Getting My Goats

My neighbors and partners in all-things-chicken and I got our first five birds back in 2004, shortly after I discovered, quite by accident, that poultry keeping was perfectly legal in Decatur. The laying hens were a gateway drug for me. Before long I was fantasizing about having a couple of small dairy goats.

The thing that has kept me from pursuing my caprine dreams, however, is this little phrase in Section 14-7.1 of our city ordinances: “Livestock shall be permitted on properties of at least two acres in size.”

Oh, well. I let it go — until a few months ago, when a kerfuffle about an Oakhurst resident with lots of fowl and, yes, goats, got my attention. According to her blog, the City sent out some code enforcement people to inspect her property and situation. And while she was told to do some clean-up and repair and to move her chicken coop, they determined that her three goats are “companion animals” and allowed her to keep them on her less-than-two-acre lot.

One of my personal heroes, Novella Carpenter of Oakland, CA, with her Nigerian dwarf dairy goats

Right away I ordered a book on backyard goats, started researching breeds and breeders in the area, tested the idea with some neighbors. And the more I learned, the more questions I realized I had about what exactly the City allows. For starters, it’s not entirely clear to me what type of goats are living in that backyard in Oakhurst. They have been alternately described as “African pygmies” and “Nigerian dwarves”— which are two different breeds (maybe she has some of both?). African pygmy goats are typically just pets, while Nigerian dwarves are actually dairy goats. I’ve also seen them identified as “African dwarves,” which is especially confusing, because there is no such breed.

All of this matters because it goes to the heart of the distinction between “companion animals” and “livestock.” Can you have a dairy goat (or a fiber producer, or, for that matter, a meat breed, which is what African pygmies originally were) that is also a pet—a “companion animal?” Is it “livestock” if you drink the milk or make cheese or shear it for the angora fleece? If I love my Nigerian dwarf dairy goat as much as I love my dog, is it a “companion animal?”

My idea of a peaceable kingdom

The bad news is, Decatur city ordinances don’t offer much help on these questions. (The only other statement referencing goats is, “Any horses, mules, cattle, hogs, sheep, goats or other animals running at large in the city shall be taken up and impounded by the police department of the city,” which I love just for the image it evokes—all those beasts running wild in the mad, mad streets of Decatur.)

But the good news is, we have an opportunity to get some clarity on the books. As the Zoning Ordinance Task Force moves ahead with its work, this is our chance to ensure that our zoning ordinances support the values of the community. Local, sustainable food production and consumption have certainly been embraced in Decatur. In so many ways, the City has officially endorsed urban agriculture practices within its limits—most prominently in the strategic plan, which includes sustainability as a goal and asserts support for urban food production as a task. The Decatur Environmental Sustainability Board has done much to foster this ethos. Now we might actually codify it. But it will take some creativity and careful thought to develop language that truly works.

There are growing resources available for this effort. The Atlanta Local Food Initiative and Georgia Organics have been researching model ordinances, and even their early efforts have begun turning up some useful language. The most promising model hails from Belmont, California, which developed detailed ordinances in 2005 for a growing interest there in keeping pygmy goats in its city limits. And, as it happens, our neighbor community to the northwest, Acworth, Georgia, issues permits for residents to keep pygmy goats as well.

As the task force begins its deliberations, I hope we all will consider issues like this one—aspects of life here in Decatur that we appreciate but that may not have the structural support needed to sustain them in ways we’d like. Scott has already called our attention to another one here—shared parking as a way of accommodating our beloved establishments without encouraging the bad habits of sprawl.

In the meantime, I am getting to work preparing my own little goat zone—securing fencing, cleaning out a shed that will become a stall, building a milking stand, thinking up clever goat names . . .

153 thoughts on “Getting My Goats”

  1. Great idea if in fact you intend them for sustainability and you do create a farm and not a petting zoo. If they’re just pets and they don’t serve an economic function then you may be creating a nuisance that will impact your neighbors. The conditions you create could have a deleterious effect on your property values and those of your neighbors. Decatur and other jurisdictions need to tackle the code & zoning issues on sustainable farming before more problems like the earlier one appear. [edited: no personal attacks]

  2. My goats are Nigerian Dwarf Goats. Would love the chance to speak w/you directly. However, I do not see a way to email.

  3. Oh. Sorry. Didn’t see the 1st comment. It is going just fine on the sale of my house. Thanks for asking. 🙂

  4. Re: the link to the Crazy Chicken lady.

    40 animals in a backyard??? Laws were put into place for a good reason, and it sounds like this may be it. I have no doubt that she loves and cares for her animals, but that is just out of control (if true).

    I’m sure she is good people because she obviously loves animals, and whoever took pictures of her kids on her property is a pathetic excuse for a journalist who deserved a serious verbal lashing. But…

    She seemed to be upset with her neighbor for reporting her, and not going to her.

