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How to Tell When a Sheep is Close to Lambing

How to Tell When a Sheep is Close to Lambing

What are the signs that a sheep is close to lambing? These are the main signs that you should look for:

  • The teats will start to feel firm 10 days before lambing
  • An udder will start to form (about 4 weeks before lambing)
  • The ewe will start missing meals
  • The abdomen will start to sink 
  • Nesting
  • Passing a water bag (or several)

All these are small or large hints that you should know and observe before an ewe is ready to start lambing.

The lambing process will, on average, take 147 days to complete. When you start to notice some of these signs, you should know that you should be ready to help or seek help to complete the lambing.

Signs a Sheep is Close to Lambing

jacob sheep

Observe these signs so you’ll know that your sheep are close to lambing.

1. The Teats will Feel Firm

One of the most notable signs that you’ll see about 10 days before lambing is that the teats will start to feel firmer. To notice this difference, you should know how the teats felt before the lambing to know the difference.

If you see this symptom, then the lambing is coming in the next 10 days or two weeks at the very most, and you should take it as a sign to get prepared for the impending lambing process.

2. An Udder Will Start to Form

sheep

About 4 weeks before lambing, your sheep will start to form an udder. The size of the udder will usually grow the closer the sheep is to lambing, so you’ll have to reach under the sheep and check the udder if you think it’s closer to form, and if it’s larger than usual, then it’s a sure sign.

Note that when you notice this signal, there might still be several weeks before your sheep is ready to lamb. Usually, this sign will occur 3-4 weeks before lambing, but in some cases, it will start forming earlier. 

3. She’ll Start to Skip Meals

small sheep

If you’ve noticed that your sheep have started to miss meals or ignore food, then you shouldn’t panic. 

In most cases, if your ewe is pregnant, this is a normal and even expected circumstance. If you see your ewe skip one or several meals per day and it’s pregnant, then the sheep is preparing itself for lambing. It has nothing to do with being ill or diseased, but rather, the sheep only has one thing on its mind.

This is one of the symptoms that will start to happen later during pregnancy, so you’ll probably notice several other symptoms of lambing on this list. Usually, the skipping of meals will happen in the last few days or hours before lambing.

4. Sunken Abdomen

sheep lamb eating

1-2 days before the lambing, the lambs will start to move lower in the abdomen, so the abdomen will appear to be more sunken than usual. 

This is because the sheep is preparing for lambing and the lambs are moved in a lower area to make it more comfortable for the sheep to carry them. You’ll see a sunken area between the ribs and the hipbones, and it’s a sign that the sheep is very close to lambing.

It’s essentially getting the lambs ready for delivery and putting them in a position where the lambs are pushed out of the sheep’s body more easily.

5. Nesting

sheep wool

When the sheep is right before lambing, it will retreat away from the herd and create its own “nest” where it will deliver the lambs. This will happen in the last few hours of the lambing process.

The ewe wants to feel comfortable and safe before it is able to deliver. That’s why you should ideally set up a separate lambing pen for the sheep to deliver its lambs. This will help the sheep feel more comfortable during the lambing process, and you should provide them with as much assistance as possible.

The lambing pen should be comfortable and big enough for the sheep to deliver its lambs. Make sure it’s soft enough and provide food and water for the sheep to feel comfortable when it is lambing.

6. Passing a Water Bag

sheep

Right before the delivery, the ewe will start passing a water bag (one or several). This is a clear sign that your ewe is ready to deliver, and it should happen in the next 30-60 minutes. 

This signal is essentially the same as a woman breaking water when she is about to give birth. Though one of the main differences between sheep and women is the time it will take them to complete the delivery – for sheep, it will be up to 60 minutes but for women, it might take longer than that.

What Time of Day do Sheep Give Birth?

sheared sheep

The most common time for birth in sheep is between 6 AM and 10 AM.

Then, the second most common time of birth is between 10 AM and 2 PM. It seems as though most sheep give birth in the morning or early afternoon hours, according to research. But some sheep will also give birth at night or in the evening, so there is no clear-cut answer.

There’s also evidence to believe that the times of feeding will impact the time when the lambs are delivered. For example, if sheep are fed in the evening, it’s more likely for them to deliver lambs in the morning and in the early afternoon rather than later on. Experienced sheep owners know how to manipulate this.

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Conclusion

When a sheep is ready to deliver its lambs, you’ll be able to spot the clear signals that it’s happening. These signals will first start to appear weeks before lambing, so you’ll be able to prepare everything for the big occasion.

The signals will start to get more intense and a few days before delivery, they’ll be at their strongest. That’s when you should know that the lambs are on their way.

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