If you’ve never kept goats before, you’re probably in for a bit of a rude awakening: these adventurous little critters are escape artists to the core, take my word for it. And if you don’t believe me, just ask anybody who has kept them for any length of time and they will back me up.
The problem with raising goats is that aside from being pretty athletic and capable jumpers, they are also really hard on fencing.
If there is any weakness, any gap, any shortcoming in the design, they will find it, exploit it and take off.
The problem is one that is maddening enough many people swear off owning goats after a year or two of futile attempts at keeping them contained. No physical barrier seems fit to the task!
It’s always going to be a challenge, but with the right approach to fencing in your goats you can make most of your problems a thing of the past.
I’ll tell you everything you need to know to put up the best fence on your homestead that will be as escape-proof as possible, so keep reading to find out more.
Fencing Goats is Harder than You Might Think
I want to make sure we address something for the benefit of people who might doubt my assertion above.
Goats are shockingly difficult to keep contained, and for a variety of reasons. Suffice it to say they will put any kind of fencing, whether it is DIY or not, to a true test.
One of the biggest problems is it goats are quite athletic. They are great climbers and many of them can jump surprisingly high.
If you don’t have a fence that is high enough, your goats might be able to jump up near the top, secure a toe hold, and then scrabble over.
Similarly, they can jump from any convenient obstacle or boost nearby, or even hop directly off of the wall of a building to clear the fence.
Goats will also, if given an opportunity, try to squeeze under a fence that is too high off the ground, and young kids can squeeze through almost any opening to pop through.
Regular cattle panels are not going to get it done, as the openings are too wide.
And that’s just for starters. Goats are also notoriously destructive and persistent. Goats have a bad tendency to lean on, push on, head butt and generally tear up fencing. Bucks will routinely rack their horns on fencing and tear it up or pull it down.
Any weakness in the fencing itself, the fasteners you use, the posts, or the overall design of the fence as a system will quickly be found out and exploited, allowing all of your goats to jailbreak and go free.
The agility of goats combined with their destructiveness means that you’ve got to step your game up when it comes to the materials and construction of your fencing, otherwise you’re going to experience this disappointment over, and over, and over again.
Fundamentals for Goat Fencing
If you want to put up good fencing for your goats that will last, or at least keep them in place for a long period of time, make sure you check off all of the following design factors.
Durability is Everything
No matter how big your parcel and what kind of goats you have, durability is everything when it comes to fencing in goats.
Given enough time, goats will succeed in breaking down all but the sturdiest fencing.
This means that you must choose durable fencing material, and also build your fence in such a way that it can withstand the constant attacks of your goats.
Plastic fencing is usually a non-starter, as is any metal fencing put up on wimpy posts or with weak fasteners. Wood might be okay, but it tends to be more vulnerable than metal.
Trying to save a few cents here and there, or save a few minutes during the build, is only going to result in more escapes.
Build it strong the first time, or be ready to build it again and again!
Run Fencing on Inside of Posts
One quick tip that I see people get wrong all the time: run your fencing along the inside of your posts, meaning on the surface that is facing the space where your goats are to be contained.
This is because it will make it much harder for your goats to simply pop the fencing itself off of the fasteners at each post by pushing on it or ramming it.
This is especially vital if you are using welded fencing which is much easier for goats to break.
Done this way, the whole post will support each given section of fencing and prevent it from pulling away or popping off went under attack.
Always Concrete Your Posts
This is another corner that gets cut routinely when folks are DIY’ing their own goat fencing. Even when using strong, sturdy posts and sinking them deep, if you don’t concrete them for support you can expect them to get “wallered out” and start sagging after they endure the constant attentions of your herd.
Fence posts that start to sag, droop, or lean are not going to be able to keep the fencing in place adequately, and that means escapes.
I have seen goats, in a shockingly short period of time, pushover even sturdy 6×6 posts sunk deeply into the ground.
This is another potential weak link in your fencing, and the only thing that is going to cover this weakness is setting the posts in concrete. Remember: little flaws add up to big escapes!
Tall Enough to Stop Jumpers
You can always tell a veteran shepherd from a newbie by the height of their fencing. I see time and time again beginners that dramatically underestimate just how high goats can jump, or climb, and there’s hardly anything more demoralizing than putting in fencing that is just too low; you’ll have to redo it later, after you roundup all of your goats!
Your fencing height should be chosen based on the breed of goats you are keeping. Bigger, more athletic goats need taller fences. Smaller ones can usually be contained by somewhat shorter fencing.
In all cases, I would not put in anything shorter than 5 feet, and 6 feet or even taller is recommended for larger breeds.
Low Enough to Stop Crawlers
It sounds like a small thing, and it is, but it’s easy to overlook. Make sure you install your fencing material low enough to the ground that goats, and particularly kids, cannot easily squeeze underneath it to get out. It also makes it harder for predators to get in.
