Are your goats due to birth sometime in the cold part of the year?
It’s a wise idea to have a few electricity-free methods for warming those babies up, even if your barn does have electricity (because power outages happen).
Here are some best ways to warm goats and their babies up, even if your goat barn doesn’t have electricity.
How to Keep Baby Goats Warm Without Electricity
There are four main components to keeping your goat babies warm:
- A small draft-free space
- Lots of bedding
- Plenty of food
- Paying close attention to the babies
Let’s talk about how to implement each of those ideas.
Build a Warm Box
Warm boxes, also called calf warmers or calf boxes, are dog houses that are large enough for calves to fit inside.
Luckily for you, though, newborn goats are about the size of a medium dog, so a dog house or similarly sized box is perfect for them.
You can use an insulated dog house or build one yourself.
Use two layers of plywood with a few inches of space between them, or fill that space with foam, insulation, or even used gymnastics mats.
You can use straw or fodder to fill the gap. Unfortunately, this material will need to be replaced often as it breaks down over time.
A Draft-Free Barn
A draft-free barn is the very best way to keep your goats warm.
It should have four sides, with no gaps on the bottom of the building, a small amount of ventilation near the top, and some insulation if you live in a colder region.
My small goat barn is a wooden frame with a layer of plywood on the frame’s interior and another layer of plywood on the exterior of the frame.
I also cut and attached timber wane (waste pieces from a sawmill) to the exterior plywood as additional siding.
These wane boards add another small amount of insulation to the building.
I later added a small loft to the top of the barn for storage and to help hold the heat down low so the goats could stay warm.
Most days, the small goat door is open, so the goats have access to their run.
When the temperature falls below negative ten degrees Fahrenheit, I close this door to keep it from acting drafty for the barn.
If our goats have babies (we do right now), I close the door when the temperature reaches zero.
They don’t want to go outside when it’s that cold anyway, so closing the door allows them to build more warmth inside.
In my area, the temperature can drop into the negative thirties (F) or sometimes colder.
Usually, the temperatures stay below freezing for five months or more, sometimes never above freezing during this entire time.
I will open all the doors and windows if the temperature stays under zero for more than a few weeks (it regularly does).
I leave them open for five minutes about once a week to make sure the goats have clean, fresh air.
Yes, the barn has ventilation, but the goats like to stay inside a lot, and I want to ensure it’s a healthy environment.
The goats aren’t too happy with this.
But they have not had any respiratory problems or other illnesses, so it’s working or not causing any harm.
Use Lots of Thick Bedding
Pile up clean straw or dry discarded hay to keep your goats warm. These fluffy materials are like down duvet covers for goats, especially babies.
They will learn to burrow down in these to stay nice and warm.
You may even catch the little ones nibbling on the wasted hay while in their little bed, which is such a sweet sight.
If you’re in a pinch, you can use wood chips or shavings, but they aren’t as healthy for young goats with vulnerable respiratory systems.
They also don’t hold heat very well and aren’t as easy to burrow into for warmth.
While it’s great to spread this bedding throughout the floor of your goat barn or stall, it’s even better to have it confined to a corner or a baby box.
Keeping the straw clumped up makes it easier for the baby goat(s) to nest in it, and the container it sits within will also hold in a bit of heat.
Use that handmade warming box or doghouse that is mentioned above.
A Warm Nook Inside the Barn
My Nigerian Dwarf, Daisy, just had her baby doe in October.
The temperatures were already hovering around freezing here in northern Montana.
I added plywood and thick four-inch foam to three sides of my oversized milk stand in the goat barn. I left one narrow side open for easy access for the baby.
I added a layer of leftover wood bark from the woodshed as a base, then stuffed this cozy little nook full of dry, discarded hay.
Most of the time, baby Fernie would stay beside her mama inside the barn, but when the overnight temperatures fell under negative ten degrees, she climbed right in there and stayed nice and warm.
I’ve also noticed that Fernie will play outside in the deep snow with the other goats, then come back inside the barn and hide under the milk stand to warm up for a few minutes before heading back again.
That space was ridiculously quick and easy to build and seems to serve the babies well.
Extra Hay and Feed
Even if your baby goats aren’t eating hay and feed yet, their mothers probably are, and you need to provide a lot more for them.
At two weeks old, your kids will start eating hay or grass, whichever is available.
They won’t eat a lot, but this time is crucial for them because they are developing the epithelial lining of the rumen.
Eating hay and other grains uses their stomach in a new way and will pleasantly warm them up from the inside out.
The goat’s rumen works harder when the goats are fed roughage– things like hay, beet pulp, brush, grass, fodder, and silage.
Roughage is much more important than grain because it activates the rumen. The rumen is like a powerful internal heater for a goat.
Let Them Huddle
This is really helpful if you have several goats due to kid at the same time.
The mothers and kids can huddle up to keep one another warm, socialized, and feeling content, even during the most miserable parts of winter.
Goats are social creatures who need the company of others, not only for companionship and morale but also warmth.
Toys, and Playtime
If your goats have decided to stay in the barn all day because the snow is too deep or the air is too cold, consider adding some toys or interesting treats to the barn.
Hang treats or vegetables from the ceiling, add a yoga ball, or toss a few loose tires into the barn for them to jump on.
