How do I build a pen that my goats will never escape? Step1: Build a pen. Step 2: Sell all of your goats. We laugh all the time about how goats are just crafty enough to get themselves killed. This craftiness is especially applicable to goat fencing.
So before we get started, let's look at some of the potential hazards goats will create (and what we need to prevent). So here are a couple things the goats will do without escaping. Goats love to get their heads stuck in the fence whenever possible. If your fencing has holes that are big enough for them to fit their heads through (assuming your goats have horns), you better be ready to walk the fence line every day from now until the end of time. It would seem like they would learn their lesson after a couple tries, but those weeds on the other side of the fence are always just a little too tempting for their own good.
But besides those tantalizing weeds, goats also enjoy rubbing their sides on your brand new fence to help them shed old hair. Now you might not think that a little 150 lb doe could do much to that sturdy fence you just built. But wait a few months! When the entire herd pushes their entire weight against that same stretch of fence every day, it starts to take a toll.
Now to the fun part! Here are a few methods that our goats have used to escape the ranch. Baby goats sneak out of the gap between the gate and the fence post. Trees fall on the fence - making a beautiful 'bridge to freedom.' Trees fall beside the fence - making a similarly beautiful 'launching platform to freedom.' Wet weather creeks overflow and knock out a quarter mile of fence. Using electric fence, one goat "takes one for the team" by letting the electric current zap them while the rest of the herd crawls through - unscathed. A single joint on a cow panel sitting in a wet-weather creek rusts out (but still stays in place), goats then push the rusted joint out of the way and crawl through - allowing the joint to pop back in place afterwards (that trick took us an entire month to figure out).
So as you can see, it is almost impossible to out think a goat! But here's our best attempt. If you can afford them, 5' tall cow panels with 2" holes make sturdy, reliable, and reusable fencing. The small holes ensure that the goats won't get their heads stuck and the heavy metal construction of the panels can really take a beating - whether it's from falling limbs or itchy does. At five feet tall, goats don't usually find many fallen trees that are big enough to help them over the top. The panels are easy to set up - no need to bring anything but a T-post driver and some pliers - and they will last for years. But they are pretty pricey.
So here's option number 2. Wire fencing with the same 2" holes makes a pretty solid fencing solution if you're on a tight budget. The stretched wire is a lot cheaper - but it doesn't stand up to nearly as much abuse. If a limb falls on your fence, you'll have to restretch that entire section. Also, it will not hold up to a goat's 'shedding issues' for nearly as long. Stretching the wire can be pretty laborious work if you're not used to building fence and it is very difficult - if not impossible - to put up in areas that have a lot of trees.
So that's how we build a goat pen. If you've got any suggestions, leave them in the comments. We'd love to hear about what is working for you!