Fluffy lambs are the cutest things on earth, so it’s no wonder you might be tempted to get one as a pet. But lambs don’t stay small forever, and eventually, they become adult sheep. And we all know that sheep are farm animals, right? So, are they really good pets to have in your home?
As long as you have the time and the resources, sheep can make great pets. This is because they’re intelligent and trainable, and they respond to their names. And if you get them from a young age, sheep will enjoy being petted and kept as pets.
But having a pet sheep is a lot different from having a pet cat or dog. And there are lots of other things to consider before you go out and get yourself a pet sheep. So, if you want to know if sheep are the right pets for you, take a look at this vital information below.
Can You Have a Sheep as a House Pet?
You can have a sheep as a house pet if you’ve got sufficient outdoor space. Sheep need to spend time outside. So, if you don’t have outside space you shouldn’t get a sheep. As well as this, you must make sure that you live in an area where keeping sheep is permitted.
Sheep need to be outside so that they can exercise. And they must have some kind of pasture to graze on. So, depending on the size of the sheep, you’ll need at least half an acre of land.
Additionally, in some areas, particularly residential ones, you might not be allowed to keep sheep. So, you must check your local zoning regulations to see if it’s legal to keep sheep in your area.
Is Having a Pet Sheep a Good Idea?
If you have land around your home, or you’re setting up a backyard homestead, having a pet sheep can be a great idea. However, you should never keep a sheep alone. Sheep are flock animals, and they need to be around other sheep.
Sheep feel more secure when they live in a flock. So, if you keep a sheep alone, chances are, it will get lonely and depressed. This means that you should have at least 2-3 pet sheep so that they can keep each other company. And if you have the space, you should really get 5 or 6 sheep.
If you have a piece of land, a small flock of sheep will maintain it well. They’ll eat down the grass and other weeds and pasture plants. And of course, they’ll fertilize it with their droppings too.
Do Sheep Make Good House Pets?
Sheep make good house pets in a home with enough space and preparation. Contrary to popular belief, sheep are intelligent animals. They can recognize faces and emotions. Sheep can be trained to respond to commands. And if they’re well socialized, sheep are great with kids.
Lots of pet sheep owners report that they can train their pet sheep with clicker training. And most sheep will learn commands at the same rate as your average dog. As well as this, in most cases, you can house train lambs. And we’ve got a great article about that here: How to House Train a Lamb: Complete Step-by-Step Guide.
Are Sheep Easy to Care For?
Once you’re familiar with sheep and their care routine, sheep are pretty easy to care for. However, you need to shear most sheep breeds at least once a year and give them a regular hoof trim. And sometimes you might need professional assistance with hoof trims and shearing.
You’ll also want to make sure you have a veterinarian who’s comfortable treating livestock, or at least sheep.
Need your own shears? Check out these heavy-duty shearers on Amazon.
If you don’t want the hassle of shearing your sheep, you should choose a “hair breed”. These sheep naturally molt their fleece each year unassisted. For all other breeds, you’ll have to remove the fleece yourself. Sheep shearing can be tricky if you haven’t done it before. And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing your sheep, you can always call in a professional shearer.
It’s vital to remove your sheep’s fleece otherwise they won’t be able to cope with the summer heat. And you should aim to have them sheared before daytime temperatures start hitting the 80s.
As well as being sheared, sheep will also need a hoof trim every six to ten weeks. Lots of owners learn how to do this themselves. But as a new owner, you should always get advice and guidance from a professional before you trim your sheep’s feet.
Trimming hooves isn’t particularly difficult once you know how. The trick is training your animal to hold still so that hoof trimming doesn’t take forever – or wear out your back.
Need some hoof trimmers? Check out what’s available on Amazon (and what’s on sale).
Correct Veterinary Care
When you take care of pet sheep correctly, the chances of them getting ill are slim. But they do get ill sometimes. And therefore, you need to make sure that you’ve got a suitable farm animal vet in the area. As well as this, you need to consider that the vet bills for a sheep will be more expensive due to call-out charges.
Sometimes, you may be able to find (or be referred to) a mobile vet. That can help keep the call-out charges lower.
How to Care for a Pet Sheep
The key thing when it comes to caring for pet sheep is their diet. Sheep are ruminants which means that they need to be eating grass or forage for most of the day. If you want healthy, happy sheep, you must get their diet right.
There are two types of hay you can feed your sheep: grass hay or alfalfa hay. But you should only feed alfalfa hay to sheep who need extra nutrients. It’s too rich for your average sheep to eat.
Ruminants are a type of grazing animal so for their health and well-being, they need regular access to pasture or forage. A sheep needs to eat on average 2 percent of their body weight in forage per day. If you don’t have enough rich grass for your sheep to eat, you’ll have to supplement their diet with hay.
Sheep can eat a lot of different types of grasses and pasture plants; however, some plants are very poisonous to sheep. Always make that their pasture is free from poisonous plants such as buttercups, daffodils, or Lilly of the valley.
