The principle for housing goats on a microholding is that same as that for pigs: they don’t need much space, but they do need entertainment. And when I say ‘entertainment’, I’m referring to company, playthings and general stimulation, rather than plasma TVs or board games. Or clowns. I hate clowns almost as much as spiders!
Company is the most important stimulation of all, which is why you should never buy a single goat, unless it’s going to be put with similar creatures (cows, sheep, that sort of thing) or kept in your house. With you. Both together, all day everyday. This is why the best option for a microholding is to buy a doe with a female kid. Actually, the best-er option would be two kids, male and female – that way you’ll have something for the table in a few months as well. Bonus. But the female kid can be reared as a companion to her mum, and as a breeding doe in her own right.
In order to house this number of goats (two does minimum, two does and four kids maximum) you’re looking at getting something at least 8′ x 6′. By something, I just mean a shed – there’s no need to try and track down some specialised goat shelter or anything. A shed will do. Grab one off eBay or via Freecycle or something. I started off with two does, which I housed in an old 6′ x 4′ shed, but it was only temporary.
The goat enclosure took up the space down the side of my house, an area roughly 4.5m x 7m. This was really quite a lot bigger than it needed to be, and in time I also kept rabbits and chicken on the same plot. An important thing to take into account, when locating your goat enclosure, is that goats will nibble at any hedges, flowers or trees that are within reach. The same goes for washing, so keep it away for your line as well as your precious plum tree.
You’ll need to fence them off to keep them from such targets, as well as from wandering into the road or your neighbours vegetable patch. In the photos above and below, you’ll see I used both normal fence panels (4 and 4 foot high) and a combination of post and rail with stock fencing. Both worked fine – the goats never escaped or even attempted.
Once the does were in kid, I concreted over most of the area, leaving a patch of grass at the end that opened onto the garden. Once the concrete was in place, I demolished the old shed, replacing it with a 12’x8′ one, half of which was used as the goats’ living quarters, while the other half housed equipment, hay and straw.
Which brings us to another factor for keeping goats: they need hay and straw. There’s no getting away from it – you won’t be able to feed them with sufficient greenery on a microholding. We don’t have the luxury of fields filled with grass, so we have to buy it in and store it somewhere on site. Of course, you could just buy a bale at a time, as and when you need it, but I like to get it cheap, which means buying bulk. I used to keep a horse box on the road filled with hay, but the police told me I had to move it. They then told me that just moving it a short distance up the road was not exactly what they meant, so that was the end of my handy storage. Hence the big shed!
In the shed, you’ll need a hayrack for them to eat out of. Don’t fall into the trap of shoving a few slats of wood half way up the wall to dump hay in. I tried that and unfortunately this won’t work for goats, because they’re fussy and very wasteful. When they pull out the hay, they drop half of it on the floor while they eat it and goats NEVER EAT OFF THE FLOOR! Instead, you’re going to need to build something that will catch the dropped hay so it’s kept off the floor and will get eaten. Annoying, but that’s how it is. So much for goats eating everything!
The additional ‘entertainment’ was provided by children playing in the garden, chickens loose around the area and the wooden cable reel, modelled in this photo by a young female kid – goat’s love them for some reason!
- Goats need company and stimulation to stop them getting bored
- Goats don’t need much space (a couple of square metres per goat will suffice)
- Fence off any areas you don’t want to goats to get into – 5 foot high should be fine
- You can house goats in a standard shed – 8’x6′ works for two does (plus any kids)
- The storage of hay and straw will need consideration, unless you buy as you use it
For more information, check out the DEFRA website here: https://www.gov.uk/sheep-and-goat-welfare
Next time: Feeding Your Goats