I have the kidding area setup so I can separate mammas with their babies at night, but open it up so the babies can mingle in there during the day. When the mammas start wanting to go out to pasture with their friends, I send them out, and, if they want their babies to stay behind, the kidding area serves as a daycare.
It sounded good on paper.
The mammas don’t want their babies playing with each other. They’re all being super-protective mammas. I kept the mammas in the barn with their kids, and kicked everyone out when we had a sunny day. That did not loosen anyone up.
It does not help that the kids can’t tell Meg and Kit (the red mammas) apart from a distance. The mammas can’t tell Spirit and Bear (the black babies), or Meg’s boys and Kit’s girl (all red), apart at a distance. Sweetie is fairly lovely about mistaken identity. Meg and Kit think the kids are doing it on purpose, and they think the kids need to be put in their place. “I am NOT your mamma!”
For the last week, I have been alternately ignoring or responding to various mamma’s plaintive wails.
This afternoon, I responded. There was quite a LOT of screaming.
I found alpacas circling the wagons around goats. Meg standing by the barn, complaining, but not more than usual, one kid by her side. Kit racing down the hill to the herd, screaming, with occasional glimpses of a kid bobbing along at her side. Sweetie bawling her lungs out, racing up the hill. I knew it was wrong when Abbey raced into the middle of it. Abbey may be a problem child sometimes, but she takes care of her herd before she head-butts them.
From a distance, all I could tell was that it was a really good-looking kid. So I thought Kit was taking Spirit down to Sweetie. “Aw, that’s sweet” ran through my mind. When I got into the middle of it, Sweetie was already back up the hill, but the kid was so confused, he had run to the gate nearest the house. Yep, he. It was Meg’s boy. Sweetie was panicked, trying to get through the scary-alpacas to the wayward kid. The alpacas were trying to surround him for protection. He was trying to escape the scary-alpacas. By the time I got to him, he was so freaked out he ran from me.
My best guess? He just followed a red goat. Since she was the wrong red goat, she ran away from him. “Don’t drink my milk, kid!” But he kept coming, so she kept running, and, next thing you know, she’s really far away from her own kids. “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” Since she doesn’t care who’s kid he is, she doesn’t know which mamma to deposit him with. Since she’s a new mamma, she’s over her head just keeping track of her kids and her hormones, so she had no clue where Meg was. She just ran to the herd. And maybe some part of her knew that taking another goat’s kid OUTSIDE, without his mamma, was a bad thing to do. “MAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!” And then Sweetie thought what I thought – “A kid that good-looking has to be mine!”
Poor kid. When a baby goat is scared, we get down low and talk calmly to it. Chasing a scared goat just upsets them. So I was able to snatch him up, give him a hug, and take him back to mom. I put him with his mom, and he and the other kid went running in circles, hiding behind things, acting nuts. I scooped them up and took them back into the barn – with a pack of angry mammas behind me, screaming like banshees. It turns out, the kid that had been standing with Meg was Kit’s kid! When I put them down, I didn’t even have to look to see which one had the big adventure; I could feel his heart pounding in his chest.
So I took ALL their kids away from them after a quick sort-out and a suckle of “nature’s valium” (mamma’s milk). I sent the mammas outside to cool off, while I hugged baby goats. Which, it turns out, is what the mammas wanted. They wanted some “me” time away from their kids, but they wanted me to babysit so they wouldn’t worry while they were out kicking up their heels.
I got 4 out of 5 babies piled together in one hut for a nap, and let Spirit climb on me just outside. Spirit loves her “me” time, too. Seems she’s been feeling a little vulnerable, and I’m her “safety zone.” Spirit tucks into her own baby hut to escape the melee – even though there’s no melee in her bonding stall. As I spent extra time with the babies today, trying to bond them together, I realized that Spirit needs her safety zone. She would play a tiny bit with the other (smaller, younger) babies, then run back to me. She mostly just played with me, while the other babies mingled.
So, tonight, when everyone went back to their stalls, I went into Sweetie’s stall and sat with Spirit for a bit, I sat on a plastic chair and let Spirit flitter around me. She ducked under the chair and nibbled hay. So I put her to bed. And she ran back out of her hut and begged for more play time. I sat down on the barn floor and gave her a little more huggies, and gave her mom some huggies, too. It was the quietest the barn has been in days. All the babies tired out, napping, except Spirit. All the mamma’s content that their babies were where they were supposed to be. Sweetie still feeling a little confused at her new home, but happy to get pets while her baby sat in my lap next to her.