So ... now we're on Labor Watch ... just waiting for the signs that will tell us that labor has started and delivery of the kids will be soon!
Here are a few of the things we watch for to let us know that labor has begun or will begin very soon:
The ligaments just above the base of the tail seem to almost disappear several days to weeks before the due date. Normally you would feel ligaments about the size of your little finger along this area, but they loosen in preparation for delivery and your fingers can almost circle the top of the tail bone.
Tail Ligaments Loose
You might notice the hair on the tail getting sticky and if you're lucky you'll see the white mucus plug coming from the doe's vulva. This usually happens a week or two before labor, but could be closer to the due date.
The udder will usually start looking full several days before the due date, but a day or so before labor starts, it will look very swollen ... as if it couldn't hold any more. The teats will be full and the skin on the udder will be almost shiny.
Full Tight Udder
Sometimes the doe will "talk" to her belly. I think she's telling the kids it's time to come on out!
Talking to kids
Something I've noticed the past couple of years is that the doe will hardly touch her food just hours before starting labor. If she doesn't eat her grain in the morning, I can almost bet she'll deliver that day. Or, if she doesn't want her evening grain or hay, she'll probably have the kids that night.
When she's in early labor ... if she's not in a kidding pen by herself ... she'll usually go off by herself ... away from the other goats. If you see a doe (that is showing other signs of being close to her due date) go off by herself ... she's probably in early labor. She may even put her head in a corner since she doesn't want to be bothered.
Separating from other goats
As the early labor progresses, she gets very uncomfortable. She'll stand up ... lay down ... stand up ... paw the ground ... lay down .... over and over. This may be an hour or two or more before pushing labor starts.
Almost always, there will be a stream of white/cream colored gel. This means that delivery will be very soon. It shouldn't be hours from this point ... only minutes.
If the gel is red or brownish in color ... this is not good. There's something wrong and you'll want to have an experienced person with you in case of problems with the delivery or go to the Vet. The photo below is of Bell during my first kidding season in 2008. She had a dead kid inside her ... along with two healthy kids. For more details on this delivery ... see my post on My First Kidding Season - Bell.
The doe will push and strain as labor progresses. Usually with her back legs pushed out straight. She will probably make some loud groaning noises as she pushes with the contractions.
This phase of labor should not last very long. If it lasts more than an hour or so ... you might want to take the doe to the vet for help. Maybe even sooner, if she's pushing hard with no signs of delivery.
You should see a bubble shortly after pushing labor starts. Be prepared for a lot of fluid when this bubble breaks!
Water Sack Bubble
Here comes the feet and nose. This is a perfect normal presentation with the nose just on the far side of the feet. The kid will be out with only a few more pushes and it will be time to dry her off and be ready for the next one!
Feet and Nose
Delivery Advice - from my past kidding experiences:
If you see only the two font feet (you'll know it's the front feet if they're pointing soles down) and no nose coming out with them ... you'll have to reach inside to find the nose and align it to the front so it can come out with the front feet. You may have to break the water sack if it doesn't break on it's own.
If you see only the two back feet (you'll know it's the back feet if they're pointing soles up) It would be best to help pull them to get the kid delivered quickly... since the head is still in there and needs to breath.
If you see only the head and no front feet ... DO NOT push the head back in to find the feet. The most important thing to have out is the head since kid has to breath. It is much easier to reach in and down in front of the head (after it is out) to pull the front feet out to be born along with the head than it is to lose the head by pushing it back in to find the front feet. DO NOT pull on the head without getting the front feet out first. The shoulders are too big to come through with the legs tucked under and you could break the kid's neck.
If you see only the butt, you'll have to reach in and pull the back leg(s) out in order to deliver the kid.
The most important thing is to stay calm. The doe depends on you to help her safely deliver the kids if she's having trouble.
I pray that you all have a safe kidding season!