Keeping livestock is a lot of fun, but it can get noisy. After all, animals make a lot of fun (and crazy) noises. Depending on where you live, it’s important to know how to help keep them quiet, or at least help them not be noisy all the time. How do you help keep sheep quiet?
Sheep baa when they need food, water, space, attention, are in pain, or are in heat. Addressing these basic needs will help them be quiet, although penned sheep who recognize humans as their food source will almost always be noisier than sheep who have sufficient pasture.
Keep reading to help your sheep be as quiet as possible, so that when they baa it’s cute instead of aggravating!
How to Keep Sheep Quiet
To keep sheep quiet, you first have to identify why they’re being loud. As we’ll talk about in the next section of this article, sheep aren’t usually loud. So if they’re baaing like crazy, there’s usually a reason.
Here are the most common reasons why sheep are loud.
- Sheep know you supply the food – and they’d like it now, please.
- There isn’t enough space, and it’s causing an issue in herd rank.
- A sheep is in heat – and they’re trying to attract a mate.
- They’re injured or need help.
- The sheep are looking for attention – whether from you, a friend, or their herd.
Those are the most common reasons sheep are loud. So, let’s see some ways to help keep the sheep quiet.
|Reason for Baaing||How to Keep Sheep Quiet|
|Sheep want to be fed – and preferably the good stuff.||Feeding the sheep is a temporary fix that teaches sheep that being noisy gets them what they want. Instead, train the sheep that being quiet gets them food.|
|Herd politics are an issue.||You may need to let the sheep figure it out – or separate the sheep who are vying for the same spot in the herd hierarchy.|
|Space is an issue.||Sometimes sheep need some space. If there isn’t enough space, then a change in the herd makeup may be the only solution.|
|Pastures versus Pens.||Penned sheep are more likely to baa than sheep who have a large pasture. Some sheep can be trained to be quiet no matter their pen or pasture, while others may need to be rehomed or culled.|
|The sheep is injured or in pain.||See what the issue is and address that. Consult a veterinarian (ideally one specializing in livestock and/or sheep) as needed.|
|The sheep is looking for a friend.||Single sheep will be louder, as they’re looking for their herd. Always get herd animals in a group of at least 2-3.|
|Sheep is in heat and wants a boy/girl friend.||Sheep who are in heat are noisier. They will continue to be noisy until they are either no longer in heat (which can take days or weeks) or they’ve mated.|
|The sheep is new and acclimating to the new home.||Give the sheep a few days (or a couple of weeks) to adjust. Then, reevaluate to see how noisy they are. They may just have been noisy during the transition.|
|The sheep is looking for their dam or their lambs.||Sheep baa more when they’re weaned or their lambs are taken from them. They may need a few weeks to adjust to having been taken away from their dam or lambs.|
|The sheep is looking for your attention.||Some sheep love human interaction and attention. These sheep make better pets than livestock. If having a pet sheep doesn’t appeal to you, you may need to re-home or cull the sheep.|
Now, if having a pet sheep does appeal to you, then you may want to read my article on house-training lambs. Because that sheep may be looking to live with you full-time, whether your name is Mary-had-a-little-lamb or not.
Of all of the reasons why sheep are being loud, the most common (and problematic one) for backyard homesteaders is the first one listed in the table: that the sheep know you’re their food supplier. They want you to bring them the good stuff now!
Unfortunately, bringing sheep their food when they’re loud only reinforces to them that being noisy gets them what they want. Instead, it’s important to train the sheep that food comes at a certain time of day. And it comes on your schedule – not because they’re being loud.
Training the incessant baaing out of penned sheep can take time. Some sheep can figure it out simply by scheduled feeds over a few days or weeks. Others will need more intensive training.
Others won’t ever figure it out, and they may need to be rehomed somewhere that’s larger and has fewer neighbors. Culling an untrainable, noisy sheep (and maybe turning it into dinner) is another possibility, too.
Are Sheep Usually Loud?
Sheep aren’t usually loud. After all, they are considered a prey animal. Noisy prey animals usually get eaten by predators – or annoyed owners who are stocking their freezers anyway.
So if the sheep are being unusually loud, there’s almost always a reason. Here are those reasons again, though make sure you read the above section of this article for ways to help keep sheep quiet.
- They’re penned and know you provide the food. They’d like a second breakfast, please!
- They’re in heat and looking for a mate.
- They’re lonely and looking for a friend or their herd.
- The sheep are experiencing a change in the herd dynamic and they’re figuring that all out.
- They’re injured and need help.
- Sheep who have plenty of pasture are usually quieter than sheep who are penned.
The most common reason why sheep in a backyard homestead baa is because of the fact that they know you supply the feed combined with their overall pen (or pasture) size. Not only do they want the feed, but they probably also want to be petted and get some attention! Now, not every sheep will want to be petted, so make sure you read our article on petting sheep.
Why Do Sheep Baa Constantly?
