The new year started off with a bang this past week. The peach trees decided it was spring, and burst into bloom. The chickens and ducks are leaving eggs lying around everywhere. One of the black hens keeps trying to come inside and lay an egg in the kitchen. And last week we had FIVE baby goats born!
We don’t usually have kids so early. In general, the Nubians tend to start cycling in September here for Febrary-March kidding season. But the new headgate system allowed me to really keep the copper and mineral levels up in my herd this year, and I think that contributed to the increased fertility. In August, I had noticed the buck, Cookie (the black goat in the photo above – he comes in for a treat and minerals too), was in rut. It’s easy to see, since he was incredibly stinky and dripping with urine, and kept peeing on his beard (it’s a weird goat attractiveness thing). I couldn’t tell WHY he was in rut. I run all my goats together during the summer, when usually no one is in heat.
It became clear in December, when Flicka and Sugar Plum’s udders started to swell. We thought it would be so cool if one of them kidded on Christmas! But Christmas came and went, and Flicka continued to get larger and larger, until she looked like a golf ball on legs (she’s the white goat). We hoped she had twins this time, as she’s only ever had one kid, and I was afraid of the size of the kid it if was just one this time. She ate slowly, and always lagged way behind everyone else. Maybe New Year’s, we thought. But it was last Tuesday, just a few days after Ethan had left to work in L.A. and in the middle of one of the only cold spells of the year that we noticed her off by herself. Of course I was in the middle of doing chores, so Rose and Clo went up to be the midwife and keep an eye on her.
I did go and check to see how she was before I milked Matilda (the big Jersey cow). She was calmly chewing her cud under the oak trees, and seemed totally fine and not really in labor much. After a few minutes, some membranes bulged out and broke, but after that she was just sitting around, so I went to finish the milking.
I was in the middle of straining the milk when Clo ran into the kitchen and said Rose said I had to come right away. I asked if the kid was being born, and Clo said no, Flicka was just wriggling around. I wasn’t very alarmed at this, and told Clo to run and tell Rose that she was probably just laboring. Instead, Clo went inside and started listening to the infernal Harry Potter books on tape she’s always getting at the library.
When I got back to Flicka, she was just sitting there chewing her cud again, but Rose was nearly in tears. “It was so scary,” she said. “Where were you?!”
I said Flicka looked fine, and Rose said as soon as I had walked away, Flicka had started rolling around on her back with her legs kicking randomly in the air, her eyes bugging out in different directions, with her ears flopped askew. She said it looked like something out of the Salem witch trials book she was just reading for American History homeschool, and she thought Flicka was dying or something, and why didn’t I run over?
Flicka looked very nonplussed at that moment, however. I think she was trying to get the kids positioned right when she was rollling. She did push a little right after that, and a strange part of a little goat poked out. It was not the usual nose-and-hooves that usually present. It was like a little nub (it turned out it was the hind hock – this kid was breech). I felt around trying to figure out what part of the goat it was (and therefore how to assist). I asked Rose to go get my goat book, and as soon as she walked away, the other hock came out and I realized what it was. It was born in just a few seconds after, tumbling out in my hands all slimy and wet, and I shouted to forget the book, bring a towel!
Rose ran up with a towel, and we admired the baby – a cute creamy colored doeling kid. I was toweling her off and we were talking about how much smaller she looked than what we had expected, when another kid came out! This one was noticeably larger, a big brown buck kid.
“She did have twins this year!” we crowed as we transferred the first one to Flicka to finish licking dry, and started toweling off the second one. If I’m there, I like to pull the membranes off their nose and mouth and at least rub them down a little to help them breathe right away and get warm and dry.
We were just telling Flicka what a great job she had done, when suddenly she pushed, and another kid slid out! This one looked black like Cookie, and came out with its tongue sticking out, and it was wiggling it like it was blowing a raspberry. I said, “I know this one is alive and well – it’s wiggling it’s tongue at me!” It was another doeling.
Poor Flicka has only ever had one kid at a time before, three years in a row. Rose said she’s making up for it this year! She lay there with all her kids around her, looking sort of surprised. A few minutes later, she pushed again, and something dark started emerging. “No!” we all cried together, “Not more babies!” but it was just the afterbirth, thank goodness. Three is a big bunch of kids. She only has two teats, after all!
We got them all transferred to a separate paddock, to be by themselves. We made a nest for the babies under a big pine tree in the deep pine straw that they snuggled up in. I was glad to see there were no runts among the triplets. The buckling is larger than the two females, as he should be, but the girls are equal in size, and are a good size.
Flicka has been an excellent mother to them all. In a wild setting, mother goats who have triplets will choose the healthiest two, and abandon the third one. But she is taking very good care of all three, and hardly will leave them for any reason, so I’ve got her all comfortable with water and hay and salt very close by. I bring her a milking ration and a grated up big daikon radish from the garden once a day.
We were marveling over Flicka’s babies still the next day, when I noticed that afternoon that Sugar Plum was missing when the other goats had come over to try to slip in to the milking area while I was letting the cow out – one of their daily sources of naughty amusement. I wandered around – I have everyone penned up in a rather large area – about 5 acres, and the second garden is in the middle of it, blocking a clear view. I found her off by herself in the woods. She didn’t seem imminently in labor or anything, and followed me to try to catch up with the herd. She has an old ankle injury, and I thought maybe it was just hurting her with the extra weight from pregnancy.
We had home school drama club that afternoon, and after it was over and we had cleared up, I walked up in the gloaming to check on Sugar Plum before it got dark. It was pretty dark by the time I found her, way over on the far side near the woods (a terrible place to have small babies, as there are many predators in the woods, and it’s far away from where the dogs hang out). All I could see was her white ears and nose, and some little white ears next to her – two pairs!
She had twins! I hated to disturb them, but knew it would be for the best, so I scooped up the little babies and tried to lure her over to the pen where Flicka was. It was unbelievably difficult, as she isn’t very bright, and we got mobbed by the other goats too, but in the end I managed to get her in and nestle the babies down in the pine straw close by. We had to wait until morning to see what they looked like!
I didn’t even have to do any of the hard work for the babies, and it still felt like such a busy week! They are all doing well – by now they are up romping and playing with each other. It’s amazing how goats multiply that way, isn’t it?