Movement warms goats up, and play keeps them feeling happy.
Bring Them Inside Sporadically
Consider pulling the kid into your truck or house if you’re in for an extra cold night.
Do this for about thirty minutes, especially if the goat kid was just born and is now wet.
If they are wet, dry them off with a towel, paying particular attention to the ears and legs.
Newborns are prone to frostbite, which is painful, and may cause cosmetic defects or even death in some cases.
You should use this method only in dire situations because it will upset the mother to be separated from her baby.
If you have the space, consider moving the pair to your garage or laundry room for the first day. It won’t smell great, but at least they’ll survive it.
Take your least favorite long-sleeved article of clothing and put that on your baby goat, especially if they are under two weeks old.
At this point, they won’t have much of a natural winter coat and will benefit from another layer of heat.
You may need to cut off the excess sleeves that are too long for the legs and use a belt or piece of rope to hold the torso part of the sweater to the kid’s belly.
You may need to use child-sized sweaters, but small adult sweaters may work, too, depending on the goat breed.
Kid sweaters are incredibly easy to put on the goat, cheap, and easy to wash and reuse.
They won’t get any urine or manure on them since it doesn’t cover the back half of the kid.
If it’s freezing, you can layer them up too.
Sweaters are most beneficial to kids under two weeks old when temperatures dip below forty degrees Fahrenheit.
Use Battery-Powered Webcams or Baby Monitors
When cold weather is involved, the best tool for surviving it with your goats is to watch them closely.
If you’re not interested in walking out to the barn every half hour, consider getting a webcam, security camera, or baby monitor that runs on batteries for the barn.
You’ll probably go through the batteries relatively quickly, but that is worth it for the peace of mind and for the health of your new herd members.
Look for signs of shivering, lethargy, or a change in personality to tell if they are too cold.
Propane Powered Heater
If you’re in the thick of miserably cold weather, head out to the barn with an exciting book, a battery-powered flashlight, a lawn chair, and a propane-powered heater.
You can fire that heater up and safely monitor it while reading from your lawn chair.
Don’t let this heater run without your supervision.
Instead, get the barn or shelter as warm as possible, shut it off, and go back inside for a few hours.
Firing up a heater at least two or three times a day can help your goats maintain a safe temperature while ensuring that your barn won’t accidentally catch fire.
A propane-powered heater is especially nice right after your goat has given birth.
If you’ve ever given birth yourself, you know that immediately postpartum, you feel as if you’re freezing– violently shaking and shivering.
It happens even if the room is in the upper eighties (F).
This experience is magnified if you’re a mama goat who just gave birth to two or three babies in the dead of winter outside.
Firing a propane heater will help the mother goat get her temperature (and strength) back up while warming and drying off the brand-new additions to your farm.
Generator + Heater Combo
This is another excellent option if you don’t have a propane heater but have access to a generator and a traditional electric heater.
Again, you probably don’t want to leave this setup running without your supervision, so settle in with a book or some other way to entertain yourself.
At the same time, you wait for the barn to warm up.
Consider Moving Your Breeding Season Next Year
If you’re having a miserable time raising baby goats in winter, consider experimenting with a new breeding season next year.
Goats give birth five months after being exposed to a buck, so plan accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Cold Can A Baby Goat Survive?
Baby goats prefer temperatures in the low sixties to mid-eighties (Fahrenheit).
Anything under forty degrees is dangerous for newborn kids.
For goat babies under two weeks old, freezing temperatures can be deadly.
As goat kids mature, they develop a better coat suited for surviving cold weather.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exact temperatures when problems arise because all goats and their babies are different.
While some goats struggle at forty degrees, others feel comfortable frolicking in the snow at negative ten degrees.
The best thing you can do is closely monitor your goats and adjust your setup and care as needed.
How Do You Keep Baby Goats Warm in Cold Weather?
The best way to keep baby goats warm in cold weather is to give them a clean, dry, draft-free barn loaded with lots of warm hay or straw to snuggle up in.
Adding a dry dog house or warm box inside a draft-free barn is an even better option.
If you’re able to, use a safe, heated calf box. You can also spend thirty minutes or an hour with your goats while letting a heater run in the barn.
This allows the goat space to warm up to a better temperature while mitigating the fire risk in your barn.
What Is the Coldest Temperature Goats Can Handle?
People keep goats all over the world, from the hottest tropical climates to the bitterly cold and windiest areas in the north.
No temperature is too cold for a goat, so long as they have an appropriate shelter to take refuge inside.
In the south, a three-sided shelter may be enough.
In the midwest, a dry and draft-free barn will probably work.
In the northern areas of the US and Canada, a draft-free, densely insulated barn may work.
Additional heat sources may be needed for newborn goats in these areas, but this is not always the case.
How to Keep Baby Goats Warm Without Electricity: Final Thoughts
While it may be challenging to have a kidding season in the thick of winter, this is not an impossible task. There are ways to keep the mother and baby warm without using electricity.
Above all else, ensure that your goats are dry, in a draft-free zone, with plenty of access to forage, and that you supervise them throughout the day.
Keeping a close eye on your goats allows you to react and intervene quickly, meaning that you have the power to save a life.
Wanna read more about keeping goats as a beginner? Be sure to read The Definitive Guide to Owning Goats.