    Most people don’t like altercations. I think there are issue that are perfectly fine to discuss with your neighbor (parking for instance) But animals and children are extremely personal to people, and I could see not wanting to be confrontational about something so sensitive.

    I think a goat or 2, and chickens would be fine, but when you starting hitting a number around 40 that’s just absolutely too much.

    Wish there were an update to this story. Who needs a Real Housewives show when you got a good old fashioned neighborhood cat fight!

    1. “Most people don’t like altercations. I think there are issue that are perfectly fine to discuss with your neighbor (parking for instance) But animals and children are extremely personal to people, and I could see not wanting to be confrontational about something so sensitive. ”

      It’s actually not always possible to predict which issues will be especially sensitive. But that’s okay, because it’s not necessary to start off being confrontational. If your complaint is reasonable, then express it to your neighbor in a reasonable way. If you don’t get a reasonable response, then pursue other courses of action available to get the problem resolved.

  5. Interesting. The model ordinance from Belmont, CA does require a permit to have the pygmy goats in residential districts and limits you to only 2 per property owner, “provided they are contained in appropriate pens or fenced in areas properly sized and constructed, and the area and animals are maintained in a clean, odor-free condition.” It also limits the issuance of these permits to only 20 per year. It also requires the goats to be kept from a 10 foot setback from any property line.

    Belmont is similarly sized, but slightly larger than Decatur (26,000 people).

  6. I completely understand chickens and their benefits. But why do our fine neighbors living in the city want to create mini farms? If you like the farm life than Grewn Acres is the place for you.

    I don’t see the benefits of goats unless you are either going to milk them or cook them.

    1. I would love to have some milking goats for milk and cheese. I would also love to live on a farm and I’ve actually looked into it. Unfortunately the closest one that I’ve found in my price range that has a decent school system would leave me with over an hour commute to work.

      I have 10 chickens, 2 ducks, a few rabbits and a 40×40 garden in my backyard. I have plans to add a bee hive next year. I’ve looked into getting goats, but I was under the impression that pygmy goats (which aren’t really good for milking) were the only kind of goats allowed in Decatur. If I could get a couple of nigerian dwarf goats legally, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t see the big deal really, both of my dogs are bigger and weigh more than a dwarf goat….

    2. Many have become frustrated with the Corporate takeover of America and how factory farms have been responsible for poisoning our food, inventing ecoli, and the unimaginable abuse of animals. What’s wrong with people providing for themselves like many of our parents and grandparents did before factory farms existed? Unfortunately, Americans don’t understand the concept of balance like the Asians do. How far is too far? The eternal skeptic must always question common sense, as there will always be someone who takes common sense beyond sensibleness.

  7. “If they’re just pets and they don’t serve an economic function then you may be creating a nuisance that will impact your neighbors. The conditions you create could have a deleterious effect on your property values and those of your neighbors.”

    What matters is whether or not the conditions are sanitary and healthy and don’t constitute a nuisance. How can it possibly make any difference whether you’re milking your goats or just reading poetry to them?

    BTW, perception is everything. In my opinion, the “antagonist” in the previous kerfluffle wasn’t the animal owner, it was the neighbor who chose to ambush her via official and media channels rather than have an honest, face-to-face conversation about the situation.

    1. I know this is pretty much a non sequitur and all, but I was really inspired by this passing remark you made about reading poetry to goats. If I were going to read poetry to a goat, I would start with Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” It would be a great way to say to my goat friend that, hey, words are food.

      1. A lovely message, but not to be confused with, “Books are food” !! (You know the stereotype about goats eating everything, including paper — remember the M*A*S*H* episode in which the goat ate the payroll?)

      2. I LOL’ed.

        But seriously, I’d bet that goats would much prefer having poetry read to them than being stared at…

  8. Allison, it seems like there’s an underlying question of “where do you draw the line?” in some of the comments here.

    What would your suggestion be for a new Zoning Ordinance be? Which “farm animals” should be allowed and which should be prohibited?

    1. I’m far from an expert on all domestic animals, and I haven’t done thorough research yet, but my sense is that some animals require a great deal of space to thrive, while others do fine in smaller areas of confinement. Reasonably, the smaller the animal, the better it will do in a backyard–within limits, of course. I wouldn’t condone overcrowding, and space allotments per animal would be an important consideration.

      I would argue that a small number of miniature goats, rabbits, chickens would probably do fine. Cows, hogs, and bison—best left to the open countryside. (I have heard there is some interest in keeping the mini pig varieties as pets, which I think falls into the category of “companion animal” and would be of less interest to folks like me.)

