If you are lucky enough to win over the love of a skittish goat, count yourself lucky. Bella is my most skittish goat and will run as fast and as far as her short little legs will take her if anyone comes anywhere near her. But when she is scared or hurting? She looks to me and that is pretty amazing. So if you have a skittish goat, or have a new goat that you are looking to bond with, here is a couple hacks to bond with your goats.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
Bringing Home Your Goat
Before we get into bonding with your goats, I want to first address something. Unless your goat was born on your farm, your new goat is stressed to the max. They were ripped away from their herd, thrust into a box (or car, crate, whatever), and transported to a new farm. Then they were dumped in a fence with new goats and people that they don’t know. If you are bringing home babies? This is the first time without their momma. This goat is freaked out.
So before you thrust yourself on to them and then wonder why they are running away from you, give them some time to just be. Let them figure out where they are, who their new goat friends are, and the pecking order that they are now probably at the bottom of. Let them destress as much as possible. Realistically, this will probably take a couple weeks of regular feeding and treats. It could take longer depending on your goat.
Be prepared to deal with sickness. Whether that is in the form of diarrhea from a change in food, or a worm bloom from stress. Stay on top of their health!
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Bond With Your Goat: The Hacks
There are several different ways to bond with your goats, but at the end of the day it’s really up to your goat. Not every goat will be socialized. Not every goat wants to be around humans. More importantly, not every goat is going to trust humans. But with a little time and effort, you should be able to at least tame your goat enough to know their ticks and maybe, just maybe, get some snuggles.
When we got Bella and V, we realized that we were going to have our work cut out for us with Bella. At first, we thought she was just antisocial and didn’t want anything to do with us. After a while we realized that she was scared of us and didn’t trust us. Every time we had to grab her horns and and force her where we need her to go, it set us back. But what were we supposed to do? We needed to trim her hooves, administer medications and just be able to care for her.
After V died and Bella was alone for a few days, I thought maybe she would start to trust us, but she seemed to distrust us even more. When we got Midas, he became very untrusting towards us because he spent the first two weeks with Bella. Since Bella wouldn’t come near us, neither would Midas. It took about six months before Midas would come near us willingly. So what can you do?
Give them time. Let them decompress and learn that you are safe. Sometimes the best way to do that is to let them see you with your other goats.
Goats are very smart creatures and will see how you treat their herd mates and will judge you accordingly. So be patient.
Also, don’t rush. If you’ve got a spastic child (my Jaxson), maybe don’t let them love on the brand new, completely freaked out goat. If you are spastic (myself), be calm and understanding.
Hack #2: Pin Them Up
I talk about goat basics in my Goat Crash Course: Goat 101, but the biggest thing that we noticed with our new girls was that if we let them run wild in the pen, they would take longer to come around to us.
What we would do is put them on the small side of our barn that is used for laboring moms, moms that just kidded, or when we separate for goat sharing. This would keep them from running away from us and us having to chase them down. For a prey animal, being chased is literally the worse thing you could do.
When you keep them pinned up and bring them food and water, they see you as the giver of delicious nom noms. They also see that you are safe and won’t hurt them.
Seriously, treats are the best. We get “apple crack”, which is a goat probiotic in pellet form. Even Bella will come running for apple crack. A word of caution. Do not give empty calorie treats like crackers, cookies, etc. These can actually mess up their rumen and that is not good.
But anything can be a treat in moderation. We also give small pieces of apple, carrots, cucumbers, etc. They see it as a treat and it allows us to reinforce that they are safe and we are the bringers of delicious nom noms.
If you don’t have an issue with alcohol, get your goats drunk…. I’m only kind of joking. But the reality is that goats actually benefit from a beer occasionally. It helps their rumen function. Plus, it’s delicious.
Hack #4: Forced Snuggles
I did this with Bella and Spike with mixed success. A lot of people swear by this because it really does work. You basically force the goat to accept your love. The good news it is, it mostly works. Unless you have a Bella.
Bella LOVES to be snuggled when she is stuck in the barn, scared or laboring. If she is outside the barn? She totally forgets that I am a friend and I love her, and will run for the hills. But that’s okay because in the years that I’ve had her? She has become the sweetest snuggler I have. And she willingly gets on the milk stand and will let me love on her when I milk her, so I win.
Spike will tolerate the snuggles but he knows he can over power us very easily so we use caution around him.
Hack #5: Children
This is where that spastic child may actually help you out. Jaxson has no fear. Zero. Our rooster will beat the crap out of him and he comes back for more. It’s the same way with the goats. He doesn’t care if they want his love or not, they are getting it. He has managed to get these goats to realize they are friends, not food.
Children rarely have fear about something they perceive as cute and cuddly. It’s why your kid will randomly show up with a scorpion and you are freaking out and they are asking to keep it….. Ask me how I know.
So let that child man-handle the goat, SAFELY! They will be the best of friends… maybe.
Accepting Defeat When You Try To Bond With Your Goats
If you have tried all of these things and nothing is working, chances are you have a Bella. That goat will probably never come around. We’ve had her for a few years now and we still have to work to get her. You will get there with your goat, but it’s going to take time.
When you have a “normal” goat that wants your affection, those five tips above usually works well. All of our other goats have come around within a month max. But sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes it’ll never happen. That’s okay. You have to keep trying and just try to manage the chaos.
Update For Those Interested
In the years that we have had Bella, she has given birth twice for us. Both times she would cry for my attention. She only allows me and my oldest son to snuggle her newborn babies. She milks beautifully and has become an amazing goat for us. It does take time and effort. I’ve read on so many Facebook pages of people saying get rid of the goat, freezer camp for the goat, etc and it breaks my heart. If we had listened to them, like a lot of new goat owners would, Bella wouldn’t be here. Neither would Ursula or Bebe.
For me, it’s no different than a difficult dog. The animal (regardless of species) is scared. But when you finally gain that trust? You have an animal that truly wants to spend time with you. Let’s you snuggle them and their babies. Brings you their babies. It’s truly amazing.
How do you get your goats to warm up to you?
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