Goats are very active farm creatures. They love to wander around, eat, lounge around chewing their cud, or finding stuff to head butt. They can be mischievous, especially when they are kids. Regardless of how much land you have for them to roam, they can become bored, but even more so if they have to be confined to a pen. Bored goats are unhappy goats and unhappy goats, like most farm animals, are less productive. Our goats have approximately one acre to roam, but they still grow restless sometimes. To combat this boredom we came up with a few tips to help your goats keep occupied, and not all of them are purely for entertainment purposes.
Goats love to scratch. They scratch their sides, they scratch their heads, they scratch their butts, and they will scratch their belly if they can find something to rub them on. Having a nice, rough log lying around in their pen will give them something to rub their sides and bellies on. One of our goats favorite things to do after we let her off the milking stand is to go straight to the log we keep in their pen and start rubbing her belly on it. She loves it!
We threw the goats hay out in a trough for a long time but what we found was that the goats would immediately jump up in the trough, step all over their hay with their dirty little goat hooves, poop on it, and then refuse to eat it. As you can imagine this was unhealthy for the goats, wasted a lot of expensive hay and alf alfa, leaving them nothing to browse on throughout the day. While there is nothing you can do to prevent goats from wasting hay our hay feeder that we designed and built has reduced the waste, keeps the hay up where the goats can’t trample it, and, by keeping more of the hay edible, gives them something to browse on throughout the day if they become tired of the plants, weeds, and grass around the yard. Another bonus to this feeder is that it can be out in the open and still keep their hay nice and dry in the rain.
Goats, especially those that can not free range, have important mineral needs that vary from goat to goat and from day to day. Goats are very adept at knowing just what their bodies need in terms of minerals so having various types of mineral blocks available for them free-choice is not only great for keeping them occupied but also healthy. We have a mineral block (make sure that you check the labels to make sure that it is ok for goats, some are not), a sulfur block, and a salt block. Our goats are allowed to free range and with the wide variety their diet gives them they don’t feel the need to use the mineral blocks often but they do use them on occasion. Mineral blocks are cheap, can be found at the feed store, and, if kept out of the rain, will last a long time making this a cheap and easy decision.
A Strong Wall
As I mentioned before, goats love to scratch. We have found that our goats love to scratch their heads often as well as lightly head butt things. Our goats prefer to stand on their milk stands when we are not out there and just head butt their milk stands. You can often hear them from inside the house if you are at the back of the house where their pen is located. It can be comical to watch them just standing there head butting the stand over and over again. Sometimes they pick the side of the house as their head butting wall which is considerably louder and not as entertaining for those of us inside.
Goats, similar to deer, are browsers. They like to munch on various weeds, bushes, trees, leaves, and occasionally grass. If your goats do not have access to trees, the next time you are trimming branches throw some in the goat pen. It is a wonderful treat for your goats and they will love you for it.
A Goat Playground
This may not be an option for everyone and I can certainly understand that, but if you have the room a goat playground is a great way to keep your goats entertained for hours on end. I found our particular goat playground when someone tore their child’s wooden swing set down and decided to dispose of it. Some of the swing set was in less than desirable condition but there was plenty of wood left to build my own goat playground. I used some of the swing set hardware along with some from my stash in my shop. The swing set was free so this project cost me nothing. I see wooden swing sets like this listed on local for sale/free websites and Craigslist from time to time so if you are patient and look hard enough you can likely score one for cheap or free like me. I set it up in the area where the goats are turned out during the day. They love to climb it and then challenge one another for the “king of the hill”. They charge up and down the ramp and will push each other off the ramp and the lower platform. They also love to climb to the top and lay out in the sun during the day.
As a bonus, if you have space constraints and you are raising both goats and chickens you can combine the two. Create a chicken coop that is sturdy enough to hold the goats and build them a ramp to climb up on the coop. With a little ingenuity you could create a wonderful space that goats and chickens alike would enjoy. A word of caution though, make sure that you do not put anything that goats can climb on too close to their fences as it will create an escape route for them. They will jump from high objects to clear a fence and get out.
Do you have any additional tips to entertain your goats or keep them healthy? We’d love to hear from you. Have a great day and God bless!