Keeping a goat’s pen clean is an essential task on the homestead since goats can quickly develop worms or parasites, especially during warm or wet weather. At the same time, goats are pretty messy livestock, so keeping their pen clean will be challenging.
However, there are some easy ways to keep the pen sanitary and the goats healthy. Here’s are some methods I found that work.
The best way to clean a goat pen is to replace the bedding as needed, keep the pen dry, and use lime powder to disinfect the floor. A goat’s bedding will need to be replaced every 10-14 days, or twice a year if using the deep litter method. Many prefer the deep litter method due to its efficiency and ease of use.
Cleaning a goat’s pen well will largely depend on the method you’re using. So, what’s the difference in bedding methods, and how do you effectively clean out a goat pen? Let’s take a further look.
What Bedding Should You Use for Goats?
|Hay/Straw||Better drainage, less absorbent||Goats will eat some of the clean bedding|
|Pine||Naturally smells better||More absorbent than hay or straw|
|Wood Shavings||Easily acquired or free in some areas||More absorbent than pine|
|Pellets||Come in compact packages, which saves space||More absorbent than pine|
|Concrete (With Rubber Mats)||Easy to clean and disinfect||Can be uncomfortable|
Choosing the right bedding will help keep your goat’s pen sanitary and hopefully make your job easier. So, what are the types of bedding you should use for goats?
The best bedding for goats is hay, straw, or pine. When providing bedding for goats, the goal is to maintain dry bedding that also neutralizes the smell of ammonia from the goats’ urine. Wet bedding can lead to infections for the goats, and if the ammonia is concentrated enough, it can damage their lungs.
If you’re not sure what the difference between hay and straw is (I had to look it up at one point too), here’s a quick summary.
Hay is a grass grown for animal feed, while straw is the leftover stalk after processing grains, such as wheat. Both hay and straw can be used for bedding, but only hay is used as food for livestock.
Also, keep in mind that bedding like pine and wood shavings can quickly absorb urine, instead of draining it, so these beddings will need to be cleaned out more often than hay or straw.
If you’d like to see more about flooring for goat houses, including the different prices of flooring, check out my post on the best floors for goat houses.
Now that we know some of the best beddings to use for goats, let’s take a look at some of the methods to keep the bedding and goat pens clean.
Different Methods of Bedding
Deep litter is when you simply add new bedding on top of the soiled bedding, instead of cleaning it out. The goats’ waste falls through the spaces in the hay or straw and begins to compost at the bottom of the pile. This process starts with 4-6 inches of bedding and can build up to 3-6 feet before it’s cleaned out.
While this might seem gross, if done right, deep litter a perfectly safe and optimal way to provide bedding for your goats. The smell is also controlled by the layers of fresh bedding and the occasional spot treatment of lime powder.
Unlike pine, wood shavings, and pellets, straw and hay bedding is water-resistant and allows the waste to sink to the bottom of the pile.
When using the deep litter method, the fresh straw and hay provide clean and dry bedding, and the compost underneath breaks down, generating a warm floor during cold winters.
Deep litter is normally cleaned out twice a year–once in the spring and once in the late fall. During these times, you can move the old bedding to your compost piles, which will then take about 6 months to break down into usable compost.
Sometimes you don’t even need to provide new layers of straw or hay on top of the soiled areas as goats are messy eaters and can distribute hay themselves. However, if there isn’t enough hay to cover the floor, you might need to occasionally supplement their bedding with a bale of straw.
There’s also no need to worry about your goats eating the old hay bedding as they’ll stop eating it when it starts to become soiled.
In the summer, you might want to skip the deep litter method and just spot treat their manure and urine. They won’t need the extra warmth from the composting bedding in the summer, and there’s an increased chance the bedding could get wet or too hot. This also creates an environment for worms and parasites, so skipping deep litter in the warmer and wetter seasons is probably a good idea.
If you’re not doing the deep litter method, you can still use straw or hay, along with pine, wood shavings, or pellets as suitable bedding.
Generally, pine works best as it’s fairly easy to clean and is a natural air freshener. However, pine is more absorbent than straw or hay, so it’s suggested to clean it out every 10-14 days.
Additionally, wood shavings and pellets can even be more absorbent than pine. So, if you’re using either of these two beddings, you’ll likely need to clean the pen and replace the bedding weekly, depending on how many goats you have and how often it rains.
Keep in mind that since pine, wood shavings, and pellets are more absorbent, goat urine can also become concentrated and give off more ammonia in the air. If this happens, consider replacing the bedding more often or installing a vent in their pen.
Similar to deep litter, when it’s summertime, consider skipping the bedding and just use the dirt floor. Goats usually prefer no bedding during these times and will do just fine on dirt. The only exception to this is if the dirt is too compact to absorb their urine or if it’s raining and your goats need bedding to stay dry from the mud.
How Do You Clean Up Goat Poop?
Once you have your type of material and method of bedding, it’s time to learn the best ways to clean up goat poop. Unfortunately, goats poop where they sleep, so no area is off-limits to them.
