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. Linda D. says:

    Ok – I too am a first timer. We have our buck and 3 does all living together – same pastuer, same barn, same 12×12 stall at night. I have heard rumored that the buck will kill the infants – is this true? He has been such a joy but I have noticed that he is getting more aggressive lately. All three does are getting ready to kid. I am a little worried…

    What is your experience, your thoughts and suggestions…

    • Christine says:

      Linda, we’ve all been first timers! Don’t worry about it – you’ll learn quickly! Personally, I keep my buck away from the girls about 6 weeks after he’s bred them all. Several reasons… 1) bucks are always “horny” and will become very annoying to the complacent doe that just want to chew her cud and concentrate on their growing kids in her belly. 2) bucks are usually stinky and will make your girls stinky… 3) he may act aggressively and butt your girls in their bellies and could cause miscarriages (by accident of course, he doesn’t mean to harm them). 4) He can try to kill the babies – especially the little baby bucks 5) If you’re not around at birthing, once the doe is done kidding, he’ll be right on her breeding immediately. Did I mention these guys are one track minded? Of course you may have the laid back buck that doesn’t give a hoot & will never bother the girls.. but then again, do you want to take a chance? If you don’t have more room for him, you can put a collar on him and keep him “tethered”.. he’ll get used to it quickly and your girls will stay out of his range. Good luck & keep me posted!

  2. tina e says:

    hi christine we got a doe and buck the doe was about 6 months old this was in sept last year we are pretty sure she is pregnant but unsure how far along. her belly has gotten really big and today for the first time today i could see one of her nipples but no utter i dont know what kind she is they are our first its really cold here in nashville and i dont know what to do i have a place to put her in the barn i just dont know if its time i could use your help

    • Christine says:

      Hello Tina.. you’re not too far from me.. I’m just west of Knoxville so I know exactly what kind of weather you’re experiencing. If you can put her in a pen out of the bad weather, that would help. Goats are not always smart about giving birth… she can choose to have it out in a snowbank or or out in the rain & sleek. If we assume she was bred at the beginning of September, she can be ready any day now. Since you don’t know the date, you need to pay attention to the signs… the most obvious is her “bag”. Just before birthing, this bag (udder), will look stretched and be very shiny. If you can “milk” her, she’ll have milk a few days ahead of birthing. With this cold the biggest risk is a baby getting the “chills” they are soaking wet when they are born & if they get cold before mom dries them off, it can die very quickly. If you can set up a heat lamp in the area that you’ve designated for her, that would help also. Just watch the signs as indicated in my post. Good luck & stay in touch!

  3. Galina says:

    Hi Christine,
    We have a healthy baby boy Born on Feb 12th @ 1:00pm. The doe is giving about 600ml and it is not enough for the baby to eat. I give him about 8 oz on Goat Milk Replacer Formula that I got form Hoeger Supply. Is that normal that she gives so little? I understand she is a first time freshening and she is 1 year old, but I had same age freshiners started with at least 1 litter a day. I know I have to count in Pounds but for now I have a measuring cup because its not even worth it to messure by pounds. Is something wrong with her? I feed her grains twice a day and alfalfa. Is she just a bad milker? I want to keep Black Knight for a breeder, and I want him to eat well and grow fast and possibly not a formula. Please advice.

    • Christine says:

      Galina congrats!

      What makes you think she’s not giving enough milk? Normally kids will nurse several times a day but will only get a few gulps. Unless your kid is showing signs of severe hunger, I wouldn’t give him anything else. Especially Goat Milk Replacer… If you have to supplement, use whole cow milk… much healthier for goats. Also, when we bottle feed, because of human time constraints, we tend to let them drink as much as they want in a single serving (6 to 8 ounces sometimes!). Goat moms never do that. As I said, unless he is weak and appears to be starving, let him get what he can from mom. Also, bucks are very demanding on their moms when it comes to milk… moms know when their kid has had enough. Make sure she gets enough quality roughage – as much as she wants… believe it or not, that’s much more important than grain. Black Knight will start nibbling on hay within a week but not if his belly is full from being bottle fed. Unless you have a sick doe, nature will take care of itself… please keep me posted!

