Goats are active, curious, intelligent animals. They need a living environment that provides mental stimulation and exercise just as much as they need food and water. Bored, unhappy goats can be temperamental, less productive, and make more attempts to escape their pen.
Fortunately, goats are likely to play with nearly anything, and it's easy and inexpensive to get goat toys, or even to make your own. Here are some ways you can keep your goats active, entertained, and healthy.
What Do Goats Like to Play With?
Goats will play with just about anything they can get their hooves on.
Some toys will appeal more to some goats than others, so it is good to provide your goats with a variety of toys.
Basically, if a goat can climb on it, headbutt it, scratch on it, go through it, eat it, or chase it, they will be thrilled. You will want to make sure that the toys you provide them are safe, though, to prevent injury and costly vet visits.
Facts and Tips for Goat Toys for Enrichment
When choosing goat toys, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Goats use their mouths to experience the world
Much like small children, goats are likely to use their mouths to investigate objects. The experience of mouthing, smelling, and tasting objects is important to them. For that reason, always make sure that goats are given objects that aren't made of toxic materials, won't shatter into sharp pieces, and can stand up to rough play.
Goats are natural investigators
It's a good idea to switch out toys every few weeks, or hide toys and let goats find them. Giving them new things to play with, and new ways to interact with their environment, keeps them active and interested.
Goats are climbers
Within goat herds, higher ground signifies dominance, and goats play “king of the hill” both as play, and as an important part of their social behavior. Anything you can give them to climb, stand, and jump on will provide hours of fun, exercise, and social activity for goats.
Goats need “furniture”
Providing a pen or enclosure that has large objects, whether they are play structures or natural features like trees and large rocks, is also important for goats socially. Giving shy goats places that they can hide and feel safe lowers their anxiety, and reduces bullying. Create visual barriers that make their enclosure richer and more complex.
DIY Goat Play Structure Ideas
Goats will enjoy just about any play structure you might use for a child. Trampolines, sturdy slides, climbing walls, and other children's play structures will provide hours of entertainment for goats. Here are some ideas for homemade goat play furniture.
DIY goat see saw
Bury half a tire in the goat enclosure, with the top round of the wheel facing upward. Secure a board to it, and make a goat toy teeter-totter. This will provide endless entertainment for goats, because they will spend hours trying to climb to the high side and playing with each other.
DIY goat climbing tower
Use wooden pallets, cable spools, or other sturdy wooden structures and place or stack them at different heights, to give goats a climbing tower. You can use boards to make a “ladder” for taller structures, or let goats jump and climb structures themselves.
DIY goat obstacle course
Bury or secure a series of logs of different heights, or intersperse upright log ends with rubber tires, large rocks, or small wooden platforms of various heights. Goats will step from log to log, much like kids pretending the ground is lava.
DIY goat balance beam
Bury two five-gallon buckets, bottom side up, so that they are stable and secure in the ground. Place a 2 x 4 between them to give goats something to balance on and walk across.
There are many things you can give your goat to play with, and some may very well surprise you.
Ideally, goat toys should be durable, safe, and entertaining for your goats.
Having a variety of toys can be nice for your goats to play on since they will entertain your goats more than only one kind of toy and help you find out which toys your goats like most.
Goat Grooming Toys
Scrubbing and brushing feel good and goats enjoy it. But you can also use grooming toys to add mental stimulation and activity to their environment.
Secure sturdy scrubbing brushes around your goat pen, allowing goats to rub and scratch themselves against the brushes. If goats show a tendency to chew on brush bristles, you may want to buy an equine scratcher instead, or use an old outdoor welcome mat, either the kind with bristles or with a rubberized texture, and attach it to a board in the goat pen for rubbing and grooming.
Build a small climbing platform or play structure out of cinderblocks instead of wood. Standing and climbing on cinderblocks and stones helps to wear and smooth goat hooves, reducing the frequency of hoof trimming.
Goat Feeding Toys
Goats are natural foragers, so toys that slowly release food or treats can provide hours of amusement. You can buy toys of this nature that are made for dogs or horses, or easily make your own.
DIY goat treat feeder
Clean out an old milk carton and put a few (raw, shelled, unsalted) nuts or vegetable scraps inside. Goats will tip and roll the carton around, trying to get the snacks out, and will often play with the empty container for hours, even after the snacks are gone.
DIY goat slow feeder
To satisfy their foraging nature, get a cage-like “squirrel proof” bird feeder, or use non-toxic twine to tie hay into large, tight bundles. Hang these hay bundles in different places at different heights around your goat pen, so that goats have to work and puzzle to get hay out of the feeder a piece at a time.
