“What about socialization?” She looks at me, wonderment in her eye, unsure of what I’m going…
Baby Goat Care for Beginners
While this article is going to be all about baby goat care, this is especially for the homeschooler who is homesteading or wanting to begin their goat herd.
My entire blog is for the homeschooling homesteader, so I want to cater to that community of moms and homeschooling families who are trying to break into goat keeping.
I hope you can incorporate your decision to get into goats into your homeschool, as well. I am here to help!
- So, You’re getting a Baby Goat!
- What To Do Before You Bring Your Goat Home
- What to Feed Baby Goats
- General Baby Goat Care
- Baby Goat Health Problems
Disclaimer: This article does not cover the entirety of goat care. It is only for those who are bringing home bottle baby goats. I do not discuss general goat care as it pertains to any animal other than baby kid goats. Also, I am not a vet. This is not meant to be medical advice. If you are dealing with an issue, please contact your vet. This is for educational purposes only.
So, You’re getting a Baby Goat!
Baby goats are so adorable and a good way to get into owning a goat herd. Baby goats give the beginning shepherd or shepherdess a way to ease into goat keeping, as they are smaller and less intimidating than adult goats.
Baby goats are also a ton of fun to watch!
You may be asking such questions like, “How do you take care of a baby goat?” or, “When can baby goats go outside?” or, “What do baby goats eat?” I hope to answer all of these questions and more!
Baby goats are called kids, so I will be referring to them interchangeably with both terms.
Everyone has their own opinion. Be aware that raising animals is very similar to raising children in that way. You have your way of caring for your human children and you have likely met other moms who do things differently. Raising animals is no different. This post is about how I do things and what I believe to be true. Please read more opinions and take what you can from everyone. There is no one right or wrong way to do things, except when it comes to health issues. Aside from that, you can do whatever you’d like!
What To Do Before You Bring Your Goat Home
There are a few things that you need to do before you bring your baby goat home. Making sure you have these things in place can reduce your own anxiety, as well as reduce trips to the farm store to buy supplies. It will make it easier to budget and plan, as well. I have a printable just for this!
Goat Shelter and Fencing
Baby goats don’t need anything much different than adult goats do. A lot of people like to make or buy smaller shelters or hutches for their kids, but we haven’t found that to be necessary.
We do have a small, wooden baby goat hutch that we built (picture below), but it is not a requirement for them. If you do not have the budget, materials, skill, or time to make a special kid shelter, please know that it is not something that they absolutely need.
You can also use a large dog kennel. They love this!
Having said that, kid goats do like to climb, climb, climb! Then they like to jump off and climb some more!
It is good for them, and fun for you, to include something they can climb on safely in their pen. A small goat shelter can double as a play toy! They will also sleep on top of their shelters, so making something flat across the top would serve your baby goats well.
For goats in general, they need to be in some type of barn or shed. You can even buy a shed kit at a big box store and put that together for them.
If you only have 2 goats, you won’t need much more space than that. We started our goats in there and when we outgrew it, we used it for chickens. It’s held up for over 10 years now! I highly recommend the shed kits.
Your goat shelter should be free from drafts and rain or snow. You need to be able to clean it out easily, so wide doors are nice. Proper ventilation is also a must, but usually, that’s not an issue, as barns and sheds tend to have this automatically. Your goats need a warm, dry place they can go to.
Size is also an issue. Goats like to head-butt each other, even once their pecking order is established. They can get quite rough with each other, so a big enough space where the lower goat on the pecking order can run away from is a must.
I’ve seen goats slam each other up against walls and have even worried if they are going to cause a miscarriage by head-butting each other’s sides. Goats can be quite the bullies, but it is normal goat behavior.
Just make sure your little ones have the space to be able to deal with this as they grow.
The only time we use wood chips is in birthing rooms. For our kids that aren’t eating hay yet, we do keep wood chips on the floor.
Once they are eating hay and completely weaned, about 8-10 weeks, you no longer need to worry about wood chips. Goats are very wasteful eaters and their floor will naturally be filled with hay, creating a warm and cozy floor for them in the winter. In the summer, we clean out our goat pen weekly to keep flies away and to give them a cool place to lay.
When it comes to fencing, you need the strongest materials you can afford. Goats are Houdini’s and can get out of anything!
We use cattle panel, which works fine, but if you keep horns on your goats, it could cause problems. If you disbud your goats, you’ll be fine.
I would stay away from more flimsy materials such as wire, barb wire, and mesh wire fences. Some people use the mesh fences and are fine, but we have had more luck with cattle panel.
