owners have had success with making straw insulated waterers where two different sized buckets are used placing the smaller one inside the larger and packing the area between the 2 with straw. Others have built successful solar powered troughs – there are several plans online to do this.
  5. Is there enough ventilation to prevent ammonia fumes from building up in the shelter?
    1. You do not want an airtight shelter. Good airflow is important. Drafts are bad.
  6. Do you have the ability to elevate feeders and waterers so that the goats do not soil them?
    1. Placing these just above rump level of adults in your herd seems to be a good height. Many goat owners will mount them higher still and place a concrete block below them so that the goats must put their front feet on the block to reach their head into the feeder / waterer.
  7. What type of flooring?
    1. Dirt – Should be packed tightly. As long as there is good drainage dirt is a good option for any clime.
    2. Concrete – In Northern climes concrete gets pretty cold, so it may be best suited for warmer climes. It should also be etched to provide good footing without having a slippery surface.
    3. Compressed Limestone – Has the durability of concrete with excellent drainage ability. It will also assist in keeping ammonia odors at a minimum.
    4. Stone – Size matters. Choose stone that is not so small that it will get stuck in hooves while not so large that it is uncomfortable to stand / lay on.
    5. Sand – Probably better suited to warmer climes as it will freeze in Northern climes making for a colder and uncomfortable environment.
    6. Clay – Similar properties to concrete.
    7. Wood – Not really a good option in my opinion as it is prone to rot and hold onto urine / ammonia
  8. What type of bedding will you use?
    1. Pine Shavings – Make sure that they are dust free. We find that pine shavings work very well under chopped straw as bedding, especially in kidding pens.
    2. Pine Needles – If you have a lot of pine trees, this may be a good free option for you. Just collect the dropped and dried pine needles and bed your goat shelter with them.
    3. Straw – Straw comes in many varieties (oat, wheat and more). While you can use it as is, we find that chopped straw is more absorbent and effective. You can easily chop it by running it through a wood chipper / mulcher or putting it onto dry ground and running your push mower over it quickly. Then store it in old feed bags in a dry location until needed.
    4. Waste Hay – Many goat owners simply allow the hay wasted by goats that falls out of their hay feeder to stay on the floor and be used as bedding.
    5. Pelleted Horse Bedding – These work similarly to pine shavings as they are just compressed and pelleted versions of the same. Make sure that you follow manufacturer’s directions in how to “wet” the pellets so that they expand and your goats don’t think that they are food.
    6. Rubber Stall Mats – A great option if you are able use them. They are relatively easy to remove from the shelter to hose down as needed. I would recommend covering them with another type of bedding though.
    7. Peanut Hulls – If you are able to obtain large quantities of peanut hulls cheaply or free this could be a great option for you. Just be aware that your goats may eat a good portion of their “bedding” until they start urinating and defecating on it.

Fencing


The height and type of your fencing depending on these two main criteria – the size of your goats (dwarf or standard) and what predators are in your area. Goats are quite nimble and can easily jump a five (5) foot fence if they really want to. If you have large cat predators, you will want to go with a ten (10) foot high fence with an electric top line. Electric is the best option if you have bears as predators. Most fence options, if properly installed and maintained will protect your goats from canine (dog, coyote or wolf) predators.

After you’ve determined where you’ll put your goats and what height of fence you’ll be putting up based on your predators you’ll need to choose a type of fencing. What are your fencing options?

  1. Livestock or cattle panels are the sturdiest option available as they will not bow or bend. Care should be taken to make sure that the holes of these panels don’t allow your goats to stick their heads / bodies through where they could become stuck or injured. In the case of dwarf breed goats, make sure that the holes aren’t big enough to let kids slip right through.
  2. Electric fencing is often a good option if you’re not in drought conditions. A minimum of 3 strands should be used although 5 are considered a better option by most. Be sure that your lowest strand doesn’t allow enough room for your goats to go under the fence and your highest strand doesn’t allow them to jump over it.
  3. Field fencing is generally considered fine for most herds. Make sure that you get a good woven wire as welded wire fencing doesn’t hold up as well to the abuse that goats tend to put onto it. A minimum height of 5 feet should be considered with field fencing and it should be pulled as tight as possible.
  4. Chainlink is a wonderful option for goat fencing if you can afford it. It takes abuse from rubbing well and doesn’t sag. The biggest concern that should be mentioned if you choose this route is to make sure that you add both a top and a bottom bar to the fence as there is a lot of give at these spots. Your goats will figure out quickly that they can go under the fence if you skip this precaution.
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great for people who are getting goats
this is a great article for people like us who are new to the goat business.
Very good article for beginner goat keepers.
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