City Goats

8/27/15

I have Nigerian Dwarf does and live on a 0.3-acre lot. I was concerned about the size since I grew up on a farm. I talked to my breeder about needed space and told her what I had when their space would be far less than it was there. She assured me that they really don’t need much room. In fact hers, with five acres, stayed mostly in the half acre near the barn. Every visit bore out that observation.

Over the last three years, I have gradually expanded their dedicated area so they can have more room. Prior to that, I often let them have run of the entire back yard which is most of my lot (my house sits at the front). It was a rare day they were not out in it but often they still went back to their confined area even though they had more room available.

One thing that I wanted was for them to have a distance to run. I have fenced my back yard in such a way that they have full access to the back half or have access to only part of that and their original area. My cross fencing is set so they have a 100-foot long run so when they are playing they have plenty of room to stretch their legs. I have noticed that they will run and make a circle around other areas and include that. I love to watch them play when they are doing that, running around and jumping on and off things. I have gates set so there is a double gate that will give them full access to the back part of the yard or I close them differently so the people can use the sidewalk and goats cannot. It has worked out extremely well; rarely is the sidewalk closed off so they usually have it all.

They do, of course, eventually eat down all the browse to a foot or so from the ground. There are no grape vines within their reach or apple leaves. When we have windstorms I gather fir boughs from the park for them. I have friends who use no chemicals that save grape cuttings, bamboo, berry cuttings, etc., for them so their diet is varied.

Goats are very smart and need stimulation to be happy. Therefore, you provide lots of “toys” for them and move those around every week or two so they are new again. Toys can be as simple as two tires with a board joining them for them to walk and run on. One of the favorites around is two PVC barrels, one cut in 1/3 and 2/3 size with the whole one filled with water to not tip over, the other two upside down – they have stairs to climb on and jump from. A couple of PVC lawn chairs and even a PVC table are well used and loved. A wooden table for them to lay on, jump, and hide under serves well. Use your imagination and try to think like a goat. You can spend time teaching them tricks – they love the attention and the challenge. The more mental stimulation you give them, the happier they are. However, be careful you don’t teach them how to open the gate or you will look up and they will be in your kitchen!

In short, though my goats are “city goats,” they have a well-rounded diet supplementing their high quality orchard grass hay. We do not have a worm issue here, undoubtedly partially because of the fir boughs and rosemary as well as occasional D.E.

My girls are *not* noisy unless the day or so they are in heat. In fact, many who live near me don’t even know I have goats. It might be important to visit the breeder from whom you are going to buy and observe the goats as to quiet and calm characteristics. My neighbors have all been quite disappointed this year because there were no kids and everyone looks forward to the babies hopping around in the spring and summer. When we have our National Night Out at the park, I purchase mini-cones and have goat-milk ice cream so everyone can have a cone or two – that, as you can imagine, is a huge hit. It also serves as good P.R. introducing folks to the idea of goats. Someone who had ice cream at the park is a lot less likely to complain even if there were a reason.<g>

If the owner practices good husbandry, there is not an issue of odor. This is not cow or dog manure they leave behind but rather dry pellets (berries) just like rabbits.

The con is plants that are toxic to them and the danger of some well-meaning person to “feed” them something. If you are a Home and Gardens type yard person, goats are not for you but then neither are chickens. Your goat area will *not* look like a golf course. It will be full of goat toys and lots of fun.

The pros are endless. Incredible milk, loving pets, great conversation starters with passersby, luscious cheeses, kids arriving and the extra fun of them. They are buddies and good will ambassadors. Your neighbors will love it when you take them for walks.

When we updated our Urban Livestock Code, one of our committee members said at the first meeting: “If a family has two Nigerian Dwarf milk goats, a half dozen hens and a garden, they can produce most of their own food in their own yard.” Because NDs breed year around (not just in fall like most goats), you can stagger breeding to have milk all year.

Our city addressed the code moving towards sustainability and removed some things that made no sense while defining and allowing miniature livestock.

Like any animal (or even an expected child!), you need to research ahead of time and know what to expect as in care needed, both daily and other things such as shots, hoof-trimming, etc. You will not learn everything but do get some good basic knowledge. Caution: Once you step in, your life will change forever . . . to the good. You might start out with just two, but if you can have more, you undoubtedly soon will. That is the nature of these sweet little creatures. They take your heart forever; you will never recover it.

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