Keeping chickens and goats together on your homestead or small farm is absolutely possible as long as you follow a few important rules and implement a few tricks. We’ve kept chickens and goats together successfully for the last two years inside our barn and I’ve learned some vital lessons along the way. In this blog post, you will learn everything you need to know when keeping goats and chickens together as well as what mistakes to avoid!
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Our chicken and goat keeping story:
On our farm, we’ve kept chickens for nearly a decade. Back in 2020, I decided it was finally time to add Nigerian Dwarf goats to the mix. We brought home four perfect registered doelings from Aubrey’s Acres: Nutmeg, Banana, Olive, and Mango. My goat-loving heart was overjoyed! Little did I know I had quite the learning curve ahead of me when it came to keeping chickens and goats together.
How to set up your barn to keep chickens and goats together
We’ve had everywhere from 85 production laying hens to a small flock of 20 hens with our goats, and one thing truly makes or breaks being able to keep them together under one roof - and that is how you set up your barn.
Our barn is a 100-year-old structure that we completely gutted and renovated (you can watch the whole renovation process here at this post!). We even added an automatic heated livestock watering system that provides warm clean water to our chickens and goats without us having to haul water. (You can read all about how we set up the automatic watering system at this blog post).
Since we started from square one with setting up our barn for goats and chickens, I was able to implement some ideas that were absolutely life-changing when it came to doing farm chores.
First and foremost, you need a separate space for your chickens that your goats cannot get to. This means that your chickens can come and go as they please, but your goats should not be able to access that space. Having a goat-free area for your hens is absolutely vital because chicken feed should not be eaten by goats.
Many feeds contain rumen-disrupting ingredients that can lead to bloat and ultimately kill your goat. If you are new to goats you’ll soon find out that goats will eat anything. Your curious goats will gorge themselves on chicken feed if given the chance and it can be life-threatening!
On top of the goats needing to stay out of the feed, we also found that it was best to keep their curious noses away from nesting boxes to nix any risk of broken eggs. At that point, we realized an entire separate chicken coop within the barn was best for our flock.
In terms of how much space chickens need, I’ve found that hens need about 4 - 5 sq ft per hen to stay happy and healthy. While that may sound small compared to what you have read and researched online, this is based on my near-decades worth of experience caring for hens in a colder climate.
So how do you let chickens in but keep goats out?
We created a chicken coop area (complete with nesting boxes, roosting bars, water, and feed) that was accessible via a chicken creep door. A creep door is a contraption that allows animals of a certain size through while keeping bigger animals out. This door has been an absolute lifesaver.
The design allows for hens to both come and go at the same time without pecking order issues keeping hens in or out. I've found that if you only have one single opening, your rooster or flock queen can be bossy and keep certain hens from leaving or entering. The chicken creep door even works perfectly to keep our livestock guardian dogs out of the chicken coop.
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How to set up a goat pen
Next on your barn setup list is setting up a goat pen area so your herd can happily eat, drink, play, and loaf (lay down and chew their cud). Since we are in northern Wisconsin, our winters are especially harsh which means we often keep the entire barn closed up for days on end. Without a doubt, there is always a week that drops to -40F, and letting our chickens and goats outside is a big no-no thanks to frostbite and hypothermia. Due to this extreme weather, we like to have ample space for our herd inside the barn. I feel most comfortable with my does having 15 sq ft per doe inside our barn.
In our goat pen, we have two large hay feeders, a heated automatic waterer (learn all about how we created our DIY heated watering system here), mineral feeders, grain feeders, and plenty of fun surfaces (like wooden spools and logs) for the goats to play on. The goats have plenty of room to scamper, snuggle down, and explore.
Can you let your chickens and goats share the same space during the day?
Yes! In fact, having chickens in your goat pen can benefit the goat bedding since the chickens love to fluff it up looking for bugs to eat. The chickens' scratching causes the bedding to evenly mix with the air, goat urine, and droppings which begins the composting process. The composting process actually generates heat which helps out during those cold days of winter.
