Lambs are adorable and seem like such gentle animals, who wouldn’t want a lamb for a pet? This is a question lots of folks consider, since those lambs are darling!
But…the better question is should you get a lamb for a pet? Are lambs good pets and what will you need to do to take care of your pet lamb?
Most lambs will not make good pets, since they are raised by the ewe (a mother sheep) and tend to be wary of people. The exception is a bottle lamb, which will be people friendly and might make a good pet if you are happy to have the adult sheep it will grow into and are willing to care for it for 10+ years.
While some sheep are much more people friendly than others, generally speaking, lambs want to be with their mom or their peers rather than hanging out with people.
Consider reading my article Why Do Sheep Need A Shepherd? It will go over the care you’ll need to provide for your pet lamb, since, as the owner of a pet lamb, you are also going to be the shepherd!
Most lambs would not make good pets
Most lamb would not make good pets, since they have been raised with their moms and the rest of the sheep flock rather than being raised directly by humans.
A lamb learns from the ewe (the lamb’s mom) to stick close to other sheep and be wary of anything that is not other sheep, this includes people.
It’s not that the sheep are scared of people, it’s more that they are wary of all things that are not other sheep. This is hardwired into sheep and is one of the instincts that keeps them alive.
By the time a lamb is old enough to leave his mom, he is also old enough to know that some things are safe, like other sheep and the pasture he is used to, and some things are not safe, which is anything new.
Since you would be new to the lamb, you would automatically be something to be scared of. The lamb will eventually get used to you and learn to be less nervous, but may never be as friendly as a dog.
Bottle lambs are friendly
There is one exception to lambs being friendly enough for pets, bottle lambs. Bottle lambs are lambs that for one of many reasons were not raised by their moms, they were raised by people
Being hand raised (raised on the bottle) makes lambs friendly, since whoever has the bottle is functioning like the lamb’s mom, at least for as long as the lamb continues to be bottle fed.
Bottle lambs learn that when a person shows up they get fed, this makes people good in the mind of a lamb. This is why a bottle lamb makes an acceptable pet, they like to be around people.
You should know that some lambs seem to grow out of being overly friendly towards people, however some lambs continue to be people friendly their entire lives, it just depends upon the sheep.
Should you get a lamb for a pet?
After you have looked into getting a lamb for a pet and you have decided that you like the idea, consider if getting a pet lamb is a good idea for you and your situation.
Are you are able to take care of the lamb as it grows? Remember, taking care of the lamb means giving the lamb the things he needs, not just the things that you want him to have.
This is the biggest responsibility of a pet lamb owner, to give the lamb a good life from the perspective of the lamb, which is different from what you need from the lamb and your perspective.
Down deep, your pet lamb is still a sheep. Can you give him a happy life from the perspective of a sheep? Plan on keeping your lamb for the next 10 or so years, he’ll probably live that long.
Are you happy to be sharing your life with this sheep for that long or are you really interested in a cute lamb but not so interested in the adult sheep he will become?
Keeping a lamb costs money and time
A small list of your lamb’s needs will include feed, water, mineral, housing, fence, medical care and predator control. Expenses like feed and vet care will be ongoing.
The costs vary hugely with area, in some areas feeding a sheep for a year is not a big deal, cost wise. In other areas, this will be a huge expense.
Start with local hay prices and see what you find. Plan on your lamb eating 5% of his weight in hay per day.
If your lamb grows to 100 pounds, he will need 5 pounds of hay per day and a 50 pound bale will last him 10 days. Since he needs a buddy, you’ll want to double this to feed him and his friend.
And, of course, there is also your time! Your lamb will need you and a noticeable chunk of your time and effort everyday.
How big will the lamb get?
There are a variety of mature sizes in adult sheep, some breeds are fairly small as adults, while others will weigh as much as you. How big will this lamb get?
Even the smaller breeds of sheep are still substantial in size when you are comparing them to the size they were as lambs. Plan on your lamb reaching close to 100 pounds as an adult.
Marquis Ranch has a nice article on the Care and Use of Babydoll Sheep which goes over the things you need to keep in mind for pet lambs, which is what their lambs are sold for.
Do you have sheep friendly space?
Where are you going to keep your lamb and will that space still work when the lamb is full grown?
Young lambs are fairly easy to keep in, they are shorter and not as strong as older stock, but as your lamb grows he’ll become more and more capable, especially when you are gone for the day.
Do you have plenty of space for the lamb (and a friend) to live for the entire year? It’s easy to say that a lamb will eat grass, for example, and live in the yard for the summer, but what will he eat in the winter?
Additionally, sheep require protection against any number of problems. Some problems are self inflicted, like the sheep making poor decisions and hurting himself.
Other problems are external, like being chased by local dogs (or your dogs) or being on the radar of your local predators. You need to make sure these things are handled so your lamb is safe and happy.
Lambs need a buddy
The final thing to consider with getting a pet sheep, which has been mentioned earlier in the article, is that your lamb needs a buddy. Sheep are flock animals, they are nervous when they are by themselves.
For your lamb to be happy, it needs a friend, ideally another lamb. An older sheep will not work until the lamb is as big as the older sheep, your lamb needs a lamb friend.
The reason that keeping sheep in a flock, even if the flock has only 2 or 3 sheep, is such a big deal is that sheep are poor at handling stress and a sheep by himself is living a stressful life.
Stress makes your lamb more prone to having health problems, just like having a lot of stress in your life has negative consequences on your health and well being.
Make sure your lamb has a friend or two, so all of you will be happy.
Here are a few more of my sheep articles you may be interested in checking out:
Why Do Sheep Have Paint On Them?