Updated: Sep 7, 2022
I (Angela) have had a lot of animals in my 36 years. I mean A LOT. Most of them were cats. I’ve probably had close to 50 cats over the years. Yep, just call me the crazy cat lady. I’ve also had five or six dogs, and three ferrets.
As a teenager I volunteered on a ranch in West Jordan and helped feed and care for horses, pigs, and cows. My first job was working at Petco in the grooming department. And when we started our little ranch, the fist thing we added was chickens. So, I’ve had quite a bit of experience dealing with animals.
Every time I bring a new species home, I go through a period of intense stress. No matter how much research I do beforehand, no matter how many more experienced people I talk to, it’s always the same.
When I researched goats, I learned that their immune systems can take a hit with extreme changes in temperature, moving to a new place, and, actually, a lot of other things as well. So I had it built up in my mind that I was bringing home some rather fragile creatures.
For the first several days I spent quite a bit of time trekking back and forth from the house to the goat shed to check on them. And when I wasn’t trekking back and forth, I was watching them on the camera that Craig set up in their shed.
In fact, one evening we were watching a movie or a show, (I don't even remember) and I went out to the put goats to bed. When I came back, some pivotal scene had happened in the show, and I said, “I wasn’t out there for that long was I?” and my husband said, “Uh, yeah, you were. You’re kind of distracted by goats right now.”
The first couple of nights I didn’t sleep very well because Reba was freaking me out. When I would put them in the shed at night, Reba would head butt Honey relentlessly. I finally separated them at night. But after talking to my goat mentor, Hannah with The Giving Goat, (I know, it sounds silly to have a goat mentor, but she’s an angel) and after sending her a video of what was happening, she said, “Reba actually isn’t head butting her that hard, this is all normal, and goats do most of their bonding at night.”
I looked at my goats in disbelief and asked, “This is how you bond? It looks so violent! You're not fragile at all! Why do you do this?!?”
But Hannah, my goat mentor, had eased my mind and at least I was able to sleep for one night. Yes, only one night. Because our temperatures suddenly went from overnight temps of 25ish degrees, to 2 degrees. And Reba and Honey both looked chilled in the mornings.
I did all the things my research told me to do, give them lots of hay, lots of bedding, and warm water to drink. That worked for the first day, but the second day, I found Honey shivering and sounding congested. I knew from my research that pneumonia was a real threat with temp drops like we were having so I took Honey’s temperature, which was lower than it should have been, and messaged Hannah in a panic.
Then I took some honey mixed with cayenne pepper and rubbed it on Honey’s gums, and tried to get her to drink warm water, which she wouldn’t do. Hannah, had me listen to her chest to see if the congestion was there, it wasn’t thank goodness! And then gave me a recipe for a tonic to give her and Reba a couple of times each day.
Then I took the panel heater from the chicken coop (sorry girls) and put it inside the goat shed so they could huddle next to it if they felt too cold. I have heat lamps, but those scare me too much to use without constant supervision.
A couple hours later, Honey’s temperature was back to normal. But I didn’t sleep well again until the temperatures were back up in the high 20's overnight.
I also decided to take the fence panel out so they could “bond” some more in hopes they would snuggle together at night. I watched them on the camera that first night, after putting them to bed. About twenty minutes of headbutting and they settled down, not snuggled together, but they were within a couple of feet of each other, so progress. And neither of them chose to take advantage of the heater.
It was interesting trying to get them to take herbs to help boost their immune systems over that first week. I tried finding foods they liked as ‘treats’. You know how they say “Goats eat everything?” Well, my goats do not eat everything. In fact, they are incredibly picky.
For instance, they like apple slices, but not applesauce. They don’t like bananas, peanut butter, or carrots. They do like saltine crackers and animals crackers. Olive oil seems to be hit or miss from day to day.
I’m glad for the year+ of research I did on goats before we got them. It helped me feel a little more prepared for this first week with our goats. But there is nothing like hands on experience to really help you learn how to care for animals.
And now that we’re in a routine and the girls are settled and have become friends, I’m looking forward to many more years of hands on learning. And even though I'm pretty sure the stress I felt that first week, was worse than it was when I brought the chickens home, or even when I put the chickens in their coop for the first time, I love these girls and their quirky personalities. I'm grateful for the new kind of joy they add to my life. But I’m especially grateful for Hannah, who is so willing to help newbies like myself navigate the world of owning goats.