The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

We have this bizarre phenomenon going on at Wooly Acres right now.  I have never seen it before and it reminds me of the movie in the title.

So what do we have here in this picture of beautiful pastoral peacefulness? A mom and her 3 babies!  Except….that isn’t the mother.  Brianna, the birth mother, is in the upper left. This is Colleen. She is Brianna’s baby from 3 years ago.

Colleen is licking the lambs, softly knickering to them in a way you only hear from the mothers, and nudging them back to her udder. And believe it or not, they nurse. I can’t imagine they are actually getting anything because Colleen has not only NOT given birth, but I cannot confirm she is even pregnant. But they suck for a little while.

Here is what I am trying to figure out. Do we have a case of sweet Auntie Colleen trying to be a mother’s helper, helping out with the triplets? Keep in mind, normal behavior is for a ewe to push away a lamb that is not hers. Or, like Rebecca De Mornay in The Hand that Rocks the Cradle,  do we have a psycho nanny, secretly nursing her employer’s baby in order to steal away it’s affections to make up for the loss of her own baby?

Colleen is not acting aggressively toward Brianna or babies, though she defends them from the butting goats. And when Brianna (birth mother) calls, the lambs come running for the Big Gulp. So I don’t think there is any danger but it sure is weird. Any sheep raisers out there with some insight?

Brianna with her lambs. Colleen looks on longingly.

Colleen gently insinuates herself between mom and lambies, knickering to them softly.

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8 Responses to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle

  1. Lisa says:

    I guess my concern is are they getting enough to eat and grow? But I know you’ll be watching that closely. Hmmmm…

  2. Glory Lennon says:

    They are so cute now! That is a bit wild. Has Colleen never had lambs of her own? She might just be practicing for the future.

  3. Stan Short says:

    Nice to see her helping vs hurting them.

    Did you find out any info about this? Have other people seen it? Do you think you notice it more because of the personal attention you give them vs a larger or more commercial outfit would?

  4. Michelle Canfield says:

    I have had this happen before as well. I think it can be triggered in an almost-due ewe who is nearby when the 2nd one delivers, and she gets mentally triggered by the smell of the placental fluids, thinks she has delivered, and ID’s the lambs as hers. I would separate her to stop this behavior, as I think there are several risks. She could become more possessive and disallow the lambs from going to their own mother. She could interrupt the bond between the lambs and their real mother enough that the real mother abandons them. And, if she is close to being due, I think it is remotely possible for the nursing to trigger her to let down milk, and then they could drain her colostrum before her own lambs are born. Or, if she does lamb, she could become terribly confused about which are her real lambs. When I had it happen, penning up the psycho for a day or two was adequate to make her forget her obsession. Isn’t nature weird?

    • Julie Helms says:

      Thanks for commenting Michelle. As I don’t see any upside to leaving them together I will lock Colleen up for a day or two to try and break the connection. The behavior didn’t start for at least a week after the birth (the mom was penned for the birth and 3 days following), so I don’t think that triggered it, but there is obviously some confusion. Thanks again!

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