  4. Tessa says:

    Thanks! Two of them are definitely bigger. I will look at their milk bags tonight! I really hope they are pregnant. Thanks so much for the info!

    • Christine says:

      Tessa if you look at them from the top, you’ll see their sides popping… now bear in mind that the left side is the “rumen”.. the baby(ies) will be on the right side and underbelly & of course they push against the left side. If you want to feel movement, apply pressure on the right side and towards the under part. Stay in touch!

  5. Tessa says:

    I got a buck pygmy for my birthday in Sept. I have 3 girl pygmies. They all are together all day everyday in the pasture. But he is still trying to breed 2 of the girls. One of the girls I have never seen him interested in. Does his interest mean they are not pregnant? And what do you think about the girl he isn’t interested in ever? Do you think maybe she is too old? I don’t know the ages of any of them as we got all from an auction to keep as pets so didn’t get to ask any questions.

    • Christine says:

      Tessa,

      Normally little bucks are always interested – whether the doe is or not! However, she will only let him mount her if she is not pregnant. He may try to but if she’s pregnant, she will not let him breed. As long as she lets him breed her, its pretty safe to say she isn’t pregnant at that time. Little billies will try to breed as early as 8 weeks (even earlier), but reproduction usually doesn’t work until they’re about 4 months old. As for the one that he doesn’t show interest in, that’s unusual unless he’s showed interest in the past & she hurt him… he’ll remember that & he’ll stay clear of her. Or, she may be pregnant. Let’s say he bred her at the end of September (and you didn’t see it), she would be due to kid at the end of February. Do your does show any signs of pregnancy? Bulging sides? If they bred in September, they’d be showing well by now. Of course, they may not have gotten pregnant right away. Look for the large, shiny milk bag for a sure sign.. this happens a day or so before birthing. An old goat would have very long horns (they never stop growing) and her teeth would be very worn. Hope this helps!

  6. Galina says:

    Thank you so much for your advises about the hooves. I will wait until she gives birth. I don’t think I can trim the hooves in one setting anyway they look like elfs shoes. Again thanks
    Galina

  7. Galina says:

    Hi Christine,
    We were driving by this pastureband I say a yearling that was in the closed area with a buck and 4 other goats. I bought her just so I can rescue her from this owner.(the rest of them is not his they are using his servises as a babysitter) Her hoofs are so bad and she is so wild. I can’t for the love of me trim her hoofs. She is pregnant and she is stretching her back a lot. She has very small teats and big udder. Looks like she should go into labor any time. When I bought her the “owner” said she is due any day. Its been 1 week. Her udder is full, but I can’t see her vulva or can’t come near her because she is so wild. I really don’t know what to do know with her, I tried everything grains, craham crackers, she can’t get used to people. She is very nice to the other goats though. I would like to milk her after she gives birth and bottle feed babies like I have done this with all my goats, but now it is nearly impossible. Please advise how to make her be more friendly towards people. Thank you
    Galina

    • Christine says:

      Galina, what a nice thing you did! Some goats never get tame. I have a few that will not come anywhere near me & I’ve had them a few years. Others that came here wild were my best friends after a few days. I think it has to do with how humans treated them in the past. Sometimes their lives have been so hard that they never learn to trust. However, you can try. I would keep her in a small pen where she can’t really run away from you. Don’t chase her but talk to her and let her see you be the “food” person. Use a low, gentle tone and slow movements. Don’t worry about her hooves right now – wait till she’s given birth. You don’t need to stress her out right now. When the kid comes, be sure to imprint from birth if you can. If you’re not there when kiddo arrives, that’s okay – just pick it up and hold it as much as possible. The kid will take its queue from mom & will be as wild as she is if you don’t intervene. If you have a milking stanchion, only feed her there – she’ll understand that very quickly. My “sure” sign of imminent birth is a very shiny & tight bag.. her teats will develop shortly…Wish I could help more!

