The Dos and Don’ts Of Feeding Your Goat Naturally

Goats EatingTo many the goat has a reputation for eating anything. This is not really correct. They are very inquisitive animals and will try nibbling many things, but not really intending to eat them. The washing on the line has been referred to many a times but if left to “eat” what was on the line, they would infact pull it off and trample into the ground at most.

Goats do have a very wide range of plants and trees which are palatable to them. There is also an extremely wide range of plants and trees which are poisonous if eaten. This is where the problems can come, for they will show interest in most vegetation and the poisonous things, to their peril, they may eat. We have seen a goat snatch at foxglove and then promptly spit it out. Did it have an unpleasant taste or did the goat know it was poisonous. Only the goat knew the answer.

Some plants & trees which goats love to eat and are safe to do so.

Ash (take care not to feed the keys).
Brambles (useful if goat is scouring).
Hazel. Hawthorne. Holly (NEVER the berries)
Ivy (NEVER the berries or flower)
Maple (not to many keys)
Oak but NEVER use oak apples or acorns. A few oak leaves are fine but do remember Oak is binding, so some leaves are very good for a scouring goats.
Willow, all types. A very popular tree of which the bark is also very desirable.
Bindweed. Bladder Campion. Chickweed. Chicory.
Clover, red more popular than white.
Common Nettle. Common Thistle.
Cowslip. Dandelion. Docks Fat Hen. Goose Grass (Cleavers) Groundsel.
Heather or Ling. Hedge Parsley. Hogweed.
Knapweed. Lady’s Slipper. Ragged Robin. Red Canpion. Red Dead Nettle.
Shepherd Purse. Silverweed. Sow Thistle.
Vetch, tufted, meadow & bush.
Wild Carrot. Wild Chervil. Wild Sanfoin. Wild Thyme. Willow Herb. Yarrow.

Some plants & trees which should be avoided.

Alder (causes scouring). Aconite. Anemone. Arum. Azela.
Bracken. Broom. Buckthorn. Butterbur.
Buttercup (in excess). Box. Briony.
Celandine. Charlock. Cypressus.
Daffodil. Dog’s Mercury. Foxglove.
Fool’s Parsley. Fungi. Gladiolus. Gourds. Ground Ivy.
Helleboure. Holm Oak. Horsetail (Mare’s tail).
Iris. Juniper. Knotgrass. Knotweed.
Laburnum (all parts deadly). Laurel (all types). Lilac. Lupin
Marsh Mallow. Mugwort. Mulleins.
Old Man’s Beard. Pine. Poppy. Potato Haulms. Privet
Ragwort. Rhubarb. Rush. Spindle (all parts) Tansey Thorn Apple
Tomato plants. Tormentil. Traveller’s Joy.

Rhododendron leavesProbably the most dangerous of all is Rhododendron and lethal if not treated quickly. It’s one of the few things that will kill a goat very quickly and is very difficult to treat. Rhododendrons and other ornamental plants including azaleas, golden chain, and other landscaping shrubs, flowers, and bulbs are extremely poisonous to goats. Even a few Rhododendron leaves can kill a goat. This includes dried and old leaves. To be safe–make sure your children, neighbors, and children’s friends know not to feed your goats anything over the fence – the rule of thumb being, if you are not sure, then do not feed.

If you suspect your goat has eatern something harmful, call your vet immediately and describe the symptoms. Ask the vet if you can administer an antitoxin paste containing activated charcoal to neutralize poison until they arrive. This can be the difference between life and death, especially when they’ve eaten something deadly like Rhododendrons.

63 Responses to “The Dos and Don’ts Of Feeding Your Goat Naturally”

  1. Dorothy April 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    There is one more tree / shrub dangerous to goats and that is the Yew tree leave especialy when the leaf is dried.

    Do not let your animals browse an area without checking the area for lethal foliages

    • Elena Stewart October 9, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

      Is bamboos a safe vegetation for Nubians to eat??? Can they get sick from eating too much apples??? please respond!

