A Suburban Farm of 6th Happiness.

Sheep

Babydoll Sheep

 

I have always loved sheep.  One of my first stuffed toys, which I still have, is of a lamb.  When we finally acquired our own property, we were already experienced with ‘backyard chicken keeping’ and ‘urban agriculture’ (vegetable and fruit gardening), so the idea of “miniature” sheep immediately came to mind.  Besides being fun and friendly pets (and smart ones too! Check out the links below if you didn’t know), they relieve us of the need for mowing the lawn, and they provide excellent, organic fertiliser for our garden.  Not to mention, the wool has many uses too!  In a way, they are sort of a “size up” from raising certain breeds of rabbits in the city (rabbits also provide lawn trimming when kept in moveable hutches, make great fertiliser, and some people raise them for meat and or wool depending on breed.  No matter how they fit into your urban ‘farm’, they too are adorably cute and friendly, impossible not to make at least some of them a part of the ‘family’.)

In the spring of 2011, we got two Old English Southdown Sheep aka “Babydoll Sheep” from Michelle Hill (Hillbunker Farm).  They were named “Fozzie” and “Zeus”.  I began with pet wethers because I wanted to be sure that we would enjoy keeping sheep before committing to a larger herd with reproductive abilities.   Later that year, having decided that sheep were for us, we obtained a ewe lamb from Patricia Chambers (Animal Instincts Farm), named “Carmen”.  In Spring 2012 we added a wonderful ram, (also from Hillbunker) named “Poppy”.  This was the start of our flock, and gave us a single breeding pair, in the comfort of a (small) herd.  We enjoyed raising lambs so much, we eventually made the difficult choice to rehome Fozzie and Zeus so that we could have space for more ewes.  Our flock is quite small- two to three ewes, and one ram.  This gives us between two to six lambs to place in spring.

baby lamb on blue blanket

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Our Sheep

This section being updated.

 

 

 

Babydoll Sheep History

 

The “Babydoll” is a very old breed that was raised for hundreds of years in southern England. It was believed to be extinct in its original form, until the 1990’s, when a few herds were located, and enthusiasts worked to re-establish them.

At only 18-24 inches tall when an adult, the Babydoll is thought of as a miniature sheep. This is not exactly true as it implies that they were miniaturised from a larger breed. In fact, it went the other way around! This little sheep was originally known as the Southdown, as it originated in the Southdown (hills) of Sussex, England. Besides providing high-quality wool, one sheep provided just enough meat for a family to consume, and perhaps, sell some of.

When refrigeration (and thus, long term storage of meat) became common, larger carcases were desired; the little sheep were crossed with larger ones from New Zealand creating a bigger breed. This larger breed is still called the Southdown, but it no longer resembles its compact ancestors; this ‘bigger’ breed bred for meat instead of as a dual-purpose meat and wool breed, as its ancestors were.

When small flocks of the original, small version of the breed were identified, registered and promoted in the early 1990’s, their breed name was changed to “Olde English Babydoll Miniature Sheep” to differentiate them. Some also call them “The Original Southdowns”, and of course, just “Babydoll” has become a well known name that helped market them as pets, and livestock, for Hobby Farms.

Why Babydolls?

 

Babydolls are small.  This is Zeus, a full grown wether beside a standard sized Isa Brown hen.

  • Size. Adults are 18″ to 24″ at the shoulder, making then easier to handle than many other farm animals. They are easier for children (and good 4-H projects). They are well suited to small hobby and urban farms since they need less space than larger breeds.
  • Lawnmowers. They keep the grass tidy, whether that is for the suburban yard, a vineyard or orchard. They are much less destructive (to shrubs, trees, structures) than goats are. (if you want an intact male, they are less ‘stinky’ than goats too!) As they mow the grass, they also spread tiny pellets (similar to rabbit droppings) of fertiliser that will blend right into the soil (unlike other livestock which may leave unsightly “patties” or burn spots).
  • Temperament. They are naturally curious, intelligent, and interactive. They have a strong flocking instinct, so they tend not to wander. Lead one sheep to where you want them, and the other(s) will follow along. Their flocking instinct gives people the impression that they are a bit dim, but as prey animals, it is the best survival mechanism they have. There have long been stories of their remarkable memories and problem solving abilities. In recent years, they’ve been scientifically tested, demonstrating that they are excellent at recognising animal and human faces, have great memories, are quick learners, and can navigate mazes well.
  • Hardiness. as a heritage breed, they are less prone to the problems that tend to plague modern breeds, such as intestinal parasites and foot rot. They are good foragers, and the ewes are good mothers (as with any animal, they can still get injured and ill, of course).
  • Polled. Both sexes are naturally polled (hornless).
  • Wool. Springy, soft and bouncy, yet very strong, