All sheep should live in a suitable and comfortable environment. A sheep’s home affects how the sheep feels, thinks and behaves. Providing your sheep with shelter and a comfortable resting area is one way you can make sure that your sheep stays healthy and happy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act says that animals in your care must be provided with an environment and care that meets their five welfare needs. These welfare needs are five important conditions that animals need to be healthy and happy. These five welfare needs are called the five freedoms.
One of these Freedoms is: freedom from discomfort. In this section, you will learn about this freedom and how you can make sure your sheep has the environment and shelter that he/she needs to be freed from discomfort.
In order to be free from discomfort, sheep must also be healthy, well fed and have plenty of good water. These aspects will be covered in the other resources that explain about freedom from injury, pain and disease, and freedom from hunger and thirst.
Sheep spend a lot of time grazing and eat mostly grass and other plants, therefore you need lots of land available for your sheep to graze on. Remember when your sheep eat the pasture, it will need time to grow back.
When your sheep has eaten all the pasture in one area, ideally you should have another area/paddock available where your sheep can eat some more pasture.
Grazing and foraging (looking for food and eating food) is a big part of sheep behaviour, so you should try to make sure your sheep always has access to nice fresh pasture to eat.
Sheep need shelter at all times. Although sheep have warm, thick fleeces, they will still need somewhere warm to sleep at night. We all know New Zealand weather can be unpredictable, which means that one night might be very warm and the next may be cold and rainy.
Also, if your sheep have been shorn, he or she will definitely get cold at night. For these reasons it is important to give your sheep a suitable shelter so it can stay warm. Another reason sheep need shelter is to provide shade in the hot sun. If sheep do have their woolly coats on, they will get very hot, so having a cool shelter will help keep them cool.
Keeping your sheep shorn regularly will also help them regulate their temperatures. A barn or 3-sided timber stalls are both suitable shelters for sheep. Your sheep should not be housed in a shelter made out of metal, as these are too cold in winter and too hot in summer.
You will need to make sure your sheep is contained in their housing area with a good, sturdy fence.
Sheep will want to go to wherever there is fresh grass, so you will need a fence that will stop your sheep from getting into your garden, or your neighbours' garden.
A good fence will also keep your sheep protected from any dangerous situations, such as wandering out onto the road or protection from wandering dogs.
Sheep can grow very long, thick hair on them and become very woolly, very fast.
Imagine if you had to wear a big hot winter coat all the time, you would probably get hot very fast – even in winter. Due to this, your sheep will need access to shade at all times. Wherever you end up housing your sheep, you will need to make sure there are shaded areas where your sheep can escape the hot sun if it needs to.
You can provide shade to your sheep in a number of different ways: building a simple shelter, planting trees and large shrubs which they can rest under.