Making Friends With Your Sheep

Making friends with your sheep is very important. When they trust you it is easier to work with them, such as when you have to catch them for shearing, medication, etc.

Sheep are incredibly skittish creatures, it can be very difficult to earn their trust enough for them to be at ease with you.  However, we have found a number of ways to develop a relationship where a measure of familiarity and trust can be had; though in some cases no such bond is possible.  Some individual sheep have a well-developed fear and suspicion of everything you do and little can be done to change this condition.

Perhaps the most important step to developing a “calm” relationship with an animal is to begin to develop a relationship when they are very young; this is easiest with orphans and lambs that have calmer mothers. Some of our closest friends among the flock are lambs that lost their mothers or were abandoned by them. We have had a small number of them that are so calm and comfortable with us that they become part of our family.

Another practice we work at is spending a part of each day with the ewes.  Becoming familiar to them aids in their comfort level being around humans. We often go into the pens and have a seat with them, feeding them carrots, and it never fails to draw an audience. Over time, and hundreds of carrots, reasonable progress can be made with some sheep and this can aid in developing relationships with others, as they see you are no threat to them, this will encourage small portions of trust from others.

Rams are a harder nut to crack, though the same works with them if you give it enough time and carrots, at least with some it works… it is always better to be a little more careful with rams and males, they can be unpredictable, especially in groups of rams.

There are some drawbacks with being too familiar to them, they tend to mob you whether you have carrots or not, and it makes checking on them more disruptive as soon they all develop an association of treats to your presence. It also makes maintenance of the shelters and fences more complicated, but typically it makes sheep rearing and interaction easier and more enjoyable for both parties.

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