Goats love to roam freely in the green fields throughout the day, grazing and bleating happily. At night, however, this is where it could get tricky. You may feel as though your goats should be locked up at night, or you may feel like they should still roam free. Which option is better for your goats, though?
Goats should be locked up at night if they can’t otherwise be kept safe from inclement weather, predators, thieves, or other dangerous factors. Goats can be safely kept outside at night with the right precautions to keep them safe and happy while outside overnight.
Goats do not need extravagant shelters to keep them happy and safe some do not really need shelter at all. There are multiple factors that you should think about before you make your decision on whether or not to lock your goats up at night. Let us go through them so you can make an informed decision on what will be best for your goats.
Reasons You Should Lock Goats Up Overnight
There are multiple reasons you may choose to lock your goats up overnight. The shelter provides protection from multiple outdoor factors that may impact the health of your goats. If you can, and you have the structures too, then it is recommended to keep your goats indoors overnight.
The following are a few reasons as to why it may be a good idea.
Bad Weather Conditions
Harsh weather conditions may cause some goats to die or become ill if there is not adequate shelter for them.
If you reside in an area that gets quite cold at night or that is prone to heavy rainfall, you may want to keep your goats inside overnight. Goats do not enjoy getting wet from the rain, especially if there is a wind with it, as the goats will not be able to maintain a steady body temperature in this weather. This could cause illness or death for your goats.
If you have particularly cold winters and get snowfall, then you will need to provide shelter for your goats during this season. Likewise, if you have very hot summers, you will need to provide shelter for your goats both during the day and night as heatstroke can be a cause for concern during this weather. If you don’t offer them shelter, then you may lose some goats from your herd.
If you have unpredictable weather, then locking your goats up at night may be the best option to keep your goats safe, warm, and happy.
Our area has hurricane-strength winds. So we built our goat shelter to withstand those kinds of winds – and faced it away from the east where those wind usually originate. We’ve also had some weird hail in the last few years, so we opted for a roof that would hold up in that kind of weather.
No matter your area, find what kind of weather is usual. Prepare your goat area to withstand that – and any weird weather that may be known to happen, too.
The Danger Of Predators For Your Goats
Predators are a big concern in some areas. If you live in areas that have Coyotes, packs of dogs, wolves, bears, or cougars roaming around, these predators will not hesitate to hunt your goats as they are easy prey for them. If these predators realize that they have a place where they can get an easy meal, they may keep coming back.
For this reason, it will be a good idea to keep your goats in overnight to avoid one or multiple goats being hunted at night when you are not there to protect them and to prevent your field from becoming a new hunting ground for any of these predators.
In a backyard setting, the biggest predator will be one you don’t expect: it’s actually dogs. Whether it’s your own dog or a neighbor’s dog who’s gotten into your yard, you need to have your goats in an area that’s less likely to let in an impromptu neighborhood dog pack.
I’ve read on countless forums about neighborhood dogs getting into a backyard homestead and decimating chicken populations. It’s not crazy or farfetched to imagine them getting the goats, too.
Theft Of Your Goats
Wild animals are not the only predators you should be on the lookout for. It may be difficult to believe, but people out there do steal goats. Goats can be a very valuable asset to have, and they can be expensive to buy, so some people do resort to stealing the goats that they want to make part of their own herd or for meat.
This can be quite a big cause for concern as you have no idea if a member of your herd is on the list for these thieves as they strike at any time, but especially at night. The best way to deter these thieves is by keeping your goats locked up overnight, as this is the time when your goats are most vulnerable.
Other great ideas to deter goat thieves in a backyard homestead setting include motion-activated lights, motion-activated sprinklers, and a high-definition camera system. I mean, really. What thief wants to get a surprise spraying, let alone be caught on candid camera with great lighting?
This way, the thieves have to put in a lot more effort to try and steal your goats and have more potential to get caught.
Protection For Kids (Baby Goats)
If you have kids or young adult goats, then you may want to keep them inside overnight as they cannot protect themselves very well. Plus, the weather can also get too much for them before it affects the adult goats. The little ones are more vulnerable to these changes in weather conditions.
If you have a mom and kid, it is better to keep them in or locked up overnight, this gives them both protection and will help them to rest and the mom to recover from the birth. If you have a goat that is about to give birth, then you should keep her inside overnight to keep her safe and warm, too.
Depending on if you’re wanting to milk or not, you’ll also want to consider locking up the mom and baby goat separately – once the baby is old enough to go overnight without nursing, that is.
How To Safely Leave Goats Out Overnight
Sometimes you may be unable to keep your goats in at night. This could be because your goats do not like it and are difficult to get into the shelter or that you do not have a shelter ready for them yet.
Whatever the reason is, there are still ways you can try and protect your goats as best you can outside overnight. Let’s go through some of those now.
Secure Fencing For Your Goats
Fencing is a great way to stop your herd from wandering too far away at night, and it is a good way to keep predators out. The best way to do this is to have two fence systems. The first one is an exterior fence; this will go around the perimeter of the yard and helps to keep predators out.
The second system is an interior fence; this will keep goats in certain areas of your backyard homestead; it is also known as cross-fencing.