To clean up goat poop, you’ll need some or all of the following: a rake, shovel, pitchfork, wheelbarrow, and broom. If you’re spot treating a small area, you can simply rake the goat manure out. If you’re removing large areas of bedding, try using a pitchfork, shovel, and wheelbarrow to clean it out effectively.
Whether you’re using the deep litter method or other bedding methods, here are the different ways to clean up goat poop.
How to Clean Deep Litter
- Remove the larger piles of manure
- (Optional) sprinkle lime powder as a spot treatment and place fresh bedding on top
- Apply a fresh layer of straw or hay about once a week, or as needed
- Clean out and compost the deep litter in the spring and late fall
If you’re doing the deep litter method, you generally don’t need to clean up anything, but removing the bigger piles of manure could help keep things sanitary for longer.
Normally, you can wait a week for manure and urine to build up before applying a fresh layer of straw or hay on top.
When it’s spring or late fall, it’s time to clean the deep litter. Some homesteaders make cleaning easy by using a tractor with a forked bucket. This helps dig into the harder layers of the deep litter and from there it can be simply driven off to the compost pile.
If you don’t have a forked bucket or tractor, then using a pitchfork, shovel, and wheelbarrow will work as well.
It will take some time to clear out the 3-6 feet of bedding, but since it only has to be done 1-2 times per year, it can amount to less work than weekly cleaning.
How to Clean Other Beddings
- Relocate goats temporarily
- Spot treat the heavily soiled bedding
- Clean out all of the bedding every 10-14 days
- Use lime powder or another detergent to treat the floor
- Place a new layer of bedding
- If the smell of detergent is still strong, air out the pen before putting the goats back in
The first thing to do when cleaning up goat manure is to rake and clear the bedding that’s been soiled. If it’s a heavily soiled area, remove the soiled bedding, add lime powder on the manure or urine spot, and place fresh bedding on top.
For non-deep litter methods, cleaning up heavily manured and urinated areas every 10-14 days is best to reduce the smell and the chances of infection and disease.
Using a pitchfork and wheelbarrow is the most common method to clean this type of bedding, but it comes down to your preference.
Some owners even use a leaf-blower to blow the poop and debris into one area before scooping it up.
Aside from using beddings such as pine, some owners use concrete floors and rubber mats to make it easier for them to clean. In these cases, you can simply spray the pen with water and apply detergent as needed. While this a common method, many still prefer to use straw or pine bedding as it’s more comfortable and natural for the goats.
How Often Should You Clean a Goat Pen?
If you’re using the deep litter method, you should clean out a goat’s pen once in the spring and once in the fall. For non-deep litter methods, cleaning out a goat’s pen every 10-14 days is suggested. Occasionally weekly cleanings are necessary depending on the amount of manure, urine, or rain.
How Do You Disinfect a Goat Pen?
You can disinfect a goat pen by using either stall freshener, lime wash, lime powder, or baking soda and vinegar. Depending on the mess, you can spot treat the big piles, or sprinkle a light layer of lime powder over the entire area and place new bedding on top. Make sure the goats aren’t present when cleaning.
While some prefer using heavy-duty cleaners, I’d suggest using lime powder since it’s just ground-up limestone, which is non-toxic for goats. Although, the other cleaners are used by many and they report it works well, so it’s hard to go wrong.
Some homesteaders also use a very small amount of bleach, but this isn’t recommended as the solution will need to be heavily diluted and completely dry before the goats can be put back in. Similar to ammonia, the smell of bleach can be damaging to a goat’s lungs.
How Do You Keep Goats Clean and Groomed?
Goats have a natural way to cleanse their coat and don’t need to be bathed as much as dogs (even dogs have a self-regulating coat if they’re fed good food and are active enough). So, how do you keep a goat clean?
You don’t have to wash or clean a goat unless you are showing or selling it. However, if your goat has lice you may want to bathe and treat it to remove them. In this case, you can use goat or livestock shampoo as needed. Goats will also need their coat brushed and hooves trimmed every 6-8 weeks.
If you’re going to bathe your goat, know that they prefer warm water but will tolerate cold. Stick to using a goat or other livestock shampoo.
Goats can get loose hair and debris stuck in their coat over time. To remove these, and improve the health of their skin, aim to brush them every 6-8 weeks. This is also a good time to trim their hooves.
You can also keep a few rough stones in the pasture to let bucks naturally wear down their hooves, so they’ll require less trimming.
However, if you have bucks, all bets are off. They will spray everything, including their faces.
While it may be obvious, goats will stay cleaner if you regularly clean their bedding. If you’re doing the deep litter method, cleaning their bedding isn’t necessary as goats will remain clean if the process is done properly.
For an idea of what to expect with deep litter, check out the video above by Syman Says Farms LIVE.
Keeping a goat’s pen clean doesn’t just mean changing the bedding often. It also means keeping the pen dry, limiting the smell of ammonia, and using fresheners like lime powder to disinfect the area.
Your time with raising goats and keeping their pen clean can be made much easier if you choose the right bedding for you, your goats, and your climate.
If you decide on the deep litter method, remember to clean it twice a year. If you’re using other bedding, aim to clean it once every 1-2 weeks. Spot treat with a powdered cleaner and keep extra bedding available (you never know when you’ll need extra!)