Sometimes you might have to feed your sheep grains. These are concentrated foods that contain extra nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Grains are good for sheep in the colder months when pasture is poor. Or for sheep who need extra nutrients such as elderly sheep or pregnant/lactating females.
Overall, grains should only make up a tiny part of a sheep’s diet. And you should only feed sheep grains if they need them. Most of the time sheep can get all the nutrients they need from lush pastures alone.
And when it comes to feeding your sheep cereals or grains you must only ever feed them sheep grain. Never feed sheep grains or feed that’s been made for other animals. This is because lots of animal grains contain copper. And if sheep eat too much copper this can be fatal.
Aside from hay and grains, your sheep will enjoy having a little treat now and then. You can use treats for training or enriching your sheep’s environment. And healthy fruit and vegetable treats will supplement your sheep’s diet.
When it comes to feeding your sheep treats, you should only feed them in small amounts. If sheep eat too many treats all at once this can be very bad for their health. And it may lead to bloat, which is a fatal gastric condition in sheep.
As well as this, you should always introduce new treats and make any changes in your sheep’s diet slowly. And make sure that your sheep always have constant access to clean water.
Want to read more about using bread as a treat to feed your sheep? Check out this article we wrote on the topic here: Should sheep eat bread? Here’s the thing.
How Long Do Sheep Live as House Pets?
Agricultural sheep will usually be culled at 5 or 6 years old. This is because they’re no longer considered to be productive. But as a house pet, you can expect a sheep to live for around 12-14 years.
To prolong the life of your sheep, you need to vaccinate them when they’re lambs and top them up with a booster shot each year. As well as this, sheep are vulnerable to parasites. Heavy infestations can kill sheep. So, this is why you need to treat your sheep for parasites up to or around three times a year.
You should speak to your vet to create a worming and vaccination program for your sheep.
Are Sheep High-Maintenance Pets?
Sheep are pretty low-maintenance pets once they’re trained, though training can be high maintenance. Aside from regular feeding, they don’t need that much personal attention. But what they do need is a secure place to live as well as access to shelter.
You must have the right type of fencing for your sheep. This is not only to keep them contained but it will also help to keep predators out. The best types of fencing for sheep are electric fencing, boxed wire, or post and rail. You must check and maintain the fence regularly to keep your sheep safe and secure.
You can read more about using electric fencing to keep your animals safe from coyotes in this article we wrote here.
Grab some electric netting fence from Amazon. Click here to see the best pricing.
Sheep will also need a place where they can shelter away from the wind and rain in winter, and from the heat and sun in summer. A sheep shelter must be dry and protected from the wind.
You can buy a sheep shelter online or from a local agricultural store. Or you can get creative and make your own sheep shelter.
Need an easy shelter idea that won’t break the bank? Check this choice out on Amazon now.
Are Sheep Friendly?
When you keep them as pets, sheep can be very friendly. They’ll recognize you and will be very happy to see you approaching. Overall, if you regularly interact with your sheep, this will make them more friendly.
- Castrated male sheep are known as a “wether.” These are generally the most placid and friendly types of sheep.
- Female sheep, while friendly, can sometimes be temperamental.
- Rams, on the other hand, are the most aggressive type of sheep due to their testosterone. And it’s not a good idea to have a ram as a house pet. Especially if there are children around.
If you’re going to get a sheep as a pet, go with wether. It’s usually the safest bet. And then you don’t have to deal with a female in heat or a ram in a rut.
Do Sheep Like to be Petted?
A domestic sheep that’s well socialized and used to people will generally enjoy being petted. But an agricultural sheep that’s not used to people will almost certainly run away if you try and pet it.
This is because sheep are flight animals, which means that if they feel like they’re in danger they’ll instantly run away. And when sheep aren’t used to humans, they see us as a threat. So this means you usually can’t get within 10 feet of a wild sheep.
When sheep are used to humans, in most cases, they’ll enjoy it when you pet them. However, even sheep that are accustomed to people may still run away from strangers. So you should always get permission from the owner before petting a sheep.
There’s more to it than just that, of course. This is why you should read this article I wrote on petting sheep next.
Do Sheep Like to be Cuddled?
Some sheep that are well socialized and comfortable with humans enjoy being cuddled. But if you try to cuddle a sheep or lamb that’s not well socialized, this could make them feel stressed.
The best way to make a sheep comfortable around humans is by raising it on the bottle, away from its mother. Lambs raised on the bottle form deep attachments to their foster mom and family. So overall, they’re a lot more confident being around people and enjoy being cuddled more.
What is the Friendliest Breed of Sheep?
Babydoll and Shetland sheep are considered the friendliest of sheep breeds, though most sheep breeds are friendly.
These breeds are not only friendly, but they’re also tiny. So, this makes them the perfect sheep to have at home.
