My goats hate me.
Since the Great Goat Escape of August 2012, the goats have been absolutely terrified of us. The moment they see us, they run to a corner of the fenced off area they reside in and huddle together. They stare at us with suspicion and fear in their weird goat eyes.
Getting them into their shelter at night has been a feat of magnificent proportions. We have collars and ropes attached to the goats, but catching them remains absolutely ridiculous. I’m amazed we have actually succeeded on a few occasions. First we try luring them with grain. It has proven to be utterly fruitless, but we still try. Then we try to corral them into a corner and they promptly find an opening and run between us as we dive for the ropes that swiftly trail after them. We chase them all over the fenced area till they finally run behind the chicken house. We usually capture them in the foot wide space between the back of the chicken house and the fence, trembling with fear. We pull the stubborn girls out, carry them by their legs, the sisters screaming all the way. It’s really quite traumatic for everyone.
I went on a forum for goats (backyardherds.com) and my fellow goat owners gave me some advice: keep them in their shelter for a day or so and go in there with grain and treats. Sit with them. They’ll learn to associate you with food and you’ll be BFF’s in no time.
So I did this. I went in the shelter multiple times and sat in the straw, holding a bowl of grain for them to eat.
All I can say is that is was very awkward.
I never really imagined that my future held sitting in a goat shelter, trying to get two goats to like me. But sit, I did. They huddled in a corner, shaking with fear. They would put their heads into the corner and refuse to even look at me. I think they presumed that if they did not look, then the current nightmare they were experiencing would simply go away. (Had I just experienced actual goat denial?) I talked to them, I sang to them, I put the bowl of feed right next to them and then I looked away, pretending to be interested in the view from the cramped shelter. I stifled about a million sneezes from the straw, so I wouldn’t startle them.
One of the sisters must have said to herself “To hell with this, I’m gonna get me some grub” and ate some of the grain, while the other sister just contracted in fear in the corner. I attempted to not move a muscle while she was eating, but I had to scratch my nose (the straw makes me crazy allergic) and she freaked and hid her head between her sister’s hind legs.
After they calmed down a bit, I made a poor tactical decision. I decided to pet them. I made soothing noises and stroked them softly. They froze. They huddled and shrunk deeper into the corner. They averted their eyes. I felt like a man in a cramped, seedy, smelly bar making unwanted advances on a woman who obviously wanted nothing to do with him. I seriously felt like I was violating them by merely petting them, so I stopped. It was humiliating for all of us and again…awkward.
I left the shelter- rejected, dejected and frustrated.
This morning, I let them out. They needed to eat some of the pasture and my goat romancing obviously wasn’t working….
To put this in context, the primary reason for all my overtures is so I can get them into their shelter at night. We have TONS of coyotes (not to mention bears, mountain lions and bobcats that would find a tasty treat in our little goats). Just a few nights ago, our acreage was surrounded by the yipping coyotes- some in our pasture, some in the pasture across the street. Chilling to say the least.
Every night is a crap shoot as to getting them in the shelter. We now know it’s counter-productive to chase them- they just become more fearful of us and more distrustful. But if left to their own devices, they will sleep in the fenced-in area where they are at risk of being eaten.
I thought, maybe, by the grace of God, they’d go into their shelter tonight. (They went the night before on their own volition much to my surprise!) Alas, I snuck out there in the dark, moving like a stealth ninja and nimbly closing the gate on the shelter, only to find the shelter empty. I took my flashlight and located two shining (and scared shitless) goat eyes staring at me in the corner of their pasture. How apropos that they LOVE to sleep next to the VERY spot they escaped from (which is now repaired and impenetrable). Apparently, they are still holding out hope that they can get the hell away from me. So tonight, I left our barn lights on and I’ll have the shotgun close at hand in case a predator decides to come for a midnight snack.
At this point, we can no longer chase them. We’ll just keep on offering them grain as a treat and hope they’ll go into the shelter at night. Or we’re going to have to put up electric fencing around the perimeter of the fencing to keep the predators out. Or perhaps we are taking goat protection much too seriously and just say “what happens,happens”.
Or we make birria.