Whether you’re considering adding goats to chickens (or chickens to goats), it’s important to know if it’s possible to have both together. And it’s even more important to know how to keep them together. So let’s talk about some real tips on keeping chickens and goats together.
Chickens and goats can live together with proper preparation and plans to integrate them safely. Issues to address include housing, pasture sharing vs rotating, feed, dung, and general safety of all animals. Here are 11+ tips to make keeping chickens and goats together doable.
Ready to see why chickens are the gateway animal to homesteading? Keep reading – and see how adding goats is an easy next step!
Can Chickens Live with Goats?
Chickens and goats can be kept together easily. It’s done worldwide – and is even recommended by various government agencies – as long as it’s done safely.
In raising them together, there are 11 main tips you need to know. Knowing these tips could very well be the difference between a positive backyard homestead experience and a horrible one.
And the first tip is to know these 21 vital factors and considerations before you keep chickens and goats together. But don’t worry – some of these are important enough that they’ll have their own tips, tricks, and recommendations later on in this same article.
Keeping Goats and Chickens Together: 21 Factors to Consider and Know
Ready to know all the potential issues of keeping goats and chickens together? I’ve put together a comprehensive table of every issue – along with the main points to consider.
|Requirement||Chickens||Goats||Chickens and Goats Together|
|Indoor Space Needs (good weather)||Chickens need 4 square feet of indoor space each – if they don’t have a pasture or open run.||Goats need 10-20 square feet or more per animal, depending on pasture size.||Ideally, you should have separate indoor spaces for chickens and goats.|
|Indoor Space Needs (bad weather)||Chickens will huddle inside of their coop to keep warm. Ours all share the same perch if they can.||During bad weather, goats will huddle together to keep warm.||Keeping both in a shared barn (in separate stalls or areas) will keep both species warmer.|
|Pasture – Basic Needs||As much as they can get – they love to roam and forage!||Minimum 200-300 square feet of pasture space and play areas. More space is better.||Each animal can have less pasture space if fed an appropriate, supplemental feed.|
|Shared Pastures||Chickens will roam and forage open spaces – usually without destroying too much of it.||Goats usually handle weed control and eat shrubs fairly evenly across a shared pasture.||Chickens can help control bugs and flies commonly associated with keeping goats.|
|Rotating Pastures||Smaller pastures may require rotating to give the grass time to regrow. Larger areas may not need to be rotated.||Goats are less likely to develop worms and parasites with rotating pastures.||Keeping goats and chickens separate and rotating pastures is a great option if you have space.|
|Minimum Herd/Flock Size||3-4 chickens to prevent pecking order problems.||2 goats||Per the individual species.|
|Fencing Requirements||Chickens, once used to an area, usually stay inside of it. They can fly over a fence unless you clip their wings.||Regular or “no-climb” fencing or fences with 4″x4″ is usually fine. Smaller breeds may need 2″x4″ fencing.||Both can share the same kinds of fencing. Just remember – chickens can fly.|
|Regular Care||Egg collection.||Hoof trimming and (optional) milking.||Per the animal.|
|Feeding Habits||Chickens eat whatever they can find and swallow.||Goats prefer to eat tips of shrubs, trees, vines, and broad-leafed plants. They will also eat unsoiled hay and feed.||They can share a pasture as they eat different food.|
|Regular Feed||Chickens need feed specific to their situation: chick start, pullet feed, or layer feed.||Goats may need hay or goat feed if insufficient pasture space is available.||Chickens don’t do well with goat feed – and goats can get bloat from chicken feed. Be careful where you keep the feed.|
|Feed Supplements Required||You can leave out supplements like oyster shells for on-demand eating.||May need hay, alfalfa, or grain if there’s not enough pasture or a goat is being milked.||Chickens may try to nest and lay eggs in the hay. Goats won’t eat soiled hay.|
