A journal of our day to day; homesteading and homeschooling in the Land of the Midnight Sun.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Goat behavior and children
Here is Noah feeding asparagus ends to the goats. I've been wanting to write about goat behavior and small children. When families start looking into getting a family milk goat, one of their first requests is that the goat is friendly and compatible with their children. There are several factors that go in to how a milking doe behaves around small children.
First let me back up a bit and explain general goat behavior. Goats are herd animals and they all have their rank and position in the herd. The does often challenge and test the other does in an attempt to move one up in the herd. They do this by lowering their heads and charging and ramming the other doe in the head until one gives up and runs off. When goat kids are born to a doe, if she is a good mother she will keep her kids close to her and try and protect them from the other does. As the kids grow and merge into the herd, the other does will ignore the new kids, until the kids approach a doe who is not their mother. They are quickly put in place by the does who are not their dam. They quickly learn to stay away from the other does. Some does are worse than others about bullying the younger goats and some aren't so bad.
The does view me as their leader. So far they tend to view and treat my children as they view the other does children, which means they are up for challenging. Only one of the most daring senior does tends to have the audacity to attempt to knock over my kids. There is one other doe who looks as though she is thinking of trying. By attempting to ram and knock over my children, they are trying to put my kids in place and let them know who is boss. Yelling, scolding and physical discipline does not seem to work, and it may make matters worse. When the children and I spend time with the goats I tie up the two does who may challenge them. Then the kids come in and spend time with the goats. Another idea I got from a fellow goat owner, is to give Noah a squirt bottle with water. He is only to use it if one of the problem does is lowering her head or looking like she is going to push on him, then he squirts her until she turns away. This summer we kept a small squirt bottle outside the doe pen. Noah wouldn't enter without it and was able to move about and spend time around the goats without getting knocked over.
I do not let the children enter the goat pen without me. I have learned that although I think I'm quick enough to stop a doe from knocking over the kids, I'm not. All it takes is for me to turn away for a minute and one of my kids can be flat on the ground crying. So I always tie up problem doe now. I have not noticed that this doe is more aggressive with other kids. But most of my does have not challenged my children. However, if they ranked higher within the herd, they might have the confidence to try.
I would suggest to anyone introducing a new milking goat to their children, is to prevent any challenges and behavior patterns from being established. So maybe start by holding the doe while small children brush or feed her treats. I would not let children run wild in the pen with the goat, or kid goats for that matter. This is a mistake that I made in our first summers with goats. When we first had goat kids shipped up, Noah was one year old, the pen was new and not poopy yet. He and I spent a lot of time with the kids, bottle feeding and he would crawl and toddle around with the kids. The second year when kids were born I would let him run around and play with the goat kids. This reinforced his kid status with the mom goats. It was about this time that the first mom decided to put him in his place, and it has become a pattern ever since. So, spending time handling, petting, holding, brushing and feeding treats to kids is a good way to get them use to children and people in general. Letting your kids run wild and be rowdy around the goats is not a good idea!
Our milking does are well behaved and sweet for the most part. The know their routine. They expect and appreciate routine. They are also herd animals and opportunists.
This is Zinnias forming udder. This will be her first kidding. She is due in a couple weeks. It is exciting to see a new udder taking shape for the first time.
We are a family of four (with one more on the way), living in the Arctic Boreal Forest above Fairbanks, in the Interior of Alaska. I write about our simple life and trying to keep our life simple in a day when the typical American life is anything but. When I first started writing this blog I had a toddler and a baby and we were a growing homestead. I wanted to share our day to day and all the lessons we learned along the way, from mixing our own chicken feed to goat kidding season and cheese making. As our children have grown, home schooling has really taken over and I have had to examine every aspect of our lives to keep our days simple yet fruitful. These days you will still find me posting and sharing pictures of our chickens and garden, berry picking and salmon processing. I also hope to be writing about home schooling decisions and lessons as well as other interests and hobbies the kids and I explore. Reader interest and feedback is what keeps me writing, so please leave lots of comments!
The here and now of our homestead is what I'm writing about. Compelled by a sense that we are participating in something significant, heading back to our roots... this is my attempt to share what we are learning along our journey. For those of you on similar paths, whether you are raising kids, a flock of chickens, a couple goats or run a farm, well I'm hoping to learn from you as well, so feel free to put in your two cents!