A Typical Goat Day                                The Goat Kids brought to you by Lotus Pond Media

A typical day for The Goat Kids begins around 8:00 or 9:00 am. The goats may get up earlier than this, but we rarely do unless absolutely necessary, so we'll track their day against ours. Three of them, Charlie, Ella, and Jack, must get up earlier than this as they're almost always waiting outside their shed when we step outside our door. Sally always seems to roll out a little after the rest and often she still has a little straw in her hair and a bit of sleep in her eyes--we suspect she might stay up late playing and then sleep in a bit in the morning.

As soon as they hear the latch on the door turn, they start calling out to us. Jack is always the loudest. This is partly to say good morning and partly because they really enjoy their breakfast cereal. By the time we've walked about halfway to their shed (their place is about 100 feet from ours, their trampoline is halfway between the two houses), Charlie is in full-on excitement mode. Of the three, Charlie is the most concerned about breakfast; he spends the 20 seconds that it takes for us to walk to the shed poking his horns at the other three, reminding them that he wants to check both dishes before anyone settles in to eat.

We give the four of them 1 cup of grain in the morning and 1 cup of grain in the evening. We've cut this back a bit from the two cups they used to get as they seem pretty healthy, almost bordering on chunky. All four of them were tiny as kids and the vet suggested that we up their rations. On their next checkup I'm pretty sure we might get some advice that they spend a bit more time grazing and a little less time with their heads in a bowl. They have free access all day to five acres of pasture and all the tree bark and evergreen bushes they can rip out of our yard, but they act like the grain is a major treat. They also have hay in their shed at all times which they nibble on pretty steadily after their evening meal. They eat a 14% protein goat chow mix for breakfast and dinner and love the Purina sweet feeds that seem to have some molasses mixed in.

By the time we reach their gate, the excitement level is at DEFCON-3. Ella has her feet on the gate trying to push it open while Charlie is dashing back and forth between Sally and Jack, chasing them around the pen. When the gate opens they all pour out into the yard, momentarily forgetting that breakfast is served inside. They're locked up at night to protect them from predators, although we've only seen one fox on the property, but have free access to their pasture during the day. The feed is divided evenly between their two bowls while all four of them run between your legs, jump at the bowls and generally make the whole process take five times longer than it otherwise might.

Once the bowls are set down, about four feet apart, Charlie checks each one a dozen times while Ella, Jack and Sally grab a few mouthfuls from whichever bowl Charlie is not targeting. Charlie always ends up choosing the same silver bowl every time, but not without extensive review of both opportunities. Charlie and Ella used to eat together, now it's typically Charlie eating out of one bowl and Ella, Jack and Sally in the other. Once Charlie has settled in on his bowl, we'll take a little bit out of his dish and share it with the other three just to even out the rations. Although he's extremely concerned about checking out the bowls initially, he has no concerns about being approached once he's eating. We can move his bowl, share his portion or pet him while he's eating and everything's fine. The four of them eat as fast as they can, as though it's the last meal on earth, for a minute or two, then just as quickly lose some of their interest as their appetite is satisfied. Ella will often wander off after a few bites and return later. Sally tends to stick with the food the longest and will often get a few more bites after the other three stop completely. While they're finishing the grain we wash out their water bowl, fill it with fresh water and re-fill their minerals. They always have a plate of minerals available to them that we scoop out of a 35 pound white plastic bucket of goat minerals that we ordered from Hoegger. We're not big salt eaters ourselves so we really don't get the appeal of these minerals (other than knowing that they're essential for healthy goats), but the goats will just stick their faces in and gobble up mouthfuls of this stuff and then run for a drink of water. We're very new to the whole goat business so I don't know if it's typical for goats to eat minerals like a plate of candied popcorn, but these little guys crave their trace minerals.