      A permitting process, I think, as modeled by the Belmont ordinance, holds the most promise. My impression is this would enable a kind of ongoing check-in for sanitation, maintenance, health, space allotments, and the general well being of both the beasts and human neighbors.

      I don’t endorse a willy-nilly farm animal free-for-all in the city. I do think it is possible to responsibly keep a few small animals for personal/home use, in a way that would set a positive example.

        1. That’s probably a better question to direct to city staff than it would be to me. I suppose it all depends on whether we’re talking about, say, 20 residents (as in Belmont) or half the households in the city.

  9. GA has a law in place (§ 2-1-6 Preemption of local ordinances relating to production of agricultural farm products) which is a little confusing. Part A basically says that no local government can have an ordinance in place which prevents you from growing crops or practicing animal husbandry on private property. But part B seems to say that local governments can adopt or enforce other zoning decisions. The Atlanta Backyard Poultry Meetup group has been discussing this law as it pertains to keeping chickens and one attorney’s interpretation is that one can practice animal husbandry and grow crops as long as you comply with the other laws and ordinances of the local government (health, noise, etc.). Here is the thread on the meetup group:

  10. Why not tell us your last name, Allison? You’re blogging about something controversial. Why not identify yourself?

      1. My full name is Diane Loupe, but I do think there’s a difference between posting anonymous comments and allowing original content, such as this, without identifying the columnist.

        What’s your real name Sue? Would you be less snide if you were posting under your real name?

    1. Why should she identify herself? This has been an anonymous blog since day 1, has it not? What is it about the subject of goats in backyards that is so controversial that requires Allison to tell you her last name?

      1. I’m challenging that status quo assumption. I think anyone who posts regularly on here, and especially the columnists, ought to identify themselves.

        Why? Because people who back up what they write with their identities are more likely to strive for more accuracy and less snide attacks. This site has become seriously influential in the community.

        I’ve been maligned for my view, mostly by anonymous posters. But as a recovering journalist, I think our community is better served by more accuracy and fewer snide remarks.

        1. Diane, even more transparency would require you to identify the type of journalism degree you hold, the university involved, and what grades you made. Also, what publications have you written for?

          Until then, your last name is not that meaningful to me…


          1. M.A. from the University of Missouri, 4.0 GPA, Associated Press, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Yale Medical School, New Orleans Times-Picayune and Atlanta Parent.

            Actually, despite all of the attacks on me for bringing this up, I’ve changed my mind.
            I think that anonymous commenting on original posts is standard.

            The person writing the ORIGINAL post hasn’t idenified herself completely, although she does identify some of her sources.

            Wouldn’t we prefer to know the identity of those who are making public pronouncements about things that are important to our community? What if I wrote a story and identified my source as a Decatur official instead of Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd? Isn’t the latter more authoritative?

            I can understand why people wouldn’t want to identify themselves in comments.
            But why not have columnists on this site identify themselves, especially when they are identifying others involved in controversial acts, such as Stacy Reno?

            1. Diane, I have been very hesitant to reply to your inquiries here because this post was not about my name or anonymity or pseudonyms or anything other than supporting urban agricultural practices with our city ordinances. That’s what I wrote about and that’s what I wanted to engage readers on.

              I will just say that I don’t want my last name posted because I value my privacy. Decatur Metro invited me to become a regular contributor to this blog because he knows me personally and professionally, he knows my work as a writer, he knows my involvement in the community and my interest in specific issues, and he thought I might adequately represent them. I accepted on the condition of using my first name only. I’m sure there are readers who know who I am, because I have lived here a pretty long time. There are plenty of others who do not, and that is just fine with me. I’m sorry it isn’t with you, but it isn’t going to change. This is not a newspaper, and I am not a staff reporter. If DM suddenly asked me to reveal my last name in my posts, I would stop posting. It’s that simple.

              If your concerns are that I’m playing fast and loose with facts and information, I promise you that I have done and will continue to do my level best to check, confirm, and when possible cite with a hyperlink my sources, as I did with Stacy, who had already made her story public by posting many details about it on her own blog. Otherwise, my opinions are my own, and you can take them or leave them.

              And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the first and last you will hear from me on this subject!

              1. Written with her customary clarity, grace and good humor (along with a generous dollop of patience). This is why I’m a FOA (Fan of Allison)!

        2. I see your point, but I prefer the anonymity. It allows people to speak more freely. Sure, it can lead to some snark, but I think those of us who have been around a while try to keep the negativity to a minimum.

          Even under pen names, I believe people here really do strive for civility, accuracy and awareness of other people’s positions. For those that don’t follow the “rules,” DM does a good job of editing, and the DM community is active on calling out misbehavior.

          If everyone had to use their real names, I think this would be a much more boring blog. In fact, I just love the pen names some people come up with. My favorite is Squirrel-Headed Bastard.

