Goat fencing is the only downside to keeping goats – and it can be a huge one, fellow homesteaders. I thought I armed myself with enough knowledge to prepare myself for the escape artist antics of goats, but I was oh so wrong.
Doing your due diligence when getting ready to keep goats will definitely save you time, money, frustration, and sore muscles from all the fence mending that will need to take place.
If you have neighbors, they will probably only be kind hearted about your herds great escape one or twice.
Getting it right the first time is truly the way to go when erecting a goat fence. Now, for the sake of absolute transparency, I need to tell you that I no longer keep my goats in a fence of any type on a daily basis. We live on a 56-acre survival homestead with absolutely no neighbors in sight.
Thanks to this awesome set up (including a creek near the end of our private half mile farm road the goats refuse to cross) I do not have the same worries that goat keepers on smaller acreage are forced to deal with.
I taught our highly intelligent herd of miniature goats to free-range – as I did the standard-sized goats we had for a short amount of time.
The process was decidedly easy, and I was determined to defy all of the naysayers who said it would be an impossible task.
Perhaps I will write a “how to” article to help others who want to do the same thing, but for now, we are going to tackle how to build the perfect goat fence – it can be done.
Even though my goat herd free ranges to keep out woods cut back and prevent the need for us to ever mow any grass or weed eat, I still have several small areas fenced in for temporary use by members of our goat herd: the nursing stalls, a quarantine habitat, and a converted horse stall with a fenced top cover for put up at night.
My limited use goat fenced in areas follow the same procedure and premise as should be used when constructing a permanent goat fence around a pen or browsing pasture area.
Table of Contents:
The Two Jobs of Any Goat Fence
A perfect goat fence must do two things: keep the goats in and predators out. You herd of goats will only stay alive and healthy is the fence does its job – when the fence fails, the herd will not last long.
Wise words from my popaw danced through my head when I first started fencing in goat areas – and it would serve you well to heed them also.
Pop said, “if you want to know if your goats can get out of the fence, simply pour a cup of water over it. If the water flows through the fence, expect the goats to as well.” Wise words, indeed.
Goat Fencing Planning Tips
- Expect the goats, no matter how docile, to assume the grass is greener on the other side of the fence and both push and attempt to climb over the barrier – near constantly.
- While you do not want your goat fencing to be at all flexible, you yourself must be. Like humans, all goats are different. A perfect goat fencing for one homesteader and the type and number of goats he or she keeps might be a near miss someone else.
- The size of the goats will play a determining role in both the height and weight of materials used to pen the goats.
- If the goat pen or pasture is small or too many goats are house together, expect more attempts at escapes.
- Placing natural or man-made objects to climb over, under, and through in the goat pen will help keep the herd both physically and mentally stimulated. A bored goat is far more likely to become keenly focused on escape attempts – and can become aggressive to other herd members and human keepers. Remember, goats are superb jumpers as well as climbers. Always place play and climbing structures in the middle of the pen to ensure the goats cannot use their “toys” to help them jump or climb to freedom.
- Fencing for standard size goats must be at least 42 inches tall to ensure they cannot jump over them. Miniature goats herds require a fence that is only 32 to 36 inches tall to prevent similar escape attempts.
- Always consider the type of predators that would view your goat herd as a fine meal, when pondering the type of fencing materials to use.
- Always use pressure treated lumber when using wood materials as part of your goat fencing plan.
Goat Fencing Materials
There are multiple good goat fencing materials options.
Which ones you choose to use when erecting a goat fence will depend on your budget, the space being fenced, the predators you are trying to keep out, as well as the size of goats being kept.
4 Best Goat Fencing Materials Choices:
- Wood Panels – 2 X 4 or 4 X 4 boards mounted to hardwood corner and perimeter panel posts.
- Livestock Panels – goat panels only on interior portion of fence but hog panels of cattle panels can be used on exterior levels to better deter predators.
- Electrical Fencing – This is used ONLY as an addition to bolster safety around and on top of other more sturdy goat fencing materials being used. Electrical fencing is also highly recommended to be placed onto interior fencing levels to keep the herd backed away from the primary perimeter to deter climbing, and to better ensure they are out of reach of predator paws and claws.
