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Caring for goats at Buttercups sanctuary, Maidstone

PUBLISHED: 09:53 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013

Buttercups is a Maidstone-based sanctuary that provides a home for neglected and abused goats, or for those simply in need of a new place to stay. Here's how you can get involved

The goat keepers

Buttercups is a Maidstone-based sanctuary that provides a home for neglected and abused goats, or for those simply in need of a new place to stay. Heres how you can get involved

Not many people know that Kent is home to the only dedicated registered charity goat sanctuary in the UK. Or that its patron is the Rt. Hon. Ann Widdecombe.

At Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats in Maidstone, there are about 130 goats, which have found sanctuary here after suffering from abuse, neglect or being abandoned. The stories of the individual goats are heartbreaking, but the good news for them is that they have now found a good home and loving care.

Bob and Valerie Hitch started off with rare-breed sheep as a hobby and in 1989 took two goats that were rescued by the RSPCA. From then on goats suffering cruelty, neglect and starvation, or being simply abandoned started to arrive at their farm.

One of the most often-told story is about Diesel, a pigmy goat, \amed by the veterinary nurses who treated him because he was covered completely in machine oil when he arrived in 2008.

His condition was terrible; his hair looked greyish. One of his ears and also the horned area of his feet were badly infected. Diesel eventually recovered fully after many months of intensive care treatment and is now a very nice looking goat with a white and brown coat, and has over time overcome the breathing difficulties and other side effects of his cruel past.

While it is often cruelty and neglect that brings goats to the sanctuary, sometimes owners simply cant cope with the goats or have underestimated the care and time they require especially if they give birth.

Over the years Buttercups has taken on quite a few baby goats and raised them with bottle feeds, in the absence of their natural mother. In 2010 Amber and Grace arrived, followed by Wilfried, Gnomio and Bernhard in 2011.

Raising baby goats has its own challenges and is very time consuming, as the young goats require a feed every four hours. Unfortunately, as the immune system of young animals is very sensitive, complications are not uncommon.

In 2010, Grace fell victim to a virus and died, but her sister Amber was fortunately not affected and can be seen mingling happily with the other goats today.

Another example of neglect is the story of Lottie, now a five-year-old Alpine. Her owner sold the house and simply left her behind. Neighbours did their best to help and looked after Lottie as much as they could and it was probably one of them who called Buttercups and alerted the team to Lotties situation.

Peter, one of the employees, drove all the way up to Lincoln to rescue Lottie from living between household rubbish and with only limited protection from the weather. When she arrived at the sanctuary, her condition was remarkably good, aside from the overgrown horn at her feet.

As she had lived on her own, it took some time for her to get used to the other goats and at the beginning you could see her locking horns with any goat that tried to say hello. Today Lottie is with a foster home, where she lives in a small herd of goats.

Buttercups remains fully responsible for any goats in foster care and currently there are 95 goats in foster homes, all of which are carefully assessed for adequate grazing space, shelter for the goats and sufficient care provisions.

A representative from Buttercups visits foster homes at least twice a year to ensure the goats are still in good condition and receive the loving care they need.

The team at Buttercups does everything it can to help each arrival at the sanctuary get back on the right track and to be able to live a relaxed and carefree life. There is always a lot to do. The morning starts with feeding the goats and letting them out to the fields, then there are many other tasks like mucking out the stables and cleaning the food and water bowls.

Each goat is checked each day in view of any special requirements like bathing, grooming or medical care. And of course, there are visits to the vet for medical or dental check-ups and treatment.

Besides looking after mistreated and neglected goats, Bob organises goat husbandry courses for people who would like to have a goat. This provides goat owners or foster carers with the necessary knowledge of how to look after their animals probably.

The costs for supporting the goats sufficiently are tremendous and for this, Buttercups relies completely on donations by private and corporate sponsors.


Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats

East Hall Hill

Maidstone ME17 4JU

01622 746 410

From May until October, Buttercups has open days on the first Sunday of every month. Gates open at 12pm for four hours and you can walk among the goats and even feed them with carrots and biscuits, which can be bought for a small donation near the stables.

Here you can also meet Bob, Valerie and the team and talk to them to learn more about the goats and their stories, including how to adopt or becoming a guardian of a goat or even a foster carer for a group of goats.

Adopt a goat (help by contributing towards their costs): 20 a year

Become a guardian (provide for the care of an individual goat for a year): 300 a year

Become a syndicate sponsor (become a member of a syndicate groups): 300 a year for a group (max. four people)


Barbara Meyer, the author of this article, is offering Introduction to Photography sessions at Buttercups Sanctuary for Goats. These three-hour sessions give participants an insight into the technical aspects of photography and bring them closer to the playful goats. Introduction to Photography costs 35 per person and 25 per cent of this fee goes to Buttercups.

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