Goats are the dogs of livestock. They are adorable, easy to bond with, intelligent, can be trained, and are smaller and less intimidating than a horse or cow. It’s worth it to buy the better fencing because if your goat gets out, it could mean death or serious injury for them and that is heartbreaking.
You do need to secure a hay source before you get your kids. Even though they will not be eating hay for a couple of weeks, you do need to make sure you have some on hand and can get some in the future. I would have 5 square bales on hand at the time you bring your goat kids home. You will need more as they grow and wean off the bottle.
Some places to find hay are: sale barns, local goat or horse owners/breeders, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist. You can also go to your local county or state fair in the summer and ask the people showing goats where they get their hay. A lot of them sell hay, as well.
There is a lot of science that goes into hay. There are protein ratios, calcium and phosphorous issues, mold, and the like. I am not going to get into much of that here, as that is not the purpose of this post.
Learn more about hay here
For kid goats, you only need to make sure you are feeding “horse quality” hay. When you ask around, ask for horse quality hay.
Do not ask for “goat hay.”
There is a lot of myths and misunderstandings about goat’s nutritional needs and most people, especially horse people, think that you can give goats anything, or that they don’t need alfalfa at all, so they will give you some 5th cutting, cast off hay that you really can’t use. (That’s a little bit of an exaggeration to prove a point).
If you ask for horse quality hay, you’ll get exactly what you need, especially for your baby goats.
As you grow with your goat herd, you can do more research into hay and learn as you go along! This is why homesteading and homeschooling go hand in hand!
Learn more about goat nutrition here
You will need some bottles, probably 2 per kid depending on how many ounces they hold. Some people use old pop bottles and that’s fine, too. I do not use those because we don’t drink pop.
These are the bottles we buy:
You have to cut the tip of the nipple off of these types of bottles to make it easier for them to drink. Here’s the best way:
Never feed milk from a bowl. It hurts their rumen and can cause major issues. Their heads need to be up so the milk goes into the proper stomach.
Don’t feed water in a bottle. Keep water in a tank or dish for them, but they won’t drink much water until they’re closer to weaning age.
Get Two Goats
Goats have a very strong herd instinct and need to be with another goat. Always buy your first goat in a pair.
You can get a doe, which is a female goat, and a whether, which is a male goat that’s been castrated. This is the easiest pairing to get because you only have one doe to breed, milk, and get your own babies from.
Intact bucks are very difficult to handle and you will not need your own buck until you have several does to breed. Ask your breeder if they can help you with future breedings.
Always get two goats, at least, when you first start out.
What to Feed Baby Goats
Feeding Baby Goats Whole Cow’s Milk
Kid goats will drink milk until they are about 8-10 weeks old. They will start nibbling on hay before that but it will not be their source of nutrients until they are weaned.
The absolute best milk to feed a kid is raw goat milk.
If you can’t find any goat milk, whole cow’s milk from the store is second best. Yes, the regular whole milk that you feed your own human kids is what I mean. It’s also called Vitamin D milk sometimes. Just go to Walmart or any grocery store and buy the whole milk that you would buy for your family.
Always warm your milk to a blood warm temperature, which is body temperature. Don’t use the microwave, warm the bottles in a pot of hot water.
Feeding Baby Goat Milk Replacer
I don’t use milk replacer at all. It’s not good, it’s hard on them and can cause scours, which you don’t want to deal with. Scours is another name for diarrhea. Scours can kill a baby goat.
One time I was using milk replacer and my kids had scours and I couldn’t get them to stop. I finally switched to whole cow’s milk and the next day they were all better! Do not use milk replacer. Of course, in an emergency, it’s fine to use it. It’s available at your local farm store, like Tractor Supply.
Feeding Baby Goats Hay and Grain
Always keep hay out for your babies so they can learn to nibble on it and eat it. Their rumens are a little bit delicate right now and they need to naturally “turn them on” over the course of time.
Making a sudden switch to any different foods can cause issues, so always do that slowly. Do not feed your baby goat any grain right now. They don’t need it.
If you have a buck, or boy goat, you will never have to feed them grain. Some people only feed their does grain when they’re in milk. It’s up to you. I feed my kid goats grain once they are weaned, eating hay really well and seem to be happy and healthy. Then I’ll introduce grain.
Hay is the main source of nutrients and energy for your goats. Make sure they are eating a high quality horse hay. They will also need loose minerals later. You can keep those out for free choice and they will nibble on them and eat them as needed.
If your baby goat isn’t eating hay until 8-10 weeks, that’s OK. They won’t starve themselves and will eat what they need. Some people keep their goats on bottles until 12 weeks, so they wouldn’t even be eating much hay until then.
