Shelter and fencing requirements for goats
Goats require protection from the elements and predators. Here in our area, we have coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, raccoons and even bears. We employ two livestock guardian dogs, or LGD’s, who are on patrol 24/7. This is a predator friendly way of protecting our animals (and humans!) without having harm the predators. We highly recommend getting one or two LGD’s to protect your livestock and family. Our favorite breeds are the Anatolian breeds. We currently have an Akbash and Kangal. The shorter hair of the Anatolians is much easier to manage than that of the Great Pyrenees.
If you do not have an LGD on guard, your goats will require (this is not optional!) a predator proof house and yard. Many of these predators are active during the day so they will need a yard that is fully covered with a material like chain link. You will also need to ensure that nothing can dig under your fencing. We suggest hot wire and/or buried concrete. Because this enclosure can be expensive, we recommend having a smaller, fully enclosed yard that opens into a larger fenced yard where the goats can be during safe times.
Within the enclosed yard, they will require shelter from the sun and rain as well as from the wind. Being in the high desert of southern California, we have more of a heat issue than a cold issue. Therefore, we prefer a high (8-10 feet tall) shade/rain shelter to keep the heat at bay with smaller houses below for the goats to escape the wind or to snuggle up together when it is cold. A small dog house or igloo is not acceptable shade for them. As the sun hits the roof, they essentially "hot boxes" and are going to be too hot for any living thing.
Goats need a lot of ventilation in their shelter. If you have stall, shed or igloo, you will need to change the bedding often (think weekly) to prevent respiratory issues from the accumulation of ammonia. Sheds should also have proper ventilation cut into the walls to allow for good air-flow. Be sure to cover these holes to prevent predators from entering.
Sheds also do not make great shelters from the heat since there is no airflow. They may shade the goats from the sun but the heat will build up making the shed stifling. We suggest that the goats have a covered area with open spaces to get out of the sun and enjoy a breeze to keep cool. Smaller shelters under a high, open cover make good spots to get out of the wind and cold.
Goats are known to be escape artists! They can climb fences under 4’ and they will challenge their fences regularly. They also love to rub and scratch on anything they can which will eventually wear down lower quality wire. We suggest using 5’ chain link fencing to keep goats enclosed.
We are often asked how much space the goats will need and this is really a tough one for me to answer. We love to see our goats out on their 2 acre pasture with freedom to run and play as well as graze. But we understand that not everyone can provide a large pasture for their goats and that's okay too.
In our experience, a pen that is at least 12' x 12' will house 2-3 goats. This is still on the smaller side in my opinion and they would love time to run and play in a larger, safe space.
Plants and landscape
Goats do love to graze and they always seem to know which plants and trees are your favorite and most expensive. There are a few that they won't touch, but for the most part, they'll destroy any plants they have access to. If you plan to let your goats out to run and play, be sure to fence off any landscaping that you care about.
They will eat grass but unlike sheep, they won't pull it out. They will graze and mow it down while generously distributing their fertilizing manure pellets. We do not believe it is safe to graze goats on anything treated with chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Some plants and trees are poisonous to goats and can be devastating to your herd. I hesitate to list every poisonous plant because it would be nearly impossible to so and include every plant in every region of the world. I have found this article from UC Davis to be helpful. Please carefully research any plants, trees or shrubs in your goats' area and be sure to include the seeds and pods of each in your search. https://alfalfa.ucdavis.edu/files/pdf/LivestockPoisoningPlantsNov2010.pdf