Angelica and the Magnificent Seven
The Secret Life of a Septomom
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Fairywood Farm is a lush green country island in the middle of the city of Gilbert, Arizona. This magical acre-and-a-quarter is home to chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, a couple of peacocks, four sheep, a Jersey milk cow, and a herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. That herd includes one very special three-year-old doe named Angelica. This is her story.
In February of 2019, the does on the farm started kidding. Angelica just kept getting bigger and bigger. On Valentine’s Day, Angelica’s owner, Elizabeth Miller, posted a picture of the hugely pregnant doe asking followers to guess how many babies she carried. Answers ranged from three to five. Two days later, Angelica went into labor. The family watched in amazement as she pushed out baby after baby, all alive, all healthy, and most of all, all normal size for Nigerian Dwarf babies. After the first four, Elizabeth started helping. She pulled out another baby, then another, then one more. Finally, after two and a half hours, this amazing mama goat had seventh healthy babies: two doelings and five bucklings. The Millers had never heard of goat septuplets, so they looked it up. Angelica had just set a new world record!
“I knew we had something a little bit special about our farm,” said Elizabeth’s daughter, Elsa. “But I never imagined we’d have a world record.”
The smallest and spunkiest baby, one of the doelings, earned the name Tiny. After some debate, the Millers named the other doeling Amalthea after the goat goddess that helped raise Zeus. They decided to stick with that theme, naming the bucklings Zeus, Poseidon, Pluto, Chiron, and Demetrius. Angelica didn’t know she was now raising godlings and continued to nurse all seven babies. Meanwhile, the Millers contacted the Guinness Book of World Records.
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The Millers kept a close eye on the babies and prepared to supplement when needed. “All of Angelica’s babies were right around two pounds,” Elizabeth told me. “Tiny was just about a quarter-pound smaller. But then she just seemed like she was always hungry, and with seven that’s a lot of competition. So, we actually bottle fed her. We bottle fed Pluto, and we bottle fed Amalthea for the first two weeks or so … just supplemented. We would go in there two or three times a day with a bottle and feed all the babies that were starving, or pretended like they were starving.”
It seemed to work. On February 25th, when the septuplets were just nine days old, the vet visited the farm to give them a well-check. Angelica and all seven babies were doing great.
Two days later Elizabeth posted an adorable picture of Tiny with the caption, “Good morning tiny precious! She’s ready for her breakfast.”
That afternoon she shared this somber post. “… Today we lost our little Tiny. Angelica’s smallest doeling, the ‘runt’ of the litter who seemed so lively and strong but must have been struggling in ways we couldn’t detect. We don’t know why, she had a full belly and was active this morning and this afternoon she was just gone. So we cry, we mourn, we wonder what we should have, could have done to prevent this and try not to beat ourselves up because really, we know that we love this life so much, and we did and do everything we can to keep it all going. But sometimes it just doesn’t work…”
Nursing and caring for that many babies take a lot of energy. The Millers kept a watchful eye on Angelica, making sure she had enough nutrition to regain her weight and continue to make enough milk. “We had to change her diet several times to make sure she was getting enough food so that she didn’t just waste away.”
Finally, at six weeks, the special diet just couldn’t keep up with the demand. “She’s done an amazing job of nursing all six, and up until this week has been able to maintain her condition,” Elizabeth posted, “but it’s starting to wear on her so it’s time to start weaning. We’ll gradually reduce the time she spends with babies over the next two weeks until they are all set and ready for new homes.”
At eight weeks, the kids were doing great, but Angelica just wasn’t ready to let go. She kept asking for just a little more time and the Millers relented by reducing their separation time to just 12 hours a day. Finally, though, it was time for the bucklings to go to new homes.
So, what’s next for these famous babies? Amalthea will stay with the herd on Fairywood Farm. Zeus went on to a farm in Illinois where he will be a herd sire for a high-school-age boy who wants to start his own herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats. Demetrius and Pluto were wethered and went to another little farm in Gilbert, Arizona, to live out their lives as pets. Chiron got a new position elsewhere in Arizona as a companion to humans, horses, and HeiHie the Goat, one of the Goats of Instagram. As I write this, Poseidon’s fate is undecided. He may stay on at Fairywood as a herd sire, or he may go out into the world for as yet unforetold adventures. The process of being included in the Guinness Book of World Records continues. You can find out what happens next by following Fairywood Farms on Facebook or Instagram.
Elizabeth summed it up beautifully. “I just love the beauty of having a farm and having all the lessons that are learned from a farm. I think there’s no better place to learn patience, to learn compassion, to learn about the circle of life and acceptance of death and birth and tragedy and triumph. All of that is seen in a very intimate way on a farm. I love that we’ve been able to raise our children and our grandchildren in this environment. I think that growing up this close to animals and to the circle of life has helped them as adults to cope with whatever life throws them. They know that whatever trials come up, it’s temporary, that they’re going to be able to get through it and there’ll be something beautiful next.”
Originally published in the July/August 2019 issue of Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.