Now, no matter what breed of sheep you have or the training you’ve done with them, there will be some sheep who baa constantly. In my research, I’ve found a few common reasons as to why that happens.
|Why Sheep Baa Constantly||Possible Fix #1||Possible Fix #2|
|Sheep who live in pens (or small pastures) know that humans supply the feed. They baa constantly to get your attention, in the hopes that it’s feeding time.||Give your sheep more pasture space, as pastured sheep have food on demand. This means less noisy sheep!||Train your sheep to be quiet with scheduled feeds and ignoring their baas.|
|The above, plus the fact that there isn’t enough pasture/yard space for more pasture.||If homesteading is your thing and you can move, then maybe you want more land.||If moving isn’t an option, you’ll need to use other solutions like training, re-homing, or culling noisy sheep to keep the peace with neighbors.|
|They’re injured, stuck, or otherwise need help.||Find and address the issue. Consult your veterinarian as needed.||Sheep can get stuck on fences (especially barbed wire). So see if that’s an issue – and remedy it.|
|Sheep who are wintering in a pen are noisier than when they have access to summer pastures.||Train these sheep to be quiet with scheduled feeds and ignoring excessive baaing.||Wait it out. Once spring comes, they’ll be back out to pasture anyway.|
|Lambs who lose their mothers may see you as their replacement mom and/or herd. They’re trying to get your attention.||Give them a herd with a strong adult figure who can teach them to be proper, quiet sheep.||Your other options include intensive training, rehoming, or culling these sheep.|
|The sheep was taken from its dam or its lambs, so it’s looking for them.||Give them some time to adjust to the new normal.||Make sure they have a supportive, accepting herd during the transition.|
|A sheep raised noisy, clingy lambs who grew up to be clingy, noisy sheep.||These sheep can sometimes be trained out of this behavior. Sometimes.||Usually, this behavior is here to stay. Re-homing or culling these sheep is the more likely and realistic route.|
No matter why your sheep baa constantly, remember that you do have several options. Some sheep can be trained. Those that can’t figure out their new, quieter normal can be re-homed or culled (and sent to stock the freezer, if that’s your thing).
How to Calm a Sheep
Calming sheep doesn’t look like calming a screaming, hurt child. Doing that with a sheep would result in a clingy, constantly baaing sheep. Instead, calming a sheep can look like this:
- Create a calming, quiet environment with a safe place to hide as needed. This can include a shelter, adequate cover from predators, and a warm environment in inclement weather.
- Offering reassuring words in a calming tone. The sheep probably won’t understand the words – just the tone.
- Patting the sheep on the head.
- Remove the sheep from any dangerous or scary situation.
- Making sure the sheep have a herd and a competent sheep leader who can teach them proper sheep behavior.
- Training sheep with time, scheduled feedings, and consistent behavior.
- Addressing the quiet, calm sheep first. This will reinforce to them that quiet is ideal – making the constant baaing a thing of the past.
- Re-home or remove nervous, anxious sheep from the herd to help keep the rest of the herd calm. If you are looking to restock your freezer anyway, you may want to go that route instead of rehoming the sheep.
Having a shelter for sheep to hide inside doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. But it is a great way to help them stay safe, happy, and calm. A three-sided shack made out of pallets can do just fine, as long as it keeps out any inclement weather.
What to Do with Noisy Sheep
When you have noisy sheep who can’t be retrained to be quiet, it’s time to make some hard decisions.
- Are you okay with having a noisy sheep on your property?
- Will noisy sheep be an issue for your relationships with neighbors?
- What are your thoughts on rehoming or culling a noisy sheep?
- Is there a local farm that could absorb a noisy sheep? If not, is there a local shelter that will take surrendered sheep?
- How will you cull or butcher the sheep? Will you do it yourself or will you hire a butcher (whether a mobile butcher or one where you go to their location)?
- Will the remaining, quiet sheep be okay losing a herd member? Specifically, will you still have 2-3 sheep so that those who stay still have a herd?
If you can’t get the sheep to be quiet and it’s a total deal-breaker for you (or your neighbors), then you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of re-homing those sheep or culling them.
And if having a noisy sheep culled (because of a small backyard homestead) is your decision, then you’ll also need to consider where the culling happens. Culling and butchering a sheep in view of the neighbors probably won’t help the relationship with the neighbors, depending on how things go.
No matter your decision, though, make sure you weigh all of the pros and cons – for you, your family, your backyard homestead, your relationships with others, and especially your animals.
Final Thoughts on Sheep and Sheep Noises
Having livestock is a fun, amazing, and rewarding experience. It can also be noisy – especially when you first get sheep!
However, the noise will settle into a reliable pattern. So give it a few days (or a few weeks) before you decide that they’re too noisy. It could just be that they had a rough transition.
For example, when we got our goats (who aren’t sheep), they’d just had their kids weaned and taken away. Then, they got moved to our backyard homestead! Talk about a lot of overwhelming changes all at once. It took them a few weeks to adjust – and then they became a lot less noisy. Only, goats are generally noisier than sheep, so it should be even better with sheep.
In any case, get out there and enjoy your time in your backyard homestead with your family and your sheep. 🙂
Do Sheep Like to Be Petted? Sheep that are accustomed to people may enjoy being petted. However, sheep may flee if approached by strangers or if they’re unaccustomed to people. For more information, read my article on petting sheep.
Can You House Train a Lamb? It may be possible to house-train a lamb, but it takes a lot of work – more so than house-training a dog. For a complete step-by-step guide, read my article on how to teach your lamb to be an inside pet.
Do Sheep Get Cold After Shearing? Sheep can get cold after being sheared, depending on the weather and location. That’s why farmers try to time shearing to keep their sheep safe. For more information, read my article about keeping sheep safe (and warm) after shearing.
Cite this article as: “Hush Hush: How to Keep Sheep Quiet.” Backyard Homestead HQ, 10 November 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/hush-hush-how-to-keep-sheep-quiet/.