Barn Thieves: Beware Marauding Goat Herds

Reader Contribution by Maggie Bonham
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I had fed and watered the goats and was now collecting eggs from the chickens when I heard a rattle. It sounded like the doorknob to the back door of the barn. Suddenly, the door was flung wide open and in came eight goats. Before I could get out of the chicken pen, the goats everywhere in the barn. Belle flipped open the grain bin and was merrily munching on sweet feed. The rest of the goats were stationed along the hay bale stacks and were pulling mouthfuls of hay out of the hay bales.

When faced with so many goats being naughty the only thing you can do is take a deep breath and start moving goats out of the barn one at a time. They’re not like sheep where if you tell them to go someplace and drive them, they’ll generally go. So wrangling goats can be a bit crazy. I pulled the closest goats off the hay and pushed them out the back door. I went down the line, pulling determined goats off the hay and out of the feed until they were all back in the goat pen. Then, I closed my eyes and took several calming breaths.

I had caught them before any real damage had been done. Besides eating up all the food for the winter, (you don’t think a goat wouldn’t do that?) a goat can literally die from eating too much food. After overeating, a goat can get bloat, which can kill her. The rumen is the part of the goat’s digestive system that can bloat. Goats with bloat look huge on their left side where the rumen is and are obviously in pain. They kick at their rumen and grind their teeth (not to be confused with the natural act of ruminating).

Trick to Avoid Goat Bloat

The trick is to feed them baking soda along with vegetable oil and anti-gas medicine. Dosing goats are oh so joyful because inevitably the goat doesn’t want to be dosed, and you end up in a tussle. Wear your ratty clothes and have a handler present. You can give pills via the mouth (called boluses, for those who were curious) and you can feed liquids (drench) through either a drenching gun or use a big syringe and squirt it in their mouths. Expect to be covered in whatever you drench with. Yuck.

The better way is to prevent your goats from getting into the feed, so you don’t have this problem. That means not only goat feed, but chicken feed, horse feed, or whatever else. No matter how clever you think you are at containing their feed, go the extra mile and really keep them from it. Lock doors and look for ways to get in or out. Goats are clever and can climb. Boy, can they climb! There are photos of feral goats on literal toe-holds on cliffs and on tops of trees.   I’ve heard of one person whose goats actual climbed scaffolding to get out of the barn from the open top window. They analyze your defenses and take advantage of them.

In my first blog post I talked about Annie, one of my first goats, whom the owner traded for 4 chickens because she was a bit of an escape artist. The truth is all goats are capable of being escape artists, and if you’re not willing to give them a good solid barrier, you’ll have goat mayhem.

I suspect it was Annie who opened the barn door with her horns.

My solution was simple. I locked the backdoor. When I told my husband about the goat escape the next day, he suggested we put a bar on the door to prevent any further openings. 

Yep, that’ll probably work.