Unusual and challenging foods
You can also give them items that are food and toys in one. A whole coconut, watermelon, or whole pumpkin, will be nosed around and played with until the goats figure out how to break it open and eat it.
Pumpkin, melons, and coconuts are healthy for goats, and many farms have extra pumpkins after Halloween that they will give away for free. While not all goats like the taste of these items, it's worthwhile to give them a new experience every few months for the sake of enrichment.
DIY goat puzzle feeder
Take an empty 2-liter soda bottle and poke holes in the sides, about a third of the way from the top. Thread a rope through the bottle so it comes out on both sides. Use the rope to hang the empty bottle in the goat enclosure. Place hard, dry treats like pellets or nuts inside the bottle, so that goats have to tip the bottle upside down in order for the treat to come out.
Goat Climbing Toys - DIY
One popular toy category among the goat kids these days and days gone by are climbing toys. There are many options when it comes to constructing a climbing toy for your goats.
TheBadAstronomer made a DIY Log Pyramid for his goats that was engaging for them and ended up being a simple build that pretty much anyone could make using logs and cement blocks.
Or you could even use a bowed sheet of metal that is strapped to the ground like VariouslyVarious made in their Metal Ribbon Toy video. This option is very engaging for goats since it moves with them.
Another option is an oldy but a goody, and that is tires. You can bury a tire partway underground or lay them on the ground like Davi Parker did in their Goats and Tires video.
Using recycled tires is a great way to make a durable toy at an economical price. These toys are just the tip of the iceberg though, the options are almost endless when it comes to climbing toys for goats.
Goat Climbing Toys – Recommended to Buy
You can also buy climbing toys so you don’t have to get your hands dirty while building goat climbing toys.
A good option is a mounting block for horses. This toy can serve more than one purpose if you end up buying horses and needing a mounting block one day.
The Horsemen’s Pride 3 Step Block could be a good buy at $100 if you choose a mounting block.
Another option is a human kid playset. Buying one of these would not only make your goat kids happy, it would also make your human kids happy as well!
An economical option would be to find a used one, but if you can’t find a used one, you could go with the Little Tikes Hide and Seek Climber. This little playset retails at $80 and gives your goats more to do than other climbing toys since it has a slide and a space to crawl under.
Goat Headbutting Toys
If you haven’t already noticed, goats like to headbutt. They will headbutt just about anything they can get their horns on.
One headbutt worthy toy is a ball. A hardy ball that can hold up to the headbutting your goats will give it is the Joy Ball. This ball is made for horses, so it will hold up to use, and is 30 inches in diameter and comes in at $33.
Another option is the inflatable punching bag that falls down when it gets hit and rights itself back up for more. The Hoovy Inflatable Punching Bag could be the right toy for your goats at $24 to get their fill of headbutting.
Goat Scratching Toys
Don’t you just hate it when you have an itch you can’t reach? Well, your goats do too.
Having a toy that relieves the itch, can be an enjoyable one to have for your goats. The ScratchnAll pads are easy to install on fence posts and are easy to customize for different goat sizes. Each pad costs $22, so depending on the area you want to cover for your goats to itch on, will depend on your total cost.
You can also use scrub brushes, like the ones you would use to clean with, to act as scratching toys. Megan Hadley shared a great Scrub Brush Wood Post idea. This scratching post toy will come in at a lower cost since you would use something like the $6 SmartJob Scrub Brush instead of the $22 ScratchnAll pads, and screw them on a post.
Goat Treat-Filled Toys
Treat-filled toys can bring fun up a whole notch level for goats since nothing beats playing with a toy and getting a treat.
One of the ways to do this is by filling Kong Dog Toys up with grain for your goats. Doing this will only run you $13 for the Kong toy.
You can also use recycled food containers to be even more economical. All you have to do is clean the container and make it so your goats can access the grain with some work. The Island Project shared a fun Hanging Treat-filled Toy that you can make with recycled materials.
Either on the ground, or in the air, your goats will have fun trying to access the treats in their toys.
Goat Tunnel Toys
Goats may take a minute to find the courage to enter a tunnel, but once they do, they may end up constantly playing inside it.
If your human kids have an old pop up tunnel or you find a used one you can give it to your goats. A new one will only cost $18, like the Sunny Days Tunnel.
The downside to this would be that your goats can’t climb on it like other toys, so it will not hold up as well.
You may be able to find a more durable tunnel option for your goats by burying a couple tires right next to each other a couple inches in the ground. The tire option will allow your goats to crawl under and climb on top without having to worry about it breaking.