- Barbed Wire – This too is used only to keep goats away from the primary fencing materials and not a sole fencing barrier. Barbed wire placed around primary fencing and on top of it will help deter predators, goat climbing, and keep the goats away from the fence and out of reach of predators trying to reach inside.
Goat Fencing Interior First Layer
Regardless of the breed or size of goats you decide to keep, none of the fencing materials used should have an opening that exceeds four inches.
Such an opening will allow a goat to push its head through but, typically, will not allow the head to move back in because the horns will get stuck.
A panicked goat with its head stuck in the fencing will jerk and pull, and thrash about frantically trying to get free, hurting itself, breaking its own neck, or hanging itself, in the process.
If a predator is in the area or attracted to it by all the noise, the goat is essentially serving itself up on a platter.
I would recommend using a first layer of fencing on the interior of the pen that has even smaller openings.
A goat can put its hooves into such an open space to attempt to climb the fence, and either get up and over or have its legs slip through the space and get stuck on other layers of fencing or injured – sometimes severely.
The best options for the inside pen layer of fencing:
- Wood posts
- Wood pressure treated boards spaced no further than two inches apart
- Metal wire panels – goat panels
- Wood pallets
Make sure that the metal wire panels you purchase are actually goat panels.
The same style of fencing is made for both hogs and cattle – and they have openings that are simply too large to be safe for use an an interior fencing barrier for goats.
These metal wire panels are also referred to as sheep panels. They are four feet high, and have smaller openings to deter climbing.
Hog panes are a little bit shorter than three feet tall, and have wider openings between the metal wire.
Cattle panels are four or even five feet tall and also have wider openings. All versions of livestock panels that I have ever seen either in a store or on a farm are always 16 feet long.
Chain Link Fencing
Never use chain link fencing as the interior layer of a goat pen. The openings are too large and the goats will attempt to climb it, and potentially cause injury to a leg that slips into the opening.
Some newbie goat keepers have tried using 6 foot tall versions of chain link fence as a goat pen perimeter, thinking it would completely prevent climbing or jumping over by the goats and better protect them from predators.
While such a fence is too tall to jump or climb by goats, the openings simply make it far too dangerous of a first layer option.
Climbing predators like mountain lions and bobcats will not be deterred by the height. Bears might not be as well.
Skipping a top layer on a pen that will also serve as sleeping quarters because such a tall fence is used could lead to disastrous results.
Using chain link fencing as a second layer of goat fencing can be a fine idea because it is so sturdy, has strong metal posts, and a tight and secure fitting bottom – but do not skip the hardware cloth trenching even if using chain link fencing on a goat pen.
Electric Fencing or High Tensile Wire
A layer or high tensile wire or electric fence netting on the interior fencing area can also help prevent climbing onto the main fence support by the herd.
Electric fence netting is my least favorite electrical fencing option. It is quicker and easier to erect, but is also easier for the goats to get tangled in.
High tensile wire is an extremely durable livestock fencing option – when it is strung correctly and attached to proper posts. It takes longer to install that wood planks or livestock metal panels but stands the test of time.
High tensile wire must be attached to wood posts and not metal T posts, and is secured in place with sturdy post staples.
Goat Fencing Exterior Layers
Once the interior goat safe and anti-climbing portion of the fencing is installed, it is time to add at least one additional exterior barrier against predators, a top border, and ideally, a top cover.
The top border should be either electrical fencing or barbed wire – or both. I prefer using both to better thwart creatures that climb who also want to eat my herd of miniature goats.
The exterior layer of the goat fencing can be a combination of electrical wire, barbed wire, or metal wire panels. – or again, a combination of all three.
You can safely use hog or cattle panels (which are often easier to find) as an exterior goat fencing layer because the herd members will not be able to actually reach them unless outside of the pen.
The more barriers you place between your goats and the outside world, the safer they are from themselves and predators when your back is turned.
Goat Fencing Support Posts
Hardwood fence posts that are at least 10 inches in diameter should be used as corner posts.
They must be sunk at least one and a half feet into the ground, and still extend to the desired height for your herd type, above ground.
Unless you are dealing with large predators like bears, wolves, and mountain lions, smaller hardwood posts (diameter at least 4” wide) or metal T posts can be used as side supports.
If you are keeping large goats or ones that are known to not like being penned, consider using wood posts instead of metal T posts, because they may not be able to stand up to the frequent pushing on the fence by the goats.
