Goat Birthing Signs

What signs should you look for when you think your doe is about to give birth?  Some breeders know exactly when to expect kids because of a strict breeding regimen and then they mark off the days on the calendar.   Here at my little farm, I let my does breed when they show signs of heat and I let nature take its course.  Once I notice that she no longer shows interest in the buck, I just remove him and then mark the calendar for an “approximate” date.kid

Here are the most common signs of birthing.  However, I’ve had a couple of goats show absolutely no signs at 7pm yet at 7am they came to eat accompanied by a little one!

These signs are in no particular order:

  • The doe digs a nest, paces, paws at the ground or bedding
  • There is white vaginal discharge, loss of the mucus plug, followed by a streaming of clear, runny mucus
  • Has loose tail ligaments; tail lifts up
  • Appears restless, rises and lies down frequently
  • Eyes are luminous and possibly stargazes
  • Smells the ground and may exhibit the Flehmen reaction (curling of upper lip)
  • Looks behind her, licks or bites her sides
  • Hollows out: from the side, hollow areas above the back leg under the back
  • Elevates her front end by standing on something with her front feet only
  • Bottom of her belly starts getting lower to the ground
  • Squats and urinates frequently
  • Udder begins to fill, teat have a waxy, shiny look or are strutted (pointed slightly out to side rather than downward) – this sign is usually right before birthing – expect kid in 24 hours
  • Vulva becomes flabby & puffy
  • Bleats or “baby talks” to the unborn kid
  • Grinds teeth
  • Breathes faster, pants, yawns
  • Goes off by herself to a “private’ place (that could be out in the rain or cold)
  • Acts out of character: becomes more affectionate or more standoffish
  • Acts uncomfortable and pushes and rolls as the babies get into birthing position
  • Vocalizes or grunts when contractions occur
  • May refuse to eat the morning of delivery (very rare here!

Remember, all goats are individuals and may or may not show any of the above signs.  By knowing your animals, you’ll know when something’s up.

Being present at birthing is a beautiful gift – it’s unlikely that your doe will need help but if she does, just do what comes naturally!  Most times all she needs is to hear your comforting voice, especially on first timers.

I love holding wet babies and having them smell me from the moment they’re cleaned off.  Then suprisingly, watch them jump around only hours after entering this world!  What a joy!

Winter kids have it very hard.  I’ve experienced it first hand this year.  I’ve lost a few to chills (moms kidded outside in the rain when they had access to a warm dry barn – go figure), and at this time in January most of my kids have the sniffles, runny noses and lots of coughing.  It’s very hard to see these little babies not healthy as they should.  Because of this, I will not allow any of my does to breed between May and October (hence avoiding kidding between October & March).  I’ve had to learn the hard way but certainly not as hard as my little goats!

April 28th, 2010

I’ve added this link to a video of a normal birth – no problems or issues.  Brownie is mildly vocal, some can be much louder and others will not make a sound.  You’ll see me grab the little hooves & pull.  Only do this if you feel the kid is stuck but before you do pull, insert your fingers to feel for the little muzzle.  If you don’t feel the nose, do not pull – it could be that the kid is not presenting itself correctly.  However, this is no cause to be alarmed.. not yet.  Most times the contractions will realign the kid and all will go well.  Sometimes, like the case with Gracie, this didn’t happen & she needed an emergency C-Section.

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294 Responses to Goat Birthing Signs
  1. Hannah (Goat Lover)
    November 5, 2009 | 7:52 am

    my goat needs to be bred!!!

    • Christine
      November 10, 2009 | 1:31 pm

      Okay, where are you? I might be able to point you in the right direction as to where to find the appropriate billy goat.

  2. Hannah (Goat Lover)
    November 4, 2009 | 8:59 pm

    i need urgent help!!!

    • Christine
      November 10, 2009 | 1:31 pm

      Don’t we all need a little help? :-)

  3. Hannah (Goat Lover)
    November 4, 2009 | 8:56 pm

    my goat was at a billy goat’s house for about 6 weeks in August. Today (11/4/09) i saw some mucous coming from her vagina. Does that mean she is in heat, or does that mean she’s pregnant???