|Nutrient Sensitivities||Too much canola meal can make eggs taste fishy – more info.||Goats are sensitive to molds and listeria bacteria commonly found in silage.||Per the animal. Keep things clean as a general rule.|
|Micronutrient Supplements||None needed. Use the appropriate feed.||Goats often need a copper supplement.||Keep nutrient supplements away from the other animals.|
|Poisonous Plants||Foxglove, morning glory, yew, tulips, azaleas, rhododendron, monkshood, castor bean, nightshade. Chickens usually avoid things they shouldn’t eat. Usually.||Nightshade||Keep known poisonous plants away from your animals. Consider using the goats to control weeds and plants they can handle.|
|Behavior||Chickens peck, scratch, and may rush things that are perceived threats.||Goats headbutt, stamp, or rush at perceived threats.||Animals may accidentally or purposely injure each other, depending on the circumstances.|
|Excrement Habits||Chickens poop anywhere they can get to.||Goats poop anywhere they can climb.||Dung in water and hay will be the biggest concern.|
|Common Diseases and Issues||Poultry may harbor and share various strains of salmonella, campylobacter, and E. coli in their GI tracts and feces.||Pneumonia, foot rot, parasites, toxicity (pregnancy and feed related), pinkeye, pseudorabies, foot-and-mouth disease, mastitis.||Controlling dung will help manage disease-sharing and issues.|
|Common Parasites||Mites or some types of worms.||Worms||Most fowl can eat the parasites and worms that plague goats without issues.|
|Concerns for Interspecies Contamination||Sharing diseases and parasites.||Sharing diseases and parasites.||Controlling chicken dung near the goats’ food and water will be the biggest issue.|
|Coccidiosis||Chickens have their own strain of coccidiosis.||Goats have their own strain of coccidiosis.||Coccidia isn’t usually cross-shared between species, as it’s a different strain that’s endemic to each animal.|
|Cryptosporidiosis||Caused by an internal parasite that isn’t uncommon to chickens.||It can be fatal to goat kids.||This can be spread across animal species and even to humans.|
Some of these (like the feeding and excrement habits of both animals) do need more details, though. So we’ll go into some of these in more depth later on in this article.
Provide Separate Living Spaces for Goats and Chickens
Goats and chickens are going to need separate living spaces for two main reasons.
- Chickens like to roost on a perch while they sleep.
- Chickens poop on everything.
So if you don’t want your chickens roosting above where your goats are sleeping (and pooping all over them), then you need to keep them separate.
Giving your goats and chickens a separate living space will also prevent other issues, like accidental tramplings, buttings, and pecking.
However, this doesn’t mean they need separate buildings. Goats and chickens can share a barn – they’ll just need separate areas within that barn.
You can do this by using some sort of chicken wire or wire fencing to cordon off the chicken’s area. Then, depending on the type of fencing used, the chickens can either squeeze through the fence or go through a dedicated door area to access their separate living quarters.
What goats need in their quarters
Within your goat’s indoor area, they’ll want a few basic things.
- An area to sleep with clean bedding. Goats will probably poop in it any time you lay down fresh bedding, though.
- Separate kidding stalls for keeping newborn and growing kids safe from your herd.
- An optional, separate milking stall for if you want to milk your goats inside. That way, goats won’t use it as a bathroom – and your milking area will stay cleaner.
- An indoor feed and water station.
- Reinforced or sturdy walls and partitions for when the goats lean against them.
- Minimal (ideally zero) places to perch above the goats’ areas.
You may want to have some sort of a built-in hay rack, too. Just make sure it doesn’t have something on top of it that will attract chickens – or encourage your goats to climb it.
Because while goats love to eat fresh hay, they won’t eat soiled hay. And anything that’s been pooped on it (by fowl or another goat) definitely qualifies as soiled.
What your chickens will need in their area
Within the chicken area, you’ll need a few things for them.
- Roosting bars or perches.
- Nesting boxes for laying eggs.
- Feed and on-demand supplements.
We’ll talk about why you want their food and water in their indoor area later on in this article – in the section about keeping goat and chicken feed separate.
