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As your goat herd approaches the kidding season, it’s crucial to ensure that you’re fully prepared. In addition to having a kidding kit and knowing what signs to look for, you’ll need to make sure your goat barn is equipped with suitable kidding pens.
What Are Kidding Pens?
Goat kidding pens, also known as kidding jugs, goat jugs, or goat kidding stalls, are small enclosures where the doe and her newborn kids can stay together to bond. These pens provide a safe and comfortable space for the new mom and her babies.
The number of kidding pens needed depends on the size of your herd. As a general guideline, you should aim for approximately one kidding pen for every 7-10 goats, based on the recommendations for sheep from the University of Maryland.
When to Use Kidding Pens
Kidding pens are typically used for a period of 12-48 hours. They allow the new mom goat to rest after labor and delivery, while also giving the newborn kids the opportunity to nurse and bond with their mother.
These pens ensure that the doe can take care of her kids without any interference or distractions from other goats. Additionally, they provide easy access to fresh hay and water for the doe, while allowing the baby goats to receive the colostrum they need for immunity.
The length of time spent in the kidding pen depends on various factors, such as the bonding between the doe and kids, the ease or difficulty of the birthing process, the number of kids, and the overall health of the doe and kids. If the bonding is quick, the maternal instincts are strong, and the kids are healthy, a shorter period in the kidding pen may suffice. However, if the birthing process was more demanding, it’s a first-time birth for the doe, or the bonding is slower, a longer time in the kidding pen may be necessary.
How to Use a Kidding Pen
Here are some essential considerations when using a kidding pen:
- Maintain cleanliness and dryness: It’s important to keep the pen clean and dry. Once the doe and kids have “graduated” from the kidding jug, clean it thoroughly and add fresh bedding for the next goat birth.
- Provide fresh water: Ensure that the pen has a securely attached bucket for fresh water, while ensuring that the kids cannot fall into the bucket.
- Offer fresh hay: Make sure there is a supply of fresh hay readily available for the doe.
- Designate a safe space: Create a safe area within the pen, especially if it’s smaller in size, to prevent accidental injury to the kids. This can be achieved by using a board, panel, or even a large plastic container with a small opening for the kids to crawl into. Take precautions when using a heat lamp in this area, as they can pose fire hazards.
- Consider a heat lamp: Depending on the season, you may need to provide additional heat with a lamp. Exercise caution when using heat lamps, as they can also pose fire risks.
Kidding Pen Size
The size of kidding pens can vary depending on the setup of your goat barn and the number of does kidding at the same time. Some common kidding pen sizes include 4×4, 5×5, 4×6, and 4×8. At Thumbuddy To Love, we typically use 4×8 or 8×8 pens for double occupancy, and in situations where space is limited, we opt for 4×4 pens.
Different Kidding Jug Options
When setting up kidding pens, you have the option to purchase pre-made panels or take a DIY approach. Here are a few options to consider:
Buying Kidding Pens
- Modular calf hutches
- 4×4 PowerBilt Panels from Premier 1 Supplies
- Kidding or lambing pens from manufacturers like Sydell, Lakeland
DIY Kidding Pens
- Pallets with t-posts
- Utilize existing gates and panels to create group pens
- Bend cattle panels into “L” shapes or cut them in half to create small pens
- Use carabiner-style clips or corkscrew connectors to join panels together
- Construct pens using lumber
Kidding Pen Creep Area
- Purchase pre-made options that can be added on to or come with a complete kidding pen setup
- Create a DIY creep area using a small section of cattle panel, plastic chain, and carabiner clips
Kidding Pen Setup
During kidding season, it’s important to have flexibility in your barn’s layout. At the beginning, you may have more does that haven’t kidded yet, but as the season progresses, you’ll have more moms with kids. This is why we prefer to have movable pens and gates in our goat barn.
First, set up a row of kidding pens alongside your main group pen. Next to that, create an open area where you can adjust the pen setup based on the time of year. During kidding season, set it up as a large group pen with kidding pens along the sides. This allows for easy movement of does and their newborns into the kidding pens.
In this area, we also install radiant heaters above the pens. If it’s a cold spring or evening, we turn on the heaters when we expect a doe to give birth. Once the does and baby goats have graduated from the kidding pens, they are moved to another group pen known as the maternity ward. This pen typically accommodates 5-8 does with their kids.
As kidding season progresses, we create a second maternity pen within our main group pen. Over time, we move the divider pen to expand the size of the maternity pen. Finally, when only a few goats are left to give birth, we move the does and kids from the large maternity pen to the front end with access to the yard/pasture. The expecting does are then placed in the back.
Kidding season with maternity pens and kidding pens can be a bit of a juggling act, but it has proven to work well for us.
Portable Goat Pens vs. Permanent Kidding Pens
While permanent kidding pens offer sturdiness and ease of setup, they lack flexibility in terms of space during kidding season. Having a few small permanent pens for sick goats throughout the year is fine, but beyond kidding season, they often become wasted space in your barn.
This is why Thumbuddy To Love recommends a portable pen system for kidding season. These pens provide the necessary flexibility and space during the critical kidding period.
Are Kidding Pens Needed When Kidding on Pastures?
In most cases, kidding pens are not required when your goats are kidding on pastures. However, it is a good idea to have an option available in case of any labor and delivery complications or if it’s a first-time mom needing assistance with bonding. In such situations, a full-size cattle panel, a t-post, a bucket for water, and a few carabiner clips are all you need to create a makeshift kidding pen on the pasture.
If your pasture provides natural shelter or you offer other shelter options, your does should be well-prepared for kidding when the time comes. However, it’s essential to consider predator prevention measures as well. Guardian animals can be particularly helpful in safeguarding your goats.
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- Top 12: Premier 1 Goat Supplies
- Using an Auto Feeder with Bottle Baby Goats and Fly Control on Pasture | Live Q&A Replay
About the Author
This article was written by the team at Thumbuddy To Love, experts in goat farming and barn management. Visit Thumbuddy To Love for more information and resources.