I built my first goat playground several years ago after my Toggenburg doe, Belle, learned how to open door handles with her mouth. If she had enough time during the day to invent ways to break into the feed room then I figured she needed some activities to stimulate her mind and allow her to get some exercise. I found there were a lot of different things around that could make good goat toys. I also found my goats to be very intelligent and giving them something to “play” with helped them to be more contented and less likely to make a game out of escaping from where they were supposed to be.
I began gathering items that could be used for a playground. The first toy consisted of two large tractor tires. One was placed on the ground flat, and the other tire rested on half of it at an angle. The goats spent hours and hours jumping on and off those tires, and since the tires were large enough that several goats could play on it at one time, they all got in on the action.
Plastic playsets, such as this Little Tykes slide, keep these (four-legged) kids happy for hours!
The second playground feature I brought in was a playground set made by Little Tikes, complete with a slide and ladder. Little Tikes products are durable and made from a weather resistant material, and are fairly inexpensive to purchase. Used playground equipment can be picked up at yard sales and auctions at a reduced price for those on a budget. The intention for this playground toy was for the kids, but the senior does had more fun with it, so it was moved into their pen.
The third portion of my goat playground was made from varying sizes of ends cut off of 50-gallon plastic drums, left over from the horse barn. My goats love to climb on these and leap from one to the other, then turn and go back the other direction.
For others looking to create a goat playground, it is important to keep in mind that safety should come first. All materials used to create the playground should be free of sharp edges and small parts that can easily come off and be swallowed. Tires, boards, and barrel ends should be stable enough that they do not tip over and potentially pin a goat to the ground. Playground equipment made for children works well as they are designed for young children and have age limits of two years and under.
Many playground objects can be obtained free of charge just by asking. Some additional ideas include:
- Wood electrical spools: Electrical wire for cable or telephone companies are supplied on varying sizes of wooden spools. The larger spools are approximately three feet in diameter and approximately two feet or more in height. The spools are great for climbing on as well as for laying on. Companies that use these spools are usually more than willing to give them to anyone who asks.
- Recycled mineral tubs: Large cattle mineral tubs can be washed out and turned over for the goats to jump on. The heavier plastic type tubs are ideal for large goats. They withstand the weather, and the weight of the goats. These tubs are easily replaced if they become cracked or otherwise damaged. I have heard of a goat getting trapped under one of these tubs, so be sure to check on the goats frequently, especially if they seem to be able to tip the tubs.
- Recycled plastic drums: Cutting off both ends of a plastic drum will create a tunnel for the goats to climb in and over. When acquiring the plastic drums, make sure to find out what product was stored in the drums. Sometimes the drums are used for transporting hazardous chemicals and material that could absorb into the plastic.
Goats love to have a place to scratch and groom, and this old rotary brush makes an excellent (an inexpensive) self groomer.
- Balance beams: Balance beams can be constructed from concrete blocks and wood posts. The wood posts fit into the hole in the concrete block. The weight of the concrete block keeps the balance beam from moving.
- Tether balls: Tether balls are great toys for goats. Tether balls are fairly inexpensive to make or can be purchased rather inexpensively at any sporting goods store. The tether ball pole should be sunk in concrete to eliminate the chance of it being knocked over.
- Round bales of hay: Round bales are one of my goats’ favorite climbing toys. When a new round bale is put in the pen, the goats will jump up onto the top of the bale. They generally will lie down and eat from the top. A lot of hay is wasted this way, but goats just love to climb and rub on a junk hay bale.
- Recycled brushes from car washes: Car wash brushes may be a little more difficult to find, but they make nice rubbing posts for goats as well as other farm animals.
- Recycled milk jugs without lids: This toy will keep your goats entertained for hours, and the cost is next-to-nothing. Clean out a plastic milk jug, making sure that no milk or water residue remains. After the jug is dry, put a handful of grain into the jug and give to the goat. The goat will spend hours twisting, dropping, tossing, and throwing the jug trying to get the grain out of it.
Goat toys don’t have to be made out of anything that would cost a lot of money. A little bit of imagination can turn a few recycled objects from around the farm into hours of fun. Having different things for the goats to play on and around will stave off boredom. It is my opinion that happy goats tend to live longer and be better producers.