Caring for pygmy goats - Henry and Joey: Pet Pygmy Goats
Caring for pygmy goats
Pygmy goats require an area to live and play in, as well as somewhere to shelter at night. They also have certain habits and things they do/don't like (particularly when it comes to food!). Below is info on how Henry and Joey were looked after, but obviously different circumstances may require different methods of care. If in doubt about the health of your goat and/or any urgent issues, contact your local vet and/or your local government agricultural department (DEFRA in the UK).
General info & health
Pygmy goats are one of the smallest breeds of goat. Henry was 85cm (2'10") in length, 62cm (2') tall and 26cm (10") wide. Joey was slightly smaller and plumper!
Pygmy goats enjoy human company, are playful, have routines and can be affectionate.
Goats sniff, lick, bite, chew and butt lots of things, but they don't eat everything. They're actually quite fussy eaters and won’t eat food which they don’t like or is dirty!
Goats enjoy each other's company and should ideally be kept in herds of 2 (or more), particularly while they are growing up.
When pygmy goats are newly-born, they may need vaccinations which are likely to need renewing in the future.
Pygmy goats can be castrated and/or dis-budded (removal of horns) soon after birth.
It's best to consult your local government department and/or vet to check the availability of vaccinations and other procedures in your area.
When you first get your goats, they may be a bit nervous and timid for a few weeks while they get used to you and their new home - this is quite normal.
Regular worming will be required during a pygmy goat's life, to ensure that internal parasites are kept to a minimum.
Later in life, pygmy goats may lose their front teeth and will rely more on their back teeth, which wear down and re-grow. Occasionally they’ll regrow awkwardly, meaning food can get caught in them and the goat cannot chew and swallow properly. An operation can usually fix this.
The cost of keeping goats is relatively low compared to keeping other animals such as dogs, partly because goats are herbivores, and goat mix and hay can be bought in bulk to save costs.
Pygmy goat paddocks
Below is a selection of photos of Henry and Joey's paddock (click them to enlarge and scroll through).
Henry and Joey's paddock was 50ft x 40ft, which is a suitably sized paddock for two pygmy goats.
A paddock must be surrounded by a safe and secure secure wire fence, as pygmy goats are adventurous and love to try to escape!
Henry and Joey had lots of benches and tables in their paddock, which they enjoyed climbing, sitting, sunbathing, playing and eating on.
They always had access to grass which they grazed on - grass is an essential additional source of food.
Trees also provide an extra source of food, as pygmy goats can reach on their hind-legs and eat the vegetation on the lower branches. Joey was shorter than Henry, and much to his annoyance, he could never reach the trees in the same way Henry could!
It's VITAL to ensure any vegetation within reach of goats is non-poisonous.
Bricks and wood were placed on the ground in areas
which got particularly muddy, as goats hate getting their hooves muddy in wet
Goats love sunbathing, but will also want to cool off in the shade, so areas of shade in their paddock are important.
Clean water must be provided for goats.
Pygmy goat accommodation
Below is a selection of photos of Henry and Joey's shed (click them to enlarge and scroll through).
A decent-sized, ventilated, waterpoof and comfortable shed is essential for goats as it's where they go to eat hay, lick a
salt/mineral lick, drink water, chew the cud, shelter from the
rain, sleep and relax.
Henry and Joey's shed measured 10ft wide, 10ft deep and 6 feet tall.
The shed included a window which allowed them to look out of!
half-door could be opened and shut via a bolt.
Henry and Joey would enter via the latter half of the door, which also had a hinged flap to keep draughts out.
The shed was lit at night, when necessary, with a light inside the shed with an external switch. Any cabling must be
concealed, waterproof and goatproof).
goatproof CCTV camera was installed in the shed, which was wired up to a TV in
our house, allowing us to keep an eye on the goings-on in the
shed. This is particularly useful to monitor a poorly goat.
Pygmy goat food
Henry and Joey's daily feed consisted of a bowl of
special goat mix; a large sack of which can be obtained from agricultural
The goat mix was often supplemented with vegetables (e.g. sliced carrots and cabbage), to provide extra nutrients. A salt/mineral lick was also provided in the shed.
Goats drink large amounts of water so they must have access to clean water.
Feeding unwanted food to pygmy goats (such as
banana skins) is very sustainable, as otherwise this matter
would be thrown away. Of course you must ensure the food is edible (with no mould). If in any doubt, don't feed it to your goat.