          1. Now I feel like I should have a wittier name. Decatur’s Token Chad? I presume there’s more Chads hanging around than republicans. (Should that be a capped ‘r?’) (Did you notice that hanging chad reference?) Some other possibilities: AgingHipster, Chadamant, Chadsm

                1. Chadastic! Watch out for Nelle–you know how she loves the Chad Hominem approach!

                2. Or you could start a Buddhist punk rock band called Chadam and the Chants!

                  (And to go with the goat theme: Chadam and Cheeve. Though that may sound a little prurient for some folks…)

              1. Wait! We could get really silly and just call you CHUD.

                Chadinbalistic Humanoid Underwear Dispenser.

                Chad Has Unctuously Declared.

                Chadly Hadly Unbearable Diarrhea.

                Choosing Halitosis Uh-gainst Dentistry.

                  1. That doesn’t so much sound like drunk talk as it does toking talk 😉

                    Regardless, this gives me an awesome idea. With all the talk of anonymity versus full disclosure, we should have a real/virtual DM meetup. I suggest doing it at Trackside when it reopens (this week?!?!?). What we do is we all go there at a certain time. Everyone brings their laptop, smartphone etc… DM dedicates a thread to the event and we all start commenting while drinking Stacey shots. I haven’t really thought it out past this point, but I’m sure that hilarity would ensue. Of course, it’s also likely that it would just end up being Chad, Gibbetts, Nellie and me getting drunk and making fun of the rest of you. But that would be fun, too…

                    1. Giblets and I would probably get into a bar fight and tear the place up. And have you dealt with that OTP rash yet?

                    2. And who would we be fighting? A group of Scotties? Gotta make sure I bring my blackjack…

                    3. Don’t worry about Scotties. My reputation was so wild there they are still scared of me.

                    4. Nellie: The OTP rash has not responded to any known medical treatment, but we are T-minus 9 days (almost to the minute) of becoming COD homeowners once again. The doctor assures me that relief will shortly follow!

                      Chad: I don’t know if we have any chance of ‘turning’ Token but we can probably turn him into Toking Token.

                      Gibbetts: You’re on your own. I don’t mess with Scotties!

            1. For some odd reason, I’m partial to Decatur’s Token Chad. A clever, witty and most intelligent choice.

              Or you can go with options that fit your mood of the moment…Mad Chad, Sad Chad, Glad Chad, Bad Chad, Cad Chad, Dad Chad.

        3. I don’t agree. DM may not have his personal reputation on the line when he posts, but the credibility of this site is on the line, and whatever advertising revenues go with it. And though he has some crazy ideas about transit and such, does anyone really think he’s not trying to be accurate in his posts?

          As for posters, they are not columnists or journalists. And the sheer number of posters here is a much better check on accuracy than anything I can think of.

        4. Cuba did say it best below, but let me just point out one thing. Diane might as well be saying “DM should not allow comments to any blog post”. Because that’s exactly what would happen if everyone were required to reveal their identity. Don’t believe me? Go check out the facebook page. 800 or so “likes” and maybe one comment a week…

        5. I believe I’ve been very accommodating to your concerns Diane, but bringing this up again, in an unrelated post, so shortly after the last time, now veers into the realm of thread-jacking. I’m not sure what I’ve done to deserve that.

          Two thoughts:

          First, you assert that revealing our identities would result in greater accuracy. That’s certainly a valid theory, but in reality do you find this site more or less accurate than other news site? Please cite examples. Also, when corrections are made, who makes them more publicly, DM or a more traditional format site? Does that account for nothing?

          Secondly, you may be challenging “the status quo” of this site, however you never answered my question from the last time you brought this up. I thought maybe you just believed we had exhausted the conversation, however with this new thread I wonder if you were just avoiding me. I assume we’re free to challenge your status quo as well? So here’s my question again: If revealing your identity is THE key to accuracy from a news source, why are trust levels on this site so high?

          1. Maybe we can just ignore the question of anonymity and instead ask if it would have been preferable to have had an objective call for discourse apart from Allison’s exposition.

          2. My apologies, DM. I have thought about it, and I’ve changed my mind about anonymity in comment threads. In fact, having thought about it, it seems like allowing anonymity actually encourages people to comment. People are less likely to make comments if they have to reveal who they are.

            However, I don’t understand why you aren’t willing to identify your columnists. Why aren’t you willing to identify yourself? Don’t most bloggers identify themselves?

            DM, you are the owner, the ruler, the God around here. You set the rules. Your site has become a powerful influence around here. Aren’t I allowed to voice an opinion without being personally attacked and accused of “thread-jacking.”

            As controller of the content on this site, you wield power and, by many journalism standards, ought to adhere to some principles.

