Fencing, (I learned long after the fact), may just be the single most important investment when it comes to owning a goat. A popular adage in the goat world is, “To test a fence for it’s ability to be goat proof: Toss a bucket of water at the fence. If the water can go through, so can the goat.” Goats are known to be one of the more wiley, tricksy, craftsy escape artists of all barnyard livestock. They are the Houdini’s of the animal world.
They will jump over, crawl under, squeeze through, stand on, lean against and attempt to circumvent any boundary. And if it appears to be impenetrable, they’ll spend time learning how YOU operate the gate or fence in an effort to learn how to work the latch like a peoples – kind of like those raptors on Jurassic Park.
Or so I’m told.
Whoever classified goats as such has clearly NOT met the lazy, clumsy, apathetic creatures currently living in my backyard. While these guys enjoy being let out to pasture as much as the next goat (read: set loose on the back lawn for grazing) they are remarkably content to just hang out in their pen all day.
Which is a good thing too, because I learned long after the fact, that every facet of my backyard goat fence is just wrong wrong wrong. Wrong fencing material, wrong gate style, huge gaps under the gate and by the fence posts, etc., etc. But so far (three months into goat ownership) it is working perfectly for our needs. We have not had to deal with any escape attempts, let alone any actual escapees.
Building the Goat Pen Fence
First off, I did not anticipate how much fencing would cost for the tiny little corner of our backyard we decided to devote to the goat pen. When factoring in the total cost of new goat ownership, this is one area I severely under budgeted.. but even so, we managed to cut the cost drastically, and paid a fraction of what we easily could have.
Like most of the projects around our little budding homestead, I had planned to recycle and upscale pre-existing materials to suit our needs – the fence was no exception!
While the goat barn was still under construction, we marked off the parameters of our goat pen, and then set to work on building the fence. My parents had an old carport type tent with heavy galvanized aluminum poles, very similar (though we learned too late, not EXACTLY similar) to chain link fencing poles. They were tossing the tent, so we scooped the poles out of the rubbish pile, and we decided to use those, set five feet apart, for the posts in our 35 foot fence.
After setting the poles into the ground with cement, we bought a 50 foot roll of 4 foot high welded wire mesh fencing, which was easily under $50. We attached the wire fence securely to the tent poles using chain link fence hog wires down the length of each pole.
While I knew there were better (and far more expensive) options out there, I didn’t realize that apparently welded mesh wire fencing is NOT recommended for goats. The reason being, when goats excessively jump or rub against the fence, the welded bonds in the wire will pop loose, creating gaping holes, or causing the fence to eventually sag. However, our goats rarely (if ever) jump on the fence, and when they rub against it (which happens on occasion) they exert so little pressure that I can’t imagine any real damage occurring to the fence. *knock on wood*
Idee being a dear and demonstrating the occasional “goat rubbing against the fence” routine. Her meager 40 pounds doesn’t put much of a dent in the welded wire fencing, IMO.
When I had my husband cut the fence poles down to be flush with the wire, so we didn’t have random pole sticking up past the fence, he accidentally left the corner post long. This bugged me at first, (I’ve known to be little Miss Perfectionist at times) but we later learned it was a GREAT idea. Whenever we need to tie up one of the goats, the fence post is a perfect spot to loop the leash handle around for easy goat tethering. (Note: NEVER leave a leashed goat unattended, the choking hazard is far too high!)
We usually use this post to rope up Odee, when I’m trying to get my milking pail and supplies ready for morning milking. He’s taken to jumping up on me with the pail, which is no bueno – especially when I eventually have a newborn in my arms!
For the gate, we initially tried building one from scratch using a wooden frame and mesh wire and using chain link fencing gate hardware.. buuuut, that didn’t work. Apparently the tent poles were far larger than chain link fencing poles, meaning the hardware we bought would NOT work. So we scrapped that idea and immediately tried to build another gate from scratch, using an old bed headboard as a decorative element (me and my Pinterest ideas!)
But after adding up the cost of lumber, we realized it would cost us FAR more to build a gate from scratch, than it would be to just buy a pre-made gate. So we bought a length of 4×4 and some wooden fence post end caps for gate posts, set them in the ground with cement, and then placed a pre-made wooden picket garden gate in the frame for our gate.
Looks like my choice of gates is also a huge goat owner no-no. It seems that picket fences pose a huge risk to goats. The reason being, if the goat jumps up on the fence and slips, they could potentially impale themselves on the “spike” of the picket, or get their heads stuck in between the pickets and hang themselves. Again, our goats rarely, if ever, jump on the fence, and when they do, they are such short little goats (being Nigerian Dwarfs, a miniature breed), they can’t get their heads positioned up over the pickets enough for me to worry about “death by gate hanging”.
So not that I’m advocating NOT doing things by the book, but if you are lucky enough to have lazy and chill goats like ours, you MIGHT be able to get away with a cheaper / easier fence and gate design that what is recommended by larger farms and dairies.
To get an idea for how quickly the cost of a simple gate can add up (even using some free parts!), here’s the total cost breakdown of our little pieced together, 35-foot length of backyard goat fencing:
Fence Posts – Pre-owned
Cement – $10
35 Feet of Welded Mesh Wire Fencing – $40
Chain Link Fence Hog Rings – $5
Gate Posts with End Caps – $25
Gate – $20
Gate Hardware – $15
TOTAL – $115