Goat FAQs

When most people start thinking about adding goats to their homestead, they have a lot of questions! In addition to reading books on goat care, I also recommend that you buy your goats from a breeder who has the experience, knowledge, and willingness to spend time with you to answer your questions and teach you to do whatever you need to learn, such as trimming hooves or milking.

Listed below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions I receive. Keep in mind that the answer to your particular situation could vary depending on any number of factors.

Goat Care

Goats live to be 10-15 years old, depending upon gender, with bucks usually having a shorter lifespan than does and wethers. For more information on everything that can affect lifespan, check out this article.
Goats are browsers rather than grazers. That means that they prefer baby trees and bushes and even weeds over eating grass. Female goats that are pregnant or producing milk need more calcium, so they also need alfalfa hay. Does in milk also need a 16% protein dairy goat feed. Pet wethers and bucks, on the other hand, do great on pasture and grass hay. Click here for more details on what goats eat at different ages and stages.
Castrated male goats, called wethers, make the best pets. We castrate all of our bucklings unless they are being purchased as a buck for breeding. Intact bucks will pee on themselves, which is not a great trait for a pet, and does can come into heat every 21 days unless they are bred. But a Nigerian dwarf doe can be a beloved pet, even if she is having babies and being milked.
Nigerian dwarf does mature at about 60-65 pounds, and bucks at about 70-75 pounds.
In terms of housing, I like to have at least 20 square feet per goat in stalls in the barn. More is better because it will stay clean longer. If goats have less than 20 square feet each, then the bedding is going to get soaked in urine and covered with poop a lot faster. Many years ago we got up to 10 does in our milking stall, which was 100 square feet, and it would be gross from them simply spending the night in there. That's when we realized we needed to cut a hole in the wall, so they could also use the stall next door.
Goats grow a thick coat of cashmere in winter, so they can easily handle temperatures well below freezing and even below zero. For more information about goats in winter, read about Goats in Winter on Thrifty Homesteader.
Goats are herd animals, so you can't have just one. Three is usually a great number to start with.


Goats are pregnant for about 5 months. Smaller breeds like Nigerian dwarf are pregnant for 145 to 150 days. Larger breeds can be pregnant for up to 155 days.
Female goats go into heat about every 21 days, give or take 2 days. Most breeds only go into heat in the fall, but some Nigerian dwarf goats can come into heat year-round.
Most goats have twins, but Nigerian dwarf goats are famous -- or infamous -- for having more. Sometimes they have a LOT more! We have had 8 sets of quintuplets and more quadruplets than I can count. Our average number of kids per doe is more than 3 every year, which is about all they can realistically feed well. If a doe has more than 3, we will bottle-feed the additional kids to be sure they get enough milk. A doe only has two teats, which means the most aggressive kids get the most milk.

If you’re wondering what a normal goat birth is like, here is ARMCH Carmen giving birth to twin doelings:

Goat Milk

Goat milk does have lactose like all milk from mammals. However, some people who are allergic to cow milk protein can drink goat milk because it is a completely different type of protein.
Standard size dairy goats produce 1-2 gallons of milk per day, depending on breed and genetics. Nigerian dwarf average 1-2 quarts per day, although they can peak at 3 quarts around 6-8 weeks after kidding.
Goat milk can be used for drinking fresh or making many kinds of cheese, as well as yogurt and cultured buttermilk. We have been using our goat milk to make 100% of our cheese and yogurt since 2002. And because Nigerian dwarf goat milk is so high in butterfat, averaging 6.5%, it makes a delicious coffee creamer!

Goat Curiosities

All goats have horns unless they are genetically polled, which means they will never grow horns. A goat cannot be polled unless one of its parents is polled. To learn more about polled genetics, check out this article.
Goats are very smart! We had one years ago who learned how to unlock a slide-bolt latch on a gate and let himself out! Research has shown that they can learn to do new tasks by watching other goats. We have trained baby goats to pee on a towel when in the house, although they don't seem to know or care where they poop.
Goats have horizontal pupils, which some people find creepy. However, this comes in very handy for a prey animal. It means they have almost 360-degree vision, so sneaking up on them is almost impossible!
Not usually. Goats are prey animals, so they are naturally scared of dogs and all canines. Unless a goat is raised with a specific dog, they will usually always be wary of them -- and for good reason. Domestic dogs kill many goats every year.
No. This is one of the most pervasive myths about goats! They don't even have upper teeth in the front of their mouth. It would be impossible for them to eat tin cans. Plus they have a very sensitive digestive system that is easily upset.