Setting Up A Birthing Pen For Your Goats
If you breed more than one goat, things can get a bit chaotic when goat kidding season arrives. Being prepared is key to keeping things calm for both you and your does. On our homestead, we have found that having a private area for our goats to kid not only calms them down but keeps things safe and healthier for the kids when they do arrive.
It is also good to have a separate area for kidding set up in case of a birthing situation that requires our help. There is nothing more distracting than trying to deliver a stuck kid while another goat is nibbling your hair.
Setting up a birthing pen for goat kidding is not only easy but an important part of any sage and successful breeding system.
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Our barn is set up specifically for the raising of goats. This means that we have an open pen on the left side of our barn to house our junior does that are not quite old enough to be bred. An important area to have to discourage accidental breedings. True to our homesteading form, we did not build a new barn from scratch, but instead converted what we already had, a large shed. The first year we used just the shed but as our herd grew we added on two side additions that we now use to keep our main herd sorted out.
SLCG PRO TIP: It is always good to be sure your goats are old enough to safely handle breeding and later kidding. For this reason, we prefer to wait until our goats are at least 1 year of age before putting them in with our buck. This will ensure that our young does can handle the weight of our big Nubian buck along with the maturity needed to mother goat kids.
On the right side of the barn, we have a larger open pen for our older does that are set and ready to breed in the fall. This will allow us to breed in the barn naturally for several months keeping things easier for not only us but for our herd as well.
The center of our barn consists of 2 stalls that we use for quarantining any sick or injured goats, a separate milking stall that we can keep clean and organized, and finally 2-3 stalls for kidding.
These stalls have been a lifesaver, especially at goatkidding time.
The stalls have slatted walls on three sides allowing our curious goats to see the outside quite easily. They are sized at 5×4 feet each making them just big enough for our large-sized Nubian goats and her kids to move around in comfortably. These stalls have been very useful and I am so happy we decided to put them in especially when breeding season rolls around.
Goats tend to birth more easily if they feel they are in a private area. To help we will attach a few sheets of plywood to close off the slats on the inside walls. This just helps to soothe the mother does as they are labor. The more stressed out your goats are the more likely there will be issues during kidding.
I have found over the years, sometimes a goat will be very stubborn and just will not push until she is alone. The privacy of the boards really helps her to feel secure and confident.
If you do not have stalls or pens already set up, you can make a freestanding goat birthing pen for your goats with pig or cattle panels and some zip ties.
SLCG PRO TIP: FYI, zip ties are my Macgyver go-to tool. I always have them and in assorted colors, because…. you know, a girl has to have options. 🙂 Heavy-duty zip ties work great to hold fencing together, create a hay feeder in a pinch and repair a broken gate until you can fix it properly. Yes, they are a bit more expensive than average ties, but it is good to have a few of them available just in case you need them.
When our does are about 1 week from kidding I will set up our birthing stalls preparing them for our goats that are going to kid. This means the pens are thoroughly cleaned and a good amount of fresh bedding is added. Bedding can be straw, sawdust, or wood shavings as we like to use.
It is also good to be sure your water bucket is cleaned along with a hay feeder that is either filled or ready to be filled with good quality hay. You can use a hanging bag as your hay feeder or a cut piece of a hog or cattle steel panel as well. Whatever you feel most comfortable with. I have used just about every style and each comes with its own advantages.
As you can see you do not need a lot of space for a birthing pen. Actually, I have found smaller is better in the beginning. As long as mom has room to move around without the risk of trampling her kids you should be just fine.
Once you have a pen or two set up for goat kidding you then begin watching closely for signs. Loose ligaments, full or filling udders, and clear discharge are the last minute things to watch for.
More often than not our does seem to deliver pretty much on schedule. If you want to know when your goats are due, you can jump over to our breeding page and take a peek at our goat gestation calculator.
Once one or all of those last few signs are checked off my list I will then move my doe to a birthing stall. I try not to move them over too quickly as goats like to remain with their herd. Knowing the signs to watch for prior to goat kidding will be quite helpful not only knowing when to move your goats but also to have the rest of your supplies ready as well.
SLCG PRO TIP: The trick to getting your goat into a birthing stall is to be slow and patient. Goats do not like to be forced into anything and even less so when they are about to kid. If your goats are not trained, gently walk your doe over to the stall talking gently to reassure her all is well. You can also use a handful of fresh hay, a treat, or a feed bowl of grain to make the job a bit easier.
