Goats are curious, intelligent creatures, and they can be amazingly inventive when getting into mischief. Unfortunately, that inventiveness can put goats into dangerous situations or lead to damage, injuries or even escape. By tempting goats with stimulating games and activities, however, any mischief will be minimized and the animals will be even more engaged and entertaining.
A Bored Goat Is a Bad Goat
When goats are bored, they may seek out any means of entertainment. This could mean butting or chewing on fences or any debris they may find, which would lead to head injuries or stomach problems. Bored goats can become aggressive or dominating, stressing other goats or nearby livestock. Dairy goats will produce less milk when they are bored or stressed, which will lower profitable production of cheese, soap or other products. Fortunately, there are many ways to add entertaining games to a goat’s daily routine.
Fun for Goats
Different goats have different personalities and will enjoy different games. Depending on the type of goat and its preferences, popular games and activities include…
- Scratching Station
Goats love to scratch and will rub up against any rough surface to satisfy persistent itches. A scratching station can give them a great place to do just that, and will help keep them from leaning or rubbing on fences. The station can include a log with rough bark, cinderblocks or bricks with rough edges or old fence posts positioned for good scratching. Check the station regularly to be sure there are no overly sharp edges that could cause injuries, however.
- King of the Hill
Climbing is a favorite pastime of nearly every goat, and a climbing-friendly jungle gym is ideal for goats to play on. A few wooden platforms at different levels, with ramps or bridges in between, is the ultimate goat climbing structure, but a stack of hay bales, stumps, boulders or stove wood is also suitable. Old tires, a simple A-frame ramp or a wooden spool with the center hole covered for safety can also be great, easy options for goats to climb.
- Ball Bashing
Goats can be fascinated with balls of different sizes. Toss sturdy beach balls or exercise balls into their pen for goats to push, kick and butt, as well as jump over and around, or even try to climb and balance. Different color balls can be even more exciting, but be sure each ball is durable enough for a goat’s attention and none are small enough to be swallowed. If the balls burst, they should be removed immediately so goats do not chew on unsafe debris.
- Recycled Playground
Goats don’t need new, expensive equipment to be entertained and playful. Sturdy plastic play toys such as toddler slides or children’s playhouses can amuse goats, and they will climb, run around, and explore every nook and cranny. Teeter totters, structures with bridges and large steps are all suitable, but be sure they are firmly assembled and don’t have any sharp edges or broken bits that could cause cuts or injuries.
- Tunnel Time
Goats are avid explorers, and will happily peek and poke into different empty spaces and tunnels. A large play tunnel that children might use is also suitable for small goats, or you can make your goats a tunnel with large tires “planted” in a row, a series of A-frame structures, large hay bales or even trellises or similar structures. Not only will goats explore the tunnel, but they will also climb on it for even more fun.
Even unusual materials can be amusing goat toys. An old pickup camper shell is ideal, and can be put in a goat pen for the animals to climb and explore. The open end will create a cave or tunnel for goats to enjoy, and they will eagerly jump and climb on the roof. Remove all glass and loose bits from the shell to be sure goats will not be injured as they play. Don’t have a camper shell? Try an old wagon frame, beached canoe or dilapidated rowboat instead.
- Roof Races
Goats love to be on high places, and they will climb to the roof of a shed or barn if they can reach it. Make it easier to reach by adding a climbing structure of steps and ramps at the side, and plant grass on the roof for grazing. This will also help minimize leaks in the roof and keep the interior cooler, and the goats will obligingly keep the grass trimmed as they explore and play.
- Treat Ball
Give goats a treat for their play and curiosity by using a sturdy plastic can or bottle. Drill several holes in the container, and add some grain or pelleted feed. As goats roll, kick and butt the container, the treats will eventually fall out of the holes, providing an unexpected treat that will encourage even more play. The noise and texture of the container will also be entertaining to goats, but be sure they don’t start to nibble on the container itself.
To give your goats the best possible playtime, change their toys periodically. Rearranging climbing structures, swapping toys and using different techniques will keep all the games fresh and entertaining for playful, happy goats.