Pen Planning

MyFarmPlan

Designing your pens requires thinking ahead. Even if you are only getting two pet goats, you might want more than one pen. It can be hard to clean a pen with the goats in it. Being able to put them in another pen can make cleaning faster and easier. Although it can be cute to have them stand on the shovel or in the wheelbarrow.

So I am not going to cover dimensions of pens, it requires math which I avoid whenever possible. Instead, I am going to talk about how you might want to design your pens to have more than one use.

I have four pens with one more being planned out. The first one is called the milking pen. It has a small sliding door to let goats out one at a time and a swing open door for letting them all in and out. They go in this pen at night.

MilkingPenPlan

The second pen is the dividable pen. This pen is also my kidding stalls. It can be divided into three small pens, but the dividers can be removed to make different size pens. I can use the pen as an extra pen or for bringing in the bucks for their feet trim or for weaning kids or raising abandoned/bottle raised kids. So one set of pens has many uses. Because this pen can be divided into three pens, it has to have three doors.

DividablePen

The third pen is called the inside/outside pen. It is the same size as the milking pen, but this pen opens into the walkway to the outside pasture. This is where planning the doorway comes into play. I wanted this pen to be able to still be used even if I needed to get out to the pasture. So instead of including the entrance to the pasture directly in the pen, we created a walkway and the door to the pen swings into the pen, latching on the wall, so it remains open. Then if I need to, I can lock the goats into the pen or leave the pen door latched open so they can go in and out.

InsideOutsidePen

Another plus with this is that when reorganizing the goats, it is easier to do because the walkway can be closed off to make a small pen and even if a goat got out it could not go out of reach.

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The third pen is what I refer to as the TLC pen. It is in what used to be the milk house, so it is in a different room than the other goat pens. This makes it a good place to put sick goats so that the other goats can not get sick. The milk house is also heated in the winter making it good for goats that need to be kept warm. It keeps goats that need extra attention in a place easy for me to give them individual attention. It also works well for quarantining new goats. Plus having a new goat in a small pen helps to get it accustomed to me.

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The fourth pen is called the big pen. It is twice the size of the milking pen and is used for mothers and kids than weaned kids or when the weather keeps them inside. It has a table, balance been, and platform. Because this pen is in the middle of the barn and needed a large door, it has a sliding door.

This pen is going to be linked to the pen still being planned. The new pen will be attached with a small door, like a dog door, so that kids can go from the big pen to the kid pen. That way I can feed the kids separately.

Each pen has more than one use. So if you think you don’t have much space, consider how you can use the space you have for many things.

New Kids in the Barn

Spring is the time of new babies. So far this year there have been three sets of twins born on our farm. The first were mini-Nubians. Mini-Nubians are a cross of Nigerian Dwarf and Nubian goats.

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The next to be born were Miracle’s twin doelings. One is polled, naturally hornless.

Last is first freshener Pixie who had twins, one doeling and one buckling.

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Now that the cute baby goat pictures are out of the way I can move on to how to handle the arrival of new kids. First, it is important to try and be there when a goat is in labor in case of trouble. Second, have a vet number, or an experienced goat person, available in case of emergency. You do not want to be trying to find someone who can help with the goat already struggling. Third, consider the weather, for instance, if it is cold be sure you have a way to warm the newborns, or hot be sure there is a cool place for the doe to give birth. You get the idea. Fourth, have towels ready to clean and dry the kids. While a doe will clean her kids, normally it is always possible that a doe will reject the kid and you will need to act as the mom. Plus since the doe is likely to have at least two giving her a helping hand by at least getting the face cleared off so that the kid can breathe well is a good idea. However, consider the doe’s temperament before getting involved. I would usually sit quietly in the stall with the birthing doe, but Pixie is a very standoffish doe, so I stayed out of the stall only going in to wipe the kid’s faces. With other does the mother will often lick me while I help clean the kids. Because I did not want to disturb Pixie I did not thoroughly clean and dry her kids so even though the night was not too cold I still gave them a heat lamp to ensure the newborns stayed warm while they dried. Heat lamps can be dangerous so be very careful with placement.

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Now the kids have arrived and been cleaned. The next thing I do is weigh each kid. I use a small kitchen scale with a basket to weight them. One of the reasons I weigh them is to make sure they are a healthy size. An undersized kid might struggle to compete with the larger kids for food, have more trouble staying warm, or is more likely to be rejected by the mother. Knowing their weight also means that I can track the kids’ weight and watch to make sure the kid is gaining weight and growing steadily. Next, I dip their navel in iodine. This keeps them from getting an infection. Then, I put them and their mom in a clean, dry stall with a bucket of warm water with a little molasse in it for the mom. I make sure to watch them until each kid has nursed. If they seem to be having trouble, I will help show them where the teats are.

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I dam raise, which means I leave kids with their mothers to be cared for until I begin weaning them at eight weeks. However, some people chose to bottle raise, but if you do, so it is important that the kid still receives colostrum. Colostrum is the mother’s first milk. They make colostrum replacement powder and supplement but unless the mother does not make it I recommend using the mother’s milk. If you are bottle feeding simply milk the mother for the colostrum and feed it to the kid. If you are going to use powdered colostrum make sure it is the replacement.

Now for more pictures of goat kids. My nieces and nephews came over, and each of them got the chance to hold the kids.

Starting with doors

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ViviLnk

Ok, so starting a blog about goats with a post about doors might seem odd, but before you get your goats, you have to have a place to put them. When designing goat pens, doors can make a huge difference. I did not give any thought to my doors when I started building. My thought was as long as they open and close they are good. Turns out that having a door that works and a door that works well is two different things. I would say that there are four things to consider when placing doors.

  1. Can the door open fully without hitting anything?
  2. Does the door open to the right or left?
  3. Whether it opens in or out.
  4. What type of latch the door has.

The first pen I made I only thought of #1 and figured I was good. Only I did not consider that the door swings to the right. Now you might wonder why the direction matters so I’ll explain. The goats spend their nights in this pen and then are let outside in the morning. The problem is that the pen they go out in is to the right. So I am getting trampled by the goats as they rush out. Plus when letting them back in, I am in the way, and they have to go around me to get in the pen. Also if the door opened to the left, it would be a barrier and keep them from trying to go in pens past the one I want them in.

So next this door opens out, which works well in this case. However, I do have pens where the door opens in. One reason for the door opening in is being able to hook the door open. (More about this later in a post about multi-use pens). Another is that you can have a larger door than might be possible if it opened out. Plus with a door that opens in it is easier, for me, to get in and out without goats. I use this with a pen where I am likely to need to go in and out when they are in the pen.

The final consideration is the latch used to keep the door open. I often need to open the door with my hands full, so a latch that is easy to use is important. Only I have learned that a latch which is easy for me to open might also be easy for the goats to open. So consider if there is a way to lock the latch for those Houdini goats. Another consideration is how the latch closes. I mean when you swing the door closed do you have to physically latch it or will it latch automatically. I prefer it to latch on its own, so I can just push the door closed behind the goats.

Of course, if you have sliding doors (my favorite) then you just need to worry about #1 and #4.A sliding door can be opened as much or as little as needed. It is ideal for letting one goat out at a time for milking or foot trimming. One drawback is the latch as I have not yet found a latch for my sliding doors that is exactly what I want. Also, the Houdini goats can open these doors if the bottom does not have the proper track stops.