They say "a watched pot never boils" and this is painfully true during kidding season... it could easily be changed to "a watched doe never kids." Nigerian dwarf goats have a gestation period of 145-155 days and those last few days are filled with equal parts anticipation, anxiety and frustration. Each day will seem like "today's the day" only for it to pass with no babies. My husband will tell you I spend way too much time during kidding season inspecting the back end of the mama goats, looking for signs of labor. If the goats could talk, I'm sure they'd agree.
Did you know that goats can give you the side eye? 😒
As I type this, I am in the throes of kidding season, (im)patiently waiting for my mama goats to release their hostages. I figured that, between late night trips to the barn to get an eyeful of goat vajayjay, I would share some of the signs that indicate a doe may be close to (finally) kidding. Mind you, every goat is different and the signs may vary. Also, if your goats are like mine, they will taunt you with these signs off and on for 1 or 2 or 7 days before they actually go into labor. It’s like they enjoy making me freeze my butt off walking back and forth to the barn.
So here are some of the main signs that your goat, and you, are reaching the home stretch:
Change in Personality
Overall, goats are social by nature. They are herd animals and, even if they aren’t friendly toward humans, they like to stick together. Whenever a goat wanders off and is isolating itself from the herd, it’s cause for further investigation. In the case of a pregnant doe, it means she’s probably close to kidding. Likewise, if a normally standoffish goat is suddenly wanting to be your best friend or your super friendly, sweet as pie goat is suddenly head butting everyone and their brother, don't worry- your goat has not developed a Jekyll and Hyde situation, she may simply be close to releasing those babies.
She Starts "Bagging Up"
"Bagging up" is a (lovely 😏) term goat people use to describe the developing of an udder. This is one of those signs that can vary greatly from goat to goat. Some will begin developing an udder a few weeks before kidding and some wait until the very last minute. Either way, once the milk starts coming in- you know you are getting closer to the pitter patter of little hooves.
She Gets a Little Puffy "Back There"
While you're checking out her udder, you may notice that your mama goat has become a little more swollen in her lady parts. This becomes very obvious in the 1-2 days prior to kidding. When she gets really close she will also begin to have discharge as she loses her mucus plug. This can take place off and on up to a month before the babies are born but it becomes more prevalent within 24 hours of active labor.
Loose Ligaments and Sunken Sides
Just like their human counterparts, as a goat gets closer to delivering, the baby/babies drop lower and her sides will begin to look sunken in. Her hip bones will be more prominent and her ground clearance decreases. Some people will begin checking the goat's tail ligaments- they soften as the due date approaches. In a doe that is not pregnant, these ligaments will feel like two pencils running along the tail where it meets the spine but as a pregnant doe gets closer to kidding, they soften. I find that my goats don't enjoy me poking around their tail, especially when they are with child, so I prefer to just check for their tail to go all wonky. As their ligaments loosen, I find that the tail gets crooked and when that happens, I find that the doe is within a day or two of kidding.
Within a few hours of having babies, most does will seem unsettled. They will begin "nesting" by going off to a corner and readjusting their bedding. They will lie down and stand up only to lie down again. I've noticed that they often like to put their front hooves up on something. All this extra movement helps get the babies in position. One of the sweetest behaviors you may witness is your doe "talking" to her babies- she will often turn her head towards her belly and softly coo. Then as labor progresses, they may begin to paw at the ground or press their head against the wall which usually signals that they are uncomfortable or in pain.
This is not a comprehensive list and, as I mentioned before, each goat behaves and progresses differently. Hopefully this at least gives you a general idea of what to be looking for when your doe is pregnant. Be prepared to spend a lot of time pulling your hair out as your goat teases you off and on with these signs. I end up taking multiple trips to the barn (note to self: buy a video monitor for the barn), certain that a doe is about to kid at any minute, only for days to pass and the babies to inevitably be born when I'm not home. Such is the doe code: babies shall be born only when you are not home/too busy/the weather sucks. In the end, all you can do is be prepared (see this article on what you need in your kidding kit), stay calm and wait patiently. The doe will kid when she is ready. Then there's nothing left to do but enjoy those baby goat snuggles!