Train Chickens to Nest and Lay in their Coop’s Nesting Boxes
There’s a fun fact about chickens: they all like to use the same nesting box. It doesn’t seem to matter how many chickens you have – they all want to use the popular laying location.
However, we can use this to our advantage so that chickens aren’t laying eggs in the goats’ hay.
When you move your chickens to a new location, train them to use their coop at night. And train them to use provided nesting boxes.
Here’s how we did it, based on recommendations found in my research.
- When you move chickens to a new area, start by keeping them inside the coop for a few days.
- If your chickens are still pullets, keep the nesting boxes blocked off – so they don’t use them yet.
- After a few days, let your chickens/pullets out into the run. Every evening, make sure they’re back inside and lock it up. This way, they’ll learn to go inside and be protected from predators.
- After a few days or weeks, you can then let your chickens have access to their pasture, too.
- Your chickens will put themselves to bed each night.
When we do add goats and a barn, we’ll have to re-do these steps when we introduce our chickens to their new, still-theoretical home. Even so, we’ll have to add a sixth and seventh step when that happens.
- Once your chickens are ready to learn to lay, open up the nesting boxes or provide an area to nest and lay. Consider putting a ceramic egg in a nesting box or two to show the chickens where to lay.
- For the first bit, make sure they are back inside by dark and be on the lookout for any chickens wandering into the goats’ living quarters. Shoo them out.
It’s a good bit of work upfront, for sure. But by doing this at first, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of extra work in the long run. And, as we add chickens to our flock, we’ll have the older chicken’s help in training the new additions.
For us, the upfront work was well worth it. Our chickens love to wander their mini-pasture space, but they also will go back to their run and coop for feed, water, supplements, and to lay eggs in the provided nesting boxes.
That way, we can keep goats – and keep our goats’ living spaces as chicken-free as possible.
Consider Pasture Options Carefully
When it comes to keeping goats and chickens together, you need to consider your pasture options carefully. There are a couple of options for pasture spaces.
- You can keep goats and chickens in the same pasture.
- You can keep chickens and goats in separate pastures.
- You can rotate pastures, keeping chickens and goats together.
- You can rotate pastures, keeping goats and chickens separate.
Each method has its pros, cons, and special considerations.
|Same Pasture – 1 pasture minimum||Less space is required.||The risk of manure-related contamination and injury may increase.|
|Separate Pastures – minimum 2 pastures||Minimal risk of cross-species contamination and the sharing of diseases.||You either need more space – or to have smaller pastures. Increased risk of worms for the goats.|
|Same Rotated Pastures – minimum 2 pastures||Pastures have time to recover while fallow. Chickens can control bugs and break down goat manure faster.||The risk of manure-related contamination and injury may increase. Size and space are also an issue.|
|Different Rotated Pastures – minimum 2-3 pastures||Pastures have time to recover between uses. Less risk of parasites for all animals.||You need more space for the various pastures. Ideally, you need one fallow pasture plus the 2 being used.|
Your available pasture space is going to definitely impact how you choose to pasture your animals – and whether you keep the goats separate from the chickens or not.
Because we’ve only got 0.1 acres of pasture space, we’re leaning towards keeping our chickens and goats in the same, singular pasture. We’re definitely still in the planning and talking it out stage, though.
Another important factor in pasture space is fencing. How much fencing are you willing to install to have separate pasture space? We like the idea of less installation of fences, so a single, shared pasture also wins in that regard! At least, it does for us. You’ll have to decide how you want your pasture spaces divided.
Cross-Species Behavioral and Injury Risks
If you keep any animals together, there is an inherent risk for interspecies disease, injury, and death. It would sure be nice if all of the animals would get along all of the time – but it doesn’t happen. Accidents happen. We’re going to first talk about the injuries and accidents – we’ll discuss diseases in another section of this article.
For chickens and goats, my research indicates that keeping them together can end in several kinds of injuries.
Goats can cause the following types of injuries to each other or your poultry.
- Stomping or trampling injuries.
- Blunt force trauma caused by butting.
- Crushing injuries from falling, jumping, or sitting on other animals.
