Goats are mischievous creatures, so can goats and chickens live together successfully?
In short, the answer is yes. However, that decision has pros and cons and plenty to consider.
There is something so satisfying about stepping into a clean coop with fresh bedding, a warm heat lamp if the weather requires one, straw-filled nesting boxes, and a full feeder.
The chickens rest peacefully on their perch, squawking and readjusting to make room for each other.
A grassy, clover-laden chicken pen with waterers scattered about.
That sounds pretty idyllic, doesn’t it?
Now, add 3 or 4 horned goat kids and watch things go up in flames (hopefully not literally).
Goats are friendly, curious, multipurpose animals. They’re often considered the gateway animal for those beginning their homesteading journey.
If you’ve owned goats, that phrase is mildly humorous. But their charming personalities often make up for their goofy antics.
If you’re considering combining your goat and chicken pen, there are ways to make that idea successful.
Can Goats and Chickens Live Together: Pros
A goat, known for being a browser, can play a vital role in keeping brushy, invasive bushes or vines from growing in the chicken pen.
For example, occasionally, we allow our goats into the chicken pen to rid the area of creeping charlie (ground ivy) because the chickens enable it to run rampant in their pen all summer long.
The goats, who prefer browsing, won’t turn their nose up at knee-high grass, gooseberry, or a sapling stretching for light in the chicken pen.
Which keeps it tidy and mowed while providing forage for the goats.
In the winter, chickens battle cold-related issues like frostbite, frozen toes, and limited space to move due to the snow.
Chickens spend a lot of time in the coop during these windy days, which leads to a messier space.
When goats and chickens live together, it is not uncommon to look out on a wintery day to find a chicken atop a full goat belly, huddled up for warmth.
As an added benefit, goats travel in a line, creating well-worn paths around the pen that the chickens are all too thankful to use as appose to battling through the deep snow on their own.
If you’d like your chickens to travel farther, laying a thin layer of straw along the paths can entice them to walk farther.
Diseases And Parasites
Most parasites are host specific, so chickens can help cleanse a pen of parasites that may affect goats.
Slugs and snails are known for being intermediate hosts of the Meningeal worm (originally picked up from the droppings of deer).
Chickens can readily slurp these slimy critters, ending their threat of infecting the goat as it accidentally eats a small slug or snail on pasture grasses.
Chickens will eat some flies and fly larvae that reside in goat manure.
A chicken keeper’s greatest threat is often a roaming nocturnal animal looking for a quick meal. Keeping larger-bodied animals in the chicken pen could deter smaller predators like raccoons, skunks, or even foxes from entering the pen or coop.
By allowing goats to live with chickens, a goat’s movement or alarmed screech informs potential threats of a larger opponent on the premises.
In theory, fencing one large parcel of land, creating a garden of Eden-esque environment where all animals live in harmony, is a far more serene option than breaking your acreage into multiple pens, paddocks, and outbuildings.
It is substantially cheaper to erect one pen than to fence two enclosures.
Keeping your chickens and goats together avoids cross-fencing, extra gates, and posts.
Goats and chickens form a symbiotic relationship centered around goats being messy.
Hens, on the other hand, are patient participants during feeding time.
Goats often spill feed if on a grain ration which the chickens happily tidy.
Tiny flakes of hay that gather at the bottom of the hay feeder are a tasty snack for any chicken, especially if mixed with kitchen scraps and extra milk from the dairy goats.
Not to mention a chicken’s affinity for tiny, tasty mice that may swing by for lunch or nest in the goat bedding.
So, can goats and chickens live together? Absolutely! Goats and chickens can live in harmony that can benefit both species greatly.
With the pros mentioned above, this may seem like the answer to all your homesteading woes. But there are a few things to weigh when making the final call.
Can Goats and Chickens Live Together: Cons
Financially Beneficial … Or Not?
Remember above, where we decided that fencing one large pen could be the wiser choice financially.
This comes with one caveat.
Fencing goats into a chicken pen or chickens into a goat pen will require a particular type of fencing.
Chickens may stay inside a 4 or 5ft pen if the spacing of a panel is narrow and their wings are clipped.
Goats, on the other hand, especially atop a compact snow drift, are more than willing to attempt an escape.
The cheap 4ft option can quickly shift to 6ft to contain the goats, which will be slightly more expensive. Not to mention a goat is a master mischief-maker.
Goats are the epitome of “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence,” pushing and wiggling through panels for that one blade of grass.
In doing so, a goat can get their horns stuck, forcing you to clip and repair the wire.
Electric or “hot wire” along the fence line could mitigate this problem by keeping the goats away from the fence.
Most diseases are host-specific (meaning cross-species transmission is not possible).
For example, coccidiosis can affect goats and chickens but have host-specific protozoa that prevent the transmission between species.
With that said, one severe disease affects both chickens and mammals, such as the goat.
Cryptosporidiosis can be transmitted between species and requires quarantine, heavy cleaning (using ammonia), and sterilization of bedding to destroy the oocysts.
Baby chicks are often at the highest risk of carrying the disease. If transmitted to baby goats, the prognosis is grim.
