As of this writing (April 26th), kid-watch 2017 continues. Every day I check on Candy multiple times (both in person and via web cam when I’m away from the house). While I’m seeing some progress, we’re still not there yet. The whole family is very anxiously awaiting our first kidding here on the farm!
Part of the problem is that we don’t have an exact due date for Candy. The gestation period for Nigerian Dwarf goats is typically 145-150 days. Candy visited with our 4-H leader’s buck for over a month last fall, so her due date could be anywhere between April 21 and June 9. (We never “caught them in the act” to have a clue!) So, we have to just wait and watch…
So, how do you know when your goat is getting close? Here are a few signs to look for:
1. Unusual behavior
This is a tough one, because “unusual” can vary widely from doe to doe. Does that are typically very aloof sometimes become your best friend. Does that are usually friendly may become skittish. She may isolate herself from the herd and may go off her feed. You may observe her being very restless — pawing the ground to create a “nest” or pushing her head into the wall or a fence. As labor approaches, and certainly as the contractions begin, the doe will typically become increasingly vocal.
Candy’s Status: Well, she’s ALWAYS unusual. From day to day, she changes moods, which to me just says “typical hormonal female” — ha!
2. “Bagging up”
Again, this is a sign that varies from doe to doe. Some does don’t have their milk come in till the last minute when kidding, others begin to fill their udder as much as a month in advance!
Candy’s Status: This is one sign I can already see very clearly! Candy started bagging up about two to three weeks ago.
3. Sunken sides
If you’ve ever seen a pregnant goat, they look a lot like a round ball walking around on four hoof-adorned sticks. (The poor things look horribly uncomfortable, it seems to me!) Shortly before kidding, sometimes the babies “drop” and the doe’s sides will suddenly look sunken by comparison to how round they were prior.
Candy’s Status: She looks a bit hollow around the hips, but for the most part, her belly is still extremely round. Of course, she’s also a Nigerian and very short, so if her babies dropped much at all, she’d be dragging along the ground when she walked! So I’m not sure if this sign is a good one to judge Nigerian Dwarfs by or not.
4. Pelvic ligaments soften
Our 4-H leader stressed this is one of the best ways to check if a doe will be kidding soon. There are two ligaments that run on either side of the goat’s spine toward their tail. They feel like pencils and are usually very firm. As kidding time approaches, they soften and will eventually feel like they disappear all together, so that you can nearly wrap your hand right around the spine when you feel for them. (Take a look on YouTube and you can find lots of good videos that show where to feel for these ligaments.)
Candy’s Status: I can still feel the ligaments, though they feel like they’ve softened ever-so-slightly in the last two or three days. I expect this is one of those things that comes with experience, and that I’ll be able to tell by this method much better after we have a few more kidding seasons under our belts.
5. Swelling and discharge
Some goats will have a slight discharge a week or two in advance, but if you see a very thick, stringy mucus you can be fairly confident your goat is or will be in labor very shortly! You’ll also see some puffy swelling of the vulva as the doe’s body gets ready to give birth.
Candy’s Status: Let’s just say I’ve been spending WAY more time looking at a goat’s rear end recently than I ever imagined I would in my lifetime. (The things we do for our critters, amirite?!) I haven’t observed any discharge yet, but I do feel like I’m seeing a little puffiness in the last few days.
If we tally it all up, I feel like we might still be waiting a week or two, but only time will tell. On Tuesday I did get the chance to feel one of the babies move in her stomach, though! I noticed an odd bony protrusion from the side of her belly, and when I placed my hand there, I felt the kid push away from my touch. It was a bit of a relief to feel the babies move!
While we wait, we started a pool to bet on her due date and number of kids she’ll have. The prize? A pair of my hand-knit socks. I’m anxious to see who I’ll be knitting them for! 😉