How to Keep a Goat Pen Dry

goat eating some dry straw bedding

Keeping a goat’s pen dry is challenging, but necessary to reduce parasites, worms, and bacteria from spreading. When it comes to flooring and bedding, I prefer the deep litter method, but many goat owners replace bedding weekly. Depending on which bedding you use, there are different approaches to you can take. Here are some of the ways you can keep your goat’s pen dry.

You can keep your goat’s pen dry by having a sand floor, straw bedding, and keeping the feeder off the ground. Keep good ventilation, not just to increase dryness, but also to provide fresh air for the goat’s lungs. You might need to change your cleaning and drying method if the season is too hot or too wet.

Whichever bedding method you choose, keeping your goat’s pen dry will prove difficult. So, why do goat’s pens need to be cleaned so often and what should you know about maintaining it and keeping it dry?

Why Should a Goat’s Pen Be Dry?

Goats don’t have a preference where they go to the bathroom, and they’ll often go anywhere, especially on their bedding and the floor around it. This can pose a problem, especially if the soiled bedding is left to sit. So, why exactly is it so important to keep a goat’s bedding and pen dry?

Keeping your goat’s pen dry is important to limit the spread of bacteria and parasites. A goat’s bedding will quickly become soaked with water, urine, and manure which is a breeding ground for flies and parasites. For this reason, many goat owners choose to clean pens out weekly.

If flies and parasites do build-up, it’ll likely require deep cleaning at the very least. How often you have to do this depends on how large your pen is and how many goats you have.

The only exception to frequently deep cleaning a goat’s pen is when you’re using the deep litter method.

What Is Deep Litter?

Deep litter is when you let the urine and manure build-up and place fresh straw bedding on top. By adding layers once a week, the waste will start to compost underneath. This is a relatively safe and efficient way of providing bedding for your goats as the straw stays dry on top while suppressing the manure and urine underneath. The only times you’ll need to clear out the deep litter is in the spring and late fall.

Cleaning it out while your goats are outdoors is a good way to get it done without having them in the way. After deep litter is composted for about 6 months, it can be applied straight to the garden.

However, if you live in a hotter or wetter climate, you may have challenges with deep litter due to the increased moisture. In this case, you may have to clean out their pen at least once a month to keep it sanitary and dry. In this case, deep litter might not be a viable option for you.

Lastly, when using the deep litter method, the goat’s pen should not be enclosed. They’ll need proper ventilation to reduce the ammonia smell from their urine. Goats have sensitive lungs and can develop issues if the smell of ammonia is too strong. Taking your goats outside daily will help with this, especially in the winter (if the weather allows it).

How to Keep a Goat’s Pen Dry

Goats will urinate and defecate on their bedding constantly. Keeping it dry will be tough, but some ways can help make your job easier. Also, if your goats’ hay gets wet, they might not eat it and you might not have any choice but to compost it. So, how do you keep a goat’s pen dry?

Use Straw or Hay Bedding

Keeping a goat’s pen dry largely depends on the type of bedding you use. Most goat owners use straw, wood shavings, or wood pellets. However, straw, hay, and pine straw are some of the most popular choices. Even though pine isn’t as fluffy and water-resistant as standard straw, it naturally smells better. On the other hand, straw can be cheaper, not as messy, and easier to clean.

If you’re doing the deep litter method, straw or hay will be the best bedding to use as the gaps in the material will help the manure and urine sift down and compost on the bottom. The bedding will remain drier on top and the manure composting underneath will provide extra heat in the winter.

Try Using Sand

If you’re having problems with your goat pen staying dry, sand works like a champ. To start, apply 1 foot of sand on the floor (dirt floors work best). Sand will works extremely well with drainage and it won’t freeze in the winter like soil will. Next, apply your straw or hay bedding on top and it’ll serve to be a good material to cover the smell and keep your goats dry.

Keep the Feeder Above the Ground

goat eating from a hay feeder

Keeping your goats’ feeder above the ground will help reduce mess and waste. If their feed and water splash around, it will get all over their pen and make the bedding and floor wet and attract bacteria and parasites. For best results, keep their feed and water above ground and away from their bedding if possible so it can remain dry.

However, there is an advantage to allowing goats to toss their hay feed around. Some goat owners report they barely have to add bedding to the deep litter bedding as there’s more than enough hay spread around from the goat not finishing their feed.