Close, cramped quarters could heighten your chances of either animal suffering a disease the other passes along.
Goats consume approximately 9L of water per day. Therefore, a large water trough is the best option for watering your goat.
Almost with 100% certainty, a feathery hen will perch on the side of the water trough without caring where her droppings land (most often in the water).
Partially feathered and brave, a young juvenile bird will hop onto the trough attempting a drink, only to fall in and, sadly, drown.
If you keep ducks with your chickens and goats, a duck makes short work of a clean water source.
Flapping and splashing (and pooping) in your goat drinking water, a duck will make open water impossible for a shared pen.
When sharing a pen, some farmers put a large board with a hole to prevent the chickens and ducks from ruining the goats’ clean drinking water.
Salmonella can pose a significant risk to nursing goat kids; chicken excrement carries that specific bacteria.
A nursing doe that rests her udder on dirtied bedding risks transmitting the bacteria to her kid when they feed next.
If your goats can access the chicken coop, you’ll soon ensure they don’t.
Goats are excellent bulls-in-a-china-shop.
On rare occasions, a goat has made its way into our chicken coop, and there are broken eggs, squawking chickens, and goat droppings.
It’s even happened that one unruly, wayward goat in search of hen scratch snuck into the coop and, upon me flinging the door open, panicked and stepped on a hen as he fled the scene.
The chicken was fine, but not a rare occurrence when goats would find their way into the coop just in time for me to catch them.
Their flight response kicks in, leading to kicked chickens.
I suggest separate housing if you want to house goats in your chicken coop.
A coop that is goat-proof and deters chickens from roosting or nesting in the goat barn.
The shift to people striving for self-sustainability is an important one.
It is also a steep learning curve for those building up their homestead. It’s easy to want to pick one of everything, to ensure you have it all. But, the most important part of homesteading is surveying your land and filling it with the best-suited animals.
Most importantly, do not overstock your land and rob yourself of production the following year.
Much like over-planting your garden while seedlings are young, a pen with ten baby chicks and two goat kids can quickly explode into a hen sitting on her clutch, hatching out ten more babies and the grown doe delivering triplets.
With shared space, you may need to consider fewer animals.
To keep the grass alive, trees flourishing, and pen healthy, slowly introduce animals and take note of the changes each addition makes to the land.
The con of all cons.
Most farmers will tell you that keeping goats with chickens is a bad idea due to the impossible task of separating their feed.
In a matter of moments, Goats will clean a chicken feeder out of the layer pellet you spent a pretty penny on.
All the while, hay will be supplied and waiting. Goats love layer pellets.
They also love any kitchen scraps you were hoping to a lot to the chickens.
It’s unbelievable to watch a goat (with horns) maneuver its way into the coop in search of extra feed.
Hay bags can prevent chickens from kicking out (and pooping) on the goat’s hay. However, finding a solution for goats in the chicken feed proves slightly more complicated.
Best of Both Goat and Chicken Worlds
While keeping goats directly in the same pen with chickens may be less desirable than you had hoped, there is a happy middle ground.
My setup doesn’t allow goats and chickens to be housed together.
Our pen, while a great size for chickens, ducks, and geese, quickly becomes crowded with goats.
We’ve battled goats stuck in the coop door, lost feed, broken eggs, land overload, and injured hens while attempting a one size fits all method.
So, we split the goats and chickens up but in adjoining pens. The benefits of this… many!
Goats and Chickens: Pasturing Part-Time Pals
Creating areas where goats and chickens can live near one another makes it possible to see only benefits instead of downfalls.
By granting access to the goats into the chicken pen (but removing the food while they’re present), they spend all their time mowing the grass, snacking on invasive weeds, and fertilizing in moderation.
The goats get a break from their regular pasture (which mimics rotational grazing as the pasture rests).
The chickens benefit from any leftover grain or hay that goats lazily leave behind.
All the while, we often open the middle gate so the chickens can go into the goat pen as well.
They rush excitedly to the feeder and begin scratching, pecking, and searching for insects in this untouched-by-chicken pen.
They do an excellent job at spreading manure as they scratch and kick to unearth bugs and larvae.
Chicken poop is higher in nitrogen which makes grass thrive.
The chickens kindly leave this behind in their part-time pasture so it doesn’t overwhelm the land but helps it.
Coop And Barn Bliss
Since each visit is occasional, the goats are often kept busy enough; they rarely bother with the chicken coop.
However, removing food can discourage them from attempting a coop break.
Goats often do their job in a new pasture, then happily return to their barn area to drink, chew their cud, and rest.
The barn, during active feeding, can be closed to discourage roosting or egg-laying within the goat barn while the chickens work.
There is one instance where you’ll want chickens in the goat barn.
In the Spring, when deep cleaning, we shovel out the majority of spent bedding and then allow the chickens access where they kick and scratch up another layer to remove without any extra work done by us.
The success of goats living with chickens depends entirely on the setup, function, and animals themselves.
Whatever you decide to do, know that trial and error is a great teacher after the basics are implemented.