How to Know Your Goat is in Labor

For weeks before her due date, my Nubian goat Firefly looked as though she was going to kid at any minute.

It's just the way she is. Her large udder forms, so large that she rubs the hair off the sides of it as she walks. Her tail ligaments are "mushy" for several weeks.

Two weeks before she finally kidded, her kids dropped into position and her flanks were hollowed out. I began to wonder how I'd know when she was actually in labor.

Three days before Firefly's due date, I was ready to go to town on an errand. I put my purse and keys in the truck, opened the front gate, and was ready to drive off when I looked in the rearview mirror and realized I didn't see Firefly with the herd.

I went to check on her and found her standing alone in the goat shed.

My goats are usually very polite and considerate when someone is in labor. They leave the mom-to-be alone in the shed so she can have privacy. Since goats are usually social, finding Firefly alone meant I needed to watch for a few minutes.

I didn't see contractions, but every so often her tail would stretch upward for a few seconds. In the past I've also noticed goats tighten the muscles in her face, grimace or "smile," grind her teeth, and/or grunt.

Some of my Nubians pin their long ears back when they have contractions. These are pretty subtle signs that would be easy to miss if you don't know what you're looking for.

I postponed my errand, parked the truck, and decided I'd sit in the pen with her for awhile and keep watch.

I found a chair, gathered my kidding supplies and headed back to the shed, where I found Firefly lying down and pushing out the first kid, which was quickly followed by its twin. 

In spite of my thinking that I'd sit for awhile and keep watch, in less than twenty minutes from when I first saw her she'd delivered twins.

How to know your goat is in labor - from Oak Hill Homestead

As you can see, labor can progress quickly in goats. So how do you know when it's "time"?

What to watch for as your goat's due date approaches

Gestation in goats is normally 150 days, give or take a few days. Figure 145-155 days for full-size goats like my Nubians, and around 140-150 for miniature goats such as my Nigerian Dwarf doe Ginger in this post's first photo. (Ginger had quads, by the way. She was huge.)

As your goat's due date approaches, you might notice some physical signs such as being able to "wrap your fingers around her tailbone" with your fingers almost touching your thumb through her skin, and that her tail ligaments have softened to prepare for birthing.

Her udder might fill and be enlarged, although sometimes it won't fill until after she gives birth. Her hips might hollow out, and her rump might looked as though she's "hunched up."

Signs of early labor

The signs of early labor can be quite subtle at first. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Standing off by herself, away from her herd mates 
  • Signs of contractions such as grimacing, pulling her ears back, grunting softly, grinding her teeth, or her tail stretching upwards regularly 
  • Pawing at the ground 
  • Turning in circles, restlessness

Early labor can last for several hours, but it probably won't be noticeable at first. Even if you miss these early signs, once she's in earnest labor you'll know it!

The early signs of labor in goats can be quite subtle. The first sign might be finding the goat off by herself, away from her herdmates. Discover more signs that kidding is imminent in this post.

Active labor

The second stage of labor is when the doe begins actively and noticeably pushing her kid out. From the time she begins pushing until the kid is born should only take about thirty minutes. 

If labor hasn't progressed by then - if a kid hasn't arrived after thirty minutes of active pushing - you'll need to investigate to be sure the kid is presented correctly, with two front hooves and a nose coming first.

If the kid isn't presented correctly, if multiple kids are tangled up inside, or if it's a large kid that's just plain stuck, you or a vet might need to intervene, as I had to in this difficult kidding when another of my goats kidded.

It's important to know your doe so that you will notice behavior that's out of the ordinary. 

First fresheners are more challenging because you don't have a kidding history, but standing off by herself when normally she'd be in the middle of your herd is a good indication that you need to take a second look, whether she's pregnant or not.

If kidding season still makes you nervous, this post will help you prepare for kidding season ahead of time. I've always found that being prepared helps me in any new, potentially stressful situation!

You'll find more goat information in this collection of all of my goat posts.

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The first signs of kidding can be subtle; here's what to look for | from Oak Hill Homestead

Related posts:
A Difficult Kidding
What to Put in Your Kidding Kit

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  1. Congratulations, Kathi! That's the best way to have kids, quickly, with no problems. Knowing your does and their history makes a big difference when having kids. You have a good eye. Now we need some pictures!

  2. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead10:57 AM

    Thank you, Fern. We were truly blessed this year to have no complications at all. Kidding season is over for me now; it's been a wild week! If and when it stops raining I'll get some pictures of the newborns.

  3. Your blog is so helpful, although I still have a year before I'll need all of this information. It's helping me prepare and I know this year will go by quickly. Thank you Kathi!

  4. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead10:28 PM

    Thank you, Jennifer - I'm glad to hear that it was helpful. May all your goat deliveries be as easy as Firefly's.

  5. Congrats on the new arrivals! Some does can be so stoic and other much less so, lol. It is amazing just how soft those tail ligaments get once they actually go! It certainly pays to know your does :)

  6. Kathi at Oak Hill Homestead3:35 PM

    You're right, Rheagan. Her ligaments were so mushy for so long that I worried I wouldn't be able to tell, but after 12 years of having goats I should have known that there would be a difference when it was time. :-)

  7. So glad everything was easy. I agree 100%, know your critters behavior is important. Thanks you so much for sharing on the (mis)Adventures Mondays Blog Hop. I look forward to seeing what you share this week!


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