When will my goat kid?
So, she's as big as a whale and it's about time. You've selected the perfect buck, done all her important prenatal vitamins and vaccinations, prepped the kidding stall, and cooked until your freezer is bursting. Oh, wait, that one might just be me! It's been a long 140 day wait and now the home stretch is here and you've gone on high alert!
A goat has an average gestation of 150 days and 5 days on either side of that is still normal. I don't start looking for signs of kidding until the doe is at least 140 days. Kids born more than 10 days early are very rarely viable. I watch and check them at least twice a day while feeding but I don't do much more than check.
Here are the things I look for.
The #1 thing I look for is softening pins.
Pin ligaments are tight bands that feel like they run from the spine to the pin bones. As ligaments do, they tend to hold everything together. Until it's time for the doe to kid. Then the ligaments "loosen" or soften and relax so the hips and pelvis have a bit of wiggle room during birth. When the doe is not close to kidding her pin ligaments will feel hard and tight, like a pencil under her skin.
To find the pin ligaments run your hand down her rump, with fingers to either side of the spine. About halfway down her rump you will feel tight bands that run straight to her pins. These are the pin ligaments. I marked pin ligaments in blue so we're clear here!
Here's a pic of our model, Maggie, since diagrams never actually look like a real goat!
Here's a top view, just to clarify. You can see Maggie's hips, right at the point where her big belly comes back into her hind quarters, and the pin ligaments run out from the spine about halfway between the down slope of her rump to her pins.
Pin ligaments are the most reliable way to know if your doe is kidding today. These will start to soften in the days or a week before birth but should be relatively easy to find until the day the doe is going to kid. They will feel like the thick rubber bands that wrap produce, they are there but soft and elastic. When the doe is within 24 hours of kidding, her ligaments will have softened to point of being like jello and they are really difficult to find at all. This is when the doe is said to have "lost her ligs". Now you need to watch her closely (or make sure you have tons to do so she will actually get on with it!).
There are other signs that the doe will kid soon but none like ligaments. Here are some others.
Her udder is HUGE!
Her udder seems to get bigger every single day. This will happen to most goats but not all. Some wait until they actually kid to fill up. The most notable thing about the udder is to watch for strutted teats. The teats fill up and all the wrinkles are gone, they look full and tight and shiny. Watch her closely that day.
She's acting odd
Most goat owners, especially hobbyists, know their goats really well. Maggie is always in the thick of everything, bossing her herd and being a busybody know-it-all. So, we know that if Maggie is standing away from the group and watching the breeze blow the tree limbs around, something is off. Seriously, that's how I knew she was in labor her first time. Watch her closely that day.
She's not eating
Most goats are little piggies. Total gluttons. Pregnant does are typically ravenous by the end of their pregnancy. I have had a few that stopped eating the day they deliver but probably not even half. This is the thing I take the least stock in when it comes to kidding. Maggie keeps eating all through labor and will even snatch some particualarily tasty stem between pushing. I would always take note of a goat that stops eating. If she's not kidding soon then something may be going on. If she skips her breakfast, watch her closely that day!
She WAS round as a barrel
In the last few days she may go from looking like she swallowed a beach ball to looking hollow and starving. Actually, in my experience, they usually go from round and wide to narrow and deep. This is when we would say to a pregnant woman that her belly had dropped. It usually indicates that the kids (or baby in the human case!) are moving into position!
Her lady bits are swollen
In the last couple weeks before kidding the hormones go crazy and her vulva will start to swell. Those of us that have had children will know how she feels. Her entire back end is going pretty soft and saggy but the area around her vulva with look enormous. It might get big enough that her tucked tail won't cover it. Keep watching her closely.
Gertie is a week from her due date. Note the swelling and her udder development. Minerva is still two months out and has no swelling and little noticeable udder development.
Her tail head is raised
It didn't really but it sure looks higher! The tissues around her tail head are actually softening so she doesn't tear anything while pushing out her kids. There will be a day, probably close to day she loses her ligaments, that you can pinch (gently) your fingers around the base of her tail and it will fell like there's only skin there. When this happens she's really getting close! Watch her really closely that day!
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