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When your does are getting close to kidding time, you will probably start to feel a bit like an expectant mother yourself! I know I do! Preparing a kidding kit and birthing stall helps me to feel more prepared and capable. I will admit, I rarely need to do much. Most of the time, Momma is just fine on her own. But, for those times when you need to intervene, you will be so grateful you are prepared.

Here’s What is in My Kidding Kit:

This list probably seems extensive, but you will probably already have most of these items on hand already.

  • Paper Towels: Just like childbirth, kidding is a messy business. You will be glad to have paper towels around for a multitude of reasons.
  • Puppy Housebreaking Pads: Hopefully, your kids will be born in a nice clean stall filled with straw. Even so, it will be nice to have them land on a puppy pad to keep the stall and the kids a little cleaner. If you don’t have any on hand, old towels will work just as well.
  • Old Towels: If it’s cold, or momma isn’t up to it, you’ll want towels for drying off the kids.
  • Betadine: Betadine is my go to antiseptic here on the farm. Use it to disinfect any tools you use during the birth, and to clean your hands in the event you need to help during the birth. I also use it for dipping the cord stump of the kids after birth.
  • Small Paper or Plastic Cups: For putting the betadine in to dip the cords.
  • Sterile Gloves and Lube: Just in case you need to assist.
  • A Headlamp: Momma’s never go into labor when it’s convenient. It shouldn’t be any surprise that they usually do it in the middle of the night. If this happens to you, you will be glad to have a headlamp that will allow you to see and still leave your hands free.
  • Hemostats: I don’t always need to clamp the cord, but when I do I use a hemostat to clamp it.
  • Scissors: For cutting the cord, if I need to.
  • A Bottle, Nipple, and Kid Colostrum Replacement: I have these on hand in case something goes wrong during the birth. Thankfully, I’ve never needed them, but it’s best to be prepared.
  • Feeding Tube and Syringe: If you have a kid that’s too weak to eat, you can use a feeding tube with colostrum from mom or a replacement.
  • Black Strap Molasses and Warm Water: This is for momma after the birth to give her a little pick-me-up after all her hard work. I also give her a ration of grain.
  • Heat lamp and Baby Goat Sweaters: If it’s very cold outside, you’ll need to keep those babies warm. Please use extreme caution if you need a heat lamp. They can be a dangerous fire hazard. The only time I use one is if it’s below freezing. Otherwise, momma and baby goat sweater should be enough for the job.
  • Garbage Bags: For obvious reasons.
  • Warm Soapy Water: Nice to have on hand for washing up your hands or the kids’ faces.
  • Your Veterinarian’s Phone Number: Don’t hesitate to call in your vet at the first sign of trouble. Have a back-up number on hand too, either a second vet or someone you call on the phone that has a lot of kidding experience and can talk you through an emergency.
  • Selenium Gel: If you live in a selenium deficient area, you will want to give this to the kids. Talk to your vet about it ahead of time.
  • A Digital Thermometer: One of the first things the vet is going to ask if you call with a problem is whether or not the goat has a fever. Normal temp for a goat is 101.5-103.5.
  • A Leg Snare and A Kid Puller: Spend some time studying up on how to use these and have them on hand if you need them.
How to Prepare a Kidding Stall:

Having a private place for kidding helps to keep momma calm and keep everything cleaner during the process. It’s easy to set up a birthing area and it’s well worth doing. I usually have mine ready to go at least a week before kidding is expected. If you don’t have a separate stall in your barn you can use for kidding, you can make one with cattle panels and some zip ties. You’ll want I nice, thick layer of clean bedding on the floor. Momma will also want hay, fresh water, and grain, so be prepared to offer those. I also like to set up a baby monitor between the barn and the house, so I can hear what’s going on out there. Have your camera ready to go, too!

Signs of Early Labor

To be honest, my does will sometimes go into labor without me ever noticing any signs, so don’t feel bad if you don’t see it coming. Here’s what you should be watching for:

  • A full, tight udder- When her udder is so tight that it almost looks shiny, it’s likely she will go into labor within 24 hours.
  • Behavior changes- Does will usually want to stay in the barn when they are close. You might also notice “nesting” behavior. She might paw at her bedding or stand up and lay down a lot. I’ve even seen my does talk to their belly. Also, if she’s standing alone in the corner with her head against the wall, she’s very close, or already in active labor.
  • Loss of the tail ligaments- There are two ligaments that run along where the tail and spine meet. Normally, they feel like two pencils. Before labor, they will get so soft that you almost won’t be able to feel them anymore.
  • Discharge- You will notice an increase in vaginal discharge as she gets closer to the big day, but it will be especially heavy when she gets close to starting labor.
  • Swollen vulva- When the kids start to drop into the birth canal, they put pressure on the doe’s rear end and you will notice that her vulva is swollen. When you see this, you’ll want to keep a close eye for other signs. This usually means labor is 1-3 days away.

With a little advanced preparation, you will be much calmer when kidding time rolls around. And, if anything goes wrong, you’ll be much better equipped to handle any emergency.

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Predator-Proofing Your Chicken Coop

Homesteading is a lot of fun and a lot of work. Aside from daily chores, homesteading also comes with the headaches of keeping your chickens alive and well. The biggest culprit? Predators. Chicken raising comes with its fair share of heartache, particularly if you have foxes, possums, and wildcats in your midst.

While there’s no such thing as being 100% predator-proof, you can take steps to protect your flock. Here are my favorite predator-proofing measures. Add yours in the comments!

No chicken wire

I know it’s called chicken wire, but it’s not the best option to protect your chickens. It’s designed to keep chickens in, but it doesn’t keep predators out. Opt for stronger hardware cloth instead. Use it anywhere you would normally use chicken wire, like the sides of the coop or windows.

Elevate

Digging animals are a huge threat to grounded coops. It can cost a little more, but elevating your coop is an easier way to dig-proof. If you’d like to keep your coop on the ground, bury hardware cloth two feet below the surface. Sure, it’s extra work, but it can be the difference between having chickens and having a lot of feathers. For extra dig-proofing, design your coop to have solid floors. It’s much harder to dig through wood than dirt!

Lock it up

Always bring your chickens inside the coop before nightfall. They should be locked up safely from sunset to sunrise every day to protect against predators. Remember to choose a complex lock for your coop, too. Raccoons are very cunning critters and have been known to open simple hatch-based locks.

Have guards

Hens aren’t known for their fighting skills. However, other farm animals can defend your ladies. Roosters are a bit of a handful, but if you can tolerate them, they will protect your chickens. In fact, roosters are known to herd the hens to a safe area and sacrifice themselves protecting the flock. If you don’t want the work of keeping a rooster, guard dogs can also keep your hens safe in the event of a predator invasion.

Motion activated lights

Nighttime predators despise light. To deter predators from pestering your hens, install bright LED motion-activated lights.

The bottom line

Homesteaders are no strangers to heartbreak. However, you should take every precaution possible to prevent tragedy from befalling your chickens. Use these tips to strengthen your hens’ home and protect against pesky predators.


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