Even goats that are not primed for an immediate escape 24/7 will rub up against the post very often to scratch both their backs and in-between their horns.
In my personal experience, T posts tend to shift more as the ground freezes and thaws or becomes incredibly muddy during a rainy spring, than wood posts.
Place a post every six feet along the goat fencing if keeping a standard size herd. When keeping miniature goat breeds it is often safe to place posts every eight feet.
The posts must be firmly attached to the fencing layers it is supporting. Never uses zip ties.
I do not care how many times you may read that doing so will provide enough strength and the goats will not chew them. Using zip ties simply will not work over a long period of time – or sometimes even over a short one.
I recently used zip ties to attach some hog panels to T posts when making a simple barrier to keep the goats away from our round hay bale storage area.
My cheap and easy fix did not last three days before the goats had chewed through them and I had to cut metal wire and wrap the hog panels to the T posts like I should have done in the first place.
If a goat chews through a few zip ties during the night, the herd can immediately become more vulnerable to predators, if not escape entirely from its pen.
If zip ties are chewed upon over time and snap, or several are chewed through during the day and only loosen the fence and the need to make a repair goes unnoticed, the same bad result can (and likely will) occur.
Instead, use wire that is of a thick gauge or fence staples, depending upon the type of goat fencing materials that you are using.
Electrical fencing plastic attachment pieces vary depending upon the type of charged wire, string, or tape that you are using.
The roll the electrical fencing being wrapped around will have instructionals and often a photo, of the types of fencing attachments that should be purchased separately to use when erecting.
A solar energizer (charger) type or sometimes even brand, will also be noted on the roll of electrical fencing. The solar charger will probably be the most expensive item on the goat fencing budget.
Goat Pen Gate
The gate that connects the goat fencing must be as sturdy, tall, and secure as the barrier itself.
The simplest yet safest way to make a livestock gate is to build a picket fence style gate that is as tall as the fencing, and cover it on each side with metal wire panels – goat panels on the interior.
You can also purchase a metal livestock gate from an agricultural supply store, and simply install it between to corner size hardwood posts.
Make certain to purchase a gate that is designed for goats so the openings in-between the metal gate rails are not too far apart.
If you are running electrical fencing around the goat pen, you will also need to install a gate designed to work with them to connect the beginning and ending sections of the electrical wire, string, or tape.
These gates look like slinky coils with a rubber covered piece of metal that serves as a latch. The latch can be connected to a fence staple or nail to secure it in place.
When installing the electrical fencing gate, make certain it will not dangle low enough to touch either the homemade wood and metal gate or the purchased metal livestock gate.
Otherwise, the connection of the two materials will cause it to short out, leaving the goat herd vulnerable to escape and to predators.
A gate should be built out of hardwood or be a small livestock metal gate. Always use at least one two step lock on the gate to prevent the goats from nudging it open and to deter predators.
The goat fencing gate should have a two step lock to prevent it from being knocked free by nudging of the gate by the herd.
Two-sided clasp livestock hardware work well for goat closures, but can freeze during the winter and be difficult to open.
Goat Fencing Beyond The Pen
In addition to erecting and securing a goat pen, you should also factor the creation of at least one nursing stall and quarantine area into your goat husbandry budget.
The stall also includes a climbing ramp to entertain the kids, and to give the goat momma break while penned in small quarters.
The stall has topper on it and has hardware cloth from the top of the wood stall sides to the topper to ensure predators don’t get in, and the baby goats don’t climb up the ramp and jump out.
Our goat nursing stall if 12 feet wide and a little more than five feet deep. It is large enough for a nanny goat to have freedom of movement when kept inside for several days, before it appears she is getting ready for kidding.
A quarantine stall and living quarters follow the same design as the nursing stall. This space allows me to keep a new goat separate from the herd in a safe place where it cannot get out and predators cannot get in.
It is vital to have a space to place an injured goat, a sick goat, and to quarantine a new goat for two weeks to ensure it is healthy, before putting it in with the rest of the herd.
I strongly caution against using one stall or secure space to pull double duty as both a nursing stall and a quarantine stall.
Doing so could allow a pregnant nanny or her kids to come into contact with contaminated hay or other bacteria that was not completely removed or disinfected after a stay indoors by a sick member of the herd.