Other Goat Toys
You can also find other goat toys that don’t have their own category to fit in because they are so creative.
The Tire Ball Toy is one example that His & Hers Homestead shared a video of. This toy can act as a climbing toy, headbutting toy, and crawl through toy. With a bit of work, you can make one for your own goats with recycled tires.
You can also use a small trampoline for your goats to play on. Kul Farm shared a Goats on Trampoline video that shows just how much fun goats can have on a trampoline.
Goat Sensory Toys
Goats also enjoy smaller toys that are simply interactive, and will readily play with just about anything designed for a dog. Place these kinds of toys at various heights around their pen, so they have to stand up or kneel down to reach them. Things that make noise, are shiny, have new smells, or present unusual textures are all good enrichment items.
DIY Goat Activity Areas
- Hang one or more dog rope toys, with or without hard rubber balls attached, around the goat enclosure for mouthing, chewing, tugging, and tossing
- String a number of clean, empty cow bells or tin cans together on a rope, so that they clatter and clank together, and hang the rope in the goat pen (no, goats don't eat metal cans, but any sharp edges should be sanded smooth)
- Thread two or more lengths of pipe on a cord, so they can slide back and forth, and suspend it between two objects in the goat pen
DIY Goat Sensory Activities
- Make a sandbox or gravel area for goats, so they have different textures below their feet
- Give goats a polished, reflective piece of metal so they can look at themselves
- Give them objects that are colorful, reflective, make noises, or even light up for more interaction and stimulation
DIY Goat Toy Ideas
Because goats are so playful and curious, almost anything that is fairly sturdy and non-toxic can be repurposed as a goat toy. Consider letting your goats play with:
- Cleaned out, empty buckets with the handles removed
- Empty water cooler bottles, milk jugs, and the like
- Wooden crates and boxes
- Wooden or metal barrels
- Car or tractor tires
- Hard plastic kiddie pools filled with water or sand
- Hay bales
- Stepping stools
Goat toys should be made of natural wood, rubber, hard plastic, natural fibers, metal with no rust spots or sharp edges, stone and cement, and other natural materials.
Avoid and remove metal staples, the ends of nails and screws that may scratch, breakable items, toxic paints or coatings, plastic fibers, etc. Be careful with items like paper bags and cardboard boxes.
Cardboard boxes are extremely popular with goats, and they will be thrown around, stepped on, and hidden behind. Be mindful that goats don't eat cardboard boxes; a small amount won't hurt them, but goats should be observed closely when given cardboard or paper toys.
You can always visit thrift stores, ask friends whose children have outgrown their play equipment, or repurpose many dog toys and structures to work for goats.
How to Use Your Goat Toys
Whatever kind of goat toys you choose, here are some tips to keep them interesting and use them to promote goat health.
Supervise goats with new toys
If you are introducing something completely new, it's not a bad idea to keep an eye on your goats as they interact with it. They may do something unsafe that you don't expect, get a head or foot stuck, chew on something unhealthy ... there's no telling what these creative little animals might do.
So, try to stay in the area and be attentive to unhealthy behaviors or signs of distress until you know how they will interact with a new toy.
Move toys once or twice a week, hiding them if possible
Moving and hiding toys stimulates a goat's curiosity and intelligence as they investigate their pen and find new toys or old favorites.
Always have several toys available, to prevent bullying and competition
If you have several goats, avoid introducing only one of a toy or favorite plaything. The dominant goat will claim it, and no one else will get to enjoy it. Have several toys, and several kinds of toys, to avoid hogging and bullying.
Don't be afraid to challenge goats
If you occasionally give your goats a container they can't open, a nut they can't crack, an obstacle they can't climb, or a toy they can't reach, that's okay. They may surprise you with their ingenuity, and the occasional challenge is good for their mental curiosity and engagement. Challenging goats from time to time is acceptable, while frustrating them isn't.
Playful baby goats find a fun toy in the farmyard
Goats require a toys and mental stimulation in order to be happy and healthy, and prevent negative behaviors that arise when they are bored. Studies show that goats that have a rich, stimulating environment with activity and exercise experience fewer health and behavior problems, and actually live longer.
Fortunately, goat toys don't have to be difficult or expensive. Since they will play with nearly anything, a huge number of household items can be repurposed as goat toys, with just a little bit of attention and creativity. DIY goat toys are a great way to stimulate your own creativity as well as your goats, and can be fun projects for the whole family.
Don't be afraid to experiment and try new things, so that your goats can also learn and try new things in turn. Have fun playing with your goats and all their new goat toys.