How to Know Your Goat is in Labor

My goat Firefly looked as though she was going to kid at any minute for weeks before her due date. 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 kidded, her kids dropped into position and her flanks were hollowed out. I wondered how I'd know when she was actually going to go into labor.

The first signs of kidding can be subtle. Here's what to look for.
Firefly at the hay feeder a few days before kidding.

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 take off when I 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 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.

so you can find it when you need it!

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.

I postponed my errand and decided I'd sit in the pen with her for awhile and keep watch. I found a chair and 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"?

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, which means that her 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.

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 herdmates 
  • 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 hours, but it probably won't be noticeable for that long. Even if you miss these early signs, once she's in earnest labor you'll know it! 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, you'll need to investigate to be sure the kid is presented correctly; if not, you or a vet might need to intervene, as I had to in this case 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.

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

Related post:
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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