Also remember to account for ground cover, and for the possibility of erosion both from the activity of the goats and from rain.
If a little depression gets hollowed out beneath your fence, your goats might once more be able to slip out.
Place Posts No More than 5 to 6 Feet Across
The posts of your fencing should be placed relatively close together. Posts that are closer together will provide better strength and support for a given section of fencing material.
And they’re going to need it because your goats can, and will, put it to the test.
The wider apart your fence posts are the more flex and give a given section will have, increasing the likelihood of failure or damage.
Keep Obstacles Away from Fence
This is another seemingly obvious consideration but one that is easy to forget, or to overlook when you are doing your chores.
You must not erect your fence near any obstacle or terrain that your goats can use to get a boost when climbing or jumping.
This could be an old section of wall, broken down equipment, the side of an outbuilding, a tree or tree stump, a rock or even some things that you’ve left lying inside the pen.
Ignore this advice at your own peril!
Good Fencing Options for Goats
Now that we’ve got all that sorted out, it’s time to actually pick out our fencing material.
All sorts of materials can work for keeping your goats in place, but as you might expect all have their own advantages and disadvantages.
You’ll have to balance ideal performance against your own budget, naturally, and certain types of fencing have special benefits depending on the type of goats you have, your location and other factors.
Wood can be an adequate fencing material for keeping small goats in, but it usually isn’t very practical for larger goats.
Some types of fence that would work well enough for larger animals, like split rail fencing, are easily surmounted by goats.
Wood can be convenient, and available, especially if you already have a stash or stockpile to work with but making it sturdy enough and tall enough to resist goats can get expensive quickly.
To offset the cost ,some people swear by pallet fencing and it can work well enough for a time. However, using other lumber to build a fence always necessitates lots of fasteners, and each and every fastener is a weak point in your fencing system.
If you do want to put up a wood fence, consider 4×4 fence posts to be the minimum for strength, and keep the spacing close!
Not the best choice for goats in particular, I think, and you’re probably better off choosing another option on this list.
2. Welded Wire
Welded wire is one of the most common and most affordable types of metal livestock fencing to be found in most places.
Everything you need to know about it is in the name: welded wire fencing is a grid, usually with small openings only a few inches across, made up of thin gauge wire that is welded together at the intersections.
Is easy to handle, cheap and reasonably effective but it does have some significant drawbacks, particularly for larger breeds.
For starters, the individual welds can break when under pressure, or after a sustained assault. This can allow a determined goat to open up a hole that can allow them and others to wriggle out.
Additionally, this type of fencing is simply more deformable than other metal types, and it is an easy thing for a goat to push over a section over a longer span or even pull up the bottom edge if it is not secured to a slab or runner.
The necessity of an aforementioned bottom piece will increase cost and complexity of your fence project somewhat.
Overall, not a bad choice for smaller breeds of goat, or if you know your goats are very calm and not particularly bent on escape, but it is likely a fence type that isn’t going to last very long and will necessitate frequent repairs.
3. Woven Wire
Woven wire fencing is a logical step up from welded wire. Also commonly available in most places, this is a stronger, tougher option compared to welded wire, but also one that usually has larger openings.
Although hardly a problem for most goat breeds, smaller kids might be able to slip through.
The advantage of woven wire is that it is not welded. It sounds simple, but because it is simply bent around itself at intersections there is nothing to break unless the wire itself is broken.
This makes woven wire significantly more durable than welded wire, and the gauge of the wire itself is usually larger.
It is a good choice, no more expensive, and depending on the construction choices you make it might still be vulnerable to being bent out of shape or pulled up
4. Chain Link
The heaviest of the heavy-duty metal fences, chain link is ideal for containing goats. Quality chain link is extremely durable, long lasting doesn’t rely on welds to hold together and will easily withstand goats ramming it, leaning on it or otherwise messing with it.
Even better, the openings in chain link are way too small for even the smallest goats to climb through and it resists deformation.
Really the only downside to chain link is that it is quite expensive, especially compared to the other two types of metal fencing.
But, if you have the money, and don’t mind the appearance of this type of fencing it is definitely the best of the non-electrified options.
5. Electric Fencing
Since I specifically mentioned non-electrified options in the last entry on chain link fencing, it only makes sense that we have electrified fencing too!
Most animal keepers that live or work on farm settings are already entirely acquainted with electrified high-tensile wire fence for livestock control, but for those of you who aren’t here is a crash course.
Electric fencing is exactly what the name suggests: metal fencing that has a high voltage but low amperage electric current coursing through it. This will give animals- and people! – that touch it a painful shock.
One or two close encounters with an electric fence is usually all it takes for even the boldest animal to learn, with no ambiguity, that you don’t go near or touch it! This is a psychological barrier in addition to a physical one.