      • charlie horton April 2, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

        hi yes they can eat a little and is fine for them birch, willow, buddleia dot leaves have tannings in them so will help to eliminate poisons. I would stay away from evergreen leaves and no fox gloves

    • charlie horton April 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

      Right! rodeodenrom poisoning in goats/sheep quickly give them crushed up charcoal from your fire. force them to eat it! kill! or, cure! and you need to pump fluid for a 100b goat its 1 gallon of water a day get that fluid inside them by vet or if you have deoroilte or any rehydration fluid and know properly how to do it! without them breathing up there sick or the substance you are adding. if you do not do this you will have to syringe feed water the sheep goat a lot of water its very stressful for you and the goat!!!!! or sheep the good things with goats they are fighters! so if you don’t give up they wont! sheep on the other hand may need propping up and comforting. dependant on amount consumed by the animal is dependant on how long this process will be. plenty of fresh feed not grain should be fed when the animal is well enough and don’t stop watering the animals until its not looking sad and in pain and poo is back to normal also clean the back end. if it looks like it needs a clean. plenty of hay, do not over stress the animal when using syringe method.

      ps yew is deadly and can sometimes be seen with it still in there mouths! (fast acting)

  2. Chrissy May 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    We just got 3 Nubians, we have them in an area that already had soem plants I was wondering if they are not good for them. They are small pine trees, hosta and lilac trees. Are these ok for them to be around? Or should I move them or the plants?

  3. Maggi May 21, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    Chrissy, I would remove your goats asap, then all trace of the plants before putting the goats back.

  4. mary lou September 28, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Is it ok to feed my goats carrots and apples????

  5. Anne Benson September 30, 2012 at 11:59 am #

    Mary Lou

    I go regulary to a local supermarket and take away many kinds of fruit and vegitables that are shall we say beyond their sell by date but are still perfectly edible. This includes apples and carrotts, my goats love them.


  6. jayavati October 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    My neighbours 4 year old healthy wether ate some Jasmine. He collapsed soon after with all the symptoms of poisoning. The vet did everything he could to try to save him, but he died 3 days later. Jasmine, a surprise to all of us.

  7. Glenda November 18, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

    What are “keys” as referred to with the Ash and Maple in the list of items okay for goats? Also under items to avoid is “privet” listed the “hedge” grown around many homes? I haven’t had goats in many years and we are just now easing back into having them. Except for the occasional obstinate goat they have proven to be a pleasure to have. I am still trying to remember so many things I have forgotten. In the past I was always told that nightshade would kill a goat. I had one to die and our vet came to the pasture and looked over where I had stacked her out (which I normally didn’t do). After checking everything he showed me what Nightshade was and asked to do an autopsy on her. He called me the next afternoon to tell me to take my goats from the pasture they were in since the one who had died was full of nightshade. Is this still thought to be a bad item for goats to get into as I have not seen it listed in items I have found that will kill them if eaten? Thanks so much for taking time to read this.


    • margaret December 16, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

      . Privet is an evergreen and I would advise not to feed to goats. To be on the safe side best to avoid all evergreens and any plant with berries. (There are exceptions to some berries when ripe, eg. blackberries, hawthorn, rosehip naming just a few which are safe).

      Winged Seed Pods. Ash and Maple are two of the trees which have these. They are the female flowers which develop into fruits and because they hang in bunches on the trees the fruits are commonly reffered to as KEYS

      • ANGS December 16, 2012 at 4:13 pm #

        Very sound advice our goats are so precious to us, they must be prevented from eating deadly evergreens

        • Ethan July 8, 2016 at 11:25 pm #

          I let my goats eat bind weed off of rhodies and they are cautious not to eat a single leaf. They have become very discerning of toxi plants and I not trust them around foxglove rhododendron and yew in their foraging. Also many evergreens like Douglas fir as pines are fantastic for the goats when given with other forage. My goats will consume pounds of Doug needles and then they smell like pine oil and get all frisky.

    • sandra March 23, 2018 at 7:26 pm #

      We had lots of privet hedge growing in the woods around the goats. They ate it all winter with no ill effects! They even ate the bark off the large trunks of the shrubs. They are strapping young dwarf males.

  8. lila November 27, 2012 at 2:55 am #


    I have a goat that is close to lots of foxgloves,are they deadly

    • lucy November 27, 2012 at 3:04 am #


      Your Goat will either have diarrhea or die of a sudden death,if it eats a foxglove

      • lila November 27, 2012 at 3:06 am #

        If your Goat eat a foxglove it will either have diarrhea or die of a sudden death.

  9. Nancy Gray December 13, 2012 at 9:31 pm #

    After reading about poisonous plants, I’d like to know where I can get, or how can I make, an antitoxin paste containing activated charcoal to neutralize poison?

    My other questions is, how long is an adult nubian doe?

    Thank you.

  10. margaret December 14, 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Can I ask how long from tip of nose to tip of tail your adult Anglo Nubians are?

