On a zero degree morning, two hours inside a barn is cold. And I was dressed for work, not hobby farming.
So I stood in my dress pants, black shoes, all-purpose coat, a scarf and those gloves with the fingers cut out so I could better work my iPhone.
We could tell one of our smallest ewes was ready to have her baby. We didn’t know if it would be minutes or hours. It’s her first pregnancy. She was born just less than a year ago herself and was a triplet who became our bottle lamb when her own mother couldn’t feed her.
I decided to hang around and watch since I’ve never seen the birth of a lamb.
It was a few hours full of anticipation. The other six ewes were curious why I was sitting on a straw bale in their tiny barn. They had to sniff and check things out and insist on a few pats on the heads. And they ate. It seems like sheep are constantly chewing something. They also went outside after a while, clearly no longer curious or anticipating that I was there to supply more food.
The three babies we already have — twin girls and a single — spent most of their time cuddled under a heat lamp. But they all got up and stretched and looked outside and sucked from their mothers, too.
Three pesky hens were looking for places to lay a morning egg. One in particular was clucking loudly, even though I shushed her. I guess she was the welcoming announcer for the morning. Finally, we gave her a lift out of the barn so we could get some peace and quiet.
In the meantime, the mother ewe got pretty anxious and pawed the straw into various arrangements, over and over. After awhile she started laying down and making labor noises, similar to a long, yet strained grunt. Then she’d get up and paw at the straw some more, smell it and plop back down with more contractions and sheep pushing sounds.
It was fascinating and sometimes it brought tears to my eyes because she was trying so hard to be a mother. After a bit, we decided to call our farmer friend who helped us start our small sheep hobby and bred our critters for us.
How long do we wait, we asked.
We could see two tiny black feet sticking out but for a long time, we didn’t see much more, maybe the tip of a black nose if we really stared hard.
Our friend said to not let her go much longer working on it herself. Then he told my husband how to tell if we were seeing front legs or back and gave him instructions to pull slowly.
The sheep was pretty cooperative about his help. She is tame and trusting of us because we’re with her a lot. My husband pulled one leg at a time out and then manipulated to get the head free. The rest went really quickly and the baby was in his hands.
When he put it on the warm straw, it quivered and shook a little, soon making the tiniest noises. It was almost like a baa but not really formed yet. I started the video rolling for the first 10 minutes of this lamb’s life.
The mother started drying off her baby, which was almost steamy in the cold air. Almost immediately, the lamb attempted to stand, first using its back legs. The ewe kept licking.
Then the company arrived.
One of the other ewes with a baby in the barn started baaing loudly. The newborn started answering, giving it all his might to try and be as loud as possible, too. It was comical, a little magical and it made me giggle.
Our latest baby — our first boy of the season — has a black circle around each eye. We call him “Buckeye.”