What Kind Of Shelter Do Goats Need?


Goats are hardy animals that don’t need elaborate shelter or shade. When I was interested in getting goats on our farm, I was uncertain of their shelter needs. I spoke with some goat farmers to get information on what kind of shelter goats need. 

Goats are low-maintenance and do fine with basic shelters. A two or three-sided shed will do fine in grazing time. If your goats are pregnant, you will need a sturdy solid building. Pregnant/lactating goats and kids are vulnerable to predators and should be kept in a predator-proof building.

While goats don’t need elaborate shade and shelter, there are some considerations that you need to keep in mind. After speaking to goat farmers, I found there were a few things I needed to consider when planning shelter for my goats.

goat in a hoop house style shelter
ID 95345836 © Jonathansphotos | Dreamstime.com

What Kind Of Shelter Do Goats Need?

Goats are hardy animals and require minimal maintenance and shelter. But they do need a place to escape from wet weather and hot sun. Most goat farmers provide their animals with a simple 3 sided shelter with a sloped roof. Three-sided structures are preferred since they allow airflow from the open side but protect the goats from the elements on the other three sides.

Goats hate to get wet. They will quickly seek shelter before it starts to rain. Wet goats are more susceptible to cold and illness. Keeping your goats dry is one of the key requirements of a shelter. You also need to keep the floor of the shelter dry. That is why a shelter with a raised platform for the base is best. This keeps the goats off of the wet ground.

In summer goats need to be kept out of intense sunshine. Too much heat and sun are unhealthy for most animals including goats. Shelters should provide a place for the goats to escape from direct sunshine.

The Three-Sided Goat Shelter

A three-sided shelter will work well in any season for everyday goat activities. As the name states, it’s a shelter that consists of three walled sides and one open side where the goats will enter. The opening allows for adequate airflow without too much wind blowing directly at your goats.

As I stated before, goats hate getting wet. The shelter you decide on will need proper flooring and have proper drainage. If possible, have the shelter at a sloping angle, it will ensure that they don’t lie down in wet or muddy spots. A shelter with sloped sides or is situated on a slight hill will be the best for your goats. They dislike even the smallest wet spots or muddy puddles and will avoid these spots at all costs. 

For flooring, to help keep the goats off the ground, you can lay down pallets that are fastened together, covered with plywood nailed to the pallets, and hay on top of that. It makes for comfy bedding and keeps them dry.

When locating your shelter it’s best to figure out which direction the wind tends to blow. You will want your shelters opening to face away from the prevalent wind direction. This will reduce rain and snow that will blow into the shelter.

To account for summer sun and heat, have your opening face to the north or northeast if possible (in the northern hemisphere). This will reduce the direct sunshine on the opening of your shelter and help keep your goats cooler.

Two-sided Shelters for Goats

You can use the same materials used in the three-sided shelter to build a two-sided shelter; pallets, corrugated roofing panels, and plywood. It is ideal for the summer as it provides enough shade for the goats and lots of air circulation. It’s still important to add some flooring to ensure they stay dry if it should rain.

It is important to plan out this type of shelter when it comes to roofing size as it is closed from only two sides. Rain can still enter the shelter from the open sides in high wind conditions, so it makes sense to extend the roofing section past the enclosed sections to offer more suitable shelter.

A two-sided shelter isn’t ideal for winter or wet weather. This type of shelter doesn’t give the goats as much protection from the elements as a three-sided shelter. If your area tends to have mild weather with little to no wind, then a two-sided shelter will work well.

Using a Calf Hutch for Goats

A calf hutch is a perfect shelter for goats. Three to four goats should fit in one calf shelter. You will need to keep them off the ground but that can be done easily using two or more pallets as flooring. 

Calf hutches aren’t the least expensive option for goat shelters but they are convenient if you don’t have time to build one yourself. They are also easily movable so can be placed wherever you need them.

If you decide to erect them as permanent structures, you can use concrete or clay as flooring; it helps you keep the shelter clean while still providing a floor. Clay and concrete absorb water quickly so the ground shouldn’t stay wet. You also need to ensure your hutch is situated at an angle to ensure proper drainage.