Predator-Proofing Goat Fencing
Because keeping predators out is one of the two things all goat fencing must do to be effective barriers, using materials that will deter attacks is of the utmost importance.
With every type of fencing you decide to use when enclosing an area for goats, consider any and all predators that will want to get inside, and how those animals walk, climb, claw, bite, or attack before buying materials.
A fellow homesteader friend once had a sheep attacked severely by a predator that reached its claws in through split rail fencing, and held it tight while biting it about the head and neck until there was nearly nothing left.
Know your predators folks, doing otherwise can most assuredly cause tragic and needless loss on your homestead.
A Note on Chicken Wire Fencing: Bad Idea
I have known folks who actually used chicken wire fencing to attempt to keep their goats in – they were not goat keepers for very long.
The idea behind going what seemed to be a bargain basement route to goat fencing involved the small openings in the fencing that the keepers felt the goats could not get their hooves into to climb.
Well, they can and will. Chicken wire is very pliable, which is why it is lousy at keeping chicken predators, like the deadly mink, out of the hen house.
It does not take much weight at all for even a young miniature breed goat to force the chicken wire opening to expand when a hoof is placed on it during a climbing attempt.
Not only will a goat climb a chicken wire fence, it will also get both its hooves and horns through and stuck in the fence, during the fight to free themselves from it.
Chicken wire will NOT keep out any predator that seeks to attack a goat, except, maybe, a domestic dog. Nix any ideas of using chicken wire to pen in even miniature goats or their kids.
The only place I use chicken wire for our goat herd is to cover the top of the nursing and quarantine stalls. Because the fencing is placed over five feet from ground level, there is no danger of the goats getting tangled in it.
Goat kids, especially mini goat kids, are prime targets for hawks, eagles, and bobcats.
If a bobcat worked long enough, it could claw the openings in the chicken wire wide enough to get through it, but they do not want to either drop the more than five feet to the ground…
They’ll also have difficulty getting back out of the stall, and they won’t want to walk out onto something that gives even the tiniest bit under their weight.
Coyote-Proofing a Goat Fence
The number one predator of goats almost everywhere is the coyote. Just one coyote can kill multiple goats in a single night.
A nursing nanny goat and her kids are often prime targets of coyotes because even a large nanny will be in a weakened state after giving birth, and will be unable to fend off the attack – especially since she will be focused on the welfare of her kids.
Billy goats (or bucks, if you prefer) are not immune to coyote takes.
A large male goat can shove and use its horns to attempt to thwart the coyote, but the entire time the predator will be reaching in or around the goat to bite anywhere it can grab to disable its meal.
To deter coyotes from getting inside your goat pen you will need to use wood fencing with 2 X 4 or 4 X 4 slats or metal livestock panels as interior and exterior layer fencing materials, as well as electric fencing.
Keeping Domesticated Dogs Away
Your sweet little Fido may be a goat killer in disguise. Sometimes, goats and dogs get along famously – until they don’t.
Many goat keepers urge newbies to never allow goats and dogs to get too close to each other or be alone together, even if they have gotten along without incident for months – or even years. I cannot say they are wrong.
Goat fencing that will prevent any domesticated dogs, yours or strays, from getting through or under the goat fencing will not only need to be strong enough and sturdy enough to prevent a dog from pushing through it, but thwart digging under it as well.
The best way to keep dogs out of the goat pen is to trench a one foot wide and six inch deep space around the perimeter of the pen. Line the area with hardware cloth (rabbit hutch wire), and fill it back in with dirt.
Use a bottom board or pipe at the base of your fence to ensure there is no chance of the end of the fencing separating from the bottom of the perimeter.
A dog or any other predator with a tendency to burrow, should be prevented from digging their way inside the goat pen.
Bobcats Proofing Goat Fencing
As nocturnal hunters, bobcats will be roving for a meal when the goat herd is most vulnerable. The herd should be put up at night in a barn stall with a closed top or inside of their own little barn.
Any billy goat or other mature goat that attempts to use head butting and horn jabs to protect young goats or a lactating nanny from being attacked can be seriously harmed or killed in the process.
A bobcat would rarely ever attack a standard size goat or even a mature miniature goat, unless it happened to be a nanny who was weakened and distracted after kidding.
