What You Need to Know About Screaming Goats
Just as cute cat videos are a hallmark of YouTube, so are videos of screaming goats. There is a reason these videos have gone viral – it can be a bit surprising to hear a screaming goat if you have never heard the sound before. So what is behind this behavior?
Why do goats scream? Goats “bleat” as a means of communication. Goats may bleat to express impatience, as a way of calling to one another when they are scared or even when they are bored. Just as humans have individual ranges in their vocalizations, so do goats. Some goats may have a louder bleat than others, and this can sound similar to a human screaming or yelling.
Let’s look further into some of the most common reasons your goat may be bleating (or screaming).
Goats Scream To Express Impatience
You may hear your goat bleating when they are feeling impatient – especially when feeling impatient for food. Just as your dog will whine when it is dinner time, or your horse may whinny when she sees you heading to the hay barn, goats get excited to eat too!
Goats are highly intelligent, and they will know when it is feeding time. As feeding time approaches, they will likely head to the fence and call for you – yelling to make sure you don’t forget! If you are late feeding them, their polite calls may become louder, making their impatience and frustration known. Goats live to eat, and it is not easy to ignore a hungry goat.
How can you keep your goats from becoming impatient?
If your goats are bleating in anticipation of feeding time, the most effective way to curb this behavior is to have as regular a feeding time as possible. Choose a time of day that will allow you to be as consistent as possible and try to stick to it. If you get home from work between 4:00 and 5:30 in the evening, make dinner time at 6:00 to give yourself room in case you hit traffic. If you feed them breakfast before you leave for work in the morning at 7:00, it would be best if you fed them at 7:00 on weekend mornings as well, otherwise they may wake you (and your neighbors) if you sleep in.
Not only do goats anticipate their normal feed times, they will also anticipate treats if you often provide them snacks when visiting. If you regularly have a treat in your pocket when you visit the goat pen, they will begin anticipating this and will call out to you in excitement when they see you approaching. How do you discourage your goats from bleating for treats? The only way to discourage this behavior is to limit the treats. You may also try giving them treats after you visit them, but of course they may simply start screaming at you when you are on your way out.
It’s also important to note that bleating kid (baby goat) could make these vocalizations when they are hungry. If you have a kid goat that constantly seems to be screaming, it can be a sign that their mother is not allowing them to nurse.
Goats Scream To Call To One Another
Goats are social animals, and will become stressed out when they are isolated from the herd. When they are separated, they will bleat to call for one another.
There are thought to be two different types of bleating when a goat is isolated. One is a frequent bleating or yelling that is used to maintain contact with their herd. This is used when they are separated physically, but can still hear one another. They will bleat back and forth to maintain contact. The second type of bleating is when they are isolated and cannot maintain contact with their herd. They may become distressed and will bleat at high-pitched levels, essentially screaming, as they attempt to reach their herd.
You may also hear a mother yelling for her baby, or vice versa. Mothers and babies do not like to be separated, and will become distressed when isolated from one another.
How can you keep your goats from screaming back and forth at each other?
You really can’t keep goats from communicating with one another, however you will be able to reduce the loud bleating if your herd feels safe and comfortable. How do you ensure your herd feels safe? Limit stress among your herd as much as possible, and keep them together as much as you can. If you are a small homesteader, make sure you have a herd of at least three goats. This way if you have to separate one for medical or other reasons, the remaining goats will still have one another.
Goats Scream When They Are Bored
Just as goats will bleat when they are isolated and lonely, they may also bleat more frequently, or more loudly, when they are bored and in need of stimulation. Because goats are so intelligent, they need to be stimulated and should not be left in a small pen without anything to do.
How can you keep your goats from getting bored?
One way to keep your goats stimulated is to use a goat play structure. There are seemingly endless examples of “play structures” that you can search for online that are used to keep goats active and happy. Goats love to climb and be at a higher vantage point. You can easily build a simple climbing structure for your goats out of pallets or scrap lumber, or other materials you may already have at home. Trampolines are another popular option for goats – they love hopping onto the trampoline, and even hiding under it when they need shade or to feel protected. One note about building a play structure for your goats – make sure you don’t build anything too close to the fence. They will use the top of the structure as a jumping-off point, and you don’t want to give them a resource to escape!
There are many different obstacles and fixtures you can add to your goat pen to provide your goats with entertainment. To get some ideas, check out my article What Goats Need in Their Pen: Complete List.
Goats Scream When Hormones Fluctuate
Female goats who are in heat will often bleat, or scream, while trying to get the attention of a male goat. Likewise, male goats will scream when around a female in heat, especially if he is penned away from her. The more frustrated he becomes, the louder he will scream. You may also notice a male screaming during courtship – this is usually accompanied by a stomp of one of his front legs (aren’t you glad humans do not court with screaming and stomping?!)
Just as being in heat, or being around a female in heat, may cause goats to scream – so do the hormone fluctuations that occur during pregnancy. A female goat may begin bleating more frequently after she becomes pregnant, and many theorize this is her way of communicating with her pre-born baby.
Goats Scream When In Pain
If you notice your goat bleating with unusual frequency or volume, it would be a good idea to give him a quick health check. If a goat is in pain, either due to an injury or illness, he may bleat loudly. If this is the case, you can assume that your goat is feeling quite poorly – as prey animals, goats will attempt to hide their pain or discomfort so as to make themselves appear less vulnerable. If your goat is in so much pain that he is screaming, it is likely time to call in the vet.
Goats Scream To Express Emotions
Goats will also bleat when they are excited, scared, or if they are experiencing social issues.
When a goat is startled, they will often bleat out of fear. This is not only used to express their surprise and distress, but to alert their fellow herd mates that there may be an imminent threat. This puts the rest of the herd on high alert.
Goats may also bleat with excitement, and not only at the prospect of getting a treat. Goats may also bleat for attention and affection when you come outside, or they may bleat to express their joy at seeing another member of their herd who was previously isolated. We had a goat that would scream at us anytime anyone walked out of the house. I believe that the goat was simply happy to see us!
Goats may also bleat if there are problems within the herd. If your goat is bleating more frequently than usual, and you cannot pinpoint the cause, try spending some time watching the herd and how they interact. The bleating goat may be the victim of bullying and while goats can usually work out their social hierarchies themselves, your intervention may be necessary if the bullying becomes a danger to the goat or is excessive.
Did you know that making vocalizations can be one way goats show affection towards you? To learn more, check out my article Goat Affection: 10 Clear Ways Goats Show Affection.
Do All Goat Breeds Scream?
All goats communicate by bleating, and especially loud or quiet goats can come from any breed. However, there are some generalizations that can be made. Nubian goats are considered to be a particularly vocal and loud breed, and if you are concerned about screaming (or loud bleating), you may want to look into a different breed. On the other end of the spectrum, Boer goats are generally known to be a quieter breed. They still bleat, but often their bleating is quieter and less frequent. Of course, these are only generalizations and you may certainly end up with a loud Boer or a quiet Nubian.
Screaming Is A Normal Behavior For Goats
Bleating is a goat’s way of communicating and is usually not cause for concern. If your goat is bleating more frequently or more loudly than normal however, you will want to give her a once over to make sure she is feeling okay, and check her environment. A consistent feeding schedule and limited stress may help with excessive bleating as well.
Want to learn more about goats? Visit my article How Long Do Goats Live? Goat Lifespan By Breed & Habitat.