Goat pens are an important component of housing and facilities for your goat herd. At face value pens keep your goats contained. However, the right goat pen design can provide you with a lot more benefits.
The right goat pen design also can provide benefits to both you and your goat herd, including:
- Low-stress handling environment for your goats
- Minimizing your work with your herd, such as feeding and cleaning the goat pen
- Maximizing the use of your goat barn space throughout the year, with flexibility in goat pen layout depending on the season
Table of contents
Types of goat pens
There are several different types of goat pens, which typically are dependent on the type of goats you’re raising, groups of goats based on age or purpose, the purpose for the pen, management approach and processes, and even if you’re working with an existing facility or barn.
Here’s an list of different types of goat pens:
- Group pens: A large pen, which houses many goats. Typically a group pen will include a group of goats of a similar size, age or purpose. For example, market goats, bucks, weaned kids, or does.
- Individual pens: A pen set up for one goat. Typically these are used in situations where a goat might need veterinary care or closer attention while they are recovering from an ailment. It’s often used for a shorter period of time.
- Kidding pens or kidding jugs: Small pens used when a doe is getting closer to kidding, or after a doe has kidded. The doe and her kids will stay in this pen for 12-48 hours to help them bond. Learn more about kidding pens in this article. (link to blog)
- Outdoor yard, pen or lot: A pen or area outside, often connected to a barn or shelter. Sometimes this might be an existing pasture or it could be a dirt lot or paved lot.
- Grazing Paddock: This is a small section of a pasture where goats graze for 1-3 days and then move to a new paddock. You can learn more about grazing and paddocks here.
Pros and cons of different goat pen styles
|Group Pens||Easier for managing your entire herd|
Easier for group feeding and access to water
Easier for cleaning with a tractor
|If an animal needs extra attention, it may be harder catch them|
|Individual Pens||Helpful when a goat needs extra veterinary care or observation||Harder to clean out due to smaller spaces, need to do it by hand|
Goats are herd animals and keeping animals in their own pen can add unneeded stress
|Kidding Pens||Helpful for bonding with new moms and babies||Needs regular cleaning|
May add extra stress on animal to bring them into a pen before delivery or after
|Outdoor yard, pen or lot||Potential for extra space beyond the barn or shelter|
Access to fresh air
|May be exposed to increased parasite risk with any weeds or plants growing in the area|
|Grazing paddock||Easy access to fresh feed|
Regular rotation 1-3 days can minimize parasite infection risk
|Goats need to be trained to electric fence, which takes time|
Parasite challenges if animals are on a paddock too long, or return before the parasite cycle ends
Choosing the right type of goat pen
As you consider your goat pen set up, you’ll want to think about how you’ll be working with your goats throughout the year and how you might work with different groups within your herd. Here are some examples for a meat goat farm:
- Winter housing: Will all your goats stay together? What groups should be kept separate? Can certain groups stay together?
- Kidding season: Will you separate older and younger pregnant goats?
- Different groups: does, bucks, market goats, young/weaned kids
- Handling your goats: Where will you do this? How does your pen set up part of this or lead to this working area? Is there a flow to how your herd will move so it’s less work for you and reduces stress on your animals?
- Breeding season: Will you have separate breeding groups? Do you need to keep goats who aren’t being bred in a separate area?
- Veterinary care, recovery, and monitoring: Where will you have a space to easily access or monitor the needs of goats who might need extra care?
Designing a goat pen
Once you know the type of goat pens you’ll need, you’ll also need to think about other considerations that will impact the goat pen design such as:
- How will you be cleaning pens? Will you be doing it by hand? With a tractor, skid steer? How big or small of equipment do you have? Can it get into your goat barn or shelter? Is the pen big enough? Or is the tractor small enough?
- How will you feed your goats? Are you feeding them by hand in small feeders? Are you using a skid steer or tractor to bring in a larger bale of hay? If you’re feeding grain, how will you feed it so all of the goats have access to feed at the same time and it’s easy for you to feed without them chasing you down!
- Where and how will you have water tanks? How will you fill the tanks?
- How will you bed the pens?
- How well will the site drain? Also consider the seasons in your region.
- Where will your stored feed/hay be located and how will you get it to your pens for feeding? Is there room for some storage nearby?
- Will you have permanent pens vs. portable / movable pens (more on this in the next section)
- Do you want to build or do it yourself (DIY) or purchase goat panels?
