Guest Post: Outfoxing Your Goats

If you're a goat owner, you know how hard it can be to keep your goats where they belong. Today we have a guest post by Liz Greene with tips on how to contain these wily escape artists. In honor of Leap Day, here's how to keep your goats from leaping over their fences.

A recent scientific study revealed something goat-owners have known for ages — goats are smarter than they look. Incredible long-term memory paired with a natural curiosity leads many a goat to trouble around the homestead — from breaking out of their pen to gorging on chicken feed. If your goats are intent on making mischief, consider the following tips in an effort to reign them in.

Keeping Them from Breaking Out

Goats aren’t the easiest animal to contain, so it’s important to get serious when fencing them. All fencing needs to be a minimum of four feet high — five if you have Nubians or highly active miniature breeds.There are three fencing types that work well for goats: multi-strand, high-tensile electric fencing and woven wire fencing.

For electric fencing, you’ll need a 4,000-5,000 volt charger. Proper wire spacing is incredibly important. If goats get their heads between wires and receive a shock behind the eyes instead of in front of them, they will push into the fence rather than pull out. Wires should be closely spaced — five to six wires spaced to an overall height of 48 to 60 inches. Goats are far more likely to go under a fence than over it, so you’ll need to place the bottom wire as close to the ground as possible — four to six inches should do it.

Woven wire fencing is a popular (and slightly expensive) choice. Rolls come in preselected lengths reach a height of around four feet tall. If you choose woven wire fencing, select the variety with four inch openings to keep your goats from getting their heads stuck in the fence.

Since goats tend to rub on walls and fences, your fence posts need to be extremely sturdy in order to keep everything standing. Use eight foot wooden or metal posts, spaced eight to ten feet apart, and buried at least two feet deep. Corner posts must be on the outside, as your goats will shimmy up a fence support in the blink of an eye.

The gate of your goat yard is where you’ll see some of that famous cleverness in action. Goats have been known to open hook and eye, lever, and bolt latches — so a padlock may be the best option to keep them in. Whatever type of latch you ultimately decide on, make sure to place it on the outside of the gate where the goats can’t reach it.

Keeping Their Gut Out of Trouble

Sometimes it seems our sweet, obstinate little friends don’t know what’s good for them — or rather, very, very bad for them. Goats have a strange love for chicken feed; and I say strange because it can prove fatal if they eat too much of  it.

Chicken scratch changes the Ph level in a goat’s rumen, causing painful bloat. The normal microbes in the rumen die, leaving bad microbes free to increase in number. These remaining microbes work on the feed to produce foam, which fills up the rumen and blocks the entrance to the esophagus, preventing the escape of gas. If this buildup of gas is not remedied, the goat can die.

There are a number of ways to prevent your goats from getting into the chicken feed:

       Keep it in a hanging feeder inside the chicken coop. Make sure the coop has openings just large enough for your chickens to get in and out, but small enough that goats can’t enter.
       When throwing out scratch for ranging chickens, keep goats separate until all feed has been eaten.
       Keep bags of chicken feel locked in a shed, barn, or garage that the goats do not have access to.

If your goat's left side is bulging, it’s lethargic, not eating, and it’s grinding its teeth, it may have bloat. In severe cases, a goat will lie down and not want to stand up again. Call your vet immediately.

Keeping Them from Destroying Your Trees

Goats love to browse and will damage (and eventually kill) your trees by eating the leaves and shoots, stripping the bark, and rubbing their horns on the trees. The best way to keep your trees healthy is by locating the goats’ pen as far away from them as possible. However, if you can’t isolate your trees, there are ways to protect them.

Tree bark protectors can be purchased from your local garden store to protect small trees and saplings. Larger trees can be goat-proofed by wrapping them with hardware cloth or window screen netting. Extend the wrapping up to the level that your largest goat can reach when standing with its front legs on the tree.

Goats brighten up many homesteaders’ lives with their lovable personalities and clever antics. Although they’re a handful — and more than a little hard to keep out of trouble — they’re well worth the effort it takes to raise them. Keep up the hard work, and when things get a little too crazy, just remember to take a deep breath.

Liz Greene is a dog-loving, beard-envying, pop culture geek from the beautiful city of trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch up with her latest misadventures on Instant Lo or follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene.

This post has been shared at some of my favorite blog hops.


My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a simple, self-reliant, God-dependent life. You can follow me at:
  Facebook | Pinterest | Subscribe via email 


  1. My goodness! I didn't realize they were so clever! Thanks, Liz, for sharing your solutions on this week's Maple Hill Hop!

    1. No problem, Daisy! Thanks so much for reading!

  2. Through your posts I learn lot of things about gardening, growing animals,looking forward to more posts, thanks for sharing this wonderful post with Hearth and soul blog hop.

  3. this is a really helpful post. We are getting goats in July and need to integrate them with chickens and geese. I didn't know about the chicken feed (I assume it's the same with goose feed as they are fairly similar). Thank you!

    1. I'm glad it was helpful, Kirsten. Yes, chicken feed (and I'm sure goose feed too) is very dangerous to goats. I'm thankful we helped you with that!


Thank you for stopping by. I hope you will leave a comment - I would love to hear from you. If you wish to email me instead, please click here. Thank you!