Baby Goat Feeding Schedule
Here is a feeding schedule for your baby goat. I also have this as a printable for you!
Baby goats always act hungry. This is the #1 rule of feeding goats of any age, but especially baby goats. They are not humans. Please, please don’t forget this. You can kill your kid goat by overfeeding them.
If you pull away the bottle when it’s empty and they are still crying for more, you gave them just the right amount. You can check their belly before and after and feel that it’s fuller.
If you pull away the bottle and they act full and don’t want anymore, you gave them way too much.
It is imperative that you don’t listen to your little ones when they cry for more food. They don’t know what’s best for them!
Please heed this warning and do not let them deceive you into giving them more milk.
If you stick with this chart, you will be fine. It’s the same one I use and I’ve never had a problem.
By the way, adults do this too. I’ll walk away from the barn right after I have fed my goats and they will all holler for more. They will eat and eat, which is why there is even a vaccine for overeating disease for these guys. They always think they’re hungry, especially for grain, milk and other goodies like this.
Download the Complete Baby Goat Feeding and Health Tracker Pack! This pack includes the feeding chart above, plus places to record daily feedings, weight, medications and more!
General Baby Goat Care
Baby goats are pretty easy to care for, overall. However, there are a few things to know and look out for.
If your breeder disbudded your kid before you brought them home, you will see rings on the top of their head. The skin is cauterized, so it is not causing them pain. You want to watch this area for any swelling, bleeding or signs of infection. Ninety percent of the time, it’s all fine, but just keep an eye on it until it all heals.
Baby Goat Hooves
You will not need to trim your kids’ hooves for a while. It’s good to get familiar with the process now, however.
Watch some videos on YouTube, ask your breeder to show you how or ask a goat mentor or friend to come help you. Look at your kids’ hooves so you are familiar with how they are supposed to look. That is how you will want them to look once you trim them.
Goats need to be trimmed every 6 weeks or so.
Baby Goat Coat and Eyes
You can tell a lot about your goat by their eyes. A sick goat or one who is in pain will show you with their eyes. It’s hard to explain, but they will look sick, their eyes may be bloodshot or closed tightly. If they are sparkly, happy eyes, you’re doing well!
Their coats also can tell you a lot. Dry skin, dull color or hair, patches of fur falling out, are all signs there is something wrong. Most likely it’s a mineral deficiency. I have a post all about that, so please read that for more information.
It’s completely treatable. Just keep an eye on their coat condition and any changes will tell you what’s going on.
Baby Goat Behavior
Kid goats are so much fun! They run and jump and play! They will jump off of high places and twist their bodies in the air. It’s so cute! Baby goats get the zoomies like puppies do and they will climb on each other and older goats that will allow it. All of this is normal.
They also will head-butt each other and rear up like horses. This is a dominance issue and will happen quite often as they establish the pecking order. Once that’s established, they will back off a little bit with the aggressive behavior, but will send a reminder from time to time to the lower goat. Let this play out and don’t interfere. It is hard to watch, though.
If your babies get aggressive with you, you need to do something about it. It’s cute now when they’re 10 lbs, but when they are 100+ lbs, it’s not so cute anymore.
Goats don’t understand physical punishment and I don’t advocate physically hurting any animals. Winning them over with treats is much easier and you’ll have more success in the long run.
Taking treats to your aggressive goat every time you do chores is a good way to help them learn that you are not a threat. Most bottle babies won’t get aggressive with their owners because the milk is the treat. Usually, bottle babies are very tame and loving.
If yours isn’t like this, try to give them a treat once they are weaned, like fig newtons, sunflower seeds or corn chips. You may have to sit out in the pen for a while to coax them over to you. I’m not going to go into this too much here, because it most likely won’t be an issue with your bottle babies.
Download this free mini curriculum all about baby goats!
Turn this blog post into a homeschool lesson! Grab this workbook and make baby goats part of your school day. Your kids (human, of course) will learn all about baby goats with this mini curriculum. Perfect for ages 10 and up!
Need high school credit? Want to give some high school credit for your baby goat project? Get the Get ‘Em Graduated Credit Tracking System! Track all of your high school credits for 4 years, including real life projects such as this.
See an Excel version here.
Read more about homeschooling high school in this 4 part series.
When Can Baby Goats Go Outside?
I will share my opinions on this. Please do your own research.
I am of the opinion that livestock should not be in the house.
While kid goats are the most adorable creature, they are still livestock. They belong outside. We do bring our own bottle babies in the house for the first week or so just so it’s easier for us to bottle feed at night and to keep an eye on them for any health issues.
