Goats are intelligent and curious animals that need mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy and happy. Without proper enrichment, they may become bored and destructive. Fortunately, there are many simple and affordable and DIY goat toys that can keep your goats entertained and engaged. Here are five ideas to get you started.
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Why is Goat Enrichment Important?
Goats are intelligent animals and when they are bored or under stimulated, they can engage in negative behaviors such as escaping, or destructive and aggressive/bullying behaviors.
Enrichment offers a variety of activities your goats can engage in to keep them auditorily, nutritionally, physically, socially and visually enriched. While mental enrichment is crucial for goats, it is already incorporated into these other categories.
Goats can get enrichment from a variety of different sources, and it has been shown to soothe them.
Auditory enrichment can be as simple as noises from other goats in the herd. Alternatively, it can be more complex such as bells, windchimes, or recordings of "happy goats."
A free form of auditory enrichment is talking to or singing to your goats. We often practice this one ourselves, even calling them by name. Is adorable to see your goats perk up and turn its head to listen when you are talking to them.
Did you know that goats can learn their names? For more info on teaching your goats their names check out our article.
As foragers, goats enjoy enrichment centered around finding and obtaining food.
Nutritional enrichment can be as simple as branches from a pear tree. It is important to note what plants and trees that are poisonous to goats. Check our guide for plants that are toxic.
Depending on your goats diet, a hay feeder can offer additional nutritional enrichment. To learn more about how many goats per acre and supplementing their food check out our article.
One of our favorite sources of nutritional enrichment is freezing fruits and vegetables in large ice balls or Tupperware containers. This not only cools your goats down but also gives them a delicious and mentally stimulating snack.
Due to potential choking hazards, many goat owners opt to put treats inside a carved pumpkin or other edible gourd as this requires less supervision.
Providing your goats with a dynamic living space that they can explore and interact with will help keep them healthy as well as physically and mentally stimulated.
Surfaces for your goats to climb on such as ladders, stumps, cable spools, rocks, and ramps will entertain your herd as they explore their pen new ways.
These don’t have to be expensive additions; grooming stations can be made by simply securing brushes (such as from dollar tree) for any easy to reach but secure surface in their pen will supply them with endless hours of scratching.
We also added a kiddie pool to allow our goats to cool off during hot days. For more tips on keeping your goats cool and reducing the chance of heat stroke check out our article.
Any combination of the above can make for even more enrichment. An example of this would be two upright cable spools with a ramp connecting them.
We have found that the most important part of physical enrichment is providing new items on a regular schedule. While new spools can be fun for several weeks or months, your goats will eventually tire of them.
You can tell when your goats have grown bored as they will become destructive. Our youngest goat has taken a liking to headbutting the gate until they are free. He has done some significant damage to that part of the fence.
Due to this we are revamping their water and feed station as well as starting our goat playground made from spools and pallets. Note all of these items can be acquired for free, either by calling your local cable company or asking local box stores if they have pallets they are getting rid of.
Social & Visual Enrichment
Visual and physical contact with other goats is important as they are social animals. Due to this they should not be kept alone as goats can become stressed, bored, and lonely.
If you don’t have more than one goat or they are isolated due to aggression or medical reasons, visual contact with other goats is important.
In some instances, goats can live with other animals such as sheep, donkeys, etc.
In situations where goats are not able to see or interact with other animals a mirror may help. It is very important that goats can see the mirror, but not touch it. Goats are very destructive, and this can be dangerous.
Goats are also interested in new items in their enclosure, particularly bright colored items. Adding traffic cones or even stuffed animals will provide them with visual enrichment.
Tips for Enrichment
The most important thing to keep in mind when creating an enriched environment for your goats is to ensure items are durable and sturdy as goats can be very destructive, so safety first!
Secondly, enrichment does not need to cost a fortune. Many items can be build from what you have laying around or can be found at garage sales (small trampolines or kids play houses and slides). In fact I would recommend going the cheaper route given just how much our bucks roughhouse.
29 Ideas For Goat Enrichment
Here is a concise summary of enrichment ideas:
Bail of Straw to climb on
Dog Puzzle with treats
Keep more than 1 goat
Logs to climb on
Ramp connecting two stumps
Slide (kids playground)
Spending time with your goats
Stumps to climb on
Wiffle Ball with treats
Just like any other animal, goats need mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Goat enrichment is a great way to provide your herd with a stimulating environment that encourages natural behaviors and reduces stress. In this guide, we covered everything you need to know about goat enrichment, from the benefits to the different types of enrichment activities you can provide.
Enriching your goats' lives can be as simple as talking to them and providing branches to for them to chew on, or as complex as goat playground.
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