Although we do not yet have what I would consider to be extensive experience with goats, we have learned a lot about their behavior. Our Dairy Goats are generally easy to work with and very docile. However, they do have a very pronounced mischievous streak that they love to exercise and display occasionally. During our first goat-keeping experience two years ago, we were introduced to this behavior trait by Cara (one of our original milkers) and Dancing Lady (who was dry and not producing milk at that time). Cara was the escape artist. She had learned how to open a door with a round knob. She would clench her mouth around the door know and twist her head to turn it. She had managed to escape from the goat barn using that talent and let all of our goats out into the yard. A strong gust of wind followed behind her and slammed the door shut, trapping them outside the barn and leaving us without a clue of how they had managed to escape. We only learned how she did it later, when her previous owner told me she had done it repeatedly on his farm. That forced me to purchase a child safety cap to place over the doorknob. It wasn’t always easy to use, but it kept Cara in the barn.
Cara also had a rather frustrating habit of digging holes in the dirt floor of the goat barn. She was the only goat that did this, and we never really understood why. We were told by her previous owner that it was “just her way.” I assumed it was a way of claiming a desired sleeping place or she liked to cool feeling of the dirt better than the soft straw we spread over the floor. Whatever the reason, she eventually dug so many holes in the dirt that our floor began to look more like the lunar surface than the nice, level barn floor I had carefully groomed. It certainly didn’t make it easy to carry five-gallon buckets of water in the barn or to muck out the straw periodically. Fortunately, none of the other goats we kept picked up that trait.
Dancing Lady was the “smooth operator.” She spent most of her time nearest to the barn door that Cara first opened. I was milking two goats at the time (Cara and Emerald), and Lady knew my routine very well. Since my milking stand was stationed in our garage, I would always have to attach a leash to each goat and lead it from the goat barn to the garage—a distance of about twenty feet. I always milked Cara first, then returned her to the goat barn to place the leash on Emerald and lead her to the garage. Over time, Dancing Lady learned just where she could stand to squeeze through the barn door when I was returning with Cara or leading Emerald to the garage. Once through the door, she would make a mad dash to the garage so she could get to the milking stand first. She knew that the stand contained a feed bowl that I would fill with sweet goat feed for the goats to eat while I was milking them. By getting there ahead of me, she would gobble up as much of the grain as she could before I could catch up with her and secure Emerald in the stand.
Now that Essie has returned to our farm as an adult and we have a new Dwarf Nigerian kid, Snowball, I am getting introduced to their own quirky behavior. Yesterday, I was working in the barn to attach a fine wire mesh screen to the fence panel of the kid pen to keep Snowball from getting into the pen. She is so small that she can squeeze through the six-by-six inch gaps in the fence panel. Now that I have scaled back the number of goats we keep, I decided to use the small kid pen in the barn to store the hay bales we will feed them. I discovered recently that snowball was getting into the pen and pooping on the fresh hay. While I was working carefully to attach the wire mesh screen to the fence panel using zip ties, I was not keeping a close eye on Essie and Snowball. When I was struggling to fasten a zip tie in a tight corner of the fence, Essie managed work work the kid pen gate open with her nose and carefully crept into the pen behind me. When I finally looked up, she had climbed to the top of the stack of bales and was eating greedily from them.
I took a picture of her, led her down from the haystack, and led her out of the kid pen when I realized I didn’t see Snowball in the barn. I turned to see if she had walked out into the goat yard, but she was nowhere in sight. For a moment, I was afraid she had escaped. However, as I re-entered the goat barn to go out the barn door to find her, I discovered that she had climbed into one of the hay racks mounted along the barn wall and was laying on the soft bed of feed hay I had put out for them that morning.
I can recall a few antics our dairy cows pulled when I was a growing up on our family dairy farm, but none of them was as eccentric as the capers I have witnessed during my first six months of goat-keeping. Goats are very clever and creative in exercising their personal quirks. They will test your skill and challenge your sense of humor. I guess I don’t mind it too much. It’s all part of life on a farm.