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Can I have only 3 sheep?

 
Lisa Albrecht
Posts: 5
Location: Midwest
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I have been told that I MUST have at least 10 sheep to make them calm and harness their sheep-like behavior. I would like to get 3 East Friesian and Lacaune sheep for home dairy purposes. I have been told that they will essentially FREAK OUT because they need a herd to stay calm. My dream of getting these beautiful animals is suddenly hovering in the balance. Can someone please shed some light on this topic?
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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We have had as little as 2 (mother/daughter). They were definitely freaked at first, but did calm down. How much space? How good are the fences? Any other animals for them to hang with?

Being milkers will help, as your interactions with them will count like a doted pet.
 
Lisa Albrecht
Posts: 5
Location: Midwest
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I have 12 acres, with several fields to rotate them in. The main fence next to the barn is 6 feet high with woven wire on cedar posts. I was days away from getting a portable solar electric fence of this type:

http://www.gallagherusa.com/smartfence/

I was going to use this to rotate them in the other fields. I was going to get two ewes and one ram. So technically at times I would have to separate them to keep them from having early pregnancies. That would leave them down to two. I was going to get a border collie to protect them but discovered that they actually have a predator/prey relationship and would not serve to calm them down any but further the fear.
I also have about 20 chickens as well.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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You definitely don't need 10. I originally got 4; 3 young rams and a ewe, as a bargain "take them all, it's cheaper" package. Three were siblings, the other a half sibling. We had the 2 male siblings of the ewe castrated and kept the forth half-sibling as a ram, who sired two lambs in the next two years. Unfortunately he had been raised as a pet and insisted on ramming us so we had to put him down. So no more lambs for us, but that's ok because we don't have enough pasture for more sheep, or even the sheep we have.....
 
Misty Rayne
Posts: 49
Location: SW Ontario, Canada
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The 3 sheep will be fine and depending on the breeding cycles (every breed is slightly different) you may not even have to seperate the Ram. We have 2 shetland ewes and a Ram and they are never seprated and like clock work every April we have lambs. They are flighty but that is just the breed they came from a herd of over 20 and they act the same now as they did then.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
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I agree, they will be fine...and it's smart to not get too many to start with while you're learning and getting set up and deciding if you really like sheep..i have four and it's quite enough until i get better at shearing and get some better handling facilities

Have a plan for predator protection. I picked up a very inexpensive young llama, it was a bit of a gamble but she has really staked out her territory and I'm sure she is helping keep coyotes off...might be an idea, and would add another animal to the flock and it can more or less utilize the same feed...

Lots of people use livestock guardian dogs very successfully, but it's maybe a big commitment to feed and care for a dog just to take care of three sheep....but the ones i've seen are very gentle and calm and quite bonded with the sheep flock which were very relaxed around them...you mentioned the border collie, in my opinion they are more of a herding dog than a guardian dog but i think they are sometimes used as guardians

 
Natasha Lovell
Posts: 12
Location: ~1 hr South of Seattle
books chicken goat
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Yep, I've got just three ewes, and they do fine. The Soay ewes are crazy no matter what you do, but the Blackbelly Mutt Rescue ewe is happy with even just the goats. They do like having the adult goat buck with them though, that seems to stabilize the flock behavior more than sheep numbers. In fact, Rosie the Mutt is so comfy with the the buck, I'm selling the Soays because I'm a lazy goat person who likes strolling up to her intended victim and grabbing the collar, rather than chasing the whole flock/herd into a pen to grab one victim. So I'll be seeing how one sheep does with one goat. And if I sell the buck, I may be seeing how one sheep does with 2-3 non-milking does. And then perhaps with 1-2 freezer-bound lambs...perhaps...
 
Ernie DeVore
Posts: 24
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I find that the ram sets the tone for the whole group, even if there's only a couple of ewes and one ram. If you have a passive, calm ram then the flock will be calm and passive. If you have a flighty, easily-agitated ram then the flock will take on those characteristics as well.

A group of all females is just problematic in any herd situation. They may be calm, but there are other characteristics that will be missing. Just like I find it unnatural to have female herd animals without young by their side.

Aside from the whole zen aspect of this, there are very practical things to consider. Management of your livestock simply becomes much easier when you go with nature instead of against.
 
Lisa Albrecht
Posts: 5
Location: Midwest
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Thanks for the input everyone. I feel empowered to continue with my vision. I will keep you posted on the success/failure of this venture.
 
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