  11. karen March 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    I just received a 6 day old Nubian buck. I had read in
    a book that corn should not be fed to goats, it will
    cause kidney failure. The first ingredient listed on
    meat goat pellets is corn. Is corn harmful or not? Your help is appreciated, as well as
    any and all advice on how to be the best mom to my new kid. Thanks.

    The e-mail address does not work perhaps Karen would rectify?

    • karen March 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      My email had problems but think it is up and running
      again now. Sorry about the inconvenience.

    • Connie April 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      Please post the answer to weather or not corn is bad for goats? Also, what about burning bush?.

    • Nickla October 28, 2017 at 5:15 pm #

      corn can kill male goats…I learned from not knowing..corn can create stones in their bladders which can be fatal

  12. ANGS July 27, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Activated charcoal for TEMPORARY relief of poisoning can be purchased via some goat supply houses in paste form or try Holland and Barrett or Amazon

    They sell capsules or tablets you can crush up to make a paste.

    Just do a search for Charcoal tablets or Activated Charcoal on one of the shopping sites.

  13. Keisha September 1, 2013 at 9:03 pm #

    I just got couple of young male goats for pets.One is a young nubian and the other is a 1 1/2 month pygmy.I keep them in a cyclone fenced in area but everyday i put them on a leash and walk them through the front yard which is mostly wooded to let them graze. They seemed to love brachen ferns and oak leaves the best. Im not sure whats safe in my yard and whats not safe to eat.It scares me to death that they may be eating something poisonous but that the only real place to graze.I keep them hay in their pen and feed them calf manna mixed with medicated dq pellets everyday.I love my two little babaies. any advice?

  14. Carrol January 29, 2014 at 10:12 am #


    Does anyone know if alfalfa hay or lucerne is safe to feed goats?

  15. Michael April 13, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    My Alpines eat pine all the time…they love it…been eating it for over a year…no problems…my vet knows about …the people that I purchased them from has been breeding for 15 years and there’s eat pine all the time… what kind of pine do you refer as to avoid?

  16. Alison June 27, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    I would like to put my goats into a field which has 3 walnut trees in it. Is this ok?

  17. Katie November 2, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Can I feed my goats a shrub compact shiny xylosum?

    • admin November 2, 2014 at 9:22 am #


      Shiny leaved bushes are a no no.

  18. Lynne December 4, 2014 at 11:13 pm #

    The very first week I had goats my husband let them into a paddock with lots of long grass…and overhanging rhodedendrums! One of them got very sick very fast, vomiting and diahorria. Vet came and prescribed very strong tea drenches every couple of hours. She came right pretty fast and the interesting thing is that now when they accidently come across some branches, they don’t eat them! So long as you have a nice big fat syringe handy and some tea bags you should be good for emergencies!

    • charlie horton April 2, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

      false! a very stupid ignorant person would leave rhododendron over or near! to a goat/sheep pen! what if the wind picks up and lows a branch into thare paddock. the seriousness off rhododendron poisoning is fatal!!!!! with only just a couple of leaves.

      • Charlie Horton May 18, 2015 at 10:27 am #

        what the vet may not tell you.
        a ruminant needs fluid inside there stomach it needs to be 70%full with fluid before there stomach even works and manages its own pH balance. Goats can live on just water for a long time stay away from feeding the goat too early as this could cause more over intoxication. I would recommend warm tea to flush there system out every 15mins as a rhododendron in spring time England will take 51/2 days for a goat to get better. Syringe fed/watered every half an hour day and night. it is very very painful for the goat! why? Because the acid from the rhododendron was eating away the lining of his gut causing agonising pain. I needed to administer antibiotics by injection but the vets where too late…. I have had three different vets attend all had different opinions,
        I should have gone with my opinion, to put the poor animal down and get a big stick and hit yourself over the head for letting it climb up a 10 foot fire onto and across an oak tree branch over the heras security fencing and barbed wire into the field of rhododendrons!

        I made up my first opinion on three factors
        1……… is the animal in a hell of a lot of pain?
        2……… when did it eat it/what it was do you even know? mine had eaten it I hade administered charcoal and tea thought he was ok being a goat. left him until morning found out he had been up all night being sick. administered stomach drench in morning. the goat did not take too kindly to our help but was standing followed up with syringe every half an our… painkillers administered every day.
        3……… have I got time to help this animal with all the other animals and work?
        oh… there is a number 4! very important! is the animal taking to your care or are you stressing the poor thing out even more?