  8. Brenda says:

    Greetings,
    I would like to say that I really have enjoyed reading and learning from your site. Thanks so much for putting this together to allow us to gain this knowledge. Now just like a lot of others I to have a question for you. It appears a doe that we have is pregnant and very close. She has really dropped a large bag in the past two weeks. Other signs are starting to show, but one question that I have is not been covered in anything that I have read at this point. Our does appears to continue to have a solid bowel movement every few minutes. Is this a sign or just a doe that has been holding it all in. We have never seen any of our animals poo so much within a hour.

    • Christine says:

      Brenda,

      Thank you for your kind words! Goats do poop a lot but I really don’t pay attention to quantity unless it is of abnormal texture… ( ex. diarrhea or clumps instead of pearls). When you say solid, do you mean like dog poop or just regular goat pearls? If her poop is clumped together like dog poop, that’s not normal but it doesn’t have to do with giving birth. It would signify that something is wrong with her digestive system. Maybe she’s getting too much grain & not enough roughage? Maybe she’s not drinking enough water? I doubt it’s anything to worry about. Remember, goats are always either chewing food or their cud and they’re constantly having bowel movements.. it just may be that this is the first time you’ve really noticed because of the circumstances. Be sure to keep the kid warm as soon as it comes out & to begin imprinting if you want a super friendly little goat!

  9. donna says:

    we have a mixed boer goat due anytime to kid she is a first times her rectum is expelled everytime she has a bowel movement the it goes back in what can we do

    • Christine says:

      Donna… I’ve never heard of such a thing happening before birth. I have a feeling when she starts pushing to give birth, this rectum thing could become a problem. I recommend you call a vet for their take on this. Make sure it’s a vet that’s familiar with goats. I’ve done some online research for you and couldn’t find anything on this. Sorry I couldn’t be more help!

  10. Annette says:

    Hi Christine, I have had my pygmies for a little over a year and unfortunately my buck jumped his fence and got in with my does back in the fall. I had hoped we got lucky and he wasn’t in there long enough to do anything, but I was wrong. Needless to say we have raised the height of the fence and no more problems with him escaping. Anyway, one of my does had a baby in May 2009 and now it’s January and she gave us a little surprise last night. She had a little buckling that we found during their evening feeding and he was pretty fresh at that time. So, we dried off baby and kept him warm and although he is tiny, he is doing very well. I had the suspicion that mom had another baby in there so I stayed with her for a long time, but nothing happened and so I began to doubt myself and figured everything must be fine and I left her and baby in their own stall and doing well. I came to check on mom again about an hour later and nothing had changed so we went to bed. By morning there was another baby, a female, but unfortunately that baby didn’t make it. The first baby still seems to be thriving and feeding well and mom seems okay. The only unusual thing I am noticing is that she still has a lot of “stuff” coming from her vagina today. This isn’t just drippy mucousy discharge like I have seen in the past from my other goats. It is more like the remnants of a sack and placenta. Should I try to gently remove it myself or assister her in doing so or do you think she will pass it on her own? Do you think she may still have another one in there? She seems tired, but otherwise good and is allowing the baby to nurse and everything. Any advice? Is this something you have seen before?

    • Christine says:

      Annette, Congrats on the little one.. too bad about the little girl. As I’ve mentioned previously, when twins/triplets involve bucks, they usually have a better chance of survival than the does.
      I’m sure what she’s passing is just normal afterbirth. You shouldn’t pull on it put you can wipe it off. You can also let it dry then comb it off. It bothers us much more than it bothers her. Make sure to give her sweetened water and/or sweet feed to help give her energy & rebuild her electrolytes. Good luck and enjoy!

  11. An Animal Lover from Idaho says:

    Hey, I’m buying some goats from a friend of mine who let her goats wander off to kid (that hasn’t been working out so good due to an increase in the wolf population). I’m planning on fencing my goats in, and I’m planning on building a kidding shelter for my does. The does I’m planning on buying are fair sized, big enough to drag my neighbor around.
    I’d like to know how much space I should give them to move about durring kidding. Also, do you have any suggestions on how to keep sneaky goats from escaping? I’ve spent the morning chasing my neighbor’s billy goat out of my shop.There’s a reason our neighbors call him “Runaway Jay”.
    I figured that I might as well do my homework now. I meant to earlier, but with the holidays and the usual madness that goes with them, it kinda got lost in the madness.

