The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Failed experiment: Goats in the woods

Goats eating honeysuckle

So, my goats-in-the-woods experiment lasted all of about two hours. I let the girls loose, settled down to write...and soon heard Artemesia yelling at the top of her lungs. Abigail had circled around to the part of our boundary that has the lowest fence and had hopped right over, but our doeling's stubby little legs didn't allow her to follow. I guess it's a good thing that Artemesia is part Nubian since there was no missing her anguished yells as she was left Dwarf doelingbehind. Or maybe our doeling was just telling on her big sister? Either way, I pulled Abigail out of the garden before she could do any damage, then I stuffed both goats back into the pasture with the honeysuckle trees shown above.

For experiment number two, I decided to open the door on the far side of the starplate coop, meaning that our goats would have to walk through some rough terrain to circle around the fenced pastures and reach our core homestead. Sure enough, when I came back from walking Lucy, I discovered that our goats had decided to explore in the opposite direction. But Artemesia was yelling again, and I got worried (even though our doeling sometimes just likes to yell) and went to see what was up. No one was in trouble, but both goats followed me right home, negating that experiment.

Doe with horns

Next, I decided to try tethering Abigail on the far side of the starplate coop. I figured that Artemesia would stay close to her companion, and that everyone would be happy. So when I heard non-Nubian yelling I guessed that our doe must have gotten her chain hung up. Nope. Artemesia had decided to wander far afield in search of honeysuckle, and her big sister was having a fit at being left alone. So, once again, I stuffed the girls back into the pasture for safe keeping. I guess they're stuck eating hay now except when I take them out on monitored walks...unless I come up with another supposedly bright technique for letting them run wild in the woods.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Thats the one thing you can count on with your goats; they'll always tell you when something is wrong. If some of them get out the other ones always tell on them by screaming their brains out. My goats are nice and quiet the rest of the time. Though, on the flip side, if they're all out getting into trouble it stays quiet. lol...

Comment by T Sat Nov 22 10:36:11 2014
I think your girls are proving the lore that "If your fence won't hold water, it won't hold a goat." They are crafty, motivated...and flexible!
Comment by Kathleen Sat Nov 22 11:11:18 2014

if you have any cheep fencing around (say snow fence) how would it work if you fenced off a large area of woods? Would the goats stay in there or would they escape right away?

I have my goats in a pasture where one side is cattle panels and the other side is 6foot concrete reinforcing mesh. So far no escapes.

Comment by BE Sat Nov 22 14:16:00 2014

I've lived on a farm where goat-walks were the norm (5-12 goats, 1-2 hr walks twice a day) and I found after being introduced to several lush spots in the woods, they will vary their feed and wander between them as nutrition and their tastes dictate, usually i find a spot in the middle and blow on my harmonica or carve sticks and sing goat songs. I have a detailed list of goat fodder/browse species by month (NorthEast specific) i could upload if folks are interested.

Comment by JD Sun Nov 23 16:08:23 2014
JD --- I'd love to hear more about your goat walks! For example, were the goats able to get all of their food from their two walks a day? Which plants did they most like to eat? Perhaps you have some photos even and would like to turn it into a guest post? If so, email me at :-)
Comment by anna Wed Nov 26 20:07:10 2014

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