Yes, you read that title correctly. We rented a herd of goats for ivy removal in our back yard. Yes, hiring goats to eat ivy is a thing. (No, I didn’t know it was either.) But oh my goodness I am so glad we did it! (Oh, and they escaped, so stay tuned for that funny story at the end.)
Let’s start from the beginning…
When we moved into our home almost 2 years ago, the previous owners had not maintained the yard. There was a ton of ivy in the back yard, and it had taken over and become unruly. It was one of those projects that kept getting bumped down further on our “to do” list, but something we definitely needed to address.
A couple months ago, I posted in our neighborhood Facebook group asking if anyone could recommend a good ivy removal company. Someone responded and said that she had a friend who had used a company that rents out goats to eat ivy. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to find out more, so I started searching our area for this type of company, and found Get Your Goat Rentals. Sure enough, you can rent a herd of goats.
Why we rented a herd of goats for ivy removal
There were a few reasons we opted to rent goats. First of all, we didn’t want to spray a ton of harmful chemicals and risk killing all of the trees, not to mention the health hazards. We had a ton of ivy in our yard, and the goats are very eco-friendly.
Second, removing ivy is serious work! Chris didn’t want to spend money on the goats at first, so he said he would pull the ivy up himself. After about 15 minutes out in the yard, he came inside and said, “Let’s just rent the goats.” It was just too big a job for us.
Lastly, the whole concept is completely entertaining and hilarious. I have to admit, the novelty of having a herd of goats hanging out in the yard was kind of amazing and funny, so we were excited to give it a try.
How the rental process works
Basically, the company shows up with a trailer full of goats. They set up temporary electric fencing surrounding the ivy to contain the goats and keep them from eating the entire yard. Then, the goats trot happily out of the truck and into their fenced in ivy-filled enclosure. Our goats came with their own guard dog, a Great Pyrenees named George.
They all stay 24 hours a day until the job is done. Our yard took about 3 days.
Here’s a video of the goats trotting into our yard when they arrived.
Pedro (the goat in the front of the line) quickly became a fan favorite when I posted the video on Facebook. I was told that he is a little bit difficult to herd because he does his own thing most of the time. Each of the goats has their own personality, and many of them have names. There was “Mrs. Claus” (who was very pregnant, as were a few others), Elvis, Larry, Pat, Buck Rogers, Primo, and Joey, to name a few.
Here’s Pedro, licking another goat’s back. He marches to the beat of his own drum, that’s for sure.
I went to check on them early in the morning and many of them were snuggled up together resting. It was really cute.
Frequently Asked Questions
What company did you use?
We used Get Your Goat Rentals here in Atlanta.
How much does it cost?
The company we used charged us $250 for setup and $200 per day. However, certain factors like location and time of year might affect the price, and I’m sure various companies charge different prices. They can come out and give you a quote once they take a look at your yard and see what they’re dealing with. You can do a search for terms like “rental goats” or “goats for ivy removal” in your area and see if there is a company that services your location.
How many goats came to your house?
We had a herd of 32, plus George the dog (to protect the goats).
Did your neighbors get mad?
I did warn the neighbors first, but they loved it! They came and took pictures and we had a steady stream of spectators trickling through the yard to check them out. The goats are quiet and you hardly notice they’re back there.
(Here are Chris and Jonah checking them out.)
Does the dog stay all night too?
Yes! He stays with them at all times to protect them. He’s very calm and the only time I heard him bark loudly was when something behind our fence spooked the goats.
Do you have to feed the dog or do anything to care for the goats?
Nope. The owner comes each day to check on them and feed the dog, and he puts out minerals for the goats and leaves buckets of water out for all of them.
Do they eat everything in sight?
Pretty much. The owner said their favorite things to eat are Privet, Kudzu and Poison Ivy, with English Ivy closely following those as a favorite. They’ll pretty much eat anything green though, which is why we have to fence them in so they don’t eat the grass. Also, they go for the higher stuff first (in our case, the fence and trees), because they don’t like eating with their heads down. The smallest goats did the ground cover first but the rest saved the ground cover for last. I was amazed by how high up the tree the larger goats were able to stretch and eat too!
Do they leave a lot of “waste” in the yard?
Yes, folks, they poop. But it’s free fertilizer, so it’s a win/win. (Well not free, since we paid for the goats, but you know what I mean.) They have four stomachs so they can pretty much eat constantly, which means that the inevitable will follow. I will say that since we had a ton of rain while they were here, I didn’t really notice much goat poo afterwards.
Do they eat the roots too?
No, they’ll eat the ivy down to the roots and then we will pull those up. It will be much easier though without the weight of all of that ivy.
The Great Goat Escape of 2015
So, the goats escaped. Twice. We actually traveled out of town while the goats were still at our house, and the owner said the goats could stay and finish up the job while we were gone. After we were gone for a couple days, I got a call from one of our neighbors saying that the goats had escaped from our yard and were wandering around the neighborhood. (Turns out they really didn’t venture far.) Of course I freaked out and called the owner, who was already enroute to our house after receiving a call from another neighbor. Some neighbors helped herd the goats back to the yard while they waited for the owner to arrive. Apparently what had happened was there was a small gap in the back corner of our fence, which the goat rental company had blocked off. Well, the constant rain made the ground so muddy that the goats dug themselves out and slipped through a crack into the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor’s gate was open so they wandered out front. There were 14 that escaped, but luckily the neighbors were kind enough to intervene and they acted fast to contain them so they couldn’t wander far. The owner put them back in their enclosure and reinforced the fence with bungees.
They escaped again on New Year’s Eve, probably because they got spooked by fireworks. I found out when I received an email notification from Nextdoor.com from a neighbor wondering if the rumors were true that there were goats in the neighborhood, because they heard that some got loose. (You guys, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.) Despite the multiple escapes, I still loved renting the goats and I think this was a somewhat rare occurrence with the torrential downpours we’ve had recently and the seriously muddy conditions. I wouldn’t let this deter you from renting them — the weather really was crazy, and even though they got out, they didn’t damage anything and they were rounded up without incident.
In the end, it’s definitely something I highly recommend (despite the “great escape”) if you have an ivy problem and you can get ahold of some goats for a few days. The experience alone was worth it! We miss having the goats around. We had lots of friends and neighbors who came over to see them. Did I mention we live in the middle of a suburban neighborhood? It was really kind of hilarious.
Here is what our yard looked like “before.”
Here’s what our yard looks like now. (We haven’t done anything else to it yet.)
Look at how high up the trees they were able to eat! (They even unearthed a long lost doghouse.)
Keep in mind we still need to pull up all of the roots, but we are slowly making progress and we can gradually make our yard presentable in the spring. We were amazed by how much ivy they ate while we were out of town. They probably would have eaten even more if the rain hadn’t caused the ivy to become caked in mud. There’s still a little bit left but it will be a breeze to get rid of compared to the amount we had before. We can actually see the trees and the fence out back! And yes, I know we have our work cut out for us with the landscaping and making the rest of the yard look nice. We’ll get there.
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UPDATE: The goats came back, and they brought newborn babies! Find out what happened after the goats left, why they came back, and see lots of cute photos in this follow-up post, here.
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