A goat playground provides hours of fun, for you and for your goats. Goats are active, curious, and playful, and will climb, jump, and play with nearly anything. But goat playgrounds don't just provide exercise and amusement; they are an important part of goat social behavior as well.
By climbing and jumping higher than each other, they establish their place in the social order. Having a complex playground that obstructs their view also allows shy goats to find quiet places to hide, and reduces bullying and anxiety.
Because goats are foragers by nature, a flat field of grass will quickly make them bored, and more likely to try to escape. So building a goat playground is not just a fun, inexpensive project, it helps make your goats healthier and happier.
Goat Playground Basics
No matter how you design or build your goat playground, there are a few fundamental principles to keep in mind, that will help keep the playground a healthy, happy place for goats. Always remember to:
Make it sturdy
A goat playground should be able to withstand long hours of play and roughhousing. Goats are agile, and excellent climbers, jumpers, and balancers, so you don't need to worry much about them falling from a high platform, but the components should be sturdy, well-footed, and well attached.
Make it modular
Ideally, you should be able to modify your goat playground from time to time, either to move it seasonally to a more comfortable area, or to re-configure it periodically. Changing or adding to your goat playground from time to time keeps it exciting and interesting for goats, and helps you easily make repairs and replacements.
Keep everything safe and nontoxic
While goats will probably not eat a play structure, they may mouth and chew on it from time to time. Use untreated wood, and remove any potentially toxic paints. Remove metal staples or old nails, and avoid metals that are fragile and rusted.
Keep it away from the fence
Goats will happily climb onto a play structure and it use to leap over a fence. Allow a good distance between your playground and the fence (or anything else you don't want them on top of).
Goat Playground Plans
When planning your goat playground, it's best to start with the highest structure first, and then plan various ways for goats to climb up and reach it. The size and complexity of your goat playground is extremely flexible, but will be determined, to some extent, by how high you are willing to build. Once you have built the highest component, you can then create different paths, obstacles, and intermediate structures to add more complexity and possibilities for play. A good goat playground plan will include:
You can create high platforms by building the platform and placing it on securely footed beams. You can also create high platforms by stacking wood pallets, crates, cable spools, cinderblocks, or nearly anything else. Keep in mind that if you have only one high spot, the goats will compete for it. It's nice to have a few different elevated platforms of various heights so multiple goats can enjoy the playground at once.
Ramps, steps, and ladders
Once you have one or more platforms, you need to create a climbing path for the goats to reach them. You can add one or more “steps,” by building stairs or stacking boxes or cinderblocks, so that goats can get on the platform by a series of smaller jumps.
To make the structure more accessible for young or old goats, you may want to add ramps made of boards, so goats can climb without jumping at all. While goats can climb very steep inclines, you may want to take a board and attach some horizontal strips of wood to make a ladder, which provides more secure footing.
Give your goats multiple ways to climb the structure, and place ramps and ladders at different degrees of incline. Making them climb steep inclines, jump, and navigate the structure makes it more fun, and also makes it better exercise for your goats.
Go ahead and challenge your goats by giving them a few areas to test their balance. For example, make a narrow “bridge” out of a 2 x 4 that is elevated between your platforms, or on logs, cinderblocks, or the like.
Create a series of logs or stumps of different heights, so that goats can stand on them and walk between them. Goats also love playing on see-saws, where they challenge their balance as they constantly try to walk to the higher end.
Hiding areas are great for small or shy goats, but all goats can enjoy a game of hide-and-seek. Removing the bottom from a steel or wood barrel and placing it on its side, or using a length of culvert pipe, is a great addition to a goat playground. Some goats will want to be inside and walk through, while others will want to jump and play on top. Use large crates, old dog houses, or build walls to partially obstruct views and give goats more ways to interact with each other.
Your goat playground plans can include almost anything you would find in a child's playground, including:
Goats will happily climb a ladder and slide down a slide. Old children's play slides are a great addition to your goat's environment, and they are usually both quite sturdy and easy to clean.
A swing is an excellent way to challenge balance and add to a goat's environment. It needs to be very sturdily suspended, to allow for rough play.
A kiddie pool
A kiddie pool is fun for goats, and will also help keep them cool in warm climates. Water should be cleaned and changed regularly.
A climbing wall
If you can find a child's climbing wall, your goats will love to play on it. You can also create your own climbing wall or structure by simply securing small, sturdy footholds onto a vertical or steep incline.
If you can find an old trampoline, goats will have a blast jumping and bouncing on it. Give them a secure ramp or steps up to it, and ensure that any springs or metal components remain lubricated and undamaged.