The manure produced by goats, which is in a form of pellets similar to rabbit droppings, can
be used as effective fertiliser for plants in your garden.
Pygmy goat habits
Pygmy goats have many habits.
For example, when they sit down, they often scrape one of their front hooves to ensure any thorns and dirt are removed before they settle.
Goats also scrape their hooves and raise their hackles whilst playfully butting, in order to appear more threatening! They also tend to raise their hackles if they're excited or have just shaken their fur.
If goats taste or smell something they're not familiar with, they'll curl their upper lip up for a few seconds in order to analyse the smell/taste and try and work out what it is; this is scientifically known as the 'Flehmen response'.
Henry and Joey didn't share all the same likes and dislikes! For example, Henry hated having his back legs touched, but Joey didn't mind.
Pygmy goats generally enjoy being fed treats, sunbathing and playfully butting; but they also generally dislike rain and sudden loud noises. There are of course plenty of other things that they like/dislike!
Pygmy goat body care
During winter, pygmy goats grow a woolly fur vest beneath their fur, which
keeps them warm.
It starts growing rapidly (often within the space of a few
days) in the late autumn when the first frost occurs. When spring arrives, they moult and lose their winter vest.
With the help of grooming
and rubbing themselves on the fence, their winter vest is gone by the summer
months. During the moulting process, it's not uncommon for them to look a bit scruffy!
It's often necessary to shampoo a pygmy goat in the summer
(using a special animal shampoo) if a build up of dandruff has
occurred during the moulting process.
Photos of Joey being
shampooed can be seen in the Photos
Pygmy goats regularly need
their hooves trimmed (once every 1 to 2 months), otherwise they will start skidding everywhere!
In the wild, their hooves are worn
naturally by rocks and rugged terrain, but when goats are kept as pets, it's necessary to periodically clip their hooves in the absence of rugged terrain.
The standard method is to tether the pygmy goats to the
fence, give them some greenery to take their mind off the trimming, and carefully trim their hooves using special
Pygmy goat-friendly toys
Henry and Joey often played with a small child's car I had
when I was a child, which I reinforced
and made goatproof. They also used to play with a 'goatproofed' old toy scooter (and especially liked
butting its soft rubber tyres!), as well as some balls (including an old marine buoy).
them playing can be seen in the Videos
Goats must always be supervised when playing, and all toys etc. must be removed from their reach when they they've finished with them!
People often let off fireworks to celebrate various events around the year, including Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night (in the UK) and other events, such as Christmas and New Year. Unfortunately, as with many animals, pygmy goats are scared by the sound of fireworks.
As well as going out to see Henry and Joey to comfort them if fireworks were being let off nearby, I wired up an old speaker in their shed, and ran a (low-voltage, goatproof and weatherproof) speaker cable to a stereo system in our house. They enjoyed listening to music as it deafened out the sounds of any fireworks and took their minds off them.
They particularly enjoyed classical and jazz music, so stations such as BBC Radio 3 (a classic music radio station in the UK) often calmed them down. I even downloaded free pieces of jazz and classical music from the internet, burned them to CD, and played them via the speaker, which also helped to calm them.
Hot weather advice
Pygmy goats are generally hardy animals and can adapt to hot and cold climates, but you can do your bit during to ensure your goats remain comfortable during weather extremes.
Ensure their water is replaced regularly - it's a good idea to place this in shade so it doesn't get heated by the sun and the goats will be encouraged to go in the shade and cool off when they want to drink.
Opening the doors on the goats' living quarters will ensure it doesn't get too warm inside. They may well choose to sleep outside at night if it's warm enough!
Cold weather advice
Any bowls of water that your goats have access to will freeze in cold weather (even bowls in the goats' living quarters can freeze), so it's essential you regularly refill the bowls with fresh water.
Goats' winter vests will keep them warm, but you can also give some tepid (not hot!) warm water and food (such as vegetables) to ensure they're sufficiently warm.
Ensure that any doors on your goats' living quarters are shut (but ensure there is still some ventilation). It may be beneficial to add extra pieces of wood to act as draught excluders.
Piling up hay or straw near the door can also keep the inside warm.
Placing bricks or gravel on the ground can help prevent pygmy goats from slipping around on the ice.
Ice and snow should be cleared from a goats' paddock as often as possible.
Be extra vigilant and make regular checks on your goats, to ensure they are not getting too cold.
It's possible that on some nights, you may find your pygmy goats sleeping outside; this is quite normal, and is likely due to the fact that their winter vests mean it's too warm for them to sleep in their living quarters.