            As far as trust levels on this site, wouldn’t the trust levels improve if you required your original posters to identify themselves? Wouldn’t that increase your site’s accountability, and therefore its value?

            1. If DM made himself widely known, he’d never be able to enjoy a pleasant dinner at a Decatur restaurant ever again. Couldn’t enjoy a beer without some blowhole spouting off about Wal-mart or yard chickens or Westchester. He’d become Decatur’s own Lady Di. Instead, we should honor and guard his anonymity. I’ve got nothing but gratitude for his efforts, and only respect for his even-handed moderation of this blog.

              1. Depending on whether CSD enrollment continues to increase, DM’s little one may actually attend Westchester!

            2. In exchange for keeping my name out of the byline (which isn’t unprecedented in news media – i.e. The Economist), you get to read most of the chatter that goes on behind a story. You never got that from a traditional paper. You still don’t get that from the AJC. You can question the heck out of them in a comments section, but you’ll never get a reply. I try to be responsive to my audience, and let them steer decisions, along with influence my opinion. Would you rather have my name and no response to any of my comments?

              Also, you might be interested to know that I’ve been told on multiple occasions by readers that I should do my best to remain anonymous. Some cite influence others would like to have, others say that the anonymity makes me seem less self-serving. One guy yelled “No!” in my face as I began to say who I was because he liked not knowing. So, I’m not sure we can assume that knowing is what most people want.

              1. For my part, I don’t want to know and I try to forget what I do know about DM, other columnists and other posters. It’s like Santa–you don’t really have to know the real details for the magic to work.

              2. Interesting. This is challenging my assumptions about online journalism.

                If traffic isn’t the end-all of a website like this, what is? I thought that the more eyeballs on a site, the more likely that you’ll get advertising and “monetize” the site.

                1. No, you’re on point. Advertising is the end-game of any profitable online news site. And that’s not a “everybody wins!” situation when it comes to me and Patch. There have already been a couple examples, if you’ve kept a keen eye on both sites.

              3. I know one friend who is obsessively seeking your identity and another who doesn’t even want to know you are anything but a happy little anonymous blog fairy.

              4. I don’t want to know, either– I want to keep my golden-haired cherubic image of you, hovering over your keyboard with your little wings, intact…

          3. As far as accuracy… I find that this site often posts rumors without checking out what is happening. Sometimes those rumors are true, and sometimes they aren’t. Frequently they are. I like this site; always have. I think you’ve done a great job of creating what, in essence, has become a community “newspaper” for Decatur.

            And I might have missed your answer to my question about whether Patch has eroded or boosted your traffic.

            Perhaps I’m just being a devil’s advocate here.

              1. Decatur Metro has never purported to be anything but a blog , has it? Blogs have news, opinions and gossip. Readers get that . I’ve always been impressed with DM’s ability to keep things civil without squelching the discussion.

                What does Patch have to do with this ? That is a newspaper, right? Good for news but doesn’t offer the same level of give and take available here on DM. I believe the anonymity is the main reason – along with DM’s excellent moderation, of course. Regular readers are quick to challenge anyone on incorrect info. To me that is better than a “real” newspaper.

                What is really going on with all the accuracy questioning ? Please, somebody tell me what I am missing here.

                Allison – I don’t care about your last name. I give you some credit for using your actual first name. I like your posts so far. Keep writing. Personally don’t want to become a goat digestion expert but I’ll be happy to support a plan to allow the small ones as pets. I’d baby(goat)sit for any neighbors who get some. Payment in goat cheese or fresh eggs will be welcome.

                Karass – Santa Claus, magic – exactly !

          4. I remember when you asked this the first time, and now I’m wondering the same thing I wondered then: How do you know the trust levels are high? Are they measured somehow?

    2. I agree. But of course this entire blog is run by someone know only as Nick from Decatur Metro.

      1. DM runs a large growler distribution firm, so his personal financial interests have nothing to do with this blog.

    3. Diane, anonymity on a blog is something you clearly believe people don’t have a right to keep. We get it. If it’s any comfort, you should know that DM requires posters to register their personal e-mail addresses, and should anyone on this blog ever go rogue and threaten to pull a Charlie Whitman on a local figure, rest assured that the FBI would have no trouble tracking the poster down.

      All joking aside, please give it a rest. It’s getting tiresome.

      1. I had to Google Charlie Whitman, which points to something I like about this blog: the breadth of knowledge among the regular posters.

      2. Amen, again. I am not so sure what benefit a professional journalist derives from bringing this issue up every five minutes. If you don’t like the anonymous posting, then don’t participate. It’s simple.

        1. Exactly.

          I have another idea, too. Why don’t we all just ignore people who are thread-jacking posts to beat a dead horse. Not that horses are allowed in Decatur. Um, I want a pony in my backyard!