    P.S. She is a “first timer” Could you give me some advice please???

    • Christine
      November 10, 2009 | 1:36 pm

      Hannah, I’m sure I answered this post but cannot find my reply.

      Hard to tell.. easiest way would be to present her to a billy. If she accepts him or he’s not interested, then she’s not bred. You’d need to leave them together for at least 4 weeks.

    • Kirstie
      December 23, 2011 | 3:22 am

      If she and the buck/billy are fertile then she is pregnant. She couldn’t have been in with the buck for 6 weeks and not get bred otherwise. My doe (also a first timer, due tomorrow) had a mucousy discharge at around 3 months into her gestation period and it reoccured pretty consistantly from there on out. When I started out I had a new reason every week why I was doubting that she was pregnant now there’s no doubt since she’s practically going into labor. My advice: take a deep breath, wait out the 5 months and see what comes out of it then. Good luck with your babies :) hope it all turns out wonderfully

  4. cindy marbury
    October 28, 2009 | 7:07 pm

    hi, i think we have a problem , our goat “BB” came up missing today and i found her in the barn laying down on her side. We think she must have been pregnant when we got her. It has been 5 months.She could be due. She is just laying there on her side and gritting her teeth at times. We can see the baby moving, but the mom has not moved for 4 hours now and her vulva is not swollen at this time. We think she is in distress and not sure what to do.It is our first kid and I don’t want to loose it or the mom. shouldn’t she be moving around a little? Can you give us some advice????

    • Christine
      October 29, 2009 | 8:26 am

      Cindy,

      Four hours is way too long – have you called a vet? Kid must be presenting itself breach – you have to go in a feel and turn the kid around… that’s all you can do. It’s 10:25am Thursday now – I sure hope everything is over and mom & kid are okay.

      Christine

  5. allison
    September 5, 2009 | 10:08 pm

    thankyou very much christine. our other goat has birthed and the kid is just fine. i am now concerend about the mother. she seems to be a very good mother and they are bonding very well. one of her teats is very full and the kid only seems to be suckling off the one. my husband ried to squeeze some milk out of the swollen teat but none came out and she didn’t seem to mind him touching it. we tried to guide the kid onto it but the mum was pushing her away from that teat with her leg. what should we do as i had a touch of mastitis myself and know it turns to infection. i noticed that this teat has always been slightly swollen even before she became pregnant and when the kid first ever went to suckle the mum was jumping around a bit like she was sore and tender. do we need to sort it out . she seems fine otherwise.

    • Christine
      September 6, 2009 | 6:46 pm

      Congrats! Kids usually favor one teat over the other.. If mom doesn’t appear uncomfortable or in pain, then its okay. If she appears hurting, hot water compresses help. Also, some goats have a “cork”.. this is a waxy substance that blocks the milk from coming through. Use a towel wet with hot water and massage her udder on that side. Try to “milk” her and see if there’s anything blocking… you’ll see it if its there and milk will squirt if the conduit is open. Again, if mom is happy and doesn’t pull away from kiddo, it’s all good!

  6. allison
    August 20, 2009 | 10:56 pm

    thankyou. i feel terrible as yesterday i didn’t know you should be with goats when they are giving birth and now i realise i have been ignorant and neglectful. i should have educated myself before hand. its worse to think there is quite alot i could have done. i dont feel i have the right to keep animals. i wont ever let it happen again. thankyou again for your kind advice. people like yourself make the world a better place.

    • Christine
      August 21, 2009 | 8:13 am

      Allison, don’t be so hard on yourself.. you did nothing wrong. Stuff happens in nature. Of all my goats, only a few was I lucky enough to be there! One even died & I was there. Nature takes care of itself and I strongly believe she didn’t make it ’cause she wasn’t going to survive in the long run! Sometimes these little snots wait until you leave for a potty break to pop out their little suckers.. no matter how many hours you’ve been sitting in the hay just waiting! You’re doing fine.. you’re learning and that’s a good thing… stay smiling!