Goat Playground Building Materials
Your goat playground plans and design will determine your ultimate materials list, but here is a general list of the materials and supplies you will need to build a goat playground:
- 4 x 4s for stable platform support
- 2 x 4s for reinforcement, or for paths and footholds
- Wood boards for ramps, bridges, and ladders
- Long wood screws, which create secure attachments, but can also be easily removed or repairs or reconfiguration, or use bolts and nuts which have smooth edges and won't scratch goats.
- Woodworking tools, particularly a drill and driver, along with a saw
- Post hole digger, if necessary; you will want to dig footings for your posts, or half-bury tires, buckets, and barrels for stability
- Concrete for footing, if necessary, if your posts are high and need additional stability
- Various existing building materials can also be used and repurposed, including:
- Rubber tires with holes in them to keep them from accumulating water
- Boxes and crates
- Cable spools
- Barrels and buckets with the handles removed
- Wood pallets
- Logs and stumps
- Rocks and boulders
- Old dog houses
- Old children's play structures
- Old wooden tables
DIY Goat Playground
You can build a DIY goat playground for virtually free, provided you are willing to accumulate materials over time. Look for used children's playground structures at thrift stores, yard sales, or in online marketplaces. Reuse building materials from old sheds, dog houses, and other building projects. Look for spare wood pallets, cinderblocks, cable spools, barrels, and the like.
Building a DIY goat playground piece by piece, over time, is actually a great option for your goats as well as your budget. It allows their environment to keep changing and evolving, which stimulates their curiosity and activity, and gives them more and different activities over time.
A DIY goat playground also allows you to experiment with what your particular goats need and like: Do you have an older goat who needs a gentler ramp? A younger kid who can't jump as high? A shy goat who needs sheltered spots? Observe how your goats interact with their playground and each other, and make adjustments as necessary.
Goat Playground Ideas
Use your natural landscape features
If you have a tree, hill, or large rocks in your goat enclosure, consider incorporating them into your goat playground. Goats love to climb boulders, and everyone loves a treehouse.
Add different activities
Once you have a goat playground, secure scrub brushes, broom heads, or even old outdoor welcome mats to the posts, so goats can scrub and scratch and groom themselves. Use rope to attach dog toys, cow bells, or (clean, with sharp edges sanded smooth) tin cans to the playground, and goats will play with them.
Make puzzles and obstacles
Giving goats puzzles and challenges enriches their environment and allows them to exercise not just their bodies, but their intelligence and curiosity. Put hay or vegetable treats inside buckets and containers that have to be tipped over or interacted with, and hang them from the playground. Hide healthy treats and let your goats find them.
Consider adding a browsing or foraging area on the roof
On a standing platform, shed roof, over a goat shelter, or on some other flat surface, consider growing a “green” roof with plants and weeds. Green roofs can be slightly complex to create, since they need good drainage and need to be sturdy enough for goats to walk and stand on, but they add insulation to a building, add to your goats' forage and browsing space, and benefit bees and pollinators, while improving water management.
Properly planted green roofs need little to no human intervention, and enrich a goat's living area while benefitting the environment.
More Tips for Building Your Goat Playground
When designing and building your goat playground, a few simple modifications to your materials and structures can help make it healthier and safer for your goats. Keep the following tips in mind as you hunt for materials:
Incorporate rocks, cinderblocks, or some cement surfaces when safe and possible
Encouraging goats to walk, climb, and play on these rougher surfaces naturally helps to keep their hooves in good condition, and reduces the frequency of trimming.
Be mindful of surfaces that may be slippery when wet or in ice and snow
Add notches or cleats to provide more secure footholds in rough weather.
Be mindful of holes and knots
If a cable spool or other playground structure has holes in the standing surface, it's smart to cover them with a secure board. While goats are agile and sure-footed, it's possible for a foot to slip into a hole while they are roughhousing with each other.
A goat playground is every bit as fun for you as it is for your goats. A good play environment gives goats healthy exercise that makes them more productive, less aggressive, and even improves kidding. Fortunately, almost any sturdy structure can be used as the foundation for a goat playground, and they are active, curious animals who will enjoy nearly anything you give them to play with or play on.
There are so many ways to design, build, and enjoy a goat playground that it is a good, inexpensive, creative DIY project for the whole family. Before long, you will find yourself constantly on the lookout for items to add to your goat's play area, and having fun making a more fun, richer environment for them.
If you have goats, a playground is absolutely necessary for their health and well-being, and a DIY goat playground is a fun and affordable project that will benefit both you and your goats. Have fun building the ultimate goat play yard.