  11. Folks, the dividing line between “companion animal” and “unit of economic production” is that first tug on the udder.

    I’ve been aching for a chance to use the word “uddertugger,” and I’m not going to pass it up.

  12. High on a hill
    Was a lonely goatherd
    Ho de lay ho de lay
    Ho de lay hi hoo

    Loud was the voice
    Of the lonely goatherd
    Ho de lay ho de lay
    Ho de lay hi hoo

    1. Oh, my goodness, gracious, this is a disaster! The lonely goatherd and ALL his friends (Do, the Deer and A Problem Like Maria and Liesl who was 16 Going on 17) will be with me for DAYS. I’m begging you, Lyrics Only Guy, go back to the more recent rock/alt/indie/whatever references that don’t register with me! /:-o

    2. LOL! It’s official, LOG– I love you a bushel and a peck, a barrel and a heap, a hug around the neck!

  13. At a different point in our history, small towns sometimes had communal grazing areas or even fields. I know this was common in very rural New Mexico even up into the 1960s-1970s. So along with our community gardens in Decatur, should there be community areas for livestock?

    1. Yes! And we can resurrect the tradition of setting the children to work tending the herds, which will keep them out of the restaurants and coffee shops! >:-)

  14. I don’t have a goat in this fight. But if I walk my dog in someone else’s yard and he steps in goat poo, I’m going to be upset.

  15. About the utility of goats… Goats eat vegetation and can keep weeds and kudzu down.
    Does a goat really pose more of a nuisance to a neighbor than a dog? Goats bleat; dogs bark. Both produce excrement. But a goat could produce milk, convert weeds into manure for the garden and provide a companion animal. You probably can’t paper train a goat, I’m guessing.

    Bye now.

    1. The nuisance of the goat is the barking of the dog. Said goat is not likely to bleat at neighboring dog but said dog being rightly disturbed is now barking incessantly at goat (or chicken or duck or …) on other side of chain link fence. AND THEN what ordinance will someone dissect to enforce. Which came first? Domesticated dog or domesticated goat?

      *Kerfuffle – 2nd time in a week it’s been my FB word of the day.

      1. That’s a reasonable question. The scenario is not unlike, in my view, dogs within earshot of one another setting one another off. My neighbors’ dogs on three sides of my property bark at mine over the fence, and my dog at them. Occasionally they all just get caught up in themselves, and it becomes a big, fun, annoying barkfest. When that happens, for the sanity of all involved and out of respect for our noise ordinance, I take my noisy dog inside for a break.

        1. Perfect reply Allison. My domesticated dog is welcomed indoors where she spends most of her time and certainly where she is scooped when disturbing the peace. Me thinks it’s unlikely that passive aggressive critters like goats, chickens and ducks who taunted said dog will be moved inside to prevent dog from barking.

  16. If I recall this story, one of the biggest issues was the ROOSTER, not the goats as much. And the fact that the “pen” was too close to the neighbor’s property line, and supposedly the feeding of the chickens caused a den of rats to invade the other person’s kitchen. I have a feeling that the neighbor would have complained if an aquarium was in the garage, and the fish were causing a stink.

  17. Allison, you reference Acworth in your piece but I find their code totally vague and left to the whim of the council members (Aldermen). Minutes from meetings where permits were granted ask [paraphrasing] “are all of your bordering neighbors okay with goats? Bring us letters.” Applicant presents that she has a 6 foot privacy fence at the back of her yard but there’s not mention of lot size that I can find. She just has to reapply annually for the permit.

    Aren’t you suggesting something more tangible? My R60 lot is only 50 feet wide as are many on my street. Difficult to keep non-domesticated animals 25 ft from property lines on all sides, if that is a component, and have a place for them to move around. (there’s a funny cartoon of a pacing pygmy in here somewhere)

    From the City of Acworth Code of Ordinances:

    Sec. 14-15. Goats, hogs generally.
    It shall be unlawful for any person to keep a goat or a hog within the corporate limits of the city without first receiving a special permit from the mayor and board of aldermen. When considering approval or denial of a special permit the mayor and board of aldermen shall consider the distance that a goat or hog shall be kept from residence and its impact on the community.
    (Code 1983, § 4-30)

    1. I don’t think I can really fully respond to this question without doing some more research and looking at the spectrum of possible models. Acworth is one example; Belmont is another; there are no doubt many others out there to be explored, and good organizations like the Atlanta Local Food Initiative have only just gotten started. I’m not advocating one approach over another at this stage. My point was that now is a good moment to enter this inquiry, since there’s a growing interest and we have this task force doing its work. I hope this interest gets fair consideration, and I hope we can do it civilly, respectfully, thoroughly, and with a good-faith effort to hear a range of resident viewpoints.

