Hi , I am thinking about getting goats soon when I retire. My question is do I have to go out and round up the goats every night and put them away or will they go into their shelter on their own ?
How many are you thinking of getting? For fun or commercial? Meat goats? Dairy goats? pet goats? Fiber goats?
What's your setup going to be like? How far from the house will the barn be? Where will the goats be (before going to the barn) in a big pasture.. a large few acre yard? Will they be on your property where you reside? or somewhere else?
IF you have a pasture where the goats will be out of sight, you may want to call them in - placing hay in the barn helps them to go in on their own, but if they will be somewhere they can get into trouble you will want to do a head count.. JUST in case someone didn't make it back.. (stuck somewhere.. down or hurt) it happens more often than you would think.. :) Goats are notorious for getting into trouble - they will test your fencing to the nth degree - they will go under, over and through any place you would NEVER think they would fit. They will get heads stuck on fencing, legs caught in tree V's, hung up in briars, you name it they will do it.. All of this being said.. it doesn't happen every day.. BUT it WILL happen the one day you forget to count heads..
Whole corn and cookies will be your best friend ( don't over do either) but to get goats to go or do what you want in a large number situation, once they have had them.. shaking the corn can or a pocketful of animal cracker cookies will do more than hollering or begging - :)
IMHO the best scenario is to count them when they come in from pasture.. preferably in the early evening late afternoon - (gives you day light in case you have to go looking for someone)- bring them in for evening hay and or treats.. have a relatively large yard set up fenced in with the barn in it.. feed them in there- and have water for them too.. lock the yard up with full access to the barn - and for me.. I have my barn within view from my living room window, in 23 years I do not think I have ever had my goats in a place where I could not see them from my house at all times.. I have lived 4 different places - BUT that's me.. when we did have a large pasture, I took the dogs and we actually herded them for 6 hours a day.. and brought them back like I suggested.. VERY time consuming.. but I did love it.. Now I have a few acres where we are, the barn is 25 ft from my living room.. I dry lot feed year round (give hay) and at night I have a dusk to dawn light lighting up the area they stay and not many venture very far from the barn at night. I never have closed my goats up in the barn or used heat lamps.. too much danger of fire - and locked up if anything were to happen they would not be able to escape - good deep bedding in winter , out of the prevailing wind, with a solid roof they will be fine.. mine is 3 sided.. open side toward my window so I can see in from the house.
To Answer your question..
Most of them time.. but new goats in a new place may get funny about it.. Even in the rain.
Goats are funny about change in living space.. you may have to call them in or bribe them a few times to get them to know it's ok to be there and it won't hurt them.. place the hay in there - this will help them go in.. just don't box them in where they cannot get out quick..
goats are creatures of habit - once you get a rhythm going.. they will follow suit and expect the same each day.. at the same time.. so getting a routine that works for you is good, they will adapt and look forward to this routine to happen each day.. they are very smart.. and know when things change - they will also tell you when something is going on different.. they will all look in one direction - if something scares them at night they will jump up and gather in a small group tight together.. these are red flags to go take a look what's out there.. predators or people.. anything that the feel may harm them.. a stray dog maybe.. But once you teach them a routine and make it a happy thing for them, they will start to do this on their own.. IF you need to move a group of them.. and they do not come to a can of corn shaking or you haven't tried it.. get Behind them as a group.. clap hands or raise a branch above you head (they HATE things above their heads) - and walk them from behind where you want them to go slow and steady, don;t try to run and chase them , you will lose every time.. .. or use a command.. I use a sound like schit-schit-schit and they know to move where ever it is we are going.. in the mornings I take a special group of goats out of the hay pen where they spend the night.. older and special goats I want to eat without being bothered - (goats have a hierarchy and beat up on older or weaker goats at feeding time esp) so they may be laying there not ready to leave.. I do the "sound" they get up.. out the gate and we go on with chores.. at night.. all the rest of the goats go to the barn to eat and that group is waiting at the hay pen gate - pretty much like clockwork.
MORE than you ever wanted to know.. :)
let me know how things go..
and take a look at my website - it is written for newbies in particular - to help with all sorts of things