    • Kirstie
      December 23, 2011 | 3:33 am

      Yeah, keep your head up and look forward to the next one. But I agree with Christine, some animals won’t even have their babies till after you leave. Me and my friend sat in with her doe for two days and a night straight after she started showing signs of eminent labor but she didn’t have the kids. We left the next night to sleep inside and when we went back outside to feed the next morning at 6, there were triplets but sadly the little doeling was dead :( But it’s all a learning experience so don’t lose faith in yourself

  7. allison
    August 20, 2009 | 6:27 pm

    Hi christine, I have just had my first goat birthing and sadly the baby died. she was a beautiful perfect goat baby but the back of her head was touching her back when i found her. it was the does firs kid. she deliverded the placenta 2 hours later. i,ve fed her some hay and talked to her she talked back alot. she seems fine but is there anything i can do to make sure she isn’t too sad.

    • Christine
      August 20, 2009 | 6:46 pm

      Awww Allison, I feel so bad for you.. and your doe! I remember sitting in the barn holding a still warm kid that didn’t make it. I think my heart hurt more than it’s mom!

      She could be dead because of a number of things… hard to tell when you don’t see it coming. Maybe mom wasn’t experienced enough to help and the baby suffocated. I don’t think it was born dead.. it’s head wouldn’t be bent back like that.

      Mom will hurt because of all the milk she has… her bag will get big and if she’ll let you, this would be the time to get milk – otherwise, just let her dry out. Go easy on the grain as it will increase milk production & she doesn’t need it.

      As for her broken heart, she’ll be okay – just try to spend a bit more time with her.

      Good luck!

  8. Lacey Cole
    June 19, 2009 | 12:09 pm

    Thanks I know i shouldn’t worry so much but shes my baby she came to me as a rescue when she was about 6mo and she’s been right up my butt ever since. Shes back to eating her food like the normal little miss piggy shes always been, but shes still not acting like herself shes breathing heavy but as far as i can tell no contractions. Do goats dialate like people?

    • Christine
      June 19, 2009 | 12:22 pm

      I know the feeling.. my goats are my kids too! Yes, goats do dilate but you really won’t see that. Sometimes a few hours before anything happens you’ll see a mucus discharge – she may become either super loving or super shy and as much as she’s up your butt all the time, she may want to hide (or she may not). When the time comes, just rub her and talk to her in a calm, soothing voice. Don’t tell anyone, but I sing lullabys to my girls when I catch them in “the act”!

  9. Lacey Cole
    June 18, 2009 | 1:53 pm

    I have a pygmy doe whos about a year and half which i tryed my hardest to keep away from my boys but she got out and got in with them some time feb or march this year. She developed and udder about 3 weeks ago, At first we thought that maybe its because she was maturing but they kept getting bigger and bigger, she is not yet glossy but for the last 2 days she has been acting vary different than usual. Shes usually woofing down her sweet feed and now she’s barly touching it, hay cracked corn and prezels and crackers she’ll eat tho. Shes been rubbing her sides against the fence nibbling at her sides. Her poop has also changed in consistance usually its the normal little pebbles but now its logs, Shes usually vary loud and now she’s quite, She usually follows the boys out side(there in seperate pens but next to each other) I really can’t tell if shes sunk in shes got medium length fur. This is my first doe i’ve ever owned I’m worried that because she’s been acting weird for the last 2 days now that somthings wrong, but she’s not acting weak or anything but i’m still conserned. I was out in the barn about every half hour yesterday.

    • Christine
      June 18, 2009 | 2:22 pm

      Lacey,
      Stop worrying.. I’m sure she’ll be fine. She may wait for you or she may surprise you! I had a doe bred 2/14/09 & she kidded 6/14/09 – that will give you an idea with yours. The only time you should worry, is if you see her pushing for more than 20 minutes without any effects or struggling. Most goats bleat a little during contractions, some just breathe heavy and others will make so much noise your neighbors will think you’re slaughtering it! Boo that kidded Sunday is very tiny.. weighs 50lbs at the most and popped out teeny tiny twins – if it hadn’t been for her bagging up, I wouldn’t have been sure she was pregnant so imagine my surprise when she birthed twins, all by herself – no imminent signs beforehand! Don’t worry anymore and don’t look at feeding as any kind of signs.. my Noel will eat between contractions! Let me know how it went!

