Backyard Goats? Think long and hard.

Go to "Raising Goats For  Dummies" page


Suburban goat-keeping is the latest topic to get the Dummies treatment from the popular series of how-to books. It’s a sure sign that backyard goats have reached critical mass.

This time last year it was chickens. Stories in the press fueled a nostalgia-tinged notion of endearing, pet-like creatures, deliciously fresh eggs, and serious locavore status. The dream ran up against the reality of filthy, shrieking fowl that barely edge out snakes in cuddliness, and are prone to ailments like poultry mites and pasty butt. Egg dreams were dashed by fragile hen health and the surprise of chicks that matured into roosters. Animal shelters around the country are overflowing with last year’s fad.

Could goats be the new chickens?

Goats seem poised to break out as the animal most likely to show up in your neighbor’s yard. With interest in local and natural food sourcing at an all-time high, a backyard goat is like your own, home-grown dairy. A single goat can produce as much as five liters of milk a day— enough drinking milk for a good-sized family with plenty left over for a little chevre-making hobby. They also have a significant hoof up on chickens for their pet-like behavior; sociable and affectionate, willing to fetch and walk on a leash.

Now for a little ruminant reality.

You think you want milk? You’ll have to breed your doe about once a year. And that stud goat you’re keeping (where else are you going to find one?) will let the entire neighborhood know when he’s ready by spewing his rank, manly odor on every surface. And unless you’re up for castration, figure on at least two or three new kids each year (half of which can be expected to release that special country smell when they hit the season). Oh, and let’s not forget the bleating.

There’s municipal red tape to cut through, twice-a-day, every day, feedings and milkings, and some serious fencing to construct for these notorious escape artists that have been found wandering city streets and head-butting their way onto school buses.

But oh, the chevre: creamy, crumbly, mild, pungent; lavender-coated crottin, slices of hand-rolled bûche drizzled with olive oil… are you really ready to give up those goat’s milk cheese dreams?

To help you make up your mind, Mother Earth News compares and contrasts backyard rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats, and pigs for the small-scale food producer.

Study up on All Things Goat.

And let’s not forget Raising Goats for Dummies. There are valuable lessons to be learned from its discussion of the 10 common mistakes that first-time goat owners make (other than being first-time goat owners).

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9 Responses to Backyard Goats? Think long and hard.

  1. M e Jones says:

    Im so attached to the goats that my friends have been raising on the ranch they rent I just love these loving creatures! So loveable and wanting your attention. I cant resist- when I nove aveay they will miss me Im sure- Im staying here until I find a place to rent- I want to know how they think and at do they really think? or will we ever know? I hope to know I love them.

  2. Janice says:

    Reclaiming urban land like they are doing in Detroit is a really interesting development. There are similar plans for urban farms in the DC area, and even a whole swath of the Bronx.

  3. Tony says:

    My uncle has been raising Goats in rural North Carolina for many years now and it has been quite a lucrative business for him. I’ve never thought about going Urban with any farm but it does raise the question of how our cities are going to become more sustainable in the future and not have to rely on produce/farms from many miles away from the population center.

  4. Janice says:

    Beekeeping was just made legal in your old hometown of New York where it is definitely not standard practice!

  5. Great article! I too am eager to have a my own little farm, but in Bulgaria it is standard practice and nothing hip! Keep you eyes peeled for Beekeeping guides, as I hope to have a hive soon!

  6. Janice says:

    Ever think about why we call our boys ‘kids’? Not exactly a coincidence.

  7. Gail says:

    OMG your writing is hilarious! I raised boys, so am familiar with the “rank manly odor”.

    I do make cheese and plan on goats – much easier than cows! Luckily I do know someone with dairy goats and often share in the bounty, milk and meat – I’ve got a nicely butchered kid in the freezer.

    Very charming blog!

  8. Janice says:

    So smart to do your research first. A lot of people don’t- just check out the number of goats on the Petfinder adoption service. I have to admit, the little pygmy goats that just come up to about knee height are awfully cute…

  9. Vegetable Matter says:

    Your post has me laughing. I have a fantasy of becoming a cheese maker, so my sister got me a book on raising goats many years ago. Just a few pages in, I decided it wasn’t for me. Especially not in urban Houston. I still want to try making the cheese, though, using someone else’s goat milk.

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