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Getting My Goat

Hobby Farm Home editor's notebook for March-April 2009


By Karen Keb Acevedo

Goat, horse and feline family members keep each other companyIt all started innocently enough.

We were housesitting a Southern California horse property for a few years for some friends working overseas. Part of the deal was taking care of their beloved gelding, Oash, who lived out back. I decided he was lonely and needed a companion, so I asked around and came to the conclusion it was time to get my goat.

One of my most vivid childhood memories revolves around a goat. As a little girl in a summer sun dress and blue, heart-shaped sunglasses and pigtails, I floated through the San Diego Zoo’s petting corral, touching all kinds of fun farm animals in bemused wonder.

But then ... gasp! ... you guessed it ... a nasty, overzealous billy goat grabbed my checkered dress and began devouring me!

I cried and screamed, totally unaware that the goat was not, in fact, eating me, but merely satisfying his curiosity.

Even though I reacted outwardly with tears, I think, inside, my own curiosity was peaked, and I was impressed by this animal that had enough courage to just reach out and touch someone—me—unlike the flighty sheep and llamas. Afterall, I was a goat myself—a Capricorn, that is.

So fast-forward to the year 2001. I bring home a Pygmy goat kid, acquired from a neighbor’s yard, that I paid $50 for.

Originally, I had wanted a boy goat, in order to name it Simon (very rational, I know), but after doing a little research, I changed my mind to a little doe. “I’ll just call her Simone,” I told myself.

So there they were out back, horse and goat companions. They bonded immediately. Oash was amused by Simone’s goaty ways: crawling under fences, putting both feet in her creep feeder, and using his back for a sofa when he laid down to rest at night.

But after doing even more research, I realized goats don’t thrive without other goats around. So Simone needed a companion. Soon we brought home another Pygmy doe, Charlotte, and we had a happy little menagerie out back.

But then, our situation changed. The housesitting arrangement ended early, and we hadn’t had time to think about where we’d go on short notice.

Horse property in the area was much too expensive to rent, let alone buy, and suburban neighborhoods wouldn’t allow goats. Who would rent a house to a couple with two pet goats?

Friends told me to find a home for the goats and move on. But they were too special, and my heart ached just thinking about it. No one could give them the care and affection they’d grown accustomed to, and I wasn’t going to abandon them.

Our hands tied, we eventually moved to a house in the suburbs on a typical residential lot with a small yard.

My husband constructed a small pen out of wire-mesh that ran the entire length of the yard, along the cinder-block wall. We built a small shed and hay rack, which served the two miniature goats well.

We let them out mornings and evenings to roam the rest of the yard, and we always kept the premises impeccably clean. We spoke with the surrounding neighbors (we knew the goats’ crazy bleating at meal times would spark some questions), who amazingly thought it was so cool that we had a couple of goats. They asked if they could bring over their kids to see them!

We lived like that for 17 months before making our cross-country move to our farm in Kentucky. For us, we knew it was a temporary situation, but I learned that suburban goatkeeping is possible, if done responsibly.

If you’re dying to get your goats (or chickens), turn to page 50 where contributing editor Cherie Langlois explains what you need to know before jumping in. There are laws to abide, precautions to take and neighbors to consult. One Seattle woman even got the laws changed in her town to permit goats, a trend that is growing across America.

I didn’t always do things the right way or in the right order, but seldom things in life are done that way. Lucky for you, there’s HFH, along with our sister publication, Hobby Farms, to help you get started with livestock, on whatever scale you can manage safely—and legally—on your property.

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