While using a lambing calculator or sheep gestation table is helpful, when the big day is near watching for these obvious signs of lambing will let you know if your ewe is getting ready.
Sheep Lambing Signs You Need to Watch For
- Bagging Up - Your ewe will start to develop an udder about 4 weeks prior to lambing. As due dates approach, get in the habit of walking behind your ewes when you feed them their grain and reaching under them to check for the first signs of an udder. Mark the date on your calendar to get a clear sense of when your ewe might deliver. As that date nears watch their udder closely - within 24 hours her udder will become firm and her teats will become large, swollen and filled with milk. This is a clear sheep lambing sign.
- Sunken Loin - 1-2 days prior to your sheep lambing the lambs will "drop" inside the ewe, offering the appearance of sunken cavities between her hipbones and last rib. This happens as the lambs move into position for delivery and is a clear sign of lambing.
- Not Eating - Immediately before lambing it's common for many ewes to skip a meal while standing off by themselves. While missing several meals is cause for concern, skipping grain and hay one morning or night is usually a signal that your ewe has other things on her mind: namely delivering lambs.
- Nesting - Just before your ewe begins labor it's common that she will seek out a secluded area and begin pawing at the ground. Some ewes paw gently while others will create huge mounds of bedding in an effort to create a welcoming area for delivery. This is usually one of the last sheep lambing signs before your ewe goes into the final stages of labor.
- Passing a Water Bag - Typically your ewe will pass at least one water bag (in humans it's referred to as a woman's water "breaking" but in sheep many times the sack of amniotic fluid will remain in tact). When this happens you know labor has begun in earnest and the first lamb should be delivered within 20-30 minutes. If it takes longer than that after your ewe's water has broken you may need to assist.
One of the most commonly overlooked aspects of correctly identifying lambing signs in sheep is your regular presence in the barn. If you aren't used to your sheep's routines and appearance you won't notice the subtle changes which can serve as clear signs your ewe is about to lamb. To learn more read our in depth article on tips for lambing, and if we've missed a common lambing sign that you always look for please share it in the comments below.