  18. The so called antagonist” in the previous kerfluffle did talk to her neighbor, who owned the animals. Only approached media outlets when the animal owner stated she was within her rights. Fortunately the city stepped in and cleared up any confusion and therefore required her to meet code regulations.
    I’m all for sustainable living but I believe some people take things too far much like a dog owner who decides to own a herd versus a couple of dogs.
    Now I know dogs are sensitive around here so everybody relax. Dog owners are great & i have one but those who breed dogs or have more than they can maintain is very similar to the overcrowded farm

  19. While I have enjoyed the use of the word “kerfluffle,” I have not enjoyed the use of “antagonist.” That implies that I somehow was antagonistic. To quote part of the definition for antagonist “In the classic style of story where in the action consists of a hero fighting a villain, the two can be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively” There was neither a hero or a villian in the situation w/my neighbor. I must state for the record that despite what has been said, my neighbor never contacted me about my animals. Despite what I understand she told the city when she filed her complaint. Had she done so, as many folks who know me would tell you, I would have worked diligently to make sure that we could come to some sort of resolution. Also, she did not contact the media. She was wise not to do so. While I put myself out there on Twitter, I felt that I was venting about the situation to friends. However, it is certainly a very public forum & it was quickly picked up by the media. Originally, I thought that was a good thing. It was not. It put the complaining neighbor in a difficult position as many of the neighbors who supported me. As soon as this was realized, I did my best to put an end to the situation.
    I do not have a “farm” nor is my lot overcrowded. This unfortunately took place after we hatched small chicks for a local classroom & were in a process of finding them homes.
    I have felt very supported by the city of Decatur & many of my neighbors & members of my community. I was very saddened that the story was blown out of proportion & that both myself & the neighbor were attacked personally.
    All that being said, I enjoyed Allison’s article. I hope that she enjoys having goats as much as my family has. The are most certainly companion animals that enjoy jumping on our trampoline, eating Snickers as treats & playing w/my children & dogs. In fact, when we move, we will be very sad to have to find them a new home as the city we are moving to allows chickens but they do not allow goats. (Ahem, Allison, it sounds like you might be the loving home we are looking for.)
    We are all so very fortunate to live in the city that we do. It is very diverse & that is why we all love it so much. See, we even have our own Token Republican. 🙂 I will miss Decatur very much. The key is to keep the dialog going & continue to treat each other as neighbors & not antagonists.

      1. No, we don’t–it’s all a liberal front to ensure that you keep paying your taxes and supporting Jimmy Carter.

        1. Does Token know we all actually all pretend to pay more taxes so Token pays more taxes when we all only pay about $37 a year?

      2. Well, I like ya, Token– when you’re not being funny, you’re entertainingly earnest. And I like that in my Republicans! 😀

    1. Stacy, I’m still in the preliminary-research, is-my-fence-strong-enough, I-really-need-to-clean-out-that-shed, dang-goat-physiology-is-complicated stage . . . which means I am not going to be ready to acquire actual animals for awhile! All in good time. Good luck with your transition–I hope you land in a place with lots of space for lots of critters!

        1. Really? Because I will. Trust me when I say that the reasons goats have bad breath are pretty gross.

            1. Ooookay. So goats are like cows insofar as they have four chambers in their digestive systems. The stink comes from the second chamber, where liquefied, macerated feed has overflowed from the first one and gets mixed with a bunch of bacteria and protozoa, which makes methane–hence the stinky burps. Turns out you really have to watch what your goats eat, despite the legends. Too much grain, legume hay, and grass, and they can get bloat. Too much grain can also mess with the pH in their first digestive chamber (the rumen), causing acidosis. Both of these conditions can kill a goat. They also need mineral supplement for growth and development and to prevent kidney stones, especially in bucks and wethers (neutered males).

              Well, you asked. There’s more, but I’m still reading. (Also, goats are super-smart and can be clicker-trained like dogs.)

              1. Anybody who’s not scared off by all of that deserves to have a goat in their backyard if they want one!

  20. @Stacy – my apologies, what I’ve read about the situation lead me to Believe your neighbor had contacted you but obviously she did not

    1. We definitely have some parts of the yard that would benefit from being eaten. Can this be arranged on-line? Do we have to be home? Is there any liability? Would our homeowner insurance cover it or do we need to make sure that the goats are bonded and insured?

    2. There is a local company, name escapes me, I think they were mentioned here a few months ago when their flock was stationed on a vacant lot near 2nd/Hosea for a day or two. I’m sure you can find them if you dig around.

    3. I think I’ve seen some guys riding their bicycles around my neighborhood pulling goats behind them. They’ll let them graze in your yard at an agreed to hourly rate, it that’s what you’re looking for.

