Goats are just the best. And when your does are pregnant with even more goats? It’s like getting to celebrate your three favorite holidays all at the same time. But how many kids do goats usually have?
Goats have 1-5 kids per pregnancy, with two kids per delivery being the average across all goat breeds. Does in their first pregnancy usually have one kid, while subsequent births may yield 2-5 kids. Twins are more common than triplets, and pregnancies with 3+ kids are rare or breed-specific.
Naturally, the breed and health condition of the doe has a major bearing on the health of the kids. Does require nutritionally sound feeding, plenty of exercises, and dry shelter. Controlled breeding is also an important factor in the production of healthy kids and herds.
Here are answers to some common questions about kids and kidding, as well as some useful information for goat breeders.
This is How Many Babies Goats Can Have Per Pregnancy
In the more than 200 distinct breeds of goats, most goats carry a single kid in their first pregnancy. In subsequent pregnancies, goats carry multiple kids. In rare instances, she may have four or five. The ideal number of pregnancies is one or two because, in cases of multiple births (more than 2), the additional kids do not often survive to wean without being bottle-fed.
While the average number of kids per pregnancy usually varies from 1-5 (with two being the average), most breeds see some variation in this.
For example, in the Nigerian Dwarf Goat group I’m in on Facebook, it seems like most goat farms report that their does deliver triplets as the most common number of kids. Some report as many as four kids per delivery, which is amazing when you think about how little dwarf goats are compared to their full-sized cousins!
Now, there’s a good reason that goats usually only deliver twins – and it’s related to the mom goat’s biology. Ready for this? A goat only has two teats – so nursing more than two kids at a time could prove tricky.
In fact, when there are more than two kids, it’s not unusual for the mom to reject one. She may only accept two of the kids. This means you’ll need to bottle feed those rejected babies. Don’t worry, though. I’ve got a whole article on helping baby goats who fight bottle-feeding learn to accept the bottle right here for you. Reading that will help you skip a lot of the issues related to bottle feeding, so make sure you give that a read next.
The number of kids often depends on the breed. For example, the larger Boer doe and most of the Dairy Goat breeds (LaMancha, Oberhasli, Alpine, Nubian, Saanen, Toggenburg), average two kids per pregnancy, whereas the smaller Nigerian Dwarf regularly produces more kids.
Fun fact: It is worth noting the Nigerian Dwarf also breeds year-round. They’re one of the breeds that aren’t limited to a fall breeding season for spring birthing. That being said, they do seem to do better conceiving when sticking to an annual breeding schedule that matches that of other breeds.
How Many Pregnancies Can a Goat Have Per Year?
While goats are mathematically capable of having two pregnancies and deliveries per year, it’s healthier for the goats and their kids if a goat is limited to a single breeding season per year.
The more kids that are born, the lower the average birth weight. This means that typically, the extra kids will have significantly lower birth weights and will be too weak to compete for their mother’s milk.
How Many Kids Can a Goat Produce In a Year?
As most goats are seasonal breeders, three litters biannually (every two years) are natural. However, the best practice for commercial purposes is one or two kids per year.
In order to ensure farm fertility, culling does who produce one kid per litter is recommended. Goats in ranging herds will also cycle out of season. For example in continuous joining herds, goat does will commonly have three kiddings each two years, for a total of 2.2 kids per year on average.
Does become fertile aged from 5 – 9 months, (on average at 7 months), but joining young does who are still growing and maturing may negatively impact on their long term fertility. Their bodies may also not be strong enough to carry the weight of twins or triplets.
Most goats come in season and breed in the fall, between August and March. By their second season, normal, healthy does will be over a year old and mature enough to carry two or three kids. It is therefore advisable to wait until a doe is 12 months old before joining her.
Well-managed does will be at their fertility and kidding peak from age 5 – 7. In exceptional cases, some does can breed perhaps until 12 or even 14 years.
Do Goats Usually Have Twins?
It is very common for goats to have twins and triplets, although three kid pregnancies are less common than two. This frequency of multiple birth kidding also depends on the breed of goat.
Most goat does, following their first kidding, will have twins. They can have up to three sets in a two-year period over their breeding life.
How Do You Know How Many Kids a Doe Will Have?
The first step in figuring out how many kids your doe will have is to make sure she’s actually pregnant. You can check for pregnancy with a blood test. You can ask your veterinarian to run that for you. You could also look for physical signs of pregnancy, which include the following.
- A pregnant doe’s stomach will start to visibly tighten about two weeks into the pregnancy.
- First-time pregnant doelings will have swelling in the uterus.
- For milk goats who already give milk, milk production levels may drop.
- About three months in, you will be able to notice movements from the kids.
As you get more experienced, you may be able to feel or see how many kids there are. That will give you a solid estimate as to the number of kids. Just remember that, with this method, it’s very possible to miss one.
