I heard if from everyone who has ever owned a goat… I’ve even heard it from people who simply knew someone who has owned a goat: “Goats will always find a way to escape. No matter how good your fencing they will find a way.”
Somehow we didn’t feel like this statement applied to us. It’s not like we didn’t believe them, but when it came to our goats and our fencing we just thought we had done everything we could to avoid escape. We used 5 foot high, woven wire, no climb, horse fence. Our fence posts are thick and strong and cemented 2 and half feet into the ground. There aren’t significant gaps anywhere at the bottom of the fence and it’s pulled so tightly that they can’t push and make one. The gate is latched and locked and the barn has a handle that you are required to turn to open (see figure #1). There was no way, NO WAY, these goats were going to find a way to escape…
But a week into having the goat I saw a weakness. I recognized it before it actually became a problem. I just thought there was no way they could make it happen… It was the barn door. When I would do my door and gate checks I would push and pull against them. The gate was always tightly secured, but I noticed that if I pushed the barn door it could push back far enough that the latch got caught on the door next to it, essentially leaving the door unlatched. In order to open it all the way it needed to be knocked hard and fast from the inside so that the latch jumped over the hold/lock (see figure #2). I informed my husband of this problem, but I didn’t see it as a problem that needed immediate action because, after all, the door has to be pushed in with force from outside, causing the door’s latch to stick to the side of the door next to it. As long as we didn’t do that there was no way that the goats could. We had plans to put a lock that prevented the door from going backwards but until then we just planned to be careful with our door checks and make sure the barn door was latched and secure.
One day this past week, (I can’t remember which, this week has been such a blur) I was getting the kids up from their naps. I turned off their white noise machines and noticed that Frankie, our terrier mix, was barking very aggressively. This dog barks all the time, but this bark was in a different tone. I looked outside and found our goats grazing on grass up at the porch. What was I going to do? I had a 3 year old, a 7 month old, two escaped goats and it was raining. I sat Little B in her exersaucer and asked Big B to stand at the door so that he would leave her alone and so he could also tell me if she was crying, and I went outside to try to wrangle the goats back into their pasture.
The goats ran right up to me. Goats will generally follow you wherever you go, so I tried to get them to simply follow me back the pasture, and for the most part they did. The problem came when I tried to get them back through the gate. Goats are pretty stubborn and very smart. They wanted to be with us, not locked in their pasture. I grabbed one of their feed buckets, threw some grain in it and with some work I lured them back into the pin. I latched and locked the gate and then began to search for their escape route. I didn’t have to look far, the barn door was sitting ajar. Some how they did it, they pulled the door in towards themselves hard enough to jimmy the latch. Maybe they learned to turn the handle? Who knows. They are smart animals. I went out two more times that day, before my husband came home with a lock, to find the door sitting open.
The lesson of this story? Goats will always, always, always, find a way to escape. No amount of planning or over building will exempt you from this rule. We learned that. There will always be SOMETHING. Our barn door now has a second lock and we have had no more escapes. Lets hope it stays that way.
So I guess we are ALL growing and learning on The Freckled Farm. It’s education for the children and adults alike.