Homesteading is all about self reliance. What’s more self-reliant than being able to make your own clothing? While most people think you need a huge pasture to raise sheep, you can still make it happen on a smaller homestead.
Wool is the biggest benefit to raising sheep. This is awesome if you want to make your own clothing and do it in a way that’s animal-friendly. Some people also raise sheep for meat, although this is more sustainable if you have a larger homestead and flock.
Not sure if sheep are for you? Here are a few essentials you’ll need to start a flock.
Food, water, and shelter
Ensure you have a shelter for your sheep to live in. A three-wall shed would be ideal, and it will need to be kept inside a gated paddock. You don’t want your sheep running amok!
Always have ample water available for your sheep. A low trough should work perfectly. For food, remember that sheep are grazers. If you don’t have a huge pasture, you’ll need to constantly supply them with grass hay. Depending on your vet’s recommendation, you might need to feed the sheep grains to balance their diet.
Health and hygiene
Like any animal on the homestead, sheep need to live in a clean home. Regularly clean the sheep pen. Rake out old hay and any moist spots. The rule of thumb is if it’s stinky or looks dirty, clean it! Failure to clean regularly increases your sheep’s chance for disease.
Keep in mind that sheep can get sick. It’s especially important to worm your sheep regularly. Consult your vet to find a dewormer and worming schedule that are right for you.
The biggest hygiene concern with sheep is grooming. And I’m not just talking about their woolen coat, either. You’ll need to trim their hooves and check their gums and eyes regularly.
Of course, sheep shearing is a crucial part of homesteading with sheep. If you want wool from your sheep, you’ll need to shear them. You’ll typically shear once a year. Shearing is a very physical process that can be difficult. If you have trouble with shearing, call in a pro. They’ll get you a better quality fleece and it’s less hassle for your sheep.
The bottom line
Many people think sheep are for large farms, but they can be right at home on a smaller homestead, too. Remember to run through this checklist before purchasing sheep to make sure you’re ready. They’re a great addition to the homestead and can supply years of soft, luxurious fleece.