A bobcat will definitely prey upon goat kids at any given opportunity.
Add electrical fencing to the top of goat fencing set up that used 2 X 4 or 4 X 4 pressure treated wood slats and hardwood posts and / or livestock metal panels to construct the goat fencing will help deter bobcats, dogs, coyotes, and a host of other predators.
Electrical fencing alone will not keep predators out or goats in, but it does provide another layer of protection from escapes and attacks that can be invaluable.
Stringing several layers of barbed wire in between and above the electrical fencing placed at the top of the goat fencing will also deter this deadly climbing predator.
Coyotes are considered nuisance predators in the vast majority of states, meaning you can shoot to kill if the wild animals are threatening your livestock.
Bobcats are definitely nuisance predators as well, but protected ones. If you shoot a bobcat, you had better be prepared to convince a livestock agent, forest ranger, or other law enforcement believe it was a last resort effort.
The fines are steep for harming a bobcat, and doing so can include jail time if convicted of such charges.
Keeping Wolves Out of the Goat Pen
Wolves will choose to attack large livestock like cattle over a smaller meal of goat, but when hungry, any inhabitant will suffice.
A wood fence with slats no further apart that two inches as an exterior layer with goat panels on the interior layer will help prevent a wolf from either pushing through the goat fencing or stretching a paw inside to claw at the herd.
You will need to add barbed wire and – or electrical fencing at the top of the goat fencing to help prevent wolves from climbing over the barrier and into the goat pen.
To deter nocturnal predators like wolves and bobcats, add some solar fence post lights and motion detector lights on and around your goat pen.
Wolves can and will attack a goat herd and, perhaps, kill multiple members during a single nighttime hunt.
Wolves once enjoyed the same protected status as bobcats in all 50 states, but some now allow for the killing of wolves that are threatening livestock and property.
Know the laws in your state before hunting for these predators, or risk high fines and possible jail time.
Preventing Foxes From Getting Inside the Goat Pen
These predators are among the smallest that threaten a goat herd, but are deadly, and must be fenced out of the pen all the same.
Typically, a fox will target poultry birds for a meal, but an unprotected goat kid would quickly grab the attention of these sly predators, as well.
Both the noise and frequent romping of goat kids will rapidly attract the attention of any fox lurking on your homestead.
While a large and aggressive billy goat can sometimes deter a fox determined to get fed, a wether, doeling, or nanny goat often cannot.
Use the hardware cloth trenched perimeter 4 X 4 boards spanning the entire ground level portion of the fencing border to help deter these burrowing predators.
This same design should be used when constructing a nursing and goat quarantine pen or stall.
The goat fencing barriers best suited to keeping a fox out include wood and goat panels. Adding some barbed wire or electrical fencing to the barrier sides as well as a few strands at the top is also a good idea.
A fox is a rather unique predator because it is one of the few animals that has been known to kill just for sport. In most states, a fox is considered a nuisance predator.
Visit your state’s department of natural resources website to learn more about your options to deter and put down these small but mighty attackers.
Keeping Goat Kids Safe From Birds of Prey
A bird is only a threat to a goat kid or an injured young goat. But, the two top birds of prey, hawks and eagles, both enjoy protected status.
The only legal way you can prevent the loss of goat kids to these predators is to outsmart them.
A large bird of prey is capable of swooping down to the ground in the blink of an eye, and flying off with any animal that weighs no more than five pounds.
A goat kid, especially one from a miniature breed, will not weigh this much when born.
I never allow my mini breed goat kids to free range or roam outside of a pen with a covered top until they are two months old due our large hawk population.
A kid that is snatched by a hawk but is too large or struggling to much for the bird to successfully fly away can be dropped to the ground, and killed or severely injured.
Cover the nursing stall and young kid pen with chicken wire, hardware cloth, or bird netting to prevent attacks from birds of prey. Hawks have incredibly magnified eyesight.
To keep them away from my chicken coop I painted two large eyes on top of it. Silly, sure. But a fellow homesteader told me he has done so for years, and it actually seems to help.
Using motion activated decoys, especially those shaped like an owl, also seems to provide some deterrent for hawks.
Bird tape is rather expensive to purchase to use in large quantities, but psychedelic duct tape has the same prism effect, and is a far cheaper option.
