Goats are delightful animals to keep as pets!
However, determining exactly how many goats to keep together is often tricky for novice hobby farmers.
Will a goat be happy enough living on their own, or do they need to live alongside additional members of their species to truly thrive?
Let’s take an in-depth look at the answer to this question and its reasons below.
Goats are herd animals, so they benefit from living with other goats as companions. Although it is technically possible to keep a single goat entertained to some extent, they tend to eventually become restless, upset, and even fearful without more goats to interact with.
Follow along to learn more about why having a friend or two (or even more!) is so essential for a goat’s happiness and overall health.
You’ll probably be surprised by how sensitive and social these unique animals are!
Should Goats Live Alone or in Groups?
If you’re looking to take in a goat around your farm, strongly consider adopting at least one additional goat to have a pair!
To put it simply, goats are far happier and healthier when living in groups compared to living alone.
The mean reason for this, as stated above, is goats are herd animals.
They are highly social and playful creatures that prefer living in fairly large groups (or, at the very least, pairs) for a few crucial reasons.
For starters, without other goats to interact with, they will inevitably become restless and bored, which sometimes leads to them being quite destructive when they eventually search for something to keep them occupied.
If you’ve ever spent significant time around goats, you’ve likely noticed they are pretty mischievous and lively animals!
Goats chew, headbutt, or climb on just about anything they come across, and they’re always looking for something new to play with.
Unfortunately, exploring alone gets old pretty quickly!
Having other goats to share their free time results in all animals being happier and, of course, healthier.
Another thing worth noting is goats are also prey animals, so they often become quite anxious when left alone for long periods.
In the wild, prey animals benefit from living in large groups since there’s safety in numbers.
This trait carries over even to domesticated goats, as they still have some predators to occasionally look out for, like snakes and coyotes (depending on where you live).
In short, goats should live with at least one additional member of their species, but the more, the merrier!
What Happens if a Goat Doesn’t Have Companions?
As we touched on earlier, goats are herd animals and prey animals.
This means they are naturally inclined to live in groups for companionship and safety.
Living alone is simply not natural or comfortable for them.
However, maybe you’re thinking adding more goats to the mix is a potential recipe for disaster!
Wouldn’t more goats mean more mess, noise, and frustration?
Interestingly, the exact opposite is true here.
Of course, goats primarily need companions to stay happy and healthy, but living in groups also helps to keep them out of trouble!
A lonely goat will seek entertainment and companionship elsewhere, which often leads to them escaping their enclosures, destroying their surroundings, and generally becoming increasingly irritable and lonely.
Some goats kept by themselves will also bleat and cry constantly to locate the companions they are instinctively used to being around.
While they are pretty vocal animals by default, even an otherwise happy goat will only become more sad and desperate for friendship if left alone.
Speaking of vocal goats, check out our list of quiet goat breeds to avoid some of these issues.
But What if You Spend Lots of Time with Your Goat?
Perhaps you’re thinking your goat will be fine as long as you spend lots of time with them!
Unfortunately, even if you have a single goat and hang out with them for hours on end every day, you still won’t be able to be around them 24 hours a day.
You probably aren’t sleeping beside them or eating alongside them, or exploring with them.
What’s more, you will get pretty exhausted hanging out with a goat all day.
Good luck keeping up with a goat!
They’re high-energy animals who spend a lot more time running, jumping, and climbing than we humans do.
And although they enjoy being around humans and some other animals to an extent, your goat will inevitably get bored with you and seek additional stimulation from their surroundings (and, again, will become destructive).
Most importantly, you’re also not a goat!
Put yourself in their shoes–er, hooves.
If you went through life completely alone 100% of the time, you’d want to bond and communicate with your fellow humans at some point, too.
Even if you had everything you technically needed to survive, you wouldn’t be thriving.
And even if you had lots of other species to interact with, you’re still going to want to bond with another human who lives and experiences things like you do.
Can Goats Be Kept with Sheep, Chickens, Horses, Etc.?
Another thing you’ve probably considered is to simply keep your goat alongside companion livestock animals like chickens, sheep, or horses, for example.
You won’t need to buy any additional goats this way, right?
Perhaps they will just make friends with other animals!
Well, not exactly.
It’s still a bad idea, as your goat will essentially be alone.
While goats can safely live around and mingle with other similar farm animals, they still do best when they have other goat companions.
After all, goats, chickens, sheep, pigs, horses, etc., are still very different animals with vastly different types of body language and methods of communicating with one another.
And although goats will tolerate other animals and even get along fairly well with them, they’re still never going to bond with them like they would with another goat.
They also won’t be able to communicate with other animals as intricately as they would with their goat buddy.
This, as you’d probably imagine, becomes very isolating very quickly.
Would you enjoy permanently living around a bunch of animals you’re unable to communicate with efficiently?
Even if you love your animals more than life itself, not having any humans to ever speak to again would be detrimental to your social development and wellbeing.
Your goat will also still need to eat separately from your other animals, as they require different diets to stay healthy.
They’ll also likely end up sleeping by themselves, as your other animals will mainly stick to their species.
Goats are surprisingly emotionally and socially complex animals, and they need to interact regularly to live happy lives!
How Many Goats Should You Have in Your Herd?
When it comes to pet goats, there’s not an exact magic number for how many you need to have in your herd.
A good rule of thumb is simply the more, the merrier!
At the very least, always keep goats in pairs.
Having even one additional goat will make both goats involved far happier and healthier–and, perhaps most notably, keep them occupied, so they don’t become bored and destructive.
Even pairs are sometimes tricky, though, as if either goat becomes ill or passes away.
You’re (at least temporarily) left with just one again–and they’ll likely be even more upset at the sudden disappearance of their only other goat friend.
The more goats you add to the group, the happier everyone will be! Having at least 3 or 4 goats is a good number.
Many small hobby farmers opt to keep around 6 goats in their herd at any time.
People with very large farms will sometimes even keep dozens of goats together.
As long as all of your backyard goats have plenty of space to roam and explore, feel free to keep adding to your healthy herd.
Related: How much room do goats need?
How to Safely Introduce New Goats
When it comes time to introduce new goats to your herd, you’ll need to take a few essential precautions as a goat owner.
Most importantly, you’ll need to quarantine any new goats for at least a week or two to determine if they have any illnesses, parasites, or other health issues.
Once the initial quarantine period has passed, you’ll be able to move the new goat(s) a bit closer to your main herd.
For another week or two, keep the goats housed so they can see each other but not physically interact just yet.
Keeping the new and existing members in separate but nearby goat pens will help them begin to become used to seeing one another.
After your goats have had a bit of time to get used to each other’s presence, you’ll be able to physically introduce them.
During this period, be sure to give both the new and old goats plenty of space and private areas each goat can access so they aren’t stuck together constantly if they happen to have a quarrel or don’t hit it off well initially.
Monitor the goats’ interactions as closely as possible during this period and any fighting or territorial behavior.
A small amount of roughhousing and the occasional head butt to sort of test the waters with each other is normal initially, but the goats will need to be separated again if they become especially aggressive.
Soon, the goats will become accustomed to each other and will be able to live side-by-side with no close supervision–and, in time, even become friends!