Over the weekend, Dan was away overnight with his brother. I was looking forward to a quiet night at home on the farm, a little time spent with a friend who was planning on stopping by, maybe a little playoff football on the TV, and just getting chores done early and staying warm and cozy inside. As I was making my rounds for evening chores, I heard some unusual noise coming from the sheep house. Nothing alarming, just...not normal. Sure enough, Chocolate was standing there, making the soft noises I had heard, talking to the twin lambs who were already born and up on their feet. Now, Dan had left not much more than an hour prior, and had been right through this part of the barnyard, so she must not have been in labor long! In some ways this was a huge relief. Chocolate has had lambs before and has proven to be a great mother (not all sheep are), but over the past year she developed a hernia in her side. On a farm, the animal has to be extremely valuable to even consider surgery, which is the only thing that can repair a hernia like hers. However, it does not seem to bother her, so we decided to let it be rather than putting her down. So the fact that she was healthy and the lambs were sturdy and already active was great!
Best practice for sheep is to put the new mom and babies in a lambing jugs, or a little pen so the babies can't wander off or be trampled by other sheep. However, we didn't have jugs set up and I was all alone. Chocolate had the good sense to give birth in the sheep house instead of the snow, so I swung the door shut to keep everyone warm and contained. The catch was that I latched 7 other sheep in there as well. As I did my other chores, I pondered what to do next. Should I just feed all the sheep in there and call it good? Should I try to set up a pen and attempt to get the three sheep, and only those three, in it? Chase the rest of the sheep out of the sheep house? (It's very hard to do this without the one you're trying to pen up getting loose, too. Plus without this space, the sheep, many of whom are also pregnant, would have to fight the cows for sheltered space out of the wind and snow for the night.) While I've been through lambing seasons and I generally can figure out how best to take care of my critters, I nearly always have Dan to double check with, or to get a hand in times like these, but he was not only gone but out of cell phone service as well. In that case, I am known to give his brother a call- while Matt is happy not being on a farm anymore, I still can ask him questions and he has years of experience to draw on, but he was with Dan and unreachable. I was just nervous enough to want a second opinion though, so I picked up the phone and called my father-in-law. I'm very grateful to have a good relationship with all of my in-laws, where I can call and ask for advice or help if I need it. He listened as I described what was going on and told me I'd done the right thing by penning them up initially. He also felt that they would most likely be fine in a group in the sheep house, especially with an experienced mother who is also one of the bigger, bossier ewes. I was grateful for the advice, even if it was just confirming what I thought was my best and easiest option, it is still nice to hear from someone I consider an expert that yes, this is a good, workable plan. So I gave the sheep hay and water, and the little lambs still seemed healthy and strong. The other ewes took little notice of them, and mama Chocolate had obviously fed them and was keeping an eye out for them.
When Dan came home the next day, he was thrilled that our lambing season had kicked off with a problem-free delivery and healthy twins. He also agreed with how I handled everything, and now three days later, mama and the lambs are still all doing great!