Teen Moms

With their fleeces shorn and two more weeks’ gestation under their belts, it now seems clear that three out of my five teen ewes are pregnant. If they were cattle, you’d call them “springing heifers” — heifers a few weeks before their first calving whose maiden udders are starting to spring, i.e. fill with milk. I’ve never seen a word for this in sheep — “springing hoggets?” — but all of these girls are making little bags.

My old ewe Clover’s daughter, Briar, looking at me above, should be first, as she was first to develop a bag. Usually this starts about a month before giving birth. Roger, my shearer, noted her growing udder when he sheared March 6, so I’m figuring Briar may lamb any day now.

I think Madeleine, Mango’s daughter, will be next. Then Chai. Chai is my youngest ewe; she won’t be a year old for another month. However she obviously carries the precocious fecundity gene of her mother (Bean) and grandmother (Blossom), as both of those lambed as short yearlings, also.

There isn’t a lot of extra room for lambs in a young sheep and so these girls look a bit like hard, swelling, unripe fruit.

Though I’ve been watching the puffiness of their vulvas, I don’t really have any idea when to expect their lambs, except that it should be in the next few weeks. Soon I will start barn checks again. However, just to be safe, I mucked the old deep bedding out of the lambing stall, spread fresh, and separated Briar and Madeleine into it. For the moment I’ve left young Chai with the flock. The lambing stall would be crowded with three ewes, and no sheep likes change.

Indeed, at first Briar and Madeleine put up a lot of fuss in their new quarters, rearing up against the gate and bleating. Briar was genuinely frightened; she is wild, nervous, and easily spooked. Madeleine, however, was simply protesting on principle. Perhaps because she was bottle-fed for a day after a tough birth, Madeleine is my tamest ewe, never fleeing like other sheep but instead pushing close to get under my hand for a scratch around the ears.

This friendliness can make it hard to get her picture, as she will poke her nose into the camera and bleat hopefully.

I will be glad when all the newborns are safely on the ground. But this second round of lambing is usually easier and quieter than the first, small waves lapping the shore after the big storm.

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