Chickens can cause other types of injuries. They may include any of the following.
- Pecking injuries, especially if threatened or they see blood (chickens don’t tolerate weakness).
- Slashing injuries from rooster’s spurs.
- Scratching injuries from any chicken’s feet – they’re miniature claws, after all!
If you’re keeping chickens for eggs, remember that either species (chickens or goats) may destroy eggs – either accidentally or on purpose. It’ll depend on where the egg was laid or if they’ve developed a taste for eggs.
Okay, so in my research, I’ve never heard of an egg-eating goat. If something is eating your eggs, it’s probably either a chicken (look for pecking damage), a pet (especially a dog who loves eggs), or a predator – like a rodent resident sampling the local cuisine.
Keep Feed and Supplements Separated
Let’s start with the obvious: goat feed is formulated for goats. Chicken feed is formulated for chickens. Each type of feed won’t work well for the other animal. So, let’s keep goats out of the chicken feed and chickens out of the goat feed.
In my research, the biggest problem with goats getting into chicken feed is that it’s such a big change from their usual feed. And any sudden change in a goat’s diet can cause diarrhea, bloat, and even death.
So, let’s go ahead and keep the goats out of the chicken feed – and the chickens out of the goat feed. But – how do we do that?
How to keep chickens out of the goat feed
Based on my research, goat feed, in general, isn’t even required. Goats will do well enough with foraging and eating-quality hay. I have read that it’s a good idea to give pregnant or milking does a handful of grain each morning.
If they’re pregnant, give them a handful of grain or so each morning when you go check on them. For milking does, give them a small bucket (with a handful or so of grain) in it to eat while they’re being milked. That way, no other animals are getting into your (expensive) grain stash.
Then, just keep your big stash of grain in an aluminum trash can – that way, you won’t attract any rodents. Mice and rats could eat through a plastic tub – but aluminum is rodent-proof.
If you do have to use goat feed, don’t despair – it’s still possible to keep the chickens out of it. Just limit when the goat feed is out – to when you’re out there and present. Goats don’t need feed that’s out all the time, especially if they do have some pasture and hay, too. So you could totally handle feed like you do a grain supplement.
If the chickens are far too enthusiastic about the goats’ feed, make sure you feed the goats before you let the chickens out of their coop or run. That should also be a huge tip to keeping the chickens out!
How to keep goats out of chicken feed
Next, let’s keep the goats out of the chicken feed.
The best way to do that is to have two separate feeding options for the chickens.
- Inside the coop or chicken area of a barn, hang a feeder full of the appropriate feed for your chickens. Chickens can eat feed on demand.
- Outside of the coop, let chickens forage and scratch for whatever they can find and want to eat. Don’t keep any feed outside of the coop.
Then, your chickens will need a chicken-sized entrance to their dedicated area. That will keep the goats out of your chicken’s feed. We use an automatic door as the entrance. That way, it’s small enough for a single chicken at a time – and we also don’t have to go open or close it every day to give the chickens daily access to the pasture.
Our chickens have a hanging feeder in their indoor coop and run area. That way, they can eat whatever they want. We also keep their crushed oyster shell in their coop and run area. We also keep a 5-gallon bucket (with watering nipples) in there so they can always get water.
But if our chickens want to forage for bugs and whatever else they want? Easy – they just go out their automatic chicken door into their pasture. If they ever want a drink of clean water or some chicken feed, they just head back into their coop and run.
That way, chicken feed is safe and secure – and away from other animals that shouldn’t be eating it anyway.
Let Chickens and Goats Help Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
Chickens and goats are also amazing because they can help you minimize waste – especially if you’re into composting. But don’t worry – we’ll talk about composting later on in the article.
Even so, goats can help you reduce and process lots of weeds that other animals won’t touch. And that’s totally handy for weed control – especially because they can eat a lot of plants that are poisonous to other animals (like poison ivy).
Chickens can also help you reduce and reuse a lot of things – even leftover eggs and discarded feed that the goats now won’t touch.