In this case, you don’y have to worry about your goats eating the old hay bedding because once it’s on the ground and near the soiled bedding, the goats will stop eating it. Most owners still have to supplement with an occasional straw bale, but much less often.

How to Reduce the Smell

Depending on your setup, something that you may have to deal with is the smell of your goat’s pen. Fixing the smell is not only for you but also for your goats. If it’s smelly enough, goats can develop lung issues, especially from their strong ammonia-smelling urine.

Also, keep in mind that bucks will smell worse than does. This has to do with their courtship where the bucks will spray on most surfaces, including their faces. So, how do you reduce the smell in goat pens?

Use a Powdered Cleaner

Using powdered cleaners will help absorb the ammonia and keep things cleaner and healthier. The most commonly used and most effective freshener is lime powder. It’s an old and popular technique where you can apply lime powder to cover surfaces for antibacterial effects.

To use lime powder, sprinkle a light layer over urine spots and put fresh bedding over it. As long as you don’t overuse it, and you cover it with fresh straw, it won’t bother the goats.

To make sure the lime powder is hoove and skin safe, check that the ingredient is crushed limestone and not hydrated lime. Hydrated lime has been said to have some issues with livestock. Limestone is a naturally occurring resource and is great for eliminating smells and disinfecting.

Install a Fan or Vent

If your pen is indoors, consider installing a fan or vent to help prevent your goats from having lung issues. Even with regular cleaning, their lungs can become damaged if exposed to too much ammonia.

Installing a vent on the roof or circulating fresh air into their pen are good ways to help remove the ammonia smell. This will help them not breathe it in all night.

If you’re using the deep litter method for your goats, and the smell is getting too strong, consider spot-treating with lime powder or increasing the air’s circulation.

However, if it’s summertime or the wet season, and your pen is getting too wet and unsanitary, you may want to stop using deep litter. Deep litter in hot or wet climates is hard to keep dry and can become smelly quickly, breeding lots of flies.

Use Sand to Improve Drainage

Imagine sand as one-step closer to a litter box. It will help suffocate the waste and shield the air from the smell.

If your goat’s pen is getting too smelly, cleaning out the pen and adding a 1-foot layer of sand will help enormously. It basically creates a giant, well-draining litterbox for your goats.

While dirt can become compact and drain less over time, sand will remain a porous and well-draining material for a long time. The sand’s spacious particles will allow for the urine to pass through it and drain into the soil.

How to Disinfect a Goat’s Pen

Along with keeping your goat’s pen dry, disinfecting the pen is an important next step. Even if you’re going with the deep litter method, it still needs to be cleaned out and disinfected twice a year.

Disinfecting your goat’s pen can be similar to drying it. First, remove the bedding, then put a small layer of lime powder over the floor, and then apply fresh bedding. If you’re doing deep litter, skip the step on removing the bedding and instead spot treat with lime powder, apply fresh bedding, and let it build up.

If you’re not doing deep litter, you should be cleaning out all of the bedding every 10-14 days. Once everything has been cleared, sprinkle lime powder (or your preferred non-toxic powdered cleaner), and cover the ground with bedding or straw. This process should take about half an hour every two weeks.

As mentioned earlier, lime powder is a great way to keep your goat’s pen disinfected. Use it as a spot treatment, or sprinkle a light layer on the ground before placing fresh bedding over it.

You can also try cleaning and drying the pen with some baking soda and then applying vinegar as a cleaning agent. However, try avoiding using too much vinegar as it can also affect the goat’s lungs.

Final Thoughts

Keeping a goat’s pen dry is a similar process to keeping it clean. After all, bacteria and parasites do best in wet conditions, so dry can also be clean in this case.

To keep a goat’s pen drier, use straw bedding and sand, and keep their feeder off the ground. From there, you can follow-up by disinfecting and reducing the smell with lime powder and proper ventilation.

Goat’s are messy livestock, but you can overcome its challenges by using a litterbox as inspiration and experimenting with different materials like sand and lime powder.

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Tyler Ziton

After years of fatigue and declining health, Tyler found that good, fresh food was his answer. He learned more about healthy food by obtaining a certification in health coaching, and from there decided to grow his own food and become more self-sufficient. From gardening to learning about living off-grid, homesteading has become a good fit and pairs well with Tyler's odd childhood dream – to one day own a goat. Read more.

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