Get tips on how to raise people-friendly goats. What you can do to train your goats so you can raise them more easily into a healthy and happy herd.
I get asked all the time, are goats friendly? And in most cases, the answer is yes. But as with all living things, there isn’t going to be a one size fits all kind of answer, and nowhere is this truer than with goats.
Have you ever gone to a farm and been magically greeted by the animals?
Cows, chickens, goats all come running to say hello. I love to see that, animals that are used to people. I love even more to see animals that are people-friendly. Most non-homesteading folks think all animals that are raised by people naturally love us but unfortunately, that is not the case.
Some animals are just born skittish and require patience and extra care. My goal is to give you tips that will help you to raise people-friendly goats that you and your family will love to be around.
How to Have People-Friendly Goats on Your Homestead
Tip #1. Bottle feed
It’s true if you bottle feed your babies they will LOVE you. Almost to the point of too much. If you are the bottle holder they will always see you as their feeder, aka mom, and trust you almost completely.
For me, however, this is only an option if required.
Even though bottle fed goats are people-friendly, I still prefer to have my moms do the feeding. I feel it creates a better herd atmosphere when the kids are dam raised. Now, this does not mean that I will never bottle feed. In some cases, it is absolutely required.
For example, if a mom has multiples and just can’t produce enough milk then I will most definitely choose to bottle feed the weakest kid. This will ensure they grow up just as healthy and strong as the rest.
Another scenario that may require human intervention is if a mom doesn’t bag up, meaning her udder does not fill with milk upon or directly after delivery. A rare occurrence but something that can happen.
Or, if unfortunately, the mother does not recover after delivery and you need to step in.
All of these are uncommon occurrences but still something to be prepared for, specifically at the time of kidding. I like to have supplies on hand for just about any issue that might come up so I am not stressed trying to find what I need during a chaotic goat kidding.
Please know that if you do choose to bottle feed you will need to do so quite frequently especially in the beginning. Just like with any newborn, goat kids need to eat small amounts frequently. This can completely turn your schedule upside down if you are not prepared for it. So know this before you make a decision that will have such a huge time commitment.
If bottle feeding is just not an option nor required what else can you do to ensure your goat kids react positively to people?
There are a few additional tips you can try to follow that will help but do know they are not guaranteed to work. Animals are funny and what works perfectly on one goat kid doesn’t even come close to working on the next.
Use these tips as a guide and hopefully your fickle goats will be willing to sniff your hand instead of running from it.
Tip #2. Be Hands-on From Day One
If you want people-friendly goats then from the minute they arrive on your homestead try to be very involved with your animals. Touch them, talk to them, approach them. Do this in a natural non-threatening way using a calm voice. You don’t want to coddle them so much as to get them used to you being around.
Slow and easy works well with animals. Just take your time and hopefully you will be rewarded.
Tip #3. Patience Patience Patience
I cannot stress enough the importance of being patient. Lose your temper one time and you might just be in for a setback. When things get stressful take a deep breath and remember your goal here. If that doesn’t help, walk away. Come back when you are in a better state of mind.
This goes without saying. Never ever hit your goats. One smack on the nose can undo any progress you have made up until that point. When your fuse gets short walk away
Our goal is to develop unconditional trust and to do that you need to be calm, patient, and gentle but firm.
Tip #4. Socialize Early
We like to have routine playtime with our goat kids after just a few days. Goats grow quickly both physically and mentally. It is really quite amazing to see. Just a few minutes after they are born they are up and nursing and for some, within hours, they are trying to jump.
If you separate your moms into private birthing pens for kidding then at the very least let everyone out to stretch their legs a few times each day. We have a small center aisle in our barn that is perfect for the kids to get out and play with risk from other adults in the herd.
This allows them to get accustomed to someone other than their siblings and also gives the new moms a much-needed break.
Tip #5. Tether Feed
This is something we prefer to do on our homestead but is not required to have people-friendly goats. We just find it easier to custom set a diet that is specific to each goat. This allows us to better manage issues that may come up or to offer support by mixing feed rations with specific goat herbs.
Tethered feeding also teaches goats that certain rules must be followed. By teaching your goats to eat this way you are not only setting a routine for them but for you as well.
Not sure what tethered feeding is?
Basically, it is feeding your goats on a short lead. This way they can only get access to the food that is directly in front of them and in turn, reduce the risk of weaker goats getting bullied out of their food.
Tip #6. Train your Goats to Come when Called
This is something I not only do with my goats but with all of our animals. By having a specific call I can get my goats to come home when they are out to pasture. Just one yell and they come running.
I use this call to bring them in to feed, to meet any visitors we might have, or to close them up for the night.
Training your animals to come when called is very helpful especially if an emergency is present.
Tip #7. Know their Favorite Treat
This is not something I do for socializing but in a pinch, it can be helpful. I have said before how finicky goats can be and this is true with treats as well. For example, some of my goats LOVE bananas whereas others won’t go near them. Know your goats and what they like and you can help lure them in just a bit to build that trust.
What I mean by that is, if you have a goat that will not come close to you then every time you approach THEM, offer a little nibble of a favorite treat. This will help them learn your disposition and your smell each time you are near each other. As they are eating the treat coo to them and pet them. All of this teaches them to learn about you and your nature making them (hopefully) more friendly towards all people.
What if you have tried everything and your goat is still not people-friendly?
Then you might just have to ask yourself the hard questions.
- Does this goat’s nature make it difficult to treat her for any medical issues? There is nothing worse than a medical emergency and a goat that is terrified of people. Ever try to get a skittish goat in the bed of a truck to rush to the vet? It’s not easy, trust me on this. Trained goats will make a stressful situation a little easier to deal with.
- Does this goat threaten to hurt you or others? This is especially important if your goats are around young and inexperienced children.
- Does this goat make it stressful or dangerous to milk? Milking should be an enjoyable time with your goat. A terror on the milk stand is not normal and will quickly have you hating what you want to love.
- Does this goat commonly try to inflict injury on people or other animals? The pecking order in a goat herd is a natural part of goats, however, bullying is not. If you want people-friendly goats it helps to have herd-friendly goats.
If you find you are answering yes to most or all of these questions you may need to take action.
Not all goats are a good fit for all homes and just because you do not “click” with a goat does not mean that goat will not “click” with the next owner. Do yourself and your goat a favor and offer them the very best home even if that means it’s not with you.