Barn Or Outbuildings for Goats

These permanent structures will keep your goats dry and warm during the winter. Ensure that the roof is sloped so that the melting snow, ice, and rain end up at the back of the structure and not in the front, where it will create wet patches. 

A solid concrete or clay floor is best to keep the cold at bay. Straw bedding on top of the concrete or clay flooring makes for a cozy area for the goats to sleep or lie on in cold conditions.

If you live in a very cold winter climate you might want to consider heating the space. Check out my article Do Goats Need Heat In The Winter? to learn more.

Remember to not add wooden pallets with the plywood nailed down as flooring in the sleeping areas for permanent shelters. The goats won’t want to be out in the cold and wet conditions and it will lead to odors seeping into the wood. 

To keep the goats happy and off the ground, you can look at plastic pallets with a solid top; it’s easier to clean. It will help keep the urine and other odors away when goats spend more time inside than outside.

If your barn doors are too big and there is too much of a cold wind coming through, you can cut out a smaller door for the goats and keep the big doors closed. It will keep the wind out but still ensure the goats can go out and eat.

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Mobile vs Permanent Shelters for Goats

When you think of what kind of shelter to build for your goats, you need to decide whether to make a mobile/movable shelter or a permanent one. You can also choose to use both, a mobile shelter during the day and a permanent one to keep them in at night. There are benefits to both choices. 

Mobile Goat Shelters

Many farmers believe that goats need a mobile or movable shelter. Mobile shelters give you a lot flexibility. You can easily isolate new goats, separate goats with behavioral issues, breed with particular goats, rotate grazing patches, and move the shelter to suit the weather.

Most new goat owners prefer to build an affordable DIY mobile shelter using pallets with plywood and corrugated roofing panels. It makes for a cheap and easy shelter to suit all the needs of the goats. As I said before goats don’t need anything fancy just somewhere to protect them from the elements.

A mobile shelter can have wheels on the bottom to make it easier to move but it doesn’t need to. Many are built on a structure that will more or less slide along the ground when pulled with a tractor. Some industrious farmers have repurposed old trailers to make moving them easier. The added benefit to this is the shelter is off the ground and helps keep the goats from getting wet.

Permanent Shelters for Goats

Some farmers choose to erect permanent shelters for their goats. They have dedicated shelters for breeding goats, pregnant or lactating goats, and kids. They will move the goats to the appropriate pens when needed and don’t need movable shelters.

The benefit to permanent shelters is they are usually much more stable and secure than movable ones. Having a permanent structure for your goats is important at night time especially for pregnant goats, lactating goats, and baby goats.

These goats are the most vulnerable to elements and predators. A secure and safe shelter is needed to keep predators from reaching your kids and does.

Day vs Night Shelters for Goats

Day and night shelters for goats can be the same structure depending if you want to keep your goats outside at night or not. If you wish to keep your goats outside in their pen overnight then a 3-sided structure works well.

If you prefer to keep your goats inside at night, this is required for pregnant does, nursing does, and kids, then you will need a barn or outbuilding. Learn more about whether you should keep your goats outside overnight or not in my article, Can Goats Stay Out At Night?

Seasonal Shelter Requirements for Goats

Different seasons mean different goat shelter requirements. While many shelters can work well in all four seasons, some are more geared to only 2 or 3 seasons.

Spring and Summer Shelter For Goats

Spring and summer bring two things to any homestead; heat and rain. These two key factors will determine the correct shelter your goats will need. In the spring and summer, you need to ensure that your goats have a covering that provides shade from the heat and shelter from wind and rain. 

Two sided shelters are the most popular for spring and summer. They allow lots of air circulation to help keep goats cool during hot weather. As long as they have a sloped roof with a good size overhang it will keep your goats dry during wet, rainy weather.

Fall And Wintertime Shelter For Goats

Fall and wintertime will be harder to keep the goats dry and comfortable. You need to keep them protected from snow and rain. A wet goat will get cold very easily.

Three-sided shelters and barns or outbuildings are best warm and dry in winter weather. A raised platform will keep your goats off the wet ground too.