  10. Barbara
    May 26, 2009 | 11:37 am

    I have a momma goat she had a beautiful baby boy sometime Saturday morning. We bought her in January & we did not really know for sure she was pregnate until a few weeks ago. We did not know when she was due. We are not sure what time she had him but when we found him he was struggling to breath and jerking around. Momma would not feed him he would not even try to suck. I milked a small amount of mom’s milk & put in a syringe. I could not get much though because she would not let me. I only had some reular milk in the house so I put some ina syringe & got @ 20cc’s in him. I bought milk replacer & a bottle. He is alot stonger he stands on his own & walks some, but not alot. He is now drinking @ 2 to 3 oz at a time @ every 3-4 hours. Is there anything else I can do for him?

    • Christine
      May 26, 2009 | 11:52 am

      Barbara, that happens sometimes & it seems like it’s always with baby Billygoats. It’s too bad you weren’t able to get more milk from her.. the kid can really use the Colostrum that’s produced in the first 24 hours.

      You’re doing the right thing however if you can feed him more frequently, it will be better for him. In nature, kids feed many, many times a day but only a tablespoon or so of milk at a time. When we bottle feed them, because we all have other things to do, we tend to let them suck for 10/15 minutes and then come back an hour or so later for more. If you can keep him in the house in a small box, away from drafts and feed him more often, you’ll see him get stronger, faster. You may also try to have him nurse from mom again. She may have a change of heart – especially from the pain of having milk produced and not used. Be patient, she may fret at first but give it your best shot. Mom’s milk is always the best. It’s only that intense for the first week… after 7 or 8 days, he’ll be able to handle feedings every 3 hours. Good luck & keep me posted!

  11. Naomi
    May 18, 2009 | 3:10 pm

    thats a relief, thankyou! im in the west of ireland and its still cool out so the flies havent woken up yet:)!

  12. Naomi
    May 17, 2009 | 9:20 am

    Hi Christine, i have 2 sannen goats, a 2 year old and a 4 year old, both have just kidded, the 2 year old yesterday morning and the 4 year old this morning. thank you for the fantastic list of what to look for, as this is my first time i found it most helpful! although they both needed a little help at the end all seem to be doing well, but i noticed a little bit of bloody discharge coming from the 2 year old, is this normal or should i be concerned? (both had only one kid) thanks :)

    • Christine
      May 18, 2009 | 9:55 am

      Naomi,
      The discharge is normal. Some goats will “leak” for only a day or two and others will be messy more than a week. If you’re in an area with lots of flies, try to wash their butts and remove the mess. Otherwise it will attract flies and make it very annoying for the moms. Congrats & enjoy the kids while they’re little. Don’t be afraid to handle them… if you want tame goats, you can’t handle them enough!

  13. Jill Leggett
    May 4, 2009 | 12:13 pm

    My 8 year old pygmy goat kidded sometime this morning (I discovered her kid at 7 am). She is still not eating, wants to lay around. She is still very large like she may have another one hiding in there. How can I be sure she will be alright?

    • Christine
      May 4, 2009 | 12:45 pm

      Jill, if there’s a second kid, it should be here by now… nearly 8 hours. Does she look like she’s straining or uncomfortable? Is she nursing? Goats will eat all the afterbirth and sometimes that fills them up for a bit. Have you tried something she really likes? Prepare a mixture of warm water & molasses to give her more energy. She may be laying because it was a hard birth. Does she refuse to walk? You may need to call a vet if she’s unresponsive. If she appears fine but just doesn’t want to eat, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Make sure she has access to water. Keep me posted!

      • Ashley
        January 24, 2011 | 5:05 pm

        Christine,
        We had the same problem, our doe had a difficult birth. The baby is beautiful, and healthy, however the mother won’t get up. I’m not too sure what the afterbirth looks like, but there is red stringy stuff coming from her vagina. She won’t put ANY weight on her front legs, and she looks very big. I was wondering if there is anything we should do?

