Acquired: Breeder (non-professional, hobby breeder)
Posted Nov 10, 2014
To a typical city-dweller, keeping a sheep is out of the question. Understandably so, too; where would you find an affordable city property with acres of pasture for your sheep to roam free in?! Are sheep even a viable option as pets? How do you take care of their woolly coats with what little time you have? Might as well just get a cat, right?
Cats are great, but as for the reasoning there: wrong! It is completely possible to keep a sheep in an urban environment!
For starters: you don't need acres and acres and acres. A small garden is perfectly acceptable. I live in a capital city, and I see people walking their sheep and goats every now and then, all of them pretty happy with their surroundings, and quite comfortable (The goats and sheep, not the people!) on a leash. Some sheep can even be kept as house animals, but that's not really ideal. Still, you can quite easily give a sheep enough space.
Now, here comes one of my favourite traits of the Barbados Blackbelly: they are hair sheep, meaning that they don't grow great thick woolly coats that require regular shearing by seasoned professionals. Their coats shed annually, leaving no mess for you, unless you've decided to be strange and keep your sheep shut up inside...
Now, a bit more about sheep as pets: regardless of whether you have fields aplenty for roaming in, or a little box garden at the back of your house, you need to get more than one sheep. Sheep, like humans and dogs, for example, are social animals, and will likely become over-attached to you or just get distressed without the company of other sheep. Plus, it's fun to watch them interact and, well... live the sheepy life!
Another ideal trait of your sheep is a distinct lack of testosterone. If you want rams, get them castrated, or get some ewes. If you aren't a professional breeder, I would suggest not breeding them yourself - buy more sheep if you want more.
To save you having to read an impenetrable wall of writing, I will summarise other tips for keeping pet sheep that go for all breeds:
-Their hooves need trimming, the same way dogs' nails need cutting.
-Sheep are social, especially if you bottle-feed them as lambs - don't be nervous of touching them!
-Know that sheep are suitable for children, but supervise them around your child(ren).
-Sheep can eat common weeds!
-Feed your sheep according to their grazing pattern (Give them access to food in the early morning, and feed them at noon and around sunset hours).
-Make sure the sheep have access to shade.
-Winter housing is also important.
-Feed pregnant ewes extra.
So far, these are the best little tips I've come across when it comes to looking after sheep, and as for the Barbados Blackbelly in particular: it's a great choice of breed if you just want a pet! They need no shearing, aren't horned, and can look rather stunning. I miss mine!