Now that spring has sprung…So have my goats…

The days are getting longer, and warmer. My goats have been sticking close to their little barn all winter, and have been content to huddle together and chew their cud.

Before I get too far into things, I should point out that I have added two more goats, to the herd of three I had. One of my readers needed to re-home her two young goats, and figured I needed some more adventure in my life. One of them, a little doeling named “Elsa” apparently is a climber. She loves to climb…especially on hay bales. It is a trick she taught her buddy, “Ozzy”.

Because the pair were so good at climbing, Elsa and Ozzy frequently went on unauthorized tours of the World outside their pen! That is part of the reason their owner decided they should come live with me. She knew my goats had a large enclosure, because she had read “How To Build A Goat Proof Fence”. Her property has a lot of ledge in it, and setting posts deep in the ground was not possible. For personal family reasons, and electric fence wasn’t an option either.

So a few days after Christmas, Elsa & Ozzy came to live with me. I wasn’t worried about them climbing on my hay, because I had made a hay crib just outside the goat pen when I had two large round bales delivered in November.

I rolled both bales of hay into an outside corner of the goat enclosure, and in keeping with the concept of using only quality materials, I began constructing my hay crib.

Since the front, and one side of the hay crib were already closed in by the existing fence line, I decided to use some old garage door panels for the back wall, screwed into some 12 foot 2×4’s. I figured they would be easy to remove if I needed more hay delivered.

The last wall was made up of some broken down packing crate panels. Over the top of the bales I set an old truck bed liner to keep the snow and rain off the hay. I removed the lower section of my fence along the hay bale, so the goats could get to the hay, and eat at their leisure.

One morning, I was filling their water basin, and saw little Elsa happily munching hay with Ozzy. My original three goats, Smeck, Kramer, and Billy were eating along the front of the bale, and had crowded the newcomers away. But Ozzy and Elsa being clever, had worked their way to the side of the bale, and were sandwiched in between the hay, and the fence line happily munching away.

I chuckled to myself, filled their water bin, and headed back into the house for some coffee.

A few hours later, I heard the clippity clop of goat hooves on a solid surface, and looked out the window that overlooks the goat pen, and there is little Elsa up on the truck bed liner, rearing up on her hind legs to head-butt Kramer who had snuck into her private kitchen. Ozzy was right behind her laughing.

I quickly donned a coat, and my boots and went out to secure they hay crib! Sneaky little Elsa and Ozzy hadn’t quite caught on that they were free yet, and I decided it would be best if they didn’t figure it out!

A little spare wire fence, and a few 2×4’s later, I was confident that the hay crib was secure. By late afternoon, all five goats were tromping and frolicking on their winter’s supply of hay.  Oh yeah, and they were pooping, and peeing on it as well! Within two weeks I had to have two more bales delivered. This time I made sure the tops of the bales were secure, so the goats could not climb them.

The new problem was that one of the 1000LB bales had shifted on the uneven pile of wasted hay it was sitting on, and it was pressing on the packing crate wall, causing it to lean.

To help support it, I drove some stakes into the frozen ground as best I could, and then took some salvaged chain link fencing, and placed it onto the wooden slats, securing it with 2×4’s and zip strips. That has worked very well.

This morning heard Ozzy blatting away like he is being killed by demons. I swear, that goat starts bleating, and your heart stops! For days after he got here, I thought he was being killed in the most heinous ways you could imagine. But nope. He was just telling the other goats to move along, and stop hassling him.

This time around though, he was definitely trying to get my attention. I look out the window, and see him staring off into the distance, beyond where I can see. To get a better look, I open the window, and lean out.

Normally, opening the window that had once been called “The Chicken Window”, and later “The Dog Window” and now, “The Goat Window” would have all five goats running to me for a treat. This time, all I saw was Ozzy looking up the hill to the blackberry brambles, and an empty goat pen.

I grabbed my coat, slipped into my muckers, and rushed outside to confirm that I had 4 goats on the lamb…Sure enough, I get outside the front door, and here they come! Single file through the open garden gate! First in line is Kramer, followed by Smeck, then Billy, and bringing up the rear is little Elsa… A shy look on her face.

They greeted me as they trotted by:

“Hey! How’s it going?”

“Hey Fat Boy!  The chicken feeder full?”

“HOLY CRAP! It’s chilly today huh?”

Finally, little Elsa. Her first escape since she got here:
“Oopsie! Looks like you caught us!”

Elsa turned and went back through the gate, but the other three made a bee line for the chicken feeder.

“This is good stuff huh?”
“Yeah! I think he may have changed brands?”
“Nah…I don’t think so, it’s just been a LONG winter”

I grab a “HEP!” Stick, and start waving it around. Kramer and Billy run a few feet away. They were probably thinking about chewing down one of my young apple trees. Smeck went around to the opposite side of the feeder, out of range of the “HEP!” Stick and said,

“Easy there Fat Boy! We’re just having a little snack! We didn’t mean nothing by it!”

I opened a nearby container of birdseed, and pulled out a scoop. I gave the scoop a good shake, and started walking away. Kramer knew something was up. but he couldn’t resist. He came trotting over, but stopped just out of reach of me. I held the scoop full of birdseed out, and he stuck his nose in for a taste. Before he could jerk his head and knock it out of my hand…(A trick they revealed to me last winter)…I pulled my arm back, and walked away.

Kramer knew what was in the scoop and followed me, Billy didn’t, but he always follows whatever goat is in charge. Smeck was still eating as much chicken feed as he could, but was terrified that the others were getting something better, so he shouted a few profanities, and followed as well.

I led them back through the garden gate, and up to the goat pen. Ozzy was still screaming in dismay. When I opened the gate on the goat pen, Ozzy stepped out, followed by Elsa! She had gone back into the pen!

Knowing that Smeck, Billy and Kramer would never pass up something in a grain scoop, I left the pen door open, and walked over to the grain trough. Before I emptied the contents of the scoop, all five goats were jostling for the best tidbits, and I made my escape from the goat pen, latching the gate behind me.

I’m not sure HOW they got out, or how Elsa got back in for that matter, but I am fairly sure it is the crate panel wall of the hay crib. I don’t have much material on hand for a good patching job, but I plugged up the holes the best I could.

There is a plan to fence in the entire back section of our lot, but that is a couple of weeks away before we will get started on that…I wonder how many escapes there will be in the mean time???

I’ll be sure to let you know!

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.