Baby doll sheep are hornless and grow to between 18 to 24 inches tall. They have unique personalities and intelligent, gentle natures.
Shetland sheep are also very small, standing at around 18 inches high. And just like the Babydoll, they make curious and interactive pets. However, some Shetland sheep have horns. And for safety and convenience, you should avoid having horned sheep as house pets.
Dehorning sheep is an option, though it’s not very common nor the best idea. Most sheep need their horns to help them stay cool, so odds are that a breeder won’t dehorn young sheep in time. If you’re raising the sheep yourself, then you may be able to make that decision.
Always consult a livestock-specialist veterinarian before dehorning any sheep.
Do Pet Sheep Love Their Owners?
Pet sheep really do love their owners, especially if you’ve been with your sheep since birth. Although sheep might seem a little bit aloof with strangers, they’re very affectionate with their owners.
When you have pet sheep, you’ll become the leader of the flock. And they’ll feel happy and secure with a leader around. Sheep are totally devoted to their leader, and they’ll follow you everywhere you go.
Do Sheep Get Along With Other Animals?
Sheep get along with other farm animals including llamas, goats, pigs and cows. And they’ll also happily abide with small animals such as hens, ducks, and rabbits.
Sheep and goats get along pretty well too, but you shouldn’t keep them together. This is because they share the same parasites which will thrive living among two separate species. And ultimately, the parasites will become resistant to treatment.
And if you plan on keeping your sheep with other livestock you must make sure that they’re not eating each other’s food. Remember, the copper levels in some animal feeds are very toxic for sheep.
To find out more about keeping your sheep with other animals, take a look at our article about compatible livestock. It’s got a huge chart, so it’s definitely easier to view from a desktop computer or tablet.
Which is Better: A Sheep or a Goat?
Even though they’re similar, sheep and goats are very different animals. Sheep are much easier going than goats but they’re less independent with a strong herd mentality. Sheep are generally more susceptible to stress.
If your land is covered in short grass then it’s better to choose sheep to maintain it. But if your land is a bit wilder and shrubbier, then goats will do a better job.
The good thing about goats is that you usually don’t have to shear them. However, goats are a lot more curious and agile than sheep, so they can be harder to contain. Overall, sheep are much harder than goats thanks to their thick fleece to keep them warm in the winter.
If you ask me, though, they’re both awesome. They can both do well on a backyard homestead, though if you want a pet, I’d say get a sheep.
If you have the resources, sheep make fantastic pets. Aside from annual shearing and regular hoof trims, they’re generally easy to care for.
The important thing to remember is that you should never keep a sheep alone. And you must have adequate outdoor space for them to live in.
And remember to make sure that you’re able to have sheep. You may want to check with both your zoning codes and any pet licensure departments.
On our half-acre, we could have two sheep in our backyard homestead easily. We’ve already hit our “two indoor licensed animals” limit (yeah, it’s kind of lame), so no indoor pet sheep for us right now.
But now that you know more about keeping sheep as pets, make sure you read this article on feeding sheep next. The part on portion control especially will help you be a good sheep owner!
Learning from your own experience is essential, but learning from others is also intelligent. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- “Babydoll Southdown Sheep Breeders Association – Breed Standard.” Babydoll Sheep Registry, www.babydollsheepregistry.org/breedstandard.htm. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
- “Do Sheep Get Cold After Shearing?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 12 February 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/do-sheep-get-cold-after-shearing/.
- Greiner, Scott. “Sheep Update: Control of Internal Parasites.” Virginia Cooperative Extension, May 2000, www.sites.ext.vt.edu/newsletter-archive/livestock/aps-00_05/aps-0217.html.
- “Hair Sheep Breeds – Breeds of Livestock — Breeds of Livestock, Department of Animal Science.” Oklahoma State University, afs.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/hair.html. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
- “How Long Can Sheep Go Without Food and Water?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 9 December 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/how-long-can-sheep-go-without-food-and-water/.
- Lucy. “Taming & Training.” Patchwork Sheep, 22 June 2018, patchworksheep.co.uk/taming-training.
- “NASSA – North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Assoc.” NASSA, www.shetland-sheep.org. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
- “NMSU: Sheep and Goat Vaccine and Health Management Schedule.” New Mexico State University, aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_b/B127/welcome.html. Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.
- “Pet Sheep.” Patchwork Sheep, 22 June 2018, patchworksheep.co.uk/pet-sheep.
- “Portion Control: Do Sheep Know To Stop Eating?” Backyard Homestead HQ, 6 July 2021, backyardhomesteadhq.com/portion-control-do-sheep-know-to-stop-eating/.
- “Should Sheep Eat Bread? Here’s the Thing.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 7 July 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/should-sheep-eat-bread-heres-the-thing/.
- The Open Sanctuary Project, Inc. “How To Trim A Sheep’s Hooves.” The Open Sanctuary Project, 4 Dec. 2020, opensanctuary.org/article/how-to-trim-a-sheeps-hooves.