        • Christine
          January 24, 2011 | 5:32 pm

          Ashley, afterbirth is red/brown/black “ish”, & gelatinous. If you weren’t there the whole time, the doe probably ate it (which is natural). She’ll have a nasty mucous discharge from her vagina for about a week. Totally normal. How does she nurse without getting up? The kid must have the colostrum – if she won’t get up, milk her to get the proper start on her kid. As for not getting up, does she appear in distress or pain? She may have another on its way & is not ready to get up. If labor has stopped, force her to stand. I can’t see what could be wrong if all was well before birthing. Try posting on my Facebook.. other readers may have ideas. Good luck & keep me posted!

  14. Karen
    April 19, 2009 | 7:07 am

    Hi, I enjoyed reading your info. Very interesting! I have one maiden goat that has bagged up for two weeks now. However, I read somewhere that they can bag up for three weeks. She has not started to look shiny yet,nor has she started to drip,so I am hoping she will only be one more week. Do you think she could go longer then that? I have set up a heat lamp and lots of fresh hay. Also, do most of your goats birth at night or is it 50/50 for the day time too?? Thanks for your reply.

    • Christine
      April 19, 2009 | 12:46 pm

      Hey Karen! I have the same thing going on with my Cocoa – every morning I see her I think, today’s the day! I have no idea when her due date would be… she was one of these poor does that was left in the daddy buck & she came to me in January already “pulling at the seams”. It’s been my experience with each of my does that a few hours (3 to 8), before kidding, they’ll start dripping thick vaginal fluid. I’ve had one who was eating when her water broke (I was there), I she didn’t skip a beat at the food trough! The shiny bag is also indicative – check for milk.. that usually starts the day of on maidens. None of mine have kidded without the shiny bag so I’d agree that that would be a good sign. Also her sides right by her spine will start to cave in and she’ll hold her tail up (muscles pulling). She’ll do a lot of pawing and rubbing on stuff. Some of mine have actually looked like they wanted my company. But, most of mine have surprised me with kids present at the next feeding. Day or night, rain or shine, in the barn or out… there’s no pattern with these ladies! I guess they like to keep me guessing! Just keep an eye on her and don’t start to worry unless her water broke & 4 to 5 hours have passed. Good luck & keep me posted!

  15. Sheri
    April 13, 2009 | 1:28 pm

    Hi! I am a first time goat owner and one of my Pygmy goats are pregnant. She had her first child on Easter of ’09 but it seem like there should be more children coming because she is from a litter of triplets. But I cant know for sure if there are any more babies coming. How long does it usually take between births for the babies? Can it take a few days, a week, or just 40 mins. to an hour?
    Thanks

    • Christine
      April 15, 2009 | 9:29 am

      Sheri, I’m aware that usually goats that have twins or triplets repeat their birthing patterns but it is not always so. Twins/triplets usually come within anywhere from a 30 minutes to 3 hour delay… anything more than that would be dangerous for mom. If mom appears fine and is eating and nursing well, that’s it then – just one baby! Sometimes twins/triplets happen because of being exposed to the buck continuously. If he was removed from her and had only bred once, that narrows her chances for twins or triplets. One baby is fine – mom will recuperate faster and you’ll have only one to dote on! Enjoy them and handle them as much as you can – you’ll see they grow way too fast!

  16. Monet
    March 16, 2009 | 2:14 pm

    Hi. I have fainting goats. Two does and a buck. I just bought them three days ago (on friday). Both of the does are pregnant but their old owners have no idea when they were bred because the herd was running around in the pasture. The does are now very big. Do you have any birthing signs for fainting goats? If you did it would be very helpful. Thank you for your time.

