How Much Space Does A Goat Need?

Goats make great pets, and many people are choosing to keep goats as dairy and meat animals these days because even large goats need less space than dairy or meat cattle. The amount of space you’ll need to keep your goats will depend a great deal on the type of goats you choose in the number of goats you wish to keep. In this article, we explore some of the things you’ll need to keep in mind as you plan your goat keeping project. Read on to learn more on how much space does a goat need.

Consider Both Indoor And Outdoor Space

consider both indoor and outdoor space

Goats kept for any purpose whether it be as pets, dairy animals, meat animals or living lawnmowers need to have room to roam and shelter from the elements.

As a general rule of thumb, a goat needs a bare minimum of about 10 square feet of indoor space and 200 square feet of outdoor space. This small amount of space is adequate, but not ideal.

Having only the minimum space required will mean that you must feed your goats every bite they eat, so you’ll be spending quite a bit on hay and grain.

Aside from the negative of having a higher feed bill, keeping your goats in a small amount of space also causes problems with their health and well-being.

Goats are smart animals, so they are easily bored. A goat kept in a small space without forage will suffer psychological consequences. Additionally, lack of room to roam causes poor physical health.

For this reason, small space goat keeping should be limited to goats kept as pets who will also be provided with toys, walks and lots of interaction.

Goats kept as commercial weed eating agents could also be kept in smaller spaces if they have plenty of opportunities to go out in the community to eat weeds and clear brush.

If you’re keeping dairy goats and/or meat goats, you’ll want to give them more space and lots of opportunity to forage. Ample space results in healthier, more relaxed animals which produce better meat and milk.

Pasture Rotation Naturally Deters Parasites

pasture rotation naturally deters parasites

Providing your goats with plenty of space also reduces the risk of parasite infestation. If your goats become infested with parasites, you’ll need to treat with a deworming medication. This interferes with your ability to make use of your animals’ milk or meat.

One of the best natural ways to reduce the risk of parasite infestation is to have enough pasture to rotate your goats from one setting to another.

You’ll need to be able to keep your goats on one pasture for two or three months, then vacate that pasture and let it lie fallow for two or three months. This breaks the parasites’ lifecycle so that they cannot take hold.

If you don’t have enough pasture to be able to do this, you could combine keeping your goats on pasture part time with keeping them on a dry lot the rest of the time.

One good way to do this is to keep them on a dry lot near the barn during the wintertime, feeding plenty of hay and grain. Rotate them out into the pasture in the springtime.

Another possibility for rotating pasture is to also rotate the use of the land. For example, when you rotate goats out of one pasture, you could use that pasture for chickens or other poultry.

Alternately, you might let fallen hay, goat droppings and so forth compost in place and then use that pasture as a garden until it’s time to turn the goats back onto it again.

Keep These Considerations In Mind

When deciding upon the number and type of goats you can keep in the space you have, ask yourself these questions:

1. How much time do I have to take care of my goats?

Goats kept on pasture require less care and attention than those kept in smaller spaces. Goats kept in a small barn and paddock will require lots of cleaning and maintenance.

Those kept as backyard pets will need a lot of attention to keep them occupied and prevent them from becoming disruptive and destructive.

2. Do I have enough space to house my goats and keep them far enough from my neighbors to avoid being a nuisance?

If you plan on breeding goats for meat and/or milk (look here on how much milk goats give every day) you’ll need to be sure that your goat keeping property is far enough away from your neighbors not to be a nuisance.

An un-castrated male goat (buck) smells bad and can display some pretty disruptive behavior. With a buck, you’ll need strong fences and plenty of space between you and your nearest neighbor.

3. Do I plan to breed my goats for meat or milk or just keep a few as pets?

If you just plan on keeping a couple of pets, you can get dwarf or pygmy goats, and you won’t need much more space than you would to keep dogs of the same size.

In this case, be sure to get only females (does) and/or neutered males (wethers) so that you won’t accidentally have more goats than you planned for.

Small goats kept as pets can and should be taken on walks and hikes and played with a great deal. Many people end up letting pet goats in the house just as they would a pet dog. Pet goats can be housebroken.

4. How much space do I have for growing and storing hay?

If your goats will be kept on a dry lot and fed hay part or all of the time, you’ll need to have ample land for growing hay, or you’ll need to have ample money for buying it.

You’ll also need to have plenty of covered space to store it so that you can buy in bulk in the spring and summer when hay is plentiful to get the best price.

