Goat Diaries: The Goat Palace

We’re off and running!  I can’t say we finished the goat palace yesterday.  There’s still a lot left to do, but it is enough done to receive the goats.  I’m sure the three yearlings were thinking “and about time, too!”  Spending the last couple of days locked in a stall with a very dominant older doe cannot have been fun.  She made it very clear that they could venture out of their corner to get hay only when she was completely satisfied that she had gotten all the best bits.  We were racing to get it done as much for their sake as for our own desire to see it finished.

IMG_3948 the goats in the stall

E, P and Galahad are together in the corner.  Trixie is in the middle of the stall, and Thanzi has her head down eating.  The blankets are to keep their coats clean, not to keep them warm.

We were ready just at dusk.  We took the two ladies out first.  Marla ended up with the “pleasure” of being sled-dogged down the barn aisle by both of them while I kept the boys from going through the stall door.  It was not elegant.

Thankfully they headed in exactly the direction we wanted them to go.  They zipped into their new home.  I had buckets scattered about the enclosure with treats in them: cut up pieces of winter squash.  Thanzi found the buckets right away and quickly forgot about being nervous in a new space.  Trixie was a different story.  She  stayed close to Thanzi, but she was too nervous to check out the feed tubs on her own or to approach us.  As Thanzi found all the treats in one bucket, I dropped others in the next which moved her from bucket to bucket.

When Trixie was close enough to me, I held out my hand as a target.  She was curious enough to reach out towards me. Click, I handed her a treat.  She was also nervous enough to keep her distance, so at this point mugging was not an issue.  That is mugging was not an issue until Thanzi noticed that we were handing out treats.

Trixie was over by Marla and Thanzi shoved her way into the game.  With two it became too confusing.  I suggested that we only try to have them target when only one goat was involved.  I didn’t want the competition, the mugging, or the confusion over what was being clicked.  Marla moved away, and that was enough to interrupt the game for the moment.  As the ladies settled into their new space, we dropped more treats and withdrew to get the boys.

I should pause here to describe what we have built.  The original lean-to ran part way down the long side of the arena.  It was seventy feet long by twelve feet deep.  In the winter the snow sliding off the arena roof often blocked access to the entrance and in the summer it became too hot, so we used it for storage only.  Mainly what it stored were leftovers from the original construction.

For the goat palace we extended the roof out another nine feet to the edge of the gravel roadway that runs along that side of the barn.  So the entire enclosure is 70 feet by approximately 20 feet.  The goats palace is divided by an interior fence into two sections.  The back section is 40 feet by 20.  The front section is 30 feet by twelve.  We reserved the outer half of this section for equipment storage, a 9 by 30 foot space.  So the new entrance to the enclosure sits further out from the barn giving us better access in the winter.

IMG_3934 goat palace under construction

The Goat Palace a week ago.  A lot has changed in a week!

I learned from the July visit. We have built out goat enclosure very much with training in mind.  The entire enclosure is fenced and then covered with mesh both to keep goats in and predators out.  The fence line that runs along length of the equipment area has a narrow gap between two fence boards so we can fill hay feeders from the outside of the pen.  And we can also use this fence line for any protective contact training we want to do.  These two areas for the goats are divided off one from the other by an interior fence line so we separate the goats for training.

For now we had the two ladies locked in the back half so we could get the boys in without a struggle at the gate.  They were very eager to be out of the stall.  I led the way with E and P.  They definitely did not lead with the good manners they had left with!  They pulled all the way down the barn aisle.  Again, it was not elegant, but we got them out to their new home and turned them loose.

We had four home made hay feeders hanging along the rail of the front enclosure.  They found those quickly enough.  We let them explore and eat for a couple of minutes, then we opened the gate that separates the front and back half, and let the ladies join them.  Actually, it was the other way around.  The boys went to them.  They all ran around exploring, then they settled down at the hay feeders.

Marla and I were sitting on some elevated boards that are part of a jungle gym I built for them out of a couple of saw horses, and a big wooden box.

Trixie came over first and very tentatively held her nose out to Marla’s offered hand.  Click, Marla reached into her pocket and gave her a hay stretcher pellet.  I was holding a big bowl of cut up squash rind.  So after a couple of target touches with Marla, I offered my hand as a target.  Trixie very tentatively switched over to me.  Click and treat.  Then Marla offered her hand as a target.  Trixie went back to her.  We did a couple of these exchanges then Thanzi came over and Trixie retreated to the hay feeders.

Thanzi went first to Marla who was sitting closest to her.  Marla held out her hand and clicked as Thanzi reached out her nose towards her.  She fed so Thanzi had to turn her head to the side to get her treat.  I offered my hand as a target.  Thanzi came right over, click, but then she spotted the food bowl and went straight to helping herself.  Marla snatched it away and put it up out of reach on the top part of the jungle gym.

That seemed to sort the mugging, at least for the moment.  Marla held out her hand as target and fed so again Thanzi  had to turn her head to the side to get the treat.  Marla did this a couple of times.  It helps to have a spotter when you train.  I suggested that instead she feed so Thanzi would have to take a step or two back to get the treat.

This worked like a charm.  Thanzi stepped back beautifully, and after only two or three clicks, she was staying back.  I clicked for that.  Marla had to feed because she was in reach, but I did the clicking.  Thanzi is very bold.  Mugging is definitely a potential problem, so to see her so quickly step back and stay back was exciting.

She was staying back beautifully.  And then Galahad left the hay feeder and climbed up the back side of the jungle gym and discovered the treat bowl.  E and P quickly joined him.  Game over.  We were too busy laughing to train.  Now everyone was up on the jungle gym.  I do wonder what the poor horses are going to think of all this racket.

It was starting to get cold, so we left them to their play and went in to finish the barn chores.

I was going to include another post from the July Goat Diaries, but this is enough for today.  I’m eager to get the day started and to see how the goats are this morning.  I’ll get pictures of the finished goat palace soon.

 

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