Keep in mind that chickens and the composting process generate ample moisture and humidity. In the winter it is extremely important to properly vent the area otherwise respiratory issues and frostbite can creep up. We installed two barn fans that help pull the moist humid air out, keeping our barn nice and dry. You can grab those livestock-friendly exhaust fans at this link.
By the layout of our barn, our chickens get to come and go as they please through the goat pen area, but they always roost in their own coop at night. This keeps chicken manure from piling up in areas we don’t want it (like waterers and hay feeders!). During the day we simply open up the creep door and let the chickens roam. I add a fresh layer of straw in both the coop and the goat area each week (and more often than that in the winter). I also sprinkle our DIY Coop Refresher in both the goat and chicken area each week to keep ammonia odors away.
We definitely have had to deal with some eggs in the hay feeders, but I’ve found hens will lay where they want regardless of what you think is right. I simply have added an egg-check in the hay feeders to my evening chores.
Creating animal-free access for farm chores
The best thing we did beyond creating the creep door for our coop was put in an animal-free access-way or alleyway to be able to do chores without the chickens and the goats getting in our way. Last winter we had to walk through the goat pen to get to the chickens to feed them and it was a nightmare to try and keep the goats from getting in. Those sneaky buggers always found a way to get into the coop which gave me plenty of goat mama scares.
See below for our barn's complete setup to house chickens and goats under one roof!
I love this animal-free access-way for giving the goats grain and hay, feeding the hens, and even having some additional storage for feed and a separate chicken ICU in case I have an injured hen.
Sanitation and keeping goats and chickens healthy
When I was first researching keeping goats and chickens together there was a lot of misinformation on whether goats and chickens can give each other coccidiosis. After speaking with a licensed veterinarian I learned that while both chickens and goats can get coccidiosis (which is a very scary situation), they get it from *different* protozoa. This means that chickens and goats CANNOT get coccidiosis from each other!
One disease that chickens and goats can pass between each other is cryptosporidiosis. The intestinal parasites called cryptosporidia is commonly passed from young chickens to baby goats and can be fatal.
Unlike coccidia, they are not host-specific, meaning chickens can get crypto from infected goats, and goats can get crypto from infected chickens. Crypto is not uncommon in confined young chickens and can be disastrous for baby goats. The signs are poor weight gain and scours (diarrhea).
Unfortunately, there are no known treatments for this disease. If you act quickly you can mitigate any deaths by quarantining your sick goats, offering hydration and electrolytes, and cleaning your entire barn and coop with ammonia or formalin to kill the oocysts (baby parasites).
The other potential health issue I want to mention is salmonella bacteria, which live in the intestines of chickens. As I’m sure you know, chickens do not care where they poop and that means their feces can get in livestock waters, on udders, and inside the mouths of young susceptible baby goats. Be vigilant about cleaning udders before you milk as well as keeping the bedding area fresh as much as you can. We have never had a salmonella issue to date thanks to good bedding habits and hygiene practices.
Best of luck to you!
I hope you found this blog post on keeping goats and chickens together helpful. Do you have other questions about our setup and how we do things? Leave a comment below and I’ll respond as soon as I can. :)
What do you do in the summer with your goats?
A huge resounding - YES! We get our goats the heck out of our barn and onto fresh pasture and woods using our Mobile Goat Tractor. I cannot stress enough how much healthier it is giving our does green grass, weeds, and trees to munch on (not to mention easier on the wallet too) and rotating them through using electric net fencing.
We created the Mobile Goat Tractor Build Plans so you can do the same. Click below to read all the details about the tractor, how we use it, and how you can get your hands on it.
Did you like this post? Check out my other chicken-care posts by clicking below!
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to composting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we turn the 80 acres we call home into a farm that serves its community and a homestead that nourishes us throughout the seasons.
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