You may want to go for an electric fence as this will help deter predators even more and will encourage your goats to stay in their fields. Make sure you walk your fences at least once every three days to ensure there are no breaks where predators can get through, or goats can get out.
In a backyard homesteading scenario, odds are you’ve got a fence that goes around your whole yard. However, depending on what kind of fence you have, you may want to install a second, interior fence anyway.
I’ve seen some backyard goats put holes in vinyl fences. Luckily, our goats had a chain link fence inside the vinyl fence, so even a few holes didn’t let them out.
You may also want a secondary cross-fencing anyway, if you don’t want your goats going through your whole backyard. Use fencing to keep your goats in an approved area.
Keep Your Land Clean
Keep your backyard homestead clean to protect your goats. Any piece of trash can attract other wild animals that can pose a threat to your goats, and piles of garbage can be a great place for predators to pounce out from to attack your goats.
If you find any wild animal carcasses near your fence or in your yard, properly dispose of them as far away from your land as possible as this can attract predators to your backyard homestead and goats.
In a backyard homestead style setting, one of the biggest areas for a mess (and therefore a hiding predator) is along the fence line. This is especially true if you’ve got two fences butted up next to each other.
Thankfully, most large predators won’t be able to use that. However, smaller and more opportunistic predators (think rats, mice, and snakes) will be able to use that as a pest super highway. So make sure you keep that type of area clean, too.
And while rats and mice aren’t typical predators, they are disease vectors. Diseases can prey on your goat herd just as easily as a wolf can. So keep the rodents and diseases out, too.
Consider a Livestock Guardian For Your Goats
Livestock guardians can include any combination of llamas, donkeys, and dogs. Alpacas could possibly even work, as they are known to protect lambs. And, based on my research, alpacas and goats can live together with adequate preparation. You can read my research on keeping goats with alpacas right here.
Various animals have been used as livestock guards since ancient times. Not only do they protect goats by making noise and marking their territory, but they can also chase off predators. They are great to have around if you are unable to keep an eye on your goats all the time. If predators can smell the livestock guardian, they will be less inclined to try and hunt in that area, further protecting your goats.
If the predators still try to hunt your goats, then the livestock guardian will either scare it off or alert you to the presence of the predator, which will save your goat’s lives.
In our backyard homestead, we’ve got a dog. He’s not a dedicated livestock animal, but he’s outside enough to mark his territory and protect our animals.
We also regularly send our children out to play in the yard with the animals. We hope they aren’t marking the yard, but… I won’t guarantee they aren’t. So you’d better believe we’re counting our children as an active part of our livestock guardian setup!
Pro Tip: Clean Up Any Afterbirth
Afterbirth (including the placenta) is a huge predator draw. So at kidding season, it’s important to either keep things clean or go ahead and lock up your goats at night.
If you have a goat that has kidded, make sure you clean up the area where she gave birth. The smell of dry blood and other birthing materials will attract predators and other wild animals to your backyard farm.
With a new kid, this could be also dangerous as they are easy targets for predators and can be taken out quite quickly. If it is birthing season and you have a few births, this can become a big problem if you do not clean up properly and quickly.
Do Goats Need to Be Shut In at Night?
Some goats will need to be shut in a barn at night. Others will do just fine in an open barn, provided it’s a safe shelter and the area is fenced off from predators.
In our backyard, our goat shelter had an open area in place of a door. We couldn’t shut it. However, it’s still totally safe. We built their housing to account for all regular and regularly-abnormal-for-our area weather. We also have secure fencing to prevent predators. And we have livestock guardians.
Do Goats Put Themselves to Bed?
Some goats will put themselves to bed, while others will need to be led into the barn. It’s going to depend partly on their personality, your homesteading habits, and your situation.
Our goats stayed out until they were ready to call it a night. Once we’d left the yard, the chickens went into their coop, and it was sufficiently dark, our goats would then head into their shelter and lay down to sleep. So our goats put themselves to sleep.
However, if anyone came outside (including the dog, even if he just needed to do some answering of nature’s call), then the goats came out to say hello. The dog didn’t much care for that!
But then once the yard was clear of people and pets, the goats put themselves back to bed again.
Final Thoughts on Keeping Goats Safe or Locked Up at Night
If you can keep your goats in overnight, then it may be the best option for them to keep the goats safe and protected from various dangers. There are many things out there that can harm your goats if you do not keep a close eye on them.
If you are unable to keep your goats inside overnight, then just make sure you take the proper precautions to keep them safe, warm, happy, and away from harm from other wild animals or whatever else mother nature (or the neighbor’s escaped dogs) has to throw at you.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Arcuri, Lauren. Must-Know Tips for Housing and Fencing Goats on a Small Farm. www.treehugger.com/housing-and-fencing-goats-3016795.
- “Goats – Shelter Requirements.” A Better Way, 31 May 2019, www.abetterwayfarms.com/Content/GoatCare/Housing.htm.
- Lee, April. “Can You Leave Goats Out Overnight?” Farmhouse Guide, 17 Feb. 2021, farmhouseguide.com/can-you-leave-goats-out-overnight/.
- Protecting Your Goats, www.greengablesmininubians.com/thegoatmentor/articles/protecting-goats.html.