Having a goat shelter ready before winter arrives is part of good herd management. If you are facing your first winter with goats, you may be asking what type of goat shelter should you choose. The goats may have already shown you what they think about the wet weather. Goats don’t appreciate being wet, or standing on wet ground. While most goats are capable of keeping warm enough without being in an enclosed barn, just exactly what do they need for winter goat shelter accommodations?
I am sure you had some type of goat shelter for your herd before you brought them home. Now that winter is quickly approaching you are wondering if the shelter is enough to keep the goats comfortable during the long cold winter. The first thing to do before beginning to build or purchase a new shelter is to check with the local zoning office. There may be permits or regulations to consider before starting any building project. After you have the all clear to go ahead with the project, take into consideration the type of goats you are housing.
Housing for Dairy and Breeding
If you are housing breeding stock, you will want an enclosed, dry draft-free building for the does to use when labor begins. Most goat breeders will move their pregnant does inside before the actual expected date of birth. This structure can be enclosed in an existing barn, or a shed that is renovated to include small stalls for the mamas and kids. Although it is always a safety concern, you may want to include electricity to the goat shelter for the addition of a heat lamp. Babies born during the colder spring nights may need additional heat to keep them warm. A field shelter may be adequate even for your breeding stock if you can check on the goats frequently. It is not ideal, because the does may choose to give birth in the field, leaving the kid vulnerable to wet ground, cold temperatures, and predators. The best goat shelter for your breeding stock is an enclosed, well-ventilated, draft-free building
Dairy goats also need a substantial shelter. You will appreciate the shelter too when milking the goats on frosty cold mornings. After milking, and depending on the weather, goats can be turned out to forage and brought back into the barn at night. You could build a goat barn from a pre-fab shed. The shed interior could be broken up into a couple stalls, plus a milking area.
How do Sheep Shelter Needs Differ from Goat Shelter Needs
As opposed to sheep, goats really dislike being wet and having wet feet. Sheep may choose to go into a structure to sleep but I often find them sleeping in the field on nice evenings too. Goats require a shelter. Many types of cattle shed design buildings can be adjusted to work as a goat shelter. In the field, shelters can be as simple as a plywood lean-to building. The opening should be away from the direction of the prevailing winds. Goats like to sleep together or close by one another so they will all likely end up in whatever shelter you provide. Hoop houses may work unless you have a rambunctious buck. Other goat shelter structures could be built from recycled pallet wood, old sheds, a three-sided open shed, and large dog houses.
We built our field shelter originally for cattle. It is a pole shed that backs up to a natural embankment for wind block. The roof is made of corrugated tin roofing. It was completed in a day and has withstood the use of large Angus beef cattle, sheep, and goats. This has served us well. If you are considering goat shelter options for meat goats, a field shelter may be the type you need. Our cattle went under the shelter when they felt the need but often stood outside even during snow and rain storms. The sheep have rarely used the shelter. They come back to the barn at night where we have an open stall barn that leads to outside fenced paddocks. But again, the shelter is provided, should they need or choose to use it.
What Type of Goat Shelter Do We Use?
Our goat stalls are also in the bar, and open to fenced paddocks. The goats can choose to go out to the paddock when they’re not out foraging on the property. Currently, we raise a fiber breed called Pygora. These goats grow a fine wool coat that requires shearing twice each year. They are just like other goat breeds in their dislike of any kind of weather other than sunny and dry. The goats will stand at the back door of the stall, leading to the paddock, looking sad and forlorn, if the weather is less than perfect!
Inside your goat shelter, the bedding should be kept dry and clean. Many goat owners choose to practice a deep bedding method of stall maintenance. This means more dry bedding is added to the stall to keep it clean and dry, rather than cleaning out the stall regularly. During the winter, we use this method. It allows a nice deep layer to build up that further insulates the ground that the goats lie on to sleep. Some people will choose to clean out stalls daily or weekly all year long. I believe it is a matter of personal preference as long as the ventilation is good, the goats are dry and there is no odor.
What Bedding is Best for Goats?
What bedding is the best material for goats? Straw is a great bedding material. The hollow core of the straw makes it a wonderful insulator. Also, when raising fiber breeds such as Angora or Pygora or for sheep, the straw won’t burrow into the wool as much as sawdust or wood chips can do. The discarded hay that the animals don’t eat can be a good bedding too if it is clean and not too leafy.
All farm animals and poultry should have some type of shelter. Ducks are cold hardy and weather tolerant yet they should also have some type of duck shelters for winter. Even if your goat, sheep, cow, or chicken is weather hardy, providing shelter is one of the essentials of animal management. The goat shelter, chicken coop, duck house, or barn for larger livestock, does not have to be elaborate. The animals will appreciate the cozy home to rest in during the winter days and cold nights.