    • Christine says:

      My goats are restricted to the pasture adjacent to the barn area during kidding time. They usually kid in or around the barn area. However, if I leave them access to their field, they’ve sometimes chosen to kid anywhere… I have a pregnant goat in the morning and she’ll come back in the afternoon with kids. My problem is that I have hilly land that rolls into 2 large ponds. One year I retrieved 3 newborn kids from a pond. So now, about 2 weeks before they’re due, they’re in “lock-up”. The important thing is to keep the buck in a separate area. Other nannies usually don’t pay attention to birthing but bucks can get brutal.

      I’ve never had a goat escape. All my pastures are fenced with 4″ square goat fencing and an electric wire runs on top to keep stray dogs and coyotes out. Also, it’s been my experience that hungry goats will try to escape to greener pastures. Mine are so well fed, I doubt they even think of going elsewhere!

      Good luck!

  12. Danielle says:

    Well, 4 days after I posted, our doe gave birth to twin doelings!! – both are healthy and doing great!. The birth went really quick and there were no complications other then she has reddish thick discharge for a week now so I called the vet and they gave me three shots of antibiotics to give her – one a day for three days and after the third dose, she seems to be drying up – is this kind of discharge normal when they kid?. She didn’t have this with her first kid.

    I have two more does due to kid. I brought the one doe as she is starting to develop a good size bag and her vulva is a little swollen. She lost her first baby due to malposition so I am hoping this time it goes smoothly!

    • Christine says:

      Congrats Danielle – both does… awesome! The discharge is normal… I hate it when does kid in the heat of summer.. then you have to worry about flies & infection. I’ve never had to give antibiotics for it. Be easy with those – it can upset her rumination. The discharge can go on for about 10 days.. totally normal. Your other doe should be fine – usually if there’s going to be difficulties, it will be with the first kid. Good luck!

  13. NANCY says:

    THANKS FOR INFO. SHE IS STILL WITH US BUT NOT STRONG.WE GOT MILK REPLACER & SUPPLEMENT. MOM WILL ONLY ALLOW HER TO NURSE OCCASSIONALLY WHEN MALE IS ALREADY NURSING BUT WILL PUSH HER AWAY AFTER JUST A SHORT TIME.LEGS ARE SOME BETTER BUT STILL NOT QUITE RIGHT. SO CUTE YOU CANT HELP BUT FALL FOR THEM.

  14. NANCY WOLFE says:

    PLEASE HELP?? WE ARE NEW TO GOATS-PURCHASED TWO IN OCTOBER TO CONTROL BRUSH.SURPRISE ONE WAS PREGNANT.NUBIAN/BOAR CROSS GAVE BIRTH TODAY AT 1;00.2 KID ONE IS FINE & ROBUST BUT LITTLE GIRL IS WEAK, NOT NURSING WELL. MAIN PROBLEM SEEMS TO BE HER LEGS. VERY UNSTABLE, BENDING WRONG WAY AT JOINTS & TURNING ALMOST BACKWARDS.
    WHAT CAN WE DO FOR HER??? COLD 8 DEGREES, HAVE HEAT LAMP, BOTTLE & NIPPLE BUT NO EXPERIENCE MILKING. DONT KNOW IF MOTHER WILL TOLERATE.

    • Christine says:

      Nancy, the heat lamp is a very good thing – she’ll need to stay warm. Often with twins if there are boys, the girls will be born deficient… If mom shows no interest & won’t let you put her up to nurse, you’ll have to bottle feed. However, you mustn’t get your hopes up high as she may not survive. When mom refuses a baby it’s often because she knows this one will not make it for reasons that through nature’s mysteries, she understands and we don’t. If you can get the little to at least suckle the colostrum, that would help a bit. Afterward I would put her on whole cow milk (the powdered stuff isn’t very good for them). You might try bringing her back to mom every so often – mom might suddenly accept her. Watch for signs of aggressiveness, if she tries to butt the baby away then the responsibility of the little one will be yours.