Assuming it's not raining outside, they get fed in their yard. When it's raining we move their bowls inside, but that gets a little crazy with Charlie trying to run circles around the process in a very confined space. They have a 10' x 12' shed to sleep in at night surrounded by a fenced-in playground and small exercise area. If we have to run an errand they get locked up in there sometimes, but it's hardly a prison. They have a small bamboo stand to hide in, a playground with rock slides and climbing logs, a few trees they can gnaw at and a large area of brush, brambles, and grass on which they can munch. If we're around they have access to the whole property.

All four wear collars with name tags and phone numbers in the unlikely event that they wander off the property. They're bounded on all four sides by fencing and on three sides they'd have to cross water to get to the fence. Goats do not go swimming by choice, so there's little chance they're going to circumnavigate the pond, free the neighbors dogs, and race into town to carouse.

After breakfast their gate is left open and they can play in their yard or walk in the meadow. On a very few occasions they've walked down by the creek to chomp on the pine trees, but their favorite spot to hang out is our back porch. We usually have the news on just inside the porch door so it might be that they like listening to MSNBC all day. They'll hang out on the porch, lazing in the rocking chairs, chewing their cud. Once an hour or so they'll take a walk around the house for about fifteen minutes and take a bite out of our shrubbery or nibble on the grass. A few times a day they'll stop by the trampoline for Charlie and Ella to bounce around while Jack and Sally stare enviously up from the ground. We have to help Jack and Sally up because they're just a little short to make the jump up top that Charlie and Ella can clear easily. Around noon they'll all settle into a favored chair and get really quiet for 30 - 45 minutes. Sometimes one or two might actually fall asleep during this little siesta, but usually they just sit quietly. When they do fall asleep you can see their eyeballs rolling around under their eyelids, just like a human in REM sleep. Fall is a favorite time to perambulate the house as they just gobble down the dried leaves as they roll around the property. They always land back on the porch eventually, although they sometimes park on the front steps for a while because they can get more sun.

Their favorite event of the day, or at least this is what we want to read into it, is playing with the humans. One of us will take them for a walk in the woods or just sit with them for ten minutes scratching their backs. They scrap with each other terribly to be closest to the humans. The optimal situation is for two or four of us to sit with them so every goat gets equal access. If Charlie is not getting the attention he wants, he starts bashing your tennis shoes with his horns. Sally tries, and often succeeds, at untieing your shoe laces and Ella will just leap into your lap from five feet away and land with her nose poking into your nose; very hard to ignore. Only Jack, the sweetheart, will stand a few feet away and just look at you forlornly, his eyes willing your fingers to reach for his back. Even he will get fed up after a while and start nibbling on your coat, tugging to regain the focus.

Around 4:30 they start getting antsy for their 5:00 pm dinner. Everytime a door opens they all line up on the steps of the porch ready for the run to their shed. From about 4:30 until 5:00 they'll start aiming themselves in the direction of the shed and look through the windows over their shoulders trying to urge us to start the feeding just a little earlier today. Anytime between 4 and 5 they can start bleating about the absolute injustice of hunger and carry on with a firm chorus of repeated entreaties until the clock hits the hour--or we give up before they drive us crazy. We always say "home", "home", while walking out with that late feeding; thinking that we're training them to go home on command, but the command only seems to work when there's a bucket of grain in our hand. They may be training us to never say "home" unless we're prepared to carry out some feed.

During the winter they get locked back into their smaller fenced area as soon as dinner is served. The sun goes down by the time they're through eating and no one wants to chase down four errant goats in the dark, in the cold. During the summer the gates might not close before eight or nine; by which time they're really ready for bed and often head to their shed before being called. They sleep on loose straw stacked on top of a few straw bales during the winter. In the summer they prefer sleeping on the wooden floor where it's a little cooler.

Overall, not a bad day for a goat. Perhaps not the hardest job in the world. But then, they also have to be prepared to head out into the woods or meadows at a moment's notice for photo sessions. Every so often they dress up in their Halloween costumes or holiday finery for a formal occasion, but this seems to amuse us more than them.