    • Christine
      March 17, 2009 | 5:03 am

      Congrats on your purchase! First make sure the buck is now in a separate enclosure. We don’t want him around at kidding time. I’m in the same position with some Pygmys I bought in January. One of the little ones (now about 6 months old), looks like she’s about to pop. Unfortunately she should not have been bred but the previous owner let everyone “play” together. So, every morning I make it my duty to feel under her tail for her milk bag. Just before birth (about 24 hrs at most), her bag will fill and swell and look very shiny. She’ll then start to “leak” mucus from her vagina. At some point she’ll start to paw at the ground and appear restless. These are usual & general signs but the important thing is to keep an eye an the girls. Good luck and please let me know the outcome. If these are your first kids, you’re in for a very special treat!

  17. Lorie
    March 4, 2009 | 10:26 am

    I am new to having pygmy goats. We have had 2 single births in the last month. They are doing fine except the first at about a month old the mama wouldn’t let her nurse became engorged. I thought she was getting mastitis and the vet told us to milk the mom and bottle feed the baby. Then the baby got really weak, he then told me to feed the baby a concockion of oatmeal, pepto-bismol, liquid vitamins & honey and overnight she is doing great and back to nursing. Next mama had twins Mon night. It was 15 degrees here. When I checked on her the babies we cleaned off and dry. I noticed she is curling her top lip and tongue. she seemed to have chills but that seems gone. Is this a sign of sickness and I need to watch her more carefully for other symptoms. The babies are nursing well and she is very attentive to them. She doesn’t seem to be in pain.

    • Christine
      March 5, 2009 | 6:37 am

      Wow.. I’ve never heard of that mixture but if it works, hey that’s great! Have you thought of using a heat lamp when it’s cold? I use one of those red bulbs with the aluminum cover (they’re sold for hatcheries.. about $5 each), that I keep in the pen for mom and babies. They are life savers! I wouldn’t worry about the tongue and lip curling. All goats do it. She’s capturing smells (bucks do it constantly). If you want friendly babies, hold them and play with them as much as you can. Good luck and have fun!

  18. dawn
    March 1, 2009 | 11:36 pm

    I have a large doe who usually has triplets. She went out in the rain early this morning to have one and 15 hours later still no signs of more. She is now penned up with her little boy and has no signs of distress or labor. Is this normal?

    • Christine
      March 2, 2009 | 5:47 am

      Normally twins/triplets come within the hour. Since she doesn’t appear distressed, she’s done. However, have you checked everywhere outside? If she’s eating and nursing her little one, I wouldn’t worry about it. She could just be getting older and may stop having multiple births. Keep an eye on her!

  19. Tracie
    February 2, 2009 | 11:52 am

    Thanks for all the info. I have recently become a new goat owner (pygmys). The people we bought them from said they were pregnant and due around Christmas. Well still no babies. I hate it they will be born in the winter but I live in South Carolilna so hopefully they will be okay. How do I know if they are really pregnant besides them getting fatter? Any info when they are born would be greatly appreciated. Can I use lyme to keep the smell down? How do I know they have lice?

    Thanks

    • Christine
      February 2, 2009 | 6:58 pm

      Hi Tracie,

      There’s really no way to tell an approximate date unless you know when they were bred. They may not have been in heat when they were with the buck and the previous owner may have just assumed they got pregnant.
      You can really tell by their size… their rumen on the left side often makes them look ready to pop but it’s only gas. Pay attention to their habits and take note of the signs you read on my site – that’s all you can do unless you want to spend for a sonogram.
      I don’t understand what you mean about smell.. they shouldn’t smell at all. If they’re dirty, they could use a bath… they won’t enjoy it but if it’s warm enough it’s okay to bathe them. If their surroundings smell, it must be urine in the hay. As for lice, mine have never had any but here’s a good recipe: Permectin II from the garden department, 22cc/quart. Put in a squirt bottle and run a line down their spine – repeat in a week and that should take care of the nasty buggers!
      Good luck & keep me posted!
      CGL

  20. Reader
    January 27, 2009 | 4:09 pm

    Wow! Thank you very much!
    I always wanted to write in my blog something like that. Can I take part of your post to my site?
    Of course, I will add backlink?

    Regards, Timur Alhimenkov

    • Christine
      February 2, 2009 | 7:05 pm

      Sure, no problem!

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