We’ve got two new healthy kids on the homestead. One girl and one boy.
Here’s how it all went down…
Minnie’s actual due date was this coming Saturday, March 31. Goats are generally pretty punctual kidders, but the last two years in a row, my doe (Bella) kidded a couple days early, so I knew I should be prepared ahead of time.
On Monday afternoon, I mucked out the barn and filled the birthing stall with fresh bedding straw. As I was hanging out around the goats, I noticed that Minnie was significantly “bagged up” (had an enlarged udder). It’s totally normal for a doe to bag up before kidding, sometimes many days before the actual birth. She was also wagging her tail a lot similar to the way she does when she’s in heat. I watched her for a while, and it sort of looked like she had “lost” her ligaments (see Fiasco Farm‘s photos and description of pre-labor signs here). I don’t know for sure whether or not her body was gearing up for kidding at that point, but my observations definitely put me on alert.
I locked her up in the birthing stall that night as I had for a few nights prior.
In the past, I’ve learned my goat was in labor when I hear loud guttural bawling and hoof pawing on the wooden barn floor. Last year, Bella was so loud that she woke me up in the middle of the night. The barn is only about 50 feet from the house, so I was pretty confident that I would be audibly alerted to the coming babies when the time came.
Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, Henry decided that he could take the (human) kids to work with him, so I could work on our taxes. Around 8:00, I was trying to get kids fed, dressed, and ready for work. I had planned on going out the the barn to feed goats and let Minnie out of the stall earlier, but I got hung up with breakfast duties.
I heard a strange goat noise from the barn that caught my attention, and I decided to put things on hold and go check on goats. I really wasn’t anticipating finding Minnie in labor because it was still four days before she was actually due, and I wasn’t hearing a LOT of noise. In fact, as I was walking out to the barn, it was Bella calling out. I just thought she was telling me she wanted breakfast.
I looked in the stall, and Minnie was laying down, contracting with two little feet and a nose poking out of her vulva. I ran back in the house to grab a bunch of rags and towels. I was feeling pretty confident, but this point in the labor always makes me nervous. I watched as she contracted for a few minutes without much progress. Then she stopped contracting, and I started to get more nervous. Henry came out to watch. He urged me take some photos, but I wasn’t exactly in the mood and wanted to be ready to assist if needed. Finally, she stood up, pushed a couple more times, and out fell a little black doeling.
Goats can kid laying down or standing up, but in this case, it seemed like having a little gravity on her side, helped Minnie with the final pushes.
I went to work wiping the little girl’s nose and mouth, making sure she could breath, and I began drying her off with the towels. Minnie’s mothering instincts kicked in, and she started liking all the birthing goo off her daughter.
For a while, we thought that maybe Minnie only had a single kid in her, but after maybe 20 minutes, she started to labor again, and we saw another amniotic sac coming out of her. This birth was much quicker. The kid presented back feet first (just like the “normal birthing position” diagram for twins seen here). As he came out, he hit his head on the barn door pretty hard, which had me worried for a moment, but after wiping his mouth and nose, he started breathing just fine.
I wasn’t sure if there would be a third kid or not, so I hung around the barn, further drying off kids and collecting soiled bedding and throwing it out of the stall. Minnie was busy licking kids and eating up soiled bedding straw. (It is totally normal for does to try to erase any evidence of kidding by licking/eating birthing fluids. Doing this decreases the chances that a predator will smell fresh kids. It’s gross, but it’s a natural thing.)
I sterilized each kid’s umbilical cord by filling an old pill bottle with a little iodine, fitting the bottle tightly over the cord up against the belly, and then turning the kid upside down briefly to cover the area with iodine. The kids really screamed when I did this, but they were fine.
As soon as the kids started attempting to stand (just a few minutes after birth), I picked them up and put them right under mom’s udder. A newborn goat’s sucking instinct is SO strong, but they have no sense about where to find a teat. I swear that trying to get a kid to latch on for the first time is one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever attempted. Kids seem to want to try to suck on anything and everything except an actual teat. My method is to shove the head into the udder and squirt milk from the teat onto the face. It usually doesn’t work right away as he or she goes poking its head around, trying to nurse on mom’s leg or my hand. I’m so glad to report, however, that both kids caught on relatively quickly, and once they had a first taste, they seemed to be able to figure things out on their own.
About two hours after kidding, Minnie passed her placenta without incident. I was glad to see it come out cleanly and be able to remove it from the stall before she ate it. Eating a placenta is a perfectly normal thing for a goat to do, but it does pose a remote risk of choking, so I’d rather pitch it. (Sorry if that offends all the placenta eaters out there.)
After all the excitement and a meal, the kids fell into a cycle of napping and nursing. I’ll keep them locked up inside the barn for another day or two, so they won’t be bothered by the other goats or get somehow get stuck out in the rain.
My wild goat Minnie has turned into such a sweetheart. She’s been letting me not only handle her kids, but I’ve been petting her and messing with her udder without any upset or protest. She’s doing everything right, and I am so thankful for that.
After much heated discussion and debate (mostly between four-year-old Levi and me), it’s been decided (against my better judgement) that the girl is named Mon Mothma and the boy is Admiral Ackbar. I was advocating for either Soraya and Jad (which I guessing you either KNOW who that’s referring to or you really don’t) or Leia and Han Solo/Lando Calrissian, but I was outvoted.
(Sidenote: Because of the power of the internet, both the real Kai Ryssdal and the real Neda Ulaby became aware that they had goat namesakes. Thankfully, they both were cool with it, though Kai Ryssdal didn’t seem too pleased to hear about the fate of the goat Kai Ryssdal–see comment on this post.)
Unless there’s some kind of post-partum complication later, this has been a super easy kidding year. The kids came out okay, the placenta came out okay, and the nursing came naturally. The fact that Minnie went into labor in the morning, giving me plenty of light and time to monitor the situation throughout the day was pretty ideal. While I certainly appreciate the learning experiences that I’ve had the past couple years during kidding (see here, here, and here), I’d much rather a problem-free birth, and that’s just what I got. *sigh*
For now, it’s total cuteness overload around here with chicks and goat kids. I’ll leave the kids with their mom full time for about a month before I start separating them at night and milking in the morning. I’m really looking forward to having fresh milk around, but I’m also realizing that I’m going to have to reorganize my schedule to accomodate. No more late-night blogging or lazy, stay-in-bed mornings for me. There are always trade offs in this crazy homesteader’s life, but in this case, I think it’s worth it.