      Not sure about the legs… it might just be that they were bent wrong in utero. They may turn out fine later on. At this point your biggest concern is getting her to drink & keeping her warm.

      Good luck & keep me posted.

  15. Jill says:

    Thanks so much, that’s helpful and good to know. Its so wonderful and such fun when all goes well but heartbreaking at times, isnt it? The good news for us is that our other doe is looking like she’ll be ready to pop soon and I’m confident and hopeful that story will have a much happier ending!

  16. Jill says:

    I was not there, my husband was and so he was able to deal with it much better than I would have. It is freezing where we are. Its difficult to milk her, but I want to make sure she doesn’t get mastitis and I dont know much about it. What are the signs? Is it ok to just stop milking her altogether? Thanks for the advice, I appreciate it.

    • Christine says:

      Jill, you can stop milking her.. I had a doe that lost triplets (she gave birth in the summer but up the hill above our pond – all 3 kids rolled down & drowned.. I found them that afternoon.. it was so horribly sad!) Your doe will dry up. Everyday just run your hands on her udder – as long as you don’t feel rock hard spots & she’s not showing signs of discomfort, she’s okay. If she does develop mastitis, hot towels pressed against her udder will do the trick. You may have to milk her to help relieve the pressure. Good luck & don’t worry too much – nature has a way of taking care of itself!

  17. Jill says:

    Hi Christine,
    We had our first pygmy goat born yesterday. Sadly, the baby didnt make it. It was her first birth & Mom seems to be doing well although her backside looks swollen and Im wondering if thats normal. She’s about 18 months old. Im also concerned about milk. I was told to milk her and did last night as well as this morning. It seemed that there was less this morning. Should I keep milking her or will that just keep her producing? How long should I continue to milk her?
    Thanks you.

    • Christine says:

      Aww Jill, I’m so sorry! Were you there for the birth… did you just find the baby lifeless? Is it cold where you are? If so, chills may be the reason for the dead baby. When you say “backside” do you mean her genitals? If so, it’s normal that her vulva be swollen a little bit – that should go down in the next few days. She will also pass afterbirth (mucus), for a few days also. As for the milk, you can milk her twice a day for about 5 months. You can stop milking her altogether but just watch that she doesn’t get mastitis. Good luck!

  18. Lisa says:

    Dear Christine, thank you for advice. We are getting everything in order, and watching all our girls getting bigger and bigger:0) I am blessed to be a part of this. Anyway I will keep you posted. thanks again!!!!!!!!!

  19. Lisa says:

    Dear Christine, Thanks for all the great information. Very new at this and a little nervous. Our (i am the caretaker) does are due 2/21/10 and we are very excited!!!!!!!! your info has been very helpful!!

    • Christine says:

      Lisa, kidding time is wonderful experience & I look forward to mine come mid-April. If you’re in the part of the country where it’s a cold winter, just make sure your does have a warm shelter and access to a heat lamp… they won’t naturally go to the heat but the kids will need it. Good luck, have fun and keep me posted!

  20. Danielle says:

    I have a pygmy doe that I think is getting close to kidding (this will be her second – she had a big buck with her first) and the vet’s think (not 100% sure though) but that she is carrying atleast twins this time which they detected via ultrasound. For the last week or so, she has been rubbing herself along her stall wall and water bucket. She has been laying down quite a bit lately, yawning and stretching out her body when she gets up. Her tail is up and her vulva is very puffy. Her milk bag is full, but not tight and it doesn’t appear glossy yet. She just stopped eating her grain 2 days ago. She is still drinking good and seems to be picking some at her hay. Should I be concerned that she is not eating or is this a normal sign she is getting close?

    • Christine says:

      Danielle, I’m hoping your girl will have given birth by now. Sorry for not answering sooner but I was out of the country for Christmas & had limited access to the internet. A doe can struggle normally for no more than an hour. I say “normally” & your gut instinct will tell you what’s not normal. Anything more than an hour of hard struggles is not normal & you need a vet or someone with experienced to feel inside & help the doe. Please let me know how things went.

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