When a ewe lambs, it’s normally a quiet experience. She rumbles the “mothering chuckle” to her lambs, and they will make cute little lamb-cry sounds to her as they struggle to their feet.
It’s a beautiful thing, and one never tires of seeing this amazing miracle unfold before your very eyes. An attentive mother will not leave her lamb or lambs, even to get a drink, for many hours, just to tend to them. Her every focus is on their care.
The lambs, for their part, will hardly be escaped from their womb-home before they are on their feet and bumping around for the life-giving milk only their mother can provide. It’s astounding, how quickly they’re up and at it.
In all of this simple, yet extraordinary, dance, there’s not a lot of sound. A ewe has a particular chuckle she uses to talk to her newborn lamb, and she never uses it anywhere else. When you come out to check the sheep, without even looking you will know if someone has lambed just by listening for that “new lamb chuckle”. Personally, it’s so cool that I can’t wait to hear the first one of every lambing season!
The lambs will bleat out little, endearing blats and cries, if anything at all, and, let me tell you, they serve their purpose! Mama Ewe answers immediately in the form of a concerned chuckle, maybe escalating into an actual ba-a-a, and doing all a sheep mother can to for her lamb to be sure everything’s okay….and, of course, the continual licking of the tongue-bath every newborn lamb gets until they’re pretty much dry. Mostly, it’s quiet, save for this new mama-baby language they now use in low and meaningful tones. It’s their language, not ours, so butt out, folks. One can only watch in a reverent admiration of the wonder if it all.
We really hate to disrupt this process of bonding if at all possible. Every minute and hour they can be left alone to their little world, makes this new little family so much tighter knit for the whole season. But, as with all livestock and ranching, there are times we must intervene or take action that we wouldn’t need to take in bluebird weather, or with a perfect mother, or the perfect lively lamb. Any time there’s interference, the noise level goes up…as Mama gets concerned and the babies think they’re surely being kidnapped forever. It’s not what we like, but it’s what me must do at times.
We have a little sled thingy that we use to move new lambs into the barn or wherever they might need to go. It works real slick. The lambs are separated from Mama only by some wire, which keeps them “connected”–Mama can see and smell her babies yet and they can see Mama too. So the human puts the lambs in the sled, and starts off. Mama comes along, blatting as she comes. She comes real well if the lambs put out some noise too, as a concerned mother is snapped to attention!
Well, one time this lambing season, we had to get a first-time mother ewe in with her brand new set of twins because it began to rain that nasty cold stuff. When these wee ones were placed in their little sled cage, they began to really put up a fuss. No, not a fuss, they just started screaming! Now most lambs will fuss, but this means an occasional, serious cry and some trying to get out–calling for mama to help! But, these! Oh, my! They turned on a continual and relentless onslaught of screams that would have unnerved a very experienced ewe, and would have had her looking around for wolves! And, I mean, constant, both of them and they had the same voice! This poor ewe, who was being an excellent mother, came hurriedly along, for she must save her lambs and they were most certainly in very great distress!
We put all three of the new little family in their clean, dry jug in the barn. All good, right? Wrong! At this point, things usually quiet down quickly and lambs and mother find each other and continue on their bonding journey. Not so! These boisterous children were having none of it! This was horrible treatment and they were NOT happy. They screamed and screamed! Mama chuckled and answered, sniffed and made herself known, “I’m here, kids!” They looked everywhere but at Mama, who seemed puzzled about this new thing called “mothering”. But, she continued to do a superb job and did all that she could do, save grow hands and use them! It was so unusual, and so funny, we could not stop laughing!
And, lucky for you, I had my camera with me. So, you are about to see the first movie in which the only stars are sheep.
Oh, and turn up the volume, for full impact!
Aren’t they just adorable?!
And, just so you know, when we left the barn, they were still carrying on! But, when we returned for another check, everyone was quiet and happy as clams. Success!
And, new mama was much relieved to know none of it was her fault. Kids these days!