5. Does my property have a healthy mix of native plants and brush that will grow back easily when my pasture lies fallow?

If you plan to rotate pasture, you’ll need to have plenty of pasture to do it. The quality of your pasture is also an important consideration. Good grass pasture that would be desirable for cattle or horses is not necessarily what you want for goats.

A grass pasture may not grow back well after being eaten by goats, plus goats prefer an interesting mixture of native plants and brush, which will tend to grow back after being graze down.

What’s The Bottom Line?

It’s easy to see that there are many factors that go into determining how much space you’ll need for your goats. In the final analysis, it’s best to go with a “less is more” approach.

Evaluate your circumstances and resources and then begin modestly with just a couple of goats. You’ll need at least two so they can keep each other company.

See how it goes; develop your goat keeping skills, and perfect your setup. Within a few months, you should be able to make an informed decision regarding exactly how many goats your property can support.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best kind of house for goats?

The type of housing you provide your goats depends very much on the number and type of goats you have and your purpose in having them. If you are keeping a larger number of dairy goats, you’ll want to have a solid barn that will provide shelter and hygiene for milking activities. If you are keeping a few goats on pasture to clear weeds, a three sided shed that shelters them from the sun, wind and rain will be fine. If you are keeping a couple of pygmy goats in your back yard as pets, a large dog house (resin or wood) will do just fine. Assess your situation to determine the needs of your goats.

2. What is the best bedding for goats?

Again, your situation will determine this. In a barn setting, straw is good. In your back yard, probably not so much! Pet goats in a back yard may do well with wood shavings placed on the floor of their dog house. These don’t make quite the mess straw makes. If your goat shelter is in a barn or three sided shed near your compost heap, you can use items such as shredded paper and dried out corn cobs and simply transfer them to the compost as soon as they become soiled.

3. How much shelter space do goats need?

Goats who have free run of a pasture or yard can do well with enough shelter to keep the elements off and provide comfortable movement and space for all of the goats when inclement weather or intolerable sun hits. As long as they have the freedom to go outside as needed, this will be fine. If they are cooped up and unable to go in and out on their own, you must provide more indoor space. Goats who need to stay indoors a great deal due to inclement weather or other reasons need approximately fifteen square feet of indoor space each.

4. How tall do you need to make your goat house?

For pygmy goats, a dog house or other small shelter can be about twice the height of the goat measured at the shoulder. As long as you are able to open or move the structure to clean it thoroughly, this small size is fine. For larger goats that must be handled as livestock, you want their shelter to be big enough for you to walk in comfortably and perform tasks such as cleaning, grooming, hoof care, vet care, milking and the like. A standard square or rectangular three sided shed should be at least four feet high at the rear and six or eight feet high at the front.

5. What kind of plants do goats like to eat?

Goats are not picky. If you have a pasture area with a wide variety of shrubs, plants and weeds, they will be happy. Some of the best choices in plants for goats include, but are not limited to:
– Small Deciduous Trees
– Woody Perennials
– Multiflora Rose
– Bermuda Grass
– Lambsquarter
– Orchard Grass
– Black Locust
– Honeysuckle
– Horseweed
– Bluegrass
– Crabgrass
– Brambles
– Pigweed
– Saplings
– Plantain
– Fescue
– Sumac
– Privet
– Briars
– Brush
– Dock

They will also make short work of overgrown ivy, poison ivy and other sorts of plants that are inedible to most other livestock. Talk with your local agricultural extension agent to find out what sorts of very toxic plants might be present on your property before turning your goats out. For the most part, you needn’t worry about plant toxicity, though. Goats can eat many plants that other stock cannot eat, and unless they are starving, they tend to avoid plants that might harm them.

3 thoughts on “How Much Space Does A Goat Need?”

  1. My wife and I are getting up there in age and are considering getting just 2 female goats. We live on 20 acres of mostly trees, scrub brush and briars. No fences yet but will put up a shelter and temporary fencing ( approx. 1200 sq feet) that I’ll move from time to time. Will goats eat briars, and will briars harm them if they do? I could use their help? LOL

    • Thanks for your question, Joe. Briars shouldn’t hurt goats, and for the most part, goats don’t tend to eat things that will hurt them. If you provide adequate feed and hay so they are not desperate for food, they will still do a good job of clearing unwanted brush but will avoid things that could harm them.

      Here’s a good publication from the USDA that you may find helpful.

      Biological Pest Management for Plants


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