The best way to know how many kids she’ll have is with an ultrasound. Again, that’s something that your livestock veterinarian can help you with.
How Long Do Goats Stay Pregnant?
The normal gestation period for goats is between 145-180 days, with 150 days being the average.
In other words, a goat’s gestation period is roughly five months.
How to Get the Best Results From Breeding Goats
To get the best results from breeding, only breed quality animals with healthy qualities. Furthermore, take good care of the does to help produce healthy offspring.
It is crucial to meet the nutritional needs of the doe by:
- supplying additional protein in preparation for breeding,
- then feeding mostly hay, with a little grain during the first five months of pregnancy,
- and feeding her extra food during the last four weeks of gestation.
Managing the herd will ensure the best yields, which means controlled breeding or joining, together with a careful selection of which goats you’ll be breeding.
What Should You Expect at Kidding Time?
At kidding time, expect things to go from nothing to crazy at a moment’s notice. Each delivery is unique, even if a doe has delivered kids before. Be prepared to give support as needed. Also, ensure you have a veterinarian on-call if additional support is needed.
A few days prior to delivery, the fetus will appear to drop as it moves into the correct position for birthing. The doe’s sides, under the spine, right in front of the hip bones will seem to hollow out, and the flesh along the top of the pelvic bone will slip down, making the lower spine stand out more.
When she’s ready, the doe will often get restless, exchanging the loafing around of late pregnancy for more agitated behavior as she prepares to deliver her kids.
Healthy does of appropriate weight and breeding will rarely have any complications. Depending on the individual goat, labor may be announced with loud bleating or silence.
The kid will usually appear within minutes of the commencement of hard labor. The doe will stand up, the kid then lands with a thud on the ground, and if healthy, it will stand, albeit very unsteadily, and begin sneezing.
The firstborn’s siblings will generally arrive at intervals of two to three minutes. When she’s finished delivering the kids, she will pass the placenta which she may well eat.
Once the newborn kids have found their legs, they will search for something to suck on. At first, they won’t know where, so they’ll experiment on different parts of the mother until they find a teat. Kids that nurse within the first twenty-four hours of life and receive colostrum will usually survive and thrive.
Watch for kids which are too cold, separated from the mother and the others, bleating for no obvious reason, or lethargic. These runts may not make it without assistance. They may require bottle feeding and warming.
After seven days the doe’s milk no longer contains colostrum so the kids can be weaned. Gestation and kidding are natural processes so all things being equal, it is correct and careful management that will ensure healthy herds.
Does of the right age, weight, and condition will produce an average of 2.2 kids each year after a 150-day gestation period.
Anyway – that’s the nitty-gritty of delivery time. There’s always something that goes wrong. Or if you’re totally prepared for every bad possibility, then things will go wrong by going right – and the does won’t need you at all.
Final Thoughts on How Many Kids Goat Does Have
Goats really are the best. That being said, kidding season can get a bit stressful. So make sure you plan to be around until the kids have all been born and the whole feeding them thing has been figured out. There’s nothing worse than thinking that things will work out – and then learning that they didn’t.
One more tip – enjoy seeing how many kids your goats have. Because while blood tests and ultrasounds give you a pretty solid guess about there being a pregnancy (and how many kids there are), it’s possible to get a surprise kid from time to time.
Next, make sure you read my resources on locking goats up at night so that your new kids stay safe.
That way, you’ll have plenty of time to read my article on the easier way to milk goats (with a breast pump) while you plan what to do with all of that delicious goat milk once the kids don’t need it anymore!
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Farmingmag. “Breeding Goats.” Farming Magazine, 19 Apr. 2019, www.farmingmagazine.com/livestock/goats/breeding-goats/.
- Goat Facts. University of Florida IFAS Extension, animal.ifas.ufl.edu/media/animalifasufledu/images/small-ruminant/Goat-Facts-Sheet_Reduced-size.pdf.
- Live Stock:: Goat:: Breeds of Goat, agritech.tnau.ac.in/animal_husbandry/ani_goat_mgt%20practices.html.
- “Newborn Goats and the First Days of Life – Off to a Good Start.” Self, 30 Sept. 2018, www.self-reliance.com/2018/04/off-to-a-good-start-newborn-goats-and-the-first-days-of-life/.
- Production from a Breeding Doe. Meat and Livestock Australia, www.mla.com.au/globalassets/mla-corporate/extensions-training-and-tools/documents/fs07-production-from-a-breeding-doe-final.pdf.
- “Raising Goat Kids.” Purina Animal Nutrition, www.purinamills.com/goat-feed/education/detail/getting-your-kid-off-to-a-healthy-start.
- Starr, Kimberly. “Should You Milk a Pregnant Goat? What You Need to Know.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 19 May 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/should-you-milk-a-pregnant-goat-what-you-need-to-know/.