Because of this, electric fencing can be very “minimalist” compared to other types of permanent fence.
It doesn’t have to be tall or intricate enough to prevent goats from scrambling over it, under it or through it.
It need only be substantial enough to ensure that contact occurs when goats come near it. A few good pops, and that is the end of that expedition!
Additionally, electric fencing is quite cheap, and can be put up with much lighter and smaller posts and wires because the electricity does the work; the fence is not relying on physical strength or height to impede the movement of goats.
Electric netting can also be used on a temporary basis to cover major breaks in fencing or to start encouraging goats to keep away from specific areas.
You’ll probably be pleasantly surprised to see how cheap electric fencing wire, posts and associated materials are, even compared to cheaper welded wire fences.
However, the financial torpedo that you might not be expecting is the fence charger.
The charger is the component that actually energizes the fence, and these can cost a pretty penny though they typically last a long time and can energize long runs of fencing easily, so this is a one-time investment for most folks.
How Much Juice for an Electric Fence?
One factor concerning the use of an electric fence that can be upsetting for those who are not acclimated to their use is dialing in the precise amount of voltage for the fence.
This can be tricky, because we don’t want to cause our animals any undue harm or suffering, but you need to know right up front that if you set the charge too low your goats will not be sufficiently dissuaded!
To a degree, this depends a little bit on the breed of goat and also the individual. Some animals are bolder, or meaner, and might not be easily dissuaded from the pain of a shock.
Others might need only a single, small zap to get the message.
Generally speaking, setting the charge of your fencing between 5,000 and 10,000 volts is going to be enough to dissuade all but the most determined goats.
Be prepared to experiment, and don’t be afraid to crank up the voltage a little bit (within safe limits) if a goat is just not taking the hint.
Remember that you’ll have to buy a charger capable of meeting your required level of output.
Gates are Important Too
Whatever kind of fence you decide to install, make sure that your gate is also built to a corresponding level.
Obviously a wonderful fence does no good if the gate is small, rickety and has wide openings!
One more tip from me, learned the hard way: invest in the most secure latches and closures you can for your gate.
I don’t know how, but goats seem to be second only to monkeys and parrots for figuring out complicated closures on gates and cages to free themselves.
Make sure your gate fulfills all of the following criteria:
- Swings inward (harder for goats to push open).
- Strong, sturdy hardware and fasteners.
- Complex latch that goats cannot undo.
- Same size openings as fencing (to keep kids and crawlers in).
Also consider adding two gates to your goat enclosure, both meeting the standards above.
Goats are notorious for congregating around the gate you let them in and out of when you approach, preventing easy ingress- or making it hard to keep them in!
Consider Double-Row Fencing for Troublesome Goats and Predator Defense
I’ve seen enough things that go wrong when trying to keep goats contained but I have come around on the idea of double-row fencing just for them, particularly in the case of larger breeds or particularly unruly herds that simply will not be contained.
A double-row fence is exactly what it sounds like, being an inner fence surrounded by another, outer perimeter fence with a patch of bare ground in between.
Now, this seems redundant, and it is in the truest sense of the word, so then why go through all this extra work and expense?
For starters, it’s just one more way to prevent an escape, and is definitely worthwhile if you live near an area with a major roadway nearby or a preponderance of large predators that could hurt or kill your goats.
And speaking of the latter, a double-row fence is ideal for use with livestock guardian dogs.
Not only will the predator have to cross two fences, but if you keep your dog housed in the lane between the two fences it will be able to intercept the predator before it gets into the enclosure with the goats.
On that note, leaving a larger cohabitative guardian animal in the enclosure with your goats is an option, too. Alpacas and lamas are good choices for this duty.
This is an expensive and involved solution, and not for everyone, but for those who can afford it is a great idea.
Check Your Fencing Constantly for Damage
One final tip, again one that I learned the hard way: More than with any other kind of livestock, make it a point to routinely check your fences, gates and all hardware for damage and degradation.
Goats are notoriously hard on fencing, and they are so persistent and stubborn they might work on one spot over and over and over again till it fails, and they can get out.
The only way to spot this stuff before it becomes a problem, or to potentially stop bad behavior before it escalates, is to walk your fence inside and out and check it regularly.
This should be done no less than once a week, and preferably twice a week.
Keeping Goats Contained is a Tough Job, but You Can Do It!
If you’ve never tried to keep goats before, keeping them inside the pen or pasture is probably going to feel like the task of a lifetime. Even for veterans, it is a difficult job.
But it is not that bad so long as you take the time to invest in the right kind of fencing for your herd and install it correctly. Use what you learned in this guide to get the job done.
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Tim is a farm boy with vast experience on homesteads, and with survival and prepping. He lives a self-reliant lifestyle along with his aging mother in a quiet and very conservative little town in Ohio. He teaches folks about security, prepping and self-sufficiency not just through his witty writing, but also in person.