My chickens love helping me process used kitchen scraps – whether they’re given directly to them or they dig it up from my compost pile if I forget to close the garden gate.
I’ve also heard of some homesteaders who gather the grain their goats didn’t eat – and they add that to any extra goat milk. Then, they’ll dump the extra grain into the milk and let it sit overnight. Apparently, it will create a soft cheese that their chickens love to eat. It’s not a tactic I’ve ever tried, but it’s definitely a cool trick and way to not waste milk.
In any case, don’t feel bad about recycling anything you can – as long as you do it safely. It’s a great way to minimize your overall footprint and live more responsibly as a backyard homesteader.
Manage Manure – if you can!
If you’re going to keep both chickens and goats, then you’re going to have manure everywhere. Both goats and chickens drop piles of dung wherever they are and whenever they’ve got to go.
The problem with dung all over is when it’s too close to food and water sources. Then, any germs or bugs in the poop can become a huge contamination issue – especially for other animals!
So you’ll want to get creative with how you manage manure – and how you feed and water both sets of animals.
For managing manure, here are a few tips and ideas that might work, based on my experience and research.
- Use an easily-scooped filler (straw, pine pellets, or pine shavings) for bedding. That way, clean-up can be easier – and all that dung can be added to your compost pile. We’ll talk about compost in just a minute.
- Use a hanging chicken feeder with a lid – to prevent chickens from pooping in their own feed.
- Use a hay rack that’s less attractive to chickens. Remove anything above the hay that would attract the chickens to want to perch above the goats’ food – and poop on it.
- Keep water sources as clean as possible. Consider using a lid on the water – and then use watering nipples if your animals can use them. You can read my article about keeping chickens’ water clean and algae-free here or check out this one on how to keep water clean for chicks (with pictures).
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Our chickens use this style of a watering nipple (click here to check pricing and availability on Amazon) because it totally minimizes water waste – and prevents standing water that would attract bugs and mosquitoes. We attach them to a 5-gallon bucket with an easier-to-close gamma lid (also available on Amazon) to keep the water clean. Just be sure to drill a small hole in the top side of the bucket – or the water can’t come out.
Based on my research, goats may be trained to use a pig nipple water feeder such as this one (click here to see it on Amazon). Using that water nipple feeder would let you use a large, lidded water source like a 55-gallon bucket. That way, it would be a ton easier to keep chicken manure out of watering sources. It would also cut back on water loss from evaporation and animals knocking it over, too.
These tips will help you manage manure – but it won’t prevent it completely.
Learn to Be OK with Goat and Chicken Dung
Even with all of the most amazing manure-managing tips, there’s still going to be a whole lot of poop. So you’re going to have to learn to be okay with a lot of poop.
One tip that’s helped me learn to be better with animal manure (or dung – however you want to call it) is by keeping my animals in a contained space of my yard.
That way, I’ve only got to clean up the designated areas – and I still have a backyard that’s for our family. Even so, I do have to clean up dog poop from that area… there’s always so much poop!
The second tip is to learn to compost.
Learn to Compost Chicken and Goat Manure
When you keep chickens and goats, you’re going to have an awful lot of dung piling up. Unlike my dog’s poop, however, this dung can be composted – and it’s great for your backyard homestead garden!
Composting doesn’t have to be fancy – or require any sort of fancy turning composter. The turning composters do speed up the process, but they severely limit quantities – unless you pay more for the bigger, multi-chambered versions. Even then, not all of them get great reviews.
Instead, we opted for simple efficiency.
Based on the instructions in Bob Thomson’s The New Victory Garden (available on Amazon), we built our own composting station. That book is a pretty good resource to have on hand for all gardening, though the instructions for the compost bin did take some extra figuring out – they left off a few steps.
In any case, it’s two side-by-side squares of pressure-treated wood, chicken wire, screws, and staples. However, each side is plenty big for a whole season of manure, bedding, and garden scraps.
And because of how we layer the manure, scraps, bedding, and barn lime, we don’t have to do anything with it – and it doesn’t smell at all or attract any bugs.