Use bird tape or the duct on top of the goat pen, on the side of feeders and waterers, and anywhere else that it might catch a bit of sunshine and bother the eyes of birds of prey enough that they choose to pass your barnyard on by and search for a meal in a less annoying place.
Protecting Goats From Mountain Lions
Mountain lions (or cougars, if you prefer) hunt and kill large livestock during both daytime and nighttime hours. They are one of the most formidable predators any barnyard livestock could have.
Even the largest and most aggressive and big horned billy goat will be no match for a hungry mountain lion.
If you are forced to deal with large predators like cougars or bears, the goat fencing materials you choose have to be sturdy, tall, and attached to equally stout posts.
A top cover on a goat pen or stall is essential if mountain lions exist where you are keeping goats. Like bobcats, cougars will not want to walk or climb onto fencing that gives beneath their weight.
Chicken wire will not be the best option for a top covering when dealing with mountain lions, or bears.
Hog panel metal fencing should be used to cover the entire top of the goat pen.
Yes, this will be quite an expensive fencing material, but will still be cheaper than losing an entire herd and having to buy all of your meat and milk at the grocery store from here on out.
Using 2 X 4 or 4 X 4 wood boards or even logs, is an equally sturdy option for goat fencing that will thwart mountain lions – and a cheaper one.
However, more top to ground hardwood post supports will be necessary (increasing price) and the manual labor involved in building the goat fencing will be more physically time consuming.
Once the hog panels or wood boards are in place, the entire area will need to be covered in chicken wire or hardware cloth as an added layer of protection for the reach of strong arms, legs, and claws. If using wood boards or beams, place them no wider than five inches apart.
Light and sound deterrents as noted above, should also be incorporated into you fencing designed to deter cougars and other large predators.
Deterring Bears From Getting Into the Goat Pen
To keep bears out of a goat pen you will have to invest both more time and money into the project than you would to keep any other predator out – including mountain lions and wolves.
To keep a bear out of your goat pen you will need to use wood boards, hardwood posts throughout, metal fencing (such as hog panels) electric fencing, and construct a sturdy top cover, as well.
Motion activated decoys and solar lighting can also help convince a bear to move on to a less fortified, loud, and bright target… if the predator is not too hungry, that is.
A bear would prefer to take down a cow instead of a goat to fill its stomach, but these ferocious yet beautiful wild animals will not be picky when their stomach starts to growl.
If a goat herd is minus two or four members during a single night, and the only thing you find as a clue in the pen are big spots of blood, a bear has come to call.
Keeping goats in a pen or stall and predators out can feel like a too daunting of a task, but if you plan properly after garnering the knowledge you must posses to keep predators at bay, you only have to build a goat fence once.
Goat Fencing Maintenance
Any fencing will need repairs over time, but choosing the right materials to protect your animals and keep them within your chosen boundaries will go an incredibly long way in keeping fence maintenance to a minimum.
Going into this article you likely already knew that keeping goats in was going to be a tumultuous task, and now you know that keeping predators out to keep them alive can be a daunting chore as well.
Always inspect your goat fencing daily. If a goat finds a breach in its armor after you have put them up for the night, you could arrive at the barnyard in the morning for feed time, only to be greeted by a smiling herd standing somewhere they definitely do not belong.
Once a goat has discovered a spot that it can poke its nose through, the animal will work tirelessly to widen the hole to get its entire head out – even if pulling it back through is not going to be an option.
Those greener pasture noted above can be quite an alluring sight for a curious goat.
Checking your fence daily for signs of trouble and remembering to plan ahead when building a goat herd to avoid costly and time consuming fence expansions later on, will help ensure a happy, healthy, protected, and securely fenced herd for years to come.
Keeping miniature donkeys in with the goats or allowing them to free range next to the goat pen can also help keep predators, especially coyotes, far away from the fence and the herd itself.
Adding a pair of livestock guardian dogs to the barnyard can also help prevent predators from testing the limits of your goat fencing.
Tara lives on a 56 acres farm in the Appalachian Mountains, where she faces homesteading and farming challenges every single day, raising chickens, goats, horses, and tons of vegetables. She’s an expert in all sorts of homesteading skills such as hide tanning, doll making, tree tapping, and many more.