  21. So this thread has me wondering what other kinds of animals could thrive in relatively small spaces and generate benefits besides companionship….ducks? geese? turkeys? rabbits? Could you get enough wool from one sheep to be worthwhile? How about an alpaca (although my 5-minute research treatment indicates they’re not so chummy and might be less fun to have around at close quarters)? Are Angora goats too big to live in town?

      1. Thought about peacocks, too. Beautiful, but somewhat ill-tempered in my (limited) experience. Can be quite alarming to young children. The joy of chasing my great-aunt’s chickens around the farmyard was tempered by near-terror of the peacocks and peahens, who didn’t understand they were supposed to run.

  22. Allison, I think your article is darling and informative. Good luck with your endeavor. I will say that I’m not so sure I’d enjoy goats next door to me. While I think they are just about some of the cutest things ever, for me, they really do exude quite an odor. Twice now, when I’ve been around a number of goats, it actually smelled like goat cheese! And, unfortunatley for me, I do not like goat cheese – at all. Anyhow, thanks for the article.

    1. Hello, Not Susan. Thanks for your nice words, and I appreciate your perspective (so sorry you don’t like goat cheese! That’s part of the main motivation of this whole thing for me. As WriterChad said, nom nom nom . . .). Anyway, when we first got our chickens–and we were “early adopters,” before it became hugely popular–most people asked me, Don’t they stink? And the answer is sure–if you don’t keep your chicken area clean. I’m a fastidious coop keeper, and I’d be the same way with a pair of small goats. An overwhelming stink would bother me, too! My goal would be that if you didn’t know they were there, you’d never notice. Of course, goats can’t help that they have bad breath (see above mini-lecture about goat breath and digestive processes), but that’s only a problem if you plan to kiss one on the lips.

      1. Of course, I was around a large number of goats. And I found it so strange that, both times, it honestly smelled like goat cheese. Husband agreed. Yet, if you are around cows, it does not smell like cream/cheese. I appreciate that alot of people like goat cheese. I’ll take it in a small dose and have stuffed figs with it, but, end of the day, not for me. But they are cute little stinkers. You should look into alpacas too. The commercial says they are “inquisitive,” whatever the hell that means!

        1. Funny you should mention alpacas. I actually have several alpaca-farming friends (in North Carolina, not here!) and have spent a fair amount of time with these animals, helping with shearing and hoof-trimming and tooth filing and vaccination administering and such. In the right hands they are very sweet creatures. I’m an avid knitter and so have cultivated friendships with fiber farming types. In some ways, they would be easier to care for than the goats!

          1. Or you could go with cashmere goats! I know you’ve said you’re into the dairy thing, but just think of having a little cashmere factory in your backyard. And you’d have all kinds of people like me lining up to be your new best friend!

            1. Oh, honey! Don’t get me started. According to my current reading (for Diane: The Backyard Goat: An Introductory Guide to Keeping and Enjoying Pet Goats, from Feeding and Housing to Making Your Own Cheese, by Sue Weaver, published in 2011 by Storeys), all goats have cashmere–it’s that soft underlayer fur. It’s just that some have more than others, and it can be any breed. Surprisingly, angoras are not known to be big cashmere producers. Interesting fiber aside: angora fiber does not come from angora goats; it comes from angora bunnies. Angora goats give you mohair. Who knew?

              Anyway. Here’s what’s most exciting to me: there’s a hybrid breed called Nigoras–Nigerian Dwarf Dairy + Angora. The first-generation offspring of that cross is a multipurpose goat–diary AND fiber. I just get all tingly thinking about it . . .

              “High on a hill was a lowly goatnerd . . .”

              1. Aarrgghh, not again with the damned goatherd! I just finally got rid of him this afternoon! Is there a word for people who are pathologically susceptible to ear worms?

                Angora bunnies, hmmm. Wonder if you shear them like sheep and goats, or skin ’em? In which case, are they good to eat? Must do some Googling this evening.

                1. You brush them (yes, I have explored this, too). You brush them a lot–like every day, otherwise they get matted and the fur is unusable. Tradeja some angora bunny fiber for some nigora mohair!

              2. Did you say “goatnerd” on purpose? (Yes, I was re-reading so I could look up those hybrid goats. This is the best procrastination thread we’ve had in a long time.)

              3. Allison, if you want to know about angora goats, I know who you can talk to. She has a herd of about 100. But she doesn’t live in Decatur!

    1. Probably worth your while to post this question on the Oakhurst Yahoo! board. Lots of folks over here have chickens and I know of at least one neighbor who belongs to a local goat co-op.

  23. Is the U Joint patio Pygmy goat friendly? If I can’t enjoy a PBR tall boy with my goat, I ain’t getting one.

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