This is what a full goat belly looks like.
The first time you see your little goat swell to this size, you might panic. Don’t. This is normal and healthy.
Goats eat bulk. Hay, tree leaves, brambles. What’s not good for them is dense, rich food, like a lot of grain, or alfalfa. Eat that, and the goat will get bloat. Yes, Caper in the above photo, is bloated, but doesn’t have “bloat” which is when the belly is filled with gas. A friend’s goat just got bloat. The wether ate cut grass from her freshly mowed lawn. Rich stuff for a goat. She gave him pepto bismol. The goat lapped it up, and is better.
Notice how Caper’s belly sticks out more to the left. That’s where the rumen is, which is the first part of the intestinal tract that food passes through. Touch it and it feels solid as a basketball. The right side, although distended, is soft. It pushes in like a deflating kick ball.
It’s good to touch your goats. Chickens, too. You should know what they feel like when they’re healthy so that you know when something is amiss. You won’t be able to feel for a bound egg if you don’t know what your chicken’s bottom feels like when she’s laying normally.
You should know what they sound like, too. A first sign of intestinal trouble in a horse is when it’s belly stops rumbling. Goats, too, should have active stomach gurgles.
Listen to your animals voices. Already, I can tell Caper and Pip apart from their bleats. Caper’s is loud, solid and strident. Pip does short, softer calls. Sometimes, a hurt chicken will be quieter than normal. Or her breathing will sound labored or raspy.
The side benefit (or maybe the main one) to paying attention is that you will know – really know – your animals. I enjoy watching how Pip and Caper have different favorite foods in the meadow. I like knowing that it is Marge’s insistent clucking that I hear as I step onto the porch in the morning. I know that Candy is teasing Scooter, when she puts her nose to the fence, then runs, to make him chase her (safely separated by wire mesh. Clever bunny.) It’s a very interesting world.