It’s the easiest way to compost. And in the spring? I’ve got a good-sized pile of natural, manure-enhanced compost to add to my garden.
In fact, the only real issue we’ve experienced with composting is that the chickens love to get into it when I forget to close the garden gate. Then, they’re spreading the compost for me – and eating who knows what!
But if you put your compost in a separate section of your yard, that should cut down on the chickens getting into it. Just remember to close the gate!
Don’t Expect Goats or Chickens to Protect Each Other – but they may surprise you!
The next tip is that goats and chickens may not actively protect each other. So if you’re considering getting goats to protect your chickens, you’d probably do better with a guard dog, a llama, or even an alpaca.
However, there are definitely stories where goats and chickens do protect and care for each other.
- Active protection: stories where goats or chickens actively defend each other are rare – they’re the exception rather than the rule.
- Passive protection: keeping these animals together may offer some passive protection, as each may help warn the other species of danger or serve as a natural deterrent to some predators.
Some larger breeds of goats may be better active defenders – especially if you get wethers (castrated males) that still have horns. However, then you’ve got a goat with horns – and that may become a safety issue for your flock or your family.
So you really have to weigh the pros and cons either way.
In our case, we’re leaning towards Nigerian dwarf goats – so they aren’t going to be too much bigger than our chickens. As such, we aren’t expecting them to be amazing or active guards for our chickens. And we also don’t expect that our chickens will do much to actively protect the goats.
However, we’ll be integrating them as a single, mixed-species herd. And as such, we’re hoping they’ll warn each other of danger. And just by having the goats around, that should give our flock a small extra measure of protection from winged predators.
Learn Basic Animal Care and First Aid
The last tip to keeping chickens and goats together is to learn some basic first aid and animal care. You’ll also need to know some basics of chicken and goat psychology.
- Chickens, for example, don’t show early signs of illness or weakness. Odds are that the first signs of illness you see will be later signs – and it’s hard to do much at that point.
- Chickens also don’t tolerate weakness – or injuries – in their flock because it puts the whole flock at risk of being predator bait. So, if you do have an injured or bleeding chicken, the other chickens will actually attack them.
- Goats won’t attack each other, but they will play rough at times. However, if a goat accidentally injures another animal (goat or chicken), you’ll need to keep an eye on them – especially if there’s any bleeding involved. You may even need to separate them from the rest of your flock and herd to care for them while they heal.
In order to do this, you’ll need to know some basic first aid – animal style. Thankfully, there are lots of great YouTube videos that show you basic animal first aid. And if you want to follow us on YouTube, we’d love it! Just search for our Backyard Homestead HQ channel – and you’ll find us.
Being a (human) nurse with emergency room experience, this is where I feel a slight advantage – even if I do still watch veterinarian channels to make sure I keep up on how to care for my animals.
Because once you know how to care for animals in a pinch, you’re going to feel an awful lot more secure in everything else. And then you’ll really be able to enjoy having your goats and chickens together in your backyard homestead!
- Constable, Peter D., et al. “Overview of Cryptosporidiosis – Digestive System.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, www.merckvetmanual.com/digestive-system/cryptosporidiosis/overview-of-cryptosporidiosis.
- “Keeping Backyard Chickens and Other Poultry.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Feb. 2020, www.cdc.gov/features/salmonellapoultry/.
- L., Ralph. “Decision Guide on Developing Livestock Enterprises with Rural Communities in Africa. Part 1: Rabbits, Goats, and Poultry.” Community List, ILRI, 1 Jan. 1970, cgspace.cgiar.org/handle/10568/75667. (link to full paper)
- Nutrient Requirements of Small Ruminants: Sheep, Goats, Cervids, and New World Camelids. National Academies Press, 2007.
- R., Danielle, et al. “Inoculation of Goats, Sheep, and Horses with MERS-CoV Does Not Result in Productive Viral Shedding.” MDPI, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 19 Aug. 2016, www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/8/8/230.
- VetsOnCall YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/veterinariansoncall/videos.