Read my post on How to Easily Train Your Goats to be better prepared for kidding and other important tasks.
Once your doe is in the birthing stall you will want to keep an eye on her. I will do a few other tasks in the barn after I move her over to give her time to check out her new home. Just a heads up, some goats are extremely attached to their herd and a doe may panic if she is unable to see the other goats. If you notice this and your setup allows, try removing a board or two so she is able to see into the main pen.
You can also move a buddy out with her until she is either in labor or at the very least more comfortable with her new surroundings.
This is usually enough to calm a skittish gal down. If this doesn’t work, you may need to stay with her for a bit giving some extra hay to keep her distracted as she becomes acclimated to her new home.
Whenever you are dealing with goats I have learned that slow and steady is the best approach. Her comfort is the main goal at all times when kidding is involved, so if the birthing pen is not the best way to go you will need to come up with a plan B.
Birthing Pen Plan B Option
Sectioning off a small area of your main pen for goat kidding is another option. You can do this with a few garden stakes and fencing steel panels. You can find these at your local feed mill. The goal here is to give the mom and kids a safe place to be so they do not get separated from her or accidentally hurt by a curious herd of goats.
I do know others that have allowed their goats to kid wherever they are most comfortable whether that be in the barn or outside in the pasture. Living in the north does not allow us that option. The cold and frigid temps can kill a baby goat in minutes so having them in a secure and supervised area not only keeps them warm but allows us to assist in the delivery and aftercare if needed.
Birthing Stall Checklist for Goat Kidding
- Pick the right spot. If you do not have a stall that you can use for goat kidding, choose an area that is away from the herd and secluded enough that the doe will feel safe and secure. You do not want other goats coming in to investigate a new baby goat kid leaving mama to defend them while giving birth to a second baby. Remember, the less stress your goat is under the greater the chance of a successful delivery.
- Put in fresh clean bedding. I like to use wood chips along with a healthy layer of hay. I have tried sawdust but it just doesn’t keep things quite as clean as the wood chips do. Hay helps to keep the babies warm by providing a barrier between their little wet bodies and the cold ground. Once they are cleaned off and able to nurse you can remove the soiled hay and add in fresh clean bedding.
- Have a secure bucket of clean water. I change my goat’s water 3-4 times a day year-round. The reason for this is that goats are a bit picky and prefer freshwater over dusty. Also, a goat that routinely drinks tends to be much healthier than those that do not. New moms need lots of water the first few days to fight off dehydration. By watching their water intake I can monitor that they are getting enough. If I see they are not, I will add blackstrap molasses. My goats love molasses and this always encourages them to drink. Another bonus is the sugar gives mom a bit of an energy boost keeping them interested in their new baby goat kids. It is important that you make sure the water is always up and out of reach of the babies. Young newborn kids do not need water the first few days as they will get all they need from their mother’s milk. Another reason is when the water is low you run the risk of a small and curious kid falling in and drowning. Yes, it does happen so it is always best to err on the side of caution.
- Have a bowl for feed. I also keep feed bowls up and away from the kids. Mom can get pretty testy if anyone touches her feed, even her little ones who are just exploring. Keep it up and out of reach. Even if you do not feed grain to your goats, you will at the very least need to have minerals out for the moms. Kidding is a stress to their bodies and the more you can help them recover the better off your new goat kids will be.
- Mineral feeder. As I said above, it is important to support your doe’s health by offering loose minerals or organic kelp often. A nice thing about goats is, if they need it they will eat it. So if you notice your goats chowing down on minerals or kelp, they lack something in their diet, and further investigation is needed.
- Hay feeder. This is tricky. I use several different hay feeders and it all depends on the size of the goat and the room in the birthing stall. Overall I prefer steel pig panels over everything else. If you choose this route you will need to be careful. Those little babies are quite curious even at one day old and it seems they can get anywhere. For this reason, you will want to make sure the smallest openings of the steel panel are nearer to the ground to deter the kids from climbing into the feeders and possibly getting stuck or hurt.
Read my post on Hay Feeders for Goats to see different options.
When I first started out raising goats, I learned the hard way the consequences of not being prepared. I now make sure I have a system in place that not only gives comfort and safety to the mother goat but to her young goat kids as well. I understand that each situation is different so use these tips as suggestions only and not them a cardinal rule.
Make a game plan, set up a timeline, stock your supplies, and set up a birthing pen for your goats and you should have healthy and happy kids in no time!
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