Goats are clever animals, and they’re pretty good lawn mowers, too. But before considering adopting one as a pet, there are a couple of misconceptions to clear up and some information you should arm yourself with. Raising goats is a little bit different from raising chickens. Here's what you need to know.
Because they’re known for chewing on tin cans and cedar home siding in addition to vegetable gardens, goats seem to have iron stomachs. But in fact, their four-chambered stomachs are just as susceptible to poisoning as other animals. They may not usually ingest enough poisonous plant matter to harm themselves—and because they can rear up on their hind legs and have a mobile upper lip, they’re good at eating leaves off trees...or really anywhere—but it's best to understand what they should stay away from (you can find a partial list here). They’re also susceptible to poisoning from manmade sources, so keep their area clear of items with lead paint, for example.
What kind of goat should you get? If you have in mind more than just a pet, consider your goal. For example, goats are raised for their fur, like cashmere goats. Angora goats, which produce mohair, will likely require more nutritional help—they’ll produce better mohair fiber when they’re well fed. You can find a list of different breeds here.
Goats are herd animals that prefer not to be alone, so it’s best not to get just one. If you don’t plan on breeding your goats, a female (doe or nanny) or castrated male (wether) are your best choices. Intact male goats (known as bucks or billies) tend to emit a funky smell and can get aggressive before mating. Goats have a social hierarchy system with dominant bucks at the top, and during rutting season, that can become all too obvious.
If you’re not feeling ready to take on a gaggle of goats yourself, there are services that will help you with clearing brush for a short period of time. Companies like Rent a Ruminant or Amazin’ Grazers will allow you to rent out goats for particular jobs. But be sure to do research and make sure the organization treats their animals humanely.
Related: Tired Of Mowing? Rent A Goat!
When goats are feeling threatened, they’ll face the intruder, stomp their foot, and make a sneezing sound. To keep goats safe from predators (such as coyotes, birds of prey, and bobcats), some farmers employ guard dogs and sturdy fences, paired with pens to house goats at night.
Goats don’t like to get wet. To keep your herd happy during a downpour, provide them with shelter.
They’re adept at undoing latches and simple gates, and they’ll even resort to jumping over or digging under them if they have their hearts set on something on the other side. (Don’t use barbed wire—they’ll ignore it and just get hurt.) In fact, a 2014 study found that goats are even smarter than previously thought. The researchers taught 12 goats a complex task and then tested them one month and 10 months later to determine how much they could remember. The goats were remarkably quick at both learning and remembering the challenge—which involved pulling a lever and then lifting it to release a treat. The researchers say this ease at learning and remembering could explain why goats are so good at adapting to harsh environments.
Related: Watch An Adorable Baby Goat Do Yoga