It’s been a good 10 days since our first batch of lambs were born and they are all doing well. If you follow us on Facebook, then you know that our three little baby girls are thriving and happy! It’s been a very busy two weeks on the homestead and I’ve finally caught up a bit and able to sit down and write about the experience of Lambing 2016!
Ever since we have had sheep and lambs, nearly every one has been born between 3 am and 10 am in the morning. I’ve read somewhere that it’s fairly normal for sheep to do so. They have this ability to sort of time their labors, to a degree. Its supposed to be a trait that was developed for herds that lambed outside. Lambing in the dark of night was difficult for the animals, who don’t have the greatest eyesight to begin with and predators can easily pick the newborns out without the protection of the flock. So by having them in the very early dawn light, the mommas can be up and done and the babies ready to meld into the flock for protection, if need be.
Makes sense to me. It’s also a little easier on us shepherds!
When I start to feel like I’m going to have lambs soon, we start to do late night checks. Around midnight or so, since we are often up. We check to see if any of the ewes are breathing hard, super restless or have any sort of discharge from their nether regions. These are signs that this morning might be the day. If so, we vote and someone goes out at 3 to 4 am. It’s usually me! Which I don’t mind because my girls are wonderful all the time with helping and I know they really like their nice warm beds at night.
3 AM checks require the lantern and I usually bring a few little treats out, because who doesn’t like treats when you get woke up? Angus, the head whether, he is always alert and meets me at the gate to check me out. I love to see him outside the barn, even late at night during lambing time. He knows. He is very protective of his ladies.
It’s always funny when I go in the barn, Everyone gets up and looks at me and then at eat other and is like, “What is going on???” They all act like this has never happened before when it was just the last three nights in a row. Funny girls.
I just go around and check everyone, sort of let them calm down a few minutes and watch and listen. A ewe in labor can’t hide it. She will be breathing hard, stretching funny and getting up and down. Often she will be off in a corner of the little barn, in her own little world. She usually won’t want treats. (I have to say “usually” because Iris will eat in mid-push of her babies, she is smart and wants the energy! Or maybe just the cookie…) If I see a lady showing these signs, then she gets a little closer watch.
If all is good and no one seems to be in any sort of distress, back to bed I go. I will be back up at 6 – 7 AM to check again. My thought is that if someone goes into labor and is having any signs of distress, there won’t be too much time between checks to cause too much of an issue, hopefully. I know that is a slightly vague statement, but it’s been true in our experience. Until this year, we’ve never lost a newborn at birth or had any birth complications. Sheep generally are very easy delivering mommas. That is nice.
Angus is escorting me back to the gate. He is my favorite sheep for sure. He’s such a good boy. A great uncle to the babies. A protector of the girls. And yet, he’s a baby and loves attention and wags his tail with pure joy when you rub behind his ears. I just love this big old lug and I trust him entirely with the babies. I believe he gives the ewes a calm protective aura as well. They always look to him for direction. In fact, in the very early morning, they will stay in the barn and he always comes out first to check me out. When he knows for sure all is okay, he will grunt this little low chortle sound, not unlike the mommas do to their babies and they will all file out of the barn to see what is up. He is their leader.
During lambing season, my late night snack offering gets a little unappealing… this night was a little leftover bit of stale pretzels. I try to keep a big bag of animal crackers handy because that is their favorite snack. But when we run out, you just gotta bring something to the party. Bonnie and her girls didn’t mind. Salty snacks are always good!
Thank goodness this late night stuff doesn’t last super long, because it does get hard at around day 10. Okay, who am I fooling… it’s hard day 3! Hahaha… But it’s important and I think if I’m going to let my sweet ladies fool around in the late fall, it’s the least I can do to check on them and make sure everything is going well. Someday, when we can afford it, I do want to consider getting the little video cameras that are available now for very reasonable prices. I’ve seen decent setups with a camera or two for under $150. I think that would be good for a lot of reasons, not just lambing. We can keep an eye on flooding in the spring, and winter conditions. And I really think it would be neat to check on the sheep when they don’t know we are watching! Big brother maybe, but learning about how sheep act and react when they are alone sounds very interesting. Perhaps some day, I’ll have to start saving up a little video camera fund!
Well, this is how it goes around our little homestead in the spring!