    • Gill T. October 10, 2017 at 11:24 am #

      Ash and maple keys are the seeds which look like wings or keys hanging in bunches. Our goats had all been raised with a herd and would take a little foliage from some yew trees in a bower, but leave others strictly alone. For safety I would not give goats access to evergreens or shiny leaved plants, bulbs nor seed and berries. Some things listed as poisonous – like lilac – used to be used as a vermifuge (wormer) so presumably they cause scouring. I haven’t done that but did notice that when they needed worming the goats would try to snatch a lilac leaf as we passed.
      As for Rhododendron poisoning I have experienced it with one goat who managed to get her head stuck through the electric fence where all she could reach was rhododendron. It causes massively raised blood pressure. Our vet attempted an intravenous injection which caused her blood to hit the ceiling 25 foot above her. It took weeks of nursing to get her back to health, and the first time out she tried to swipe a rhododendron leaf as she passed. She had not been brought up on her dam.
      A little oak will not cause problems, but as with most things, keep it to a reasonable amount. The same applies to apples, I believe an excess can depress milk yield, No known problem with carrots.
      As for bracken it is carcinogenic, especially the spores. Ferns may be OK but not bracken. Most goat forums on Facebook have files of poisonous plants. Beware of common names, they vary in different places, and sometimes refer to different plants!

  19. Rebecca Piesse December 7, 2014 at 4:28 am #

    Our healthy young goat got very sick after eating Jasmine which was bordering the paddock and had continual diahorrea, gradually wasted away, then later developed bloat and quickly died. I sadly was ignorant about what they could eat and wish I had researched them before getting one.

  20. Kolbe June 13, 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    Can my goat eat ash leaves?

  21. Tayya June 16, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    Hi I was wondering if goats are allowed to have basil? also would you happen to have a list of herbs they are allowed to have and possibly which herb would help them with certain things? Thank you

  22. Liz July 15, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    How about plantains, meadow sweet, gorse, dog wood, beech, hornbeam and fruit tree leaves ?
    I assume that Bluebells fall into the same category as Daffodils. Are all parts bad or just the bulbs ?
    What is opinion on feeding of sugar beet ?
    My goats nibble at bracken on their daily walk and also seem to like the seed heads of the marsh grass. Is this going to be detrimental over time, it has not caused any noticeable effects so far.
    Feedback appreciated.

    • J Oney January 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm #

      Plantain is excellent, sugar beets are ok in moderation as long as you don’t feed dehydrated sugar beets (rehydrate them first and they’re ok) sorry, that’s all I have experience with

    • Gill T. October 10, 2017 at 11:27 am #

      As with ragwort, bracken is a cumulative poison. Most will only take the young tips but if possible pull it in midsummer when it exhausts the plants’ resources and prevents it spreading the normal six foot a year.

  23. Karen August 24, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

    I see you have lilac listed as harmful to goats. I find it on many lists as both harmful and safe, Confused. Our goats got into our chicken pen yesterday and ate the lilac bush that was in there. Wasn’t home all day so don’t know when they got in there and how long just that they were stuck in there until after dark. Could of also ate some chicken feed. Also ate some unidentified shrubs. They seem to be fine however their dropping in the barn this morning were clumpy and very dark almost like black and there was a bunch of them. The goats ate normal this morning, however they seemed a bit louder than usual (Nubians).

  24. Danielle November 22, 2015 at 2:09 am #

    I’ve read that rhododendrons are deadly to goats however mine (Nigerians) have escaped a few times from there pen and have eating a lot of the rhododendron leaves without any symptoms! When we let them free range while we are out with them we do our best to keep them away but sometimes they beat us to the bush and get several mouthfuls before I drag them away! They love them and they’ve never gotten sick….not once! How is this possible?

    • Marycolleen Foley May 17, 2017 at 1:39 am #

      I have 3 pygmies and have had the same situation happen. My goats are allowed free range when I’m with them and they swallow rhodadedron leaves sometimes.

      Nothing happens. No side effects what so ever.

  25. Anna February 22, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    Goats can certainly eat pine! It is even a natural dewormer. Also it is SUPER high in vitamin C.

  26. Melissa April 2, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    We just purchased a Nubian goats. We have soapberry trees. I can’t find anything on this tree being good or harmful for a goat. Can anyone tell me if this tree would be harmful to him. Thanks.

