Raising Goats: Keeping their barn clean
One of the many questions I receive about raising goats and keeping goats as pets is: How do you keep the goat barn clean? Today I am going to share how I keep our goat barn clean and how we keep our pet goats healthy!
What kind of shelter do goats need?
In short: they need a three sided barn or structure.
We converted a storage shed into a goat barn, and it works perfectly. We keep the large doors open during the day, and close them at night to keep them safe from predators.
Before we got the storage shed, we used a large dog crate, which was terribly impractical.
The whole thing was really jimmy rigged. I wired up a plywood roof above the dog kennel and used another piece of plywood as a makeshift door to block out snow drifts in the winter. We even used lots of extension cords to string out a heat lamp to keep them warm when the temps would drop below zero.
I remember wearing my snow pants, gloves, and two parkas whenever I'd go out with the goats, but more often than not, I'd spend hours sitting with them even in the middle of a blizzard. I just loved em too much.
Since their dog run days, our goats have gotten a major upgrade with the Love Shack. The Love Shack is really an outdoor storage shed customized a la goat. We contacted our local storage shed company and asked them to build one for us - I increased the roof pitch and ceiling height. Added windows and a goatie door, and asked for a dutch door rather than a standard door.
I love the Love Shack because it allows me to sit with the goats during a blizzard without snow pants on...
Anyways, our goat house, the Love Shack, is something I try to keep very clean. And chances are, if you have goats, you know this is no easy task. Goats pee. A LOT. They poop. CONSTANTLY. They like to take a nicely packed flake of hay and turn it into one million pieces and strew it about the entire pen only eating 1% of it. They aren't tidy animals, but they sure are cute.
I have developed a cleaning system for our goat pen to keep it clean year round, and I hope you find this helpful. Actually, I hope you also have some ideas to add to this, because I'm always looking for ways to improve our cleaning routine.
Raising Goats: How to keep their barn clean!
Straw vs Pine Bedding
You have a few options when you think about bedding, but really it comes down to pine vs. straw. Pine bedding is made of little tiny pine tree pieces that will get in your hair and stick to your clothes. It somehow ends up in your car and I think I even found a piece in my lipstick tube. It's really messy stuff. But it's what we use! Here's why: my goats like to eat straw bedding.
I tried straw bedding and although it was much easier to clean out with a pitch fork, it felt dirtier. The poop and pee seemed to sink down to the dirt rather than being absorbed the way it does with pine shavings. Also, Buckwheat seemed to develop a taste for pee sodden straw, which I found to be disgusting. So we quickly switched back to pine shavings and haven't looked back.
Ultimately, I think the bedding debate falls into - whatever works best for you and your animals. I'd give both a try, and see what you like best!
Once you decide, make sure to keep extra on hand. I can't tell you how many times I've come upon an extra hour or two to clean the goat pen, and have been out of shavings...it's a big pain (sort of like running out of printer ink)! So just keep extra on hand.
Oh stall freshener, how we love you! Remember when I said goats pee a LOT? I wasn't kidding. They pee more than any of my other animals, and that's because they needs so much fresh clean water to stay healthy. Since they are grazers, their systems are constantly moving, resulting in a lot of pee and poop.
You can buy stall freshener in many forms, but we use the powdered form. I simply sprinkle it all over the floor of the LS, and add a little extra where the goats seem to pee a lot.
Goat's lungs are very delicate and the ammonia created from their urine is very toxic to them, using stall freshener helps absorb the ammonia and provides a healthier environment for your animals.
Lime Wash (Whitewash) / Lime Powder
You can use lime wash or lime powder in your barn / stalls as well to help keep everything clean. In my opinion, Stall Freshener is more effective, but barn lime is said to work. Lime Wash and Lime Powder are two different things.
Lime powder is used on the dirt and in your garden, it strengthens soil. Lime Wash is hydrated lime and is used like a paint to whitewash surfaces. Whitewashing is an age old technique used not only to paint surfaces white, but also because it has antibacterial properties (often used in chicken coops).
We painted the LS with interior paint, but this year I may decided to give the whole thing another coat of lime wash simply because it's cheaper and more environmentally friendly than using paint. If you're interested, here's a great tutorial on how to whitewash.
The Deep Litter Method
If you're wondering what the deep litter method is, you're not alone. The deep litter method is basically a giant compost floor for your animals. This method can be used in the winter to create warmth in the pen. Personally, I've never tried it, but I have read about many people using this method with great success.
You can't use this method during the warmer months because of flies, but as soon as it cools down, you can begin your deep litter. Start by giving your pen a really deep clean. Get everything out, I'd even use a very diluted bleach solution, then rinse, and allow to dry completely.
Sprinkle a heavy amount of stall freshener all over the floor of your structure, then layer shavings or straw over it. When you begin to notice that the floor is becoming dirty, layer fresh bedding down without scooping any of the yucky stuff up. Just cover it all up with some bedding. Repeat this all winter long!
As the manure and urine breaks down, you will have a natural heat source to keep your animals warm in the winter months. If you're interested in this method, I suggest doing a bit more research, here is a great video showing the deep litter method.
supplies for raising goats
The Non Deep Litter Method
We don't use the deep litter method, simply because I like to keep their pen very clean and don't mind deep cleaning their pen weekly. I dedicate about 30 minutes every 7-10 days to deep cleaning the goats pen.
I have found that the deep litter method provides a bit too much moisture for my liking. So I do a deep clean about every 10 days.
To start, I bring in a wheel barrow and begin scooping out all of the pine shavings. I use a broom to really get everything out of all of the nooks and crannies. I can usually fit all of the waste in two wheel barrow loads. It's a circus each time I try to leave the pen with a wheel barrow while attempting to keep all of the goats on the right side of the fence. Open gates generally mean free-for-all.
Once I'm finished scooping out all of the waste, I sprinkle stall freshener all over the ground. I add extra where they seem to pee the most. Then, I open up a fresh bag of shavings, and sprinkle it evenly throughout the LS.
After, I place back all of their things...furniture, hay bin (in cold months), and sprinkle baking soda in a dish for them to munch on.
That's it! It really isn't very complicated, and if you keep all of your supplies handy, it only takes about half an hour every ten days or so.
Around the Pen…
Everything I've touched on so far has been applicable to where the goats sleep - a barn, shelter, or building. However, you'll probably notice that goats poop everywhere! After a few months of being kept in the same pen, their berries will begin to be more and more noticeable, and you may want to eliminate some of them.
Every couple of months, I use a rake, shovel, and broom to clean up the heavily trafficked area of their pen. This includes scooping up their unwanted hay (which builds up quickly), and sweeping/scooping as many berry clusters as I can. We usually back the truck up to the pen and fill up the bed, then find a place to dump all of the waste.
I also discovered that using a leaf blower is a wonderful way to blow all of the poop into one area to easily clean up!
It would be impossible to clean up all of the poop, but spending a little bit of time every couple of months helps out a lot.
If you have access to a meadow drag / grater you could also grate the pen to turn over the dirt in the spring. We have also found moving their feed rack to various parts of the pen every couple of months helps distribute their mess evenly!
It's important to keep the pen as clean as you can because of goats' terrible relationship with worms, especially in the spring as things are wet and warm! I hope this post was helpful for anyone interested in raising goats for pets!! Please let me know if you have any questions or tips of your own in the comments below!