Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content The Country Life: Honey, I shrunk the goats!

By Bill Radford Published: April 29, 2014

With the growing trend of urban homesteading, the line between city life and country life can become a bit blurred.

Take Monycka Snowbird, for example. She lives in central Colorado Springs with a backyard menagerie that includes chickens, a duck, rabbits and two miniature goats, Penelope and Clementine.

The problem is that while chickens are allowed in the city, mini goats are not. But Snowbird is working to change that. The City Council is scheduled to take an initial vote in two weeks on a change in the city's pet ordinance that would allow Snowbird and others within the city limits to have up to four miniature goats. Currently, city residents can have hoofed animals only if their property is nearly an acre in size or they are approved for a special permit.

Penelope, at 50 pounds, and Clementine, 45 pounds, are beloved pets and milk producers, although neither is producing at the moment. (To keep a doe producing milk, it has to be bred every year or so; Penelope will be bred in a couple of weeks, Snowbird said.)

Snowbird got the two when they were babies and had no idea they weren't allowed under the city's pet ordinance. Nor did she know how much work they would be.

"I'm the perfect example of what not to do," she says. Assuming goats are allowed, she plans to offer free classes at Buckley's Homestead Supply to educate others who might be considering them.

"Do you really want to go out and milk when it's 15 below zero or it's snowing or sleeting?" she says. If you're leaving town, do you have someone who can not just watch your dog but milk your goat?

Chickens - which Snowbird calls "the gateway drug to homesteading" - are one thing. "A goat is a whole other deal. That's the hard-core stuff." Because of that, she doesn't expect a change in the law to usher in a wave of new goat owners.

Public response to the proposed change has been largely positive, she says. For those naysayers, a page titled "Rebuttals to common anti-city goat concerns" has been posted at a Facebook page administered by Snowbird at facebook.com/NoGoatsNoGloryColoradoSprings. (Look under "Notes.")

One complaint that keeps cropping up: Goats stink.

But it's only the intact (not-neutered) boys - the billy goats - that stink, Snowbird says. And they would not be allowed under the ordinance change. (To be bred, the girls would have to pay a visit to the country. I joked that it would be an evening of wining and dining; Snowbird responded that you can't finish a cup of coffee in the time it takes.)

The strong, musky odor of billy goats, or bucks, comes from their scent glands and their urine; they urinate on themselves when they go into rut. Apparently, that, uh, perfume attracts the girl goats.

"The boys, they do smell awful," Snowbird says. "I wouldn't want one on my property. I wouldn't want one on my block."

Mary Anderson, who lives with her brother and sister-in-law in the Falcon area just down the road from me, raises both regular and miniature goats. (Her minis, like Penelope and Clementine, are Nigerian dwarf goats.) She doesn't see problems with allowing minis in the city. While she says the boys "are kind of disgusting," she agrees the female goats don't smell.

The goats are also easy to train, she says, and very friendly. In fact, her recent Craigslist ad selling two baby minis branded them "overly friendly."

"They follow you around, they trip you, they're right under your feet and they're into everything you do," Anderson says.

If you get goats, you'll need a good fence to keep them contained, she says. And if you're getting a goat, plan on getting two.

"They're a herd animal," Snowbird said. "Your goat is going to make you and itself and your neighbor miserable if you keep it by yourself." (Which is, in hindsight, why our first goat, Nana, was such a handful until we got her a companion.)

Penelope and Clementine are half-sisters; they have the same dad. Penelope, Snowbird says, "runs the show. She's definitely the boss lady." But they're both friendly, tolerant of social situations, go on walks and are happy to ride in the car.

While they put pretty much anything in their mouths - "they mouth everything, like toddlers" - they're actually quite picky about what they eat, Snowbird says. And they're demanding about being fed on schedule.

"These are the first goats I have ever owned," Snowbird says, "so I don't know if they're more divas than others or if I spoiled them."

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Bill Radford and his wife live in the countryside east of Colorado Springs with a menagerie that, in addition to two full-sized goats, includes a horse, a mule, three dogs, two cats, a half-dozen chickens, two rabbits, two guinea pigs and two parrots.

Contact him: Twitter @billradfordiii, gazettebillradford

on Facebook. Follow his blog at blogs.gazette.com/thecountrylife.

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