A Quick Guide to Kidding on The Hill: Part II
This month’s blog post is the second installment of our series on kidding! If you missed our last post, make sure you go back and read that here.
In last month’s post, we detailed our planning process for kidding season, and the numerous preparation activities that keep us busy leading up to the due dates of our does. Starting in March, we had fourteen expectant mothers ready to kid, and I am happy to report that as I write this, four of those does have added seven happy and healthy new kids to The Hill! Despite our best planning efforts, we have already experienced some ups and downs along the way – a freezing cold kidding, a middle of the night kidding, and a slightly complicated one. Such is life when you have livestock! In today’s post, we want to share how a typical kidding goes down on The Hill, and some stories, tips, and tricks that we have learned after nearly ten years of doing this every spring. Keep reading for those plus some pictures of our new kids 😊
When we ended our previous post, we noted the substantial amount of time spent watching and waiting for signs of labor, and that is exactly where we will pick back up! If we have learned anything during our time raising goats, it is that keeping a close eye on your does as they approach their due date is absolutely crucial. Even slight changes can signal if a doe will kid early, late, or right on her due date. This is important because the better you get at noticing these signs, the less nights you will spend checking a doe every 3 hours only for her to kid days later…ha! We like to watch for the kids moving, shifting downward, and signs the doe is nesting. When does nest, they like to dig hole after hole into the bedding, trying to find a comfortable spot to lay down for a while. This is a sure sign the new kids will arrive shortly, so at this point, we break out our kidding bucket and ensure we have all the supplies necessary on hand.
You might be wondering what a kidding bucket is – ours is simply a 5-gallon bucket with plenty of pockets and storage to hold all our kidding essentials and emergency first aid supplies. Some of the items that we always keep on hand include towels, sweaters, warm blankets, gloves, and molasses. It is so important to keep kids warm, especially when dealing with cold, wet, or windy conditions. With many of our Nigerian Dwarf kids weighing in at 2 – 3.5 pounds at birth, they can chill and become hypothermic very quickly. It is crucial in the early hours of their life to ensure they are warm and dry, which is where the sweaters come in! If we are experiencing particularly cold or wet weather, we will pull small dog sweaters onto the babies as an added layer of insulation…and an added layer of cuteness. Usually, while one of us is making sure the kids are warm and beginning to stand, another will use the molasses to make the new mom a nice bowl of warm molasses water. Our girls LOVE the sweet mixture and drink it right up, helping to restore their energy and get them back on their feet quickly after birth. We need them full of energy as they will be chasing their kids around for the next 8 weeks!
I should note at this point in the post that no matter how well you plan, something unexpected, or at least less than ideal, is bound to happen! Two weeks ago, Cookie was due on a day that was forecasted to be beautiful, sunny, and seventy-five. The days leading up to it, however, were cool and rainy. I just knew in my heart she was going to end up having them early in the worst weather instead of the best, and that’s exactly what happened. The next week, on another chilly night before a day predicted to be clear and sunny, Gigi kept us all from a good night’s sleep and had her kid right after midnight. Let these stories, two out of twenty like them, go to show you that even the best laid plans have been ruined by a goat in labor! If you have to assume anything, assume that you will end up kidding on the coldest night of the month, in the dark.
With a goat in labor and our kidding bucket by our side, we hope that the kids last leg of their journey into the world is smooth sailing. And usually, it is! Nigerian Dwarves typically are great kidders, requiring very little intervention to kid happy, healthy babies. In ten years of raising them, we have had very few stressful or challenging kiddings. There is always an exception though, and in the past month, our doe Harriet gave us an incredibly stressful afternoon when she had triplet kids that were breech. Luckily, we were able to work quickly and get all three delivered without incident, though at the time it felt like it was taking a few years off our lives! While over the years we have gained the knowledge and experience to handle some of these challenges on our own, we also have our large animal veterinarian’s number handy just in case. As we have lived through year after year of kidding, we have developed a pretty clear sense of what we can manage and what warrants an emergency call to the vet. We have been truly fortunate to have only a handful of those calls, and hope it stays that way.
With all the excitement of kidding over, our new babies get to kick off their lives on The Hill! Within an hour or so of birth they are trying out their wobbly little legs, and within a few days, they are happily flocking around the pasture and playing with one another. It is such a joy to have new kids around! It brings a smile to my face every time I seem them napping together or climbing on the small rock pile we built them. It makes all the kidding season work worth it. Now we just have to sit back, relax, and make it through the next ten 😊
Until next time,
Madd House Hill