Permanent Pens vs. Movable Pens
While permanent goat pens are sturdy and easy to build in a DIY approach, especially if you are building pens with lumber or cattle panels, however they don’t offer flexibility throughout the year.
That’s where movable goat pens or portable goat pens have a lot of benefits. You can adjust your pen set up in your goat barn depending on the season and management needs of your goat herd.
As an example on our farm, we built two main pens as we started raising goats. We built them with lumber and cattle panels. If I would do it over (and just might some day!) I would opt for 1-2 large group pens where I can add in divider panels to split groups up into smaller pens if I need to (like kidding season), but keep a large group approach during winter for ease with winter herd management, feeding and access to water.
I’m a fan of flexibility throughout the year since meat goat herds have different management and feeding needs throughout the year. Portable goat pens are a win in my world.
How much space does a goat need?
Depending on your goat pen design set up and if there’s access to a yard or pasture, the space needed for a goat will vary.
This chart offers general guidelines on how much space goats need, based on square foot per goat.
Goat Pen Size Guidelines
|Pen Type||Does||Does with Kids||Bucks||Young Kids||Feeder / Market Kids|
|Bedded pen*||15-20 square feet||25+ square feet, 1.5-2 square feet for creep area||50 square feet||2 square feet||8-10 square feet|
|Dirt lot||25-40 square feet||30-50 square feet||16 square feet||Not recommended||20-30 square feet|
|Paved lot||16 square feet||20 square feet||16 square feet||Not recommended||10 square feet|
|Total confinement||20-25 square feet||Not recommended||8-10 square feet||8-10 square feet|
|Individual pen||6×6 feet||6×6 feet||6×6 feet||4×4 feet||4×4 feet|
|Kidding pen||4×4 feet|
|Pasture – See goats per acre post|
This chart is based on the MWPS Sheep Housing and Equipment Handbook (1994), Meat Goat Production Handbook (2015), and Pastures for Profit (2014).
* Space can be reduced with access to pasture/yard
Premade goat pens and panels
There are a number of goat and sheep equipment manufactures that make a range of pen options that can be used in a modular fashion, giving you a lot of flexibility for setting up or just simply ease of setting up your pen.
Most of these manufacturers also can make custom goat pen walls. A few examples of these manufactures include Sydell, Lakeland, Mountainview and more. You could also work with a local manufacturer or welder to create your own custom goat pen panels too.
Goat pen design and layout ideas
Here are several goat pen layout ideas to consider when designing your pen set up. The use of these may vary depending on if you’re creating your pens in a new location or incorporating them into an existing barn or shelter.
DIY goat pens
There are a variety of benefits for creating DIY goat pens:
- Cost-effective: Building a DIY goat pen can be more cost-effective than purchasing a pre-made set of goat panels. You can choose the materials and design that fit your budget and needs, and save money on labor costs.
- Customization: DIY goat pens offer the flexibility to customize the design to fit your specific needs and space requirements. You can choose the size, shape, and materials that work best for your goats and location.
- Satisfaction: Building your own goat pen can be a satisfying experience, especially if you enjoy DIY projects. You can take pride in creating a safe and secure place for your goats, and know that you played a significant role in their well-being.
- Learning opportunity: Building a goat pen yourself is an excellent opportunity to learn new construction skills and gain knowledge about goat housing and care.
- Quality control: When you build your own goat pen, you have more control over the quality of materials used and the construction process. You can ensure that the pen is sturdy and secure, and that it meets your specific needs and preferences.
DIY goat pen ideas
Here are a several DIY goat pen ideas:
- Wire panels, such as cattle panels or goat panels, with fence posts (wooden or t-posts), and possibly with boards at top and bottom to give it more strength. Cattle panels are more economical, but sometimes goats may get their heads stuck in the openings.Typically this happens when they’re younger and their horns are still small.
- Pallets with t-posts, where you’d place pallets over the t-posts. Make sure the pallets are sturdy and not falling apart.
- Wood fence style pen walls
- Plywood with fence posts or lumber
- Reusing materials such as old tube gates, dairy barn feeding stations, old guardrails and other creative materials
DIY pens should be at least 30 inches tall. If using lumber, the lowest space in between openings should be smaller to avoid goats sneaking out. The openings near the top can be larger.
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