We all know that sheep are supposed to live outdoors. They graze endlessly on grass, enjoy the fresh air and generally just lounge around in fields all day.
But what if you want to keep a sheep as a pet, or keep your flock in a barn? Is it possible to keep sheep under roof most of the time? Can they really live indoors?
Yes, sheep can be kept indoors. However, successfully keeping them is a matter of scale. A single sheep in your home as a pet will be a major problem, but keeping your herd in an appropriately large barn is achievable with the right preparation.
Surprisingly, sheep can actually be kept indoors successfully, even if that success might best be described as “limited”.
Depending on what your plans are for your flock you might be able to pull it off or be met with frustration.
Keep reading to learn all about the various factors you’ll have to account for if you want to keep sheep indoors.
Sheep Indoors – Really?
Yes, in a manner of speaking. It depends on what you are qualifying as indoors.
In Your House or In a Barn?
The first thing you need to consider is the actual space you have for the sheep.
A single sheep in your house is going to be a very different proposition than keeping your flock of 200 breeding ewes in a huge, purpose-built barn.
As such, we’ll look at both cases individually and assess the factors associated with each individually.
You Can Only Keep a Sheep or Two in Your House as a Pet
It is technically possible to keep a sheep, or two, as pets inside your home. That being said, it is a bad, bad idea for multiple reasons.
Sheep don’t make great pets, and are happiest and healthiest in a herd setting.
Now, it is possible to raise a sheep from a lamb and have it imprint on you and your family as its own “flock” but this will do nothing to eliminate the inherent challenges associated with keeping them indoors in your own home.
Challenges with Keeping Sheep in Your House
Keeping a sheep indoors as a pet is not recommended for several reasons. The first reason is that they are simply too big and require too much space for the average home.
A full-grown sheep can easily weigh over 150 pounds, and will need at least 50 square feet of indoor space.
If you do not have enough space for the sheep to move around and exercise, it will quickly become unhealthy and unhappy.
Another challenge with keeping a sheep as a pet indoors is that they are very dirty animals compared to dogs and cats.
They normally live outdoors and graze on grass all day, and if allowed to do that are going to track in a lot of dirt, mud, and other debris into your home. This can quickly make your home very dirty and uninviting.
Even worse is dealing with their pooping and peeing. Sheep go pretty much whenever they feel the need to go.
Although they have a degree of control over both modes of waste elimination it is going to be very difficult to potty train a sheep indoors so that it only goes outside.
You are likely going to end up with sheep poop and urine all over your home if you try to keep them as house pets.
For this reason, owners who are dedicated to the practice usually resort to diapers.
Another consideration is that sheep are quite loud animals. They bleat constantly, which can be quite annoying if you are trying to enjoy the peace and quiet of your own home.
Additionally, their hooves are quite hard and can damage your floors while walking around inside your home.
It is Possible to Barn Raise Sheep in the Right Setting
A better option for raising sheep indoors is in a large barn. This gives them the space they need to exercise and graze, while still providing some protection from the elements. It also allows you to more easily control their diet and environment.
Challenges with Keeping Sheep in a Barn
That being said, there are still some challenges associated with barn-raising sheep. The first is that they require a lot of hay for bedding and grazing.
A full-grown sheep can eat up to 8 pounds of hay per day, so you will need to have a lot on hand if you are raising a flock indoors.
Grass does not grow quickly enough to remain viable food in a dirt floor barn, so after your sheep clear it out you’ll need to either let them out to graze or supply them with food in the barn.
You will also need to regularly clean out the barn to ensure that it stays sanitary.
Sheep that are allowed to graze outside and rotated between pasture areas typically do not need to have their droppings cleaned up but if they are living in an indoor space you will need to be vigilant about it.
Ventilation is another concern, as sheep produce a lot of methane gas as they digest their food.
This gas can build up in a confined space and be dangerous for both the sheep and any humans that are present. You will need to ensure that your barn is well-ventilated to avoid this problem.
A related challenge with keeping sheep in a barn is that they are more susceptible to respiratory problems.
The dust and other particles in a barn can irritate their lungs and cause health problems.
Are There Any Benefits to Keeping Sheep Indoors?
In your home? No, for you or the sheep. In a barn, yes.
The main benefit of keeping sheep indoors in a barn is that you have more control over their environment.
This includes their diet, as you can ensure that they are eating the right foods in the right amounts and getting the proper nutrition.
You will have even better control over what s in their diet and this can help to eliminate common problems like pasture bloat.
You can also control the temperature and ventilation in the barn to make sure that it is comfortable for them.
Another benefit of indoor sheep raising is that it can help to protect the sheep from predators and harsh weather conditions.
This can be particularly important if you live in an area with a lot of predators or typically harsh weather conditions.
Finally, keeping your sheep indoors can make it easier for you to monitor their health and care for them if they do get sick.
This is because you will be able to more easily observe them and catch any problems that arise quickly, to say nothing of locating them and physically catching them!
As you can see, there are challenges associated with keeping sheep indoors in a barn but also some real benefits.
It is important to carefully consider all of these factors before making a decision about whether or not this is the right option for you and your flock.
Can You Keep Sheep Healthy and Happy Indoors?
Yes, although it requires a different approach compared to pasture raising them.
What About Feeding Indoor Sheep?
One of the main challenges with raising indoor sheep is regulating their food intake. A full-grown sheep can eat upwards of 8 pounds of food per day, so you need to be prepared with a lot of it.
But you also need to slowly meter out their food in such a way that they don’t overeat in a single sitting but also so they don’t get too hungry, as empty stomachs can contribute to bloat.
One way to do this is to set up a hay feeder in their pasture area or in their barn. You can also provide them with fresh grass every day if you have enough pasturage adjacent to your barn.
If not, you can supplement their diet with pellets and other sheep food.
As always it is important to talk to a vet or experienced shepherd to ensure that you are meeting nutritional requirements while minimizing the chances problems associated with their diet.
Are There Any Risks Associated Specifically with Keeping Sheep Indoors?
The main risks associated with keeping sheep indoors are related to ventilation and diet. As mentioned earlier, sheep produce a lot of methane gas as they digest their food.
If this gas builds up in a confined space it can be unpleasant and dangerous for both the sheep and any humans that are present. You will need to ensure that your barn is well-ventilated to avoid this problem.
Tom has built and remodeled homes, generated his own electricity, grown his own food and more, all in quest of remaining as independent of society as possible. Now he shares his experiences and hard-earned lessons with readers around the country.