  27. LMS July 28, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    Every other site I have looked at says knotweed is safe for goats. Why do you have it listed as unsafe?

  28. Debbie Johnson August 5, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

    I need to know if we can feed bok choy and asparagus in addition to those on your list.

  29. John September 25, 2016 at 1:18 am #

    My neighbor has goats and I feed them willow leaves, but my sister wasn’t letting me feed them until she knew that willow leaves are safe for them.

  30. Cathryn Miles September 28, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

    Are marigolds poisonous for goats? And nastersoms.

    • Pete May 27, 2017 at 7:34 pm #

      Nasturtiums are edible for humans so I assume they are edible for goats, don’t know about marigolds though.

  31. Lisa Hansen December 9, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

    I can vouch for tea being an amazing cure for rhododendron poisoning… With ginger for pain, olive oil to line the stomach and baking powder to reduce the a charm and I have used it on 3 goats and a sheep who have all been accidentally poisoned by various naivete and accidents.

    Soak about 6 to 8 plain tea bags in a cup of hot water, with grated ginger, a heaped teaspoon of baking soda and a quarter of a cup of cold pressed olive oil. Steep for 10 mins, strain, cool and syringe feed. It’s messy but relieves the goat within an hour, they still suffer while vomiting it all up and look terrible for the night but it is a natural saviour.

  32. Lisa Hansen December 9, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    … And thanks for your Web page, very interesting..

  33. Michelle March 2, 2017 at 1:49 am #

    Hi I like to feed my miniature goats a mix of fruit and veges in the morning and evening, with their regular food, I know stone fruit kernals, potato vine, potato peel and tomato vines are toxic, could you please have a list of other friut and veges that are not safe, ie grapes, tomatoes and potato flesh? They love chopped whole pumpkin, banana and esp apple. Hated quince.
    Thank you
    Ps can they eat eucalyptus leaves? They love Casuarina but not pines

  34. ashley April 25, 2017 at 3:36 am #

    i just got four goats and there all a bit skinny what should i feed them so they gain wait

  35. Carol A. Willis May 17, 2017 at 12:42 am #

    Can goats eat Huneysuckle without getting sick or diing

  36. Linda June 23, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

    Just to confirm, holly is okay for goats to eat, but NOT the berries. Correct?

    My husband through a cut branch in with the goats. I took it out at first, but read that it’s okay, but not the berries. Thanks!

  37. Meghan August 25, 2017 at 3:08 pm #

    My lamancha doe always runs to the lilac bush and try’s to eat the leaves, I try to keep her away from it but sometimes she beats me to it and has a mouthful of leaves. I try and pull them out of her mouth with the old finger down the throat. I’m wondering what I should do to keep her away from it my boyfriends mom already told me I can’t pull it up and get rid of it I supervise her when she is free ranging the yard but when I’m at work or not home everyone else just lets her loose and don’t watch what she is eating thief response is “well she should know what not to eat”.
    How many lilac leaves until it kills her? I dread coming home and finding her very sick or dead because they weren’t watching her and she ends up eating some.

  38. Kim October 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm #

    I just bought a new house and for the goat pasture I have 4 huge bald cypress outside my fence but limbs overhang their pen. I don’t see much on bald cypress will this be okay for my goats? Thank you! Kim

  39. Megan December 7, 2017 at 10:38 pm #

    Do my GOATS have to have train every day or can I just feed them hay and let them graze?

    • Megan December 7, 2017 at 10:39 pm #

      Sorry I mean grain every day

  40. Emma March 24, 2018 at 4:17 pm #

    Hello! I am interested in getting goats, but rhododendron bushes grow naturally here and my property (like everyone else in the area) is covered in them. How should I make the property safe for my goats? I am willing to do almost anything if that means they will be safe and happy.
    Thank you!

  41. Vickie webb April 15, 2018 at 1:43 am #

    We have just got two Nigerian dwarf baby goats and we have what I believe is a Brazilian Pepper tree growing in our backyard. Are these trees leaves and the little red balls it produces bad for them? I can’t really find any info on it? Can anyone help?

  42. has goats May 16, 2018 at 12:40 am #

    It have had goats for years. Talked to some goat experts at a local university that studies goats. they said cedar trees (evergreen) is fine for them and there field orginally had them until the goats ate them over a 25 year time. they also said goats are healthier on a pasture with board leaves not grass either. my goats have ate many of those plants like tomatoes, they will tear up fencing to get to them. the goats know what they can eat, better then we know.

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