We take them outside on day 2 or 3 to introduce them to barn life. They stay outside permanently at 1 week if they’re healthy and strong.
Goats are not dogs. While they are very smart, they will not behave as dogs. They are meant to live outside in a safe place.
Houses are not safe for goats of any age.
Goats are like infants and will mouth everything to see what it is. This can lead to them ingesting all sorts of dangerous things. They also need hay and you don’t want hay strung all over your house.
Since an adult goat lives outside, and most people don’t have a problem with this idea, it does the baby a disservice to keep them in the house in their formative weeks and then plop them outside with no warning.
The temperature fluctuations alone can cause them stress. They need time to acclimate and to be a goat. They can only live out their destiny—to be a happy goat—outside.
If you’re worried about them being cold, you can always put a heat lamp or other heat sources up for them.
Learn more about keeping baby goats warm
God made livestock to live outside. They have coats and special physical properties that enable them to live outside. They do not feel the cold the way we do.
I have been outside in negative degree weather and buried my hands into my horse’s fur to warm them because he’s so warm at the surface. It’s the same with goats. Their rumens keep them warm, as well as their winter coats.
Babies do not have a rumen that is producing yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t able to tolerate some cold. In fact, cold is easier for most livestock to tolerate than heat.
Anyway, that is my opinion on this matter. You are free to do this however you wish. Please read other opinions and ideas and come to your own conclusion.
Baby Goat Health Problems
Coccidia in Goats
Coccidiosis is the number one issue for baby goats.
It is caused by Coccidia, which is a parasite that all goats have, but is especially harsh on a young kid’s system. It is spread through feces.
Symptoms are rough coats, scouring, off feed, and lethargy. You can only get it diagnosed through a fecal test at your vet or you can do your own.
There is a medication called Toltrazuril that treats coccidia. Corid is also used, but it is much harsher and a lot of people don’t think it works as well.
I herbally worm my goats and have never had an issue with coccidia. I have been told that herbal wormers do not treat or prevent coccidia, just other types of worms/parasites. However, I have never had an issue with it.
I do keep some Toltrazuril on hand just in case.
Learn more about Coccidiosis
Weak Baby Goats
Floppy Kid Syndrome (FKS) is caused by overfeeding on milk. It causes a metabolic disorder that shows up in weak, floppy kids. It usually occurs around 3-10 days of age. It is treated with baking soda and can be fixed if caught early enough.
If you’re feeding your kids according to the above schedule, you won’t have a problem. It is imperative that you stay on schedule and like I mentioned, do not let them convince you they are still hungry!
Kids (and adult goats) like to lie to you and tell you they are always hungry. But all goats are very susceptible to overeating.
Know that you are doing a good job and your babies are not hungry.
Read here for more info on floppy kid syndrome. Also, FKS is different than Weak Kid Syndrome. I’m not going to go into WKS here because it’s a disorder present at birth and that is not the scope of this post. This is for new goat owners who are raising bottle babies they received from a breeder.
Learn more about Floppy Kid Syndrome
Worms are a life threatening issue for goats of all ages.
When your little ones start nibbling hay and mouthing everything in their pen, they are at risk for worms. This occurs about 3 weeks of age, as discussed above. It is important to be aware of this and have medications on hand to treat it.
Symptoms are scouring, weak, lethargic, off feed/milk, rough coat, sick eyes. A fecal test is the only way to diagnose worms, as these symptoms can be a myriad of other health issues, as well.
Most goat owners only worm goats after they have gotten a fecal test to confirm it. Then they give an OTC wormer based on what type of worms they are dealing with.
There is a lot of concern about parasite resistance with these chemical wormers and it’s something to be aware of. Make sure you only treat what you’re dealing with and be very specific with your medications. I’m not going to go into too much more here, as that is not the purpose of this post. I am just bringing awareness to the new goat owner of what is going on in the goat world.
I use an herbal wormer. I give it to all of my goats once per week and start kids on it at 2 weeks of age. I have never had a worm issue.
Learn more about deworming your goats
While this isn’t a huge problem for bottle babies, in my experience, you need to be aware of it. I am not going to talk much here, because I have an entire article about it already. Please read it and be ready to treat this if you see any symptoms.
Learn more about Mineral Deficiencies
Want to add chickens to your little homestead? Learn how to get started with chicks and get tons of free printables for your homeschool, too!
That’s about it! Congratulations on your new little bundles! They are so much fun to have.
I hope this helped you feel a little more confident with your kid goats!
You’ll do great with them!
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