What to Do About Escaping Goats
One thing that almost everyone knows about goats is that they are excellent escape artists. They are incredibly agile, and they love to test boundaries. But for safety, goats kept as livestock cannot be left to wander the wilderness, so you must keep them adequately contained and housed.
How do goats escape, and what can be done about it? Because of their mountain-climbing ancestors, goats are incredibly agile and athletic. They most commonly escape containment by climbing, jumping, or crawling under fences. To remedy the situation and keep the goats penned, adequate fencing must be installed, with a height of at least 5′, small spacing, and sturdy fence posts. Electric fencing is also an excellent aid when fencing goats.
You may be reading this because you are considering bringing goats to your homestead, and you must prepare for their antics. Or you may be reading this because you already have goats, and you’re having trouble keeping them contained. Either way, you can read further to learn how goats tend to escape most often and the steps you can take to keep your goats safe and secure.
Goats Are Escape Artists
Goats are remarkably agile. They are also very intelligent. These two attributes combine to create clever, formidable escape artists. Goats have evolved over the centuries to find safety in the most challenging terrain. The goats who could not climb steep mountains were fair game to predators, leaving the survivors learning to navigate the rocky, dangerous terrain from birth. With actual mountain climbers as ancestors, our domestic goats can quickly overcome an inadequate fence. Here are the most common ways goats escape and how to prevent them.
How Goats Escape #1: Goats Jump Or Climb Over Fences
It’s not surprising to hear that goats are such excellent climbers. This alone makes it challenging to keep them fenced in. While some goats are comfortable staying in a pen with 4′ fencing, the recommendation is 5′ fencing to deter the more curious of the herd. Unfortunately, fence height is just one of the many things to consider when trying to stop escaping goats.
The anatomy of a goat’s hoof allows it to utilize the smallest ledges to move up and over an obstacle. For this reason, it is recommended that if your fence uses horizontal boards, they be on the outside of the mesh or wire you are also using so that a goat hoof cannot find a grip on them.
To learn more about the best fencing for goats, visit my article Best Types of Fencing for Goats: Goat Care Guide.
How Goats Escape #2: Goats Crawl Under Fences
You don’t just need to be careful about the height of the fence – you also must consider the space between the bottom of the fence and the ground. Remember, goats are incredibly agile, not limited to their abilities to jump and climb. They are also adept at crawling; many escape artists ditch the pen by going right under the fence. To avoid this, you will need to be intentional about ensuring the gap between the ground and the fence is smaller than the size of the goat’s head. This can be challenging if you have a pasture or field that could be more perfectly level and may require a bit of creativity.
How Goats Escape #3: Goats Go Through Fences
Goats also can slip right through fences. If they can get their head through it, they can get their body through it. Depending on the fence panels you are using, your goat may end up slipping through the fence. Your fence panels should have openings no larger than a goat’s head, and most goat fences will have 4″ square openings.
Will Electric Fences Prevent Goats From Escaping?
Electric fences are the most effective tool for keeping a crafty goat confined. To be most effective, you can run a strand across the top of the fence, the middle of the fence, and also at the bottom. Unfortunately, the only way for the goats to learn to respect the wire is for them to test it. Do your research on the best chargers and fencing for goats – you want a shock significant enough to give them second thoughts but not to cause them harm. Electric fencing is also relatively inexpensive and can come with solar chargers if you cannot access electricity easily.
Additional Considerations To Prevent Escaping Goats
In addition to preventing your goat from climbing over or crawling under your fences, there are a few other measures that you can take to keep your goats safely confined.
Remove Launching Pads
Goats are not only agile but very intelligent. You will want to move any object away from the fence that your goats can use to jump over. You can have the most robust, most secure 6′ fence imaginable, but if you have a 3′ tall structure a few feet from the boundary line, your goat can hop right over that big, sturdy fence from the 3′ platform. If there is anything in your goat’s pen that can be climbed or jumped on, you can assume that your goats will figure this out. Move the “launching pads” from the fence line to the middle of the pen.
To learn more about why goats jump, visit my article Why Do Goats Jump? Goat Jumping Behavior Guide.
These intelligent goats can quickly figure out how to open a hook and eye closure, a traditional gate latch, or even a bolt. To goat-proof your pen gate, install the gate fastener to the outside of the gate, so the goat has a more challenging time reaching it. In addition, you may choose to use a padlock or some other security measure.
Properly Secure Fence Posts
Your enclosure is only as strong as your fence posts. Whether you are using wooden posts or T-posts, make sure that you bury them adequately and securely, especially at the corners where they are most vulnerable. Speaking of corners – make sure that your wire or mesh fencing is on the inside of your corner post so that your goats cannot use the horizontal boards that run perpendicular to one another to climb right over.
Super Escapees: Horned Goats
When discussing goat enclosures and escape preventions, it’s important to bring up horned goats. If your goat has horns, you will need to take additional precautions, both for your goat’s safety and also to keep the pen secure.
The gaps and grid squares in the fencing are significant regarding horned goats. If a horn gets caught in the fence, the goat is exposed to the elements, predators, dehydration, and stress. A goat stuck in the fence can succumb to these dangers before they are even discovered. It’s crucial that if you keep a breed of horned goats, you are especially cautious about this.
In addition to being a safety concern, goat horns can also be used as tools. While not common, there are anecdotes of goats using their horn tips to pull down electric wires, as the electricity will not affect the horn tissue. They can also use them to lift fence panels and move small structures to the fence line. Take care with an especially clever escape-motivated goat, especially if they have horns.
(Really) Super Escapees: Bucks
When it comes to escape attempts, you may notice a difference between a docile doe, wether, and a motivated buck. Bucks really have one job in life: to fertilize as many does as they can. If you breed your goats and keep a buck, notice when your does are in heat. If your buck is close enough to sense this, he will be highly motivated to escape his pen. A highly motivated buck can be one of the hardest goats to keep secured.
Keeping Goats Fenced Requires The Right Set-Up
Keeping goats secured is no easy task, thanks to their curious natures, streaks of independence, and high intelligence. This feat can become even more challenging when you consider the over-eager buck and the horns that can be used as tools. To keep goats safe and accounted for, you must have fences at the right height, gaps smaller than your smallest goat’s head, and, if necessary, hot wire deterring your goat from further testing boundaries. The thought of adequately preparing for the escape attempts of your goats may seem daunting, and for that, seeking advice and expertise from experienced goat farmers in your area may help. Keep in mind that once effective physical boundaries are installed, you will feel peace knowing that your goats are secure and safe.
When it comes to protecting your goats, adequate fencing is your most effective option. The good news is that goats do have natural ways they can protect themselves or escape from predators if need be. To learn more about how goats protect themselves, visit my article How Goats Protect Themselves.