Friday, December 4, 2009

Goat Story (continued from last post)

So there I was, standing naked in the terminal with just a light bulb in one hand and a piece of chicken wire in the other...

Oh, wrong story.

We got the pen established well enough to keep all the goats inside it, but it was not a good long term solution. The fence was 4' high and the pen was probably 20' across--not a good permanent living arrangement for four goats and 10 chickens. (Yes, I said 10 even though we started with 13. More on that later.) The first couple days, the adult goats demolished the brush inside the pen, and I began to get worried about how I was going to feed these guys. The first solution was to feed them bagged feed from the store. I built a little trough for them and filled it with feed, but all the goats kept standing in it, tramping dirt and leaves in it and dropping their little black bean surprises in it. The chickens pecked at the goat feed a little bit, but mostly every time I went out there, there was no change in the amount of feed in the trough. It had just gotten dirtier.

The second solution was to let them out of the pen manually for a little time each day. I say let them out of the pen "manually" because the pen was a single piece of chain-link fence wrapped end-to-end; there was no gate! I entered the pen by placing my step-ladder over the fence and climbing in. Then I had to chase the goats around the pen for a few minutes, throw them over my shoulder, and drop them on the other side of the fence. This was a comical scene even for me for a couple times. Then I began to see that I was preventing the goats from coming to think of me as their protector when I was always terrorizing them in addition to the fact that this ritual took too much time out of my day--sometimes at really BAD times, too, like when I had to get to work soon.

The third and final solution was to build a fence around the back half of the property and let the goats free range. This solution took effect immediately after I erected the front leg of the 4-sided fence, but the fence itself took several weeks to get completed. The front leg of the fence kept them in their place well enough since our neighbors to the left had a fence already installed, our neighbors to the right had an open barbed wire fence that mostly kept the goats in our yard, and our neighbors to the rear had a fenced pen for their animals that served along with a heavily brushed area in the back right corner to serve as the rear physical border of the property. The major problems with this setup were the barbed wire fence on the right, the long open corner in the back left, and the fact that the front leg of the fence didn't join either of the neighbors' fences since my 100' roll of RedBrand fencing wasn't long enough to make it to the side borders of the property. Over the course of the next several weeks, I made several trips to Home Depot, Lowes, and Ace Hardware to buy posts, fencing, stakes, zipties, threaded rod, metal-cutting skilsaw blades, and who knows what else. The end result is that my fence will surely keep my goats in, but keeping the neighborhood dogs out will be a constant battle. Luckily none of the dogs around here has shown a desire to eat my goats yet.

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