Shelter For Pregnant/Lactating Goats And Kids

Shelters for pregnant or lactating goats and kids are different from those of the other goats. These shelters should be solid, with added heating if the temperature drop below 32 deg F (0 Deg C). When a doe is in labor, the last thing she needs is to be cold or wet. 

Goats don’t mind the cold that much, but they need to be protected from wind, snow, and rain. The kids need a safe and warm place initially, so it is best to have a permanent structure for these reasons. 

You can build labor stalls of sections in one area where the goats can give birth and still be left in peace. Goats aren’t that nice to each other, and you need to keep new or pregnant goats in their own space. Kids and pregnant goats are vulnerable to predators, so it’s crucial to have predator-safe shelters for them during breeding or kidding season.

She-goat and kid in the shed. The wooden door and the limestone wall
ID 177333006 © Indigolotos | Dreamstime.com

Size of Shelters needed

The size of the goat shelter will depend on how many goats you will have in the shelter at one time. Taking breeding, pregnant/lactating goats, and kids into consideration, you need to ensure at least 20-square feet of space per goat when they are in the shelter. 

If you decide to keep your goats inside the shelter area all the time, you will need an additional 30-square foot of space per goat for them to exercise. This works out to a total of 50 sq feet per goat.

For more details on how much space you need to raise goats check out my article, How Much Land Do You Need To Have A Goat?

Size Of Shelter for Pregnant and Nusing Goats

Because the kids will be feeding on the mothers, there should be a four-by-five foot kidding pen for each pregnant adult doe or doe that has kids. Goats won’t all kid at once, so having multiple kidding pens would be the best way to go depending on how many goats you decide to breed.

The best solution is to have a dedicated goat area and a dedicated kidding area. These two distinct areas can be in the same shelter, just closed off, so the pregnant/lactating goats and kids don’t mix with the other goats.

Are Shelter Needs The Same For Different Types Of Goats?

The shelter needs are different for dairy and meat goats and different goat breeds. Smaller breeds will need less space while dairy goats need a dedicated milking area.

Difference Between Dairy And Meat Goat Shelters

The only difference between dairy and meat goats is there has to be a dedicated milking station out of the elements. You need to include this structure when planning a proper shelter for your goats. As long as the milking station is out of the cold and wind and you can clean the milking station regularly, it will be enough.

Shelter Size for Dwarf Goats

Dwarf goats like the African Pygmy dwarf goats and the Nigerian dwarf goats require smaller shelters due to their size. Providing 10 – 12 square feet of living space for each goat should be more than enough space to keep the goats happy.

Fencing Is Essential For All Goat Shelters

Goats are notorious for escaping shelters, so having a proper fence around your goat pasture lands and shelters is very important. The shelter also needs to be predator-proof. 

To put it into context, you need three types of fencing for your goats; 

  • A perimeter fencing to keep predators like foxes, bears, and coyotes out. 
  • A boundary fence around your goat shelter/pasture lands. 
  • Fencing within the goat area to separate them from each other as some goats won’t get along, and others are pregnant or lactating. 

Fences help keep bucks away from pregnant does, or even other does to prevent unwanted pregnancies and it separates weaned kids away from their mothers. You can do this by erecting temporary or permanent fencing. You can use high tensile wire, poly tape, steel wire, or electric netting.

You will need at least seven strands of wire spaced at least 6-inches apart at the bottom and at least 8-10-inches apart at the top. If you want a more permanent fencing solution, it’s best to install woven mesh fencing at least 3-feet deep to ensure predators like foxes won’t dig under the fencing. 

Barbed wire at the top of the fencing will also help keep your goats inside the shelter’s perimeter and keep unwanted predators out. Learn more about what type of fencing you should use as well as how high a fence should be in my article, How Tall Of A Fence Do You Need For Goats?

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Final Thoughts

Goats are animals that don’t need much when it comes to shelters. They are happiest when they can move around while staying dry and warm. Shelters should provide proper protection from rain and sun. The need to be large enough to accommodate all the goats in your herd or else you need multiple shelters. 

Dane McManis

Dane started learning about farming while volunteering on a farm. Now he and his wife raise chickens, pigs, and ducks on their small farm with their two little girls.

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