Goats are homebodies and love to take comfort in their shelter. There are a few things to consider when creating a safe and comfortable shelter for your goats.
Goats tend to spend a fair amount of time in their shelters during the winter months and in rainy weather. As such, the goats’ shelter should give them enough room to be able to stand up and move around. Also there must be room for a hay feeder and water source. We recommend a minimum of an 8 x10 shelter for two standard size goats. It is important to make sure that their hay is available in the shelter and is protected from rain. An overhang area off of the shelter is an added bonus as during rainy weather goats may opt to spend time there and not soil their shelter so quickly.
The shelter should be as close to your home as possible. Pet goats love to be close to their people and they are more comfortable and safe with a shelter that is close to your home and not off in a far corner of their pasture.
The shelter should be dry and draft free but not air tight. Dry is the most important factor for bedding. There are a number of different bedding options. We have found that putting wood stove pellets over flooring such as mats, or a dirt floor, helps to absorb moisture and keep the area dry. The pellets will break down naturally and can be mixed with straw or white pine shavings. Straw can be a bit challenging as it tends to hold in moisture and urine smell and if you have limited space, it can present a composting issue as well. It is important to make sure the goats aren’t bedding down in an area that is damp or has a strong urine smell which can lead to respiratory problems.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS:
- Dogloos and dog houses are not appropriate winter shelters for any breed of goat, small or large.
- Logistically, it is helpful to have your hay storage adjacent to or part of the same structure as the shelter to make feeding as convenient as possible.
- Healthy goats do not need heat, heat lamps or goat coats. During the winter, goats need good quality hay to eat throughout the night. This will allow them to generate their own heat and keep warm. (In Washington state, we strongly recommend Eastern Washington hay. Local Western WA hay does not have enough nutrition for goats.)
- Goats' water should be in or just outside their shelter area so they can consume enough water during winter months. If they must go out in the rain to get to their water, they will often instead opt to not drink which can lead to serious health issues.
- If you live in a high predator area, the goats' shelter should be able to be closed up at night. Goats should be secured in their shelter with good hay and water from dusk to dawn when predators are most active.