Cattle who are given the freedom to do so will go out away from the herd, under a tree or in a similarly sheltered area, and then return to eat as soon as the calf is stable. I have always managed kidding in more closely confined areas, so I haven’t seen what my goats would do in a similar situation but I am confident they would seek out privacy.
We didn’t separate our kidding does until numbers grew to about a dozen. It is important to always have a place available to confine a doe with kids for a variety of reasons that include: another doe trying to adopt her kids, the doe rejecting her own kids, kids who need a little time and space to stabilize or a nervous first freshener who just can’t settle into labor with the crowd. You’ll likely find other reasons.
However you decide to separate, once you have, all that is generally needed is enough time for kids to be up and nursing and fully dried off. We usually give about 6-8 hours before opening the gate, but I always, always check with my does to see how they feel about it.
Seasoned does often are ready the soonest and they’ll indicate it by being up, standing near the gate, calling to me or looking restless overall. They may also be looking out at their buddies and talking.
Before being turned back out, I want to see kids up and active, looking relatively alert (kids always look kind of dazed at first), well fed and calm. The doe should be attentive, alert and also calm, letting kids nurse and showing all the right signs that she’s committed to them.
I don’t force them out unless I’m in a squeeze for space and need the stall they’re in – if this happens, I need to reevaluate my system and improve it. Instead, I open the gate and leave it open, allowing them to choose.
Sometimes I make a bad judgment and stress ensues. I’ll just put them back in and shut the gate if so. Always, always listen to what the goats are telling you, for they say a lot.
Without a single exception ever in the history of kidding, my goats will reestablish hierarchy after a newly kidded doe is reintroduced. It doesn’t matter if she was gone for days or hours, they’re still going to do what they’re going to do. This process will look violent and there will be a lot of head butting. This is normal and okay. Don’t try to intervene or separate them again because you’re only putting off the inevitable. Instead, focus on making a wide open space so kids have room to maneuver out of the way. If you’re really worried, you can tuck kids safely in a corner while the show is on, trusting that everyone will soon settle in and be peaceful again.
Butting Other Does’ Kids
The other does are going to headbutt the new kids, this is also inevitable. Sometimes they may even run them off and nip at them a little. Why?
I put it this way in the group the other day, “If you’ve ever seen a doe overrun by opportunistic kids trying to steal a sip, you’d see why it is necessary for a doe to aggressively chase away other kids.”
I have had hundreds of kids and not a single one has been injured in this process. It’s easy to overlay our own emotions and societal expectations on goats, but it’s safer to trust that goats know better how to goat than humans do and just take a breath and let it be.
With that said, I also will never keep an intentional bully and if I come across one, she gets an automatic ticket out. Life is short, goats are plentiful and peace is worth fighting for.
Once reintroduced and hierarchy is established, everyone will settle in and be relatively peaceful. Expect that there is a little more dissension in the ranks in the early days after kidding. Does will be protective of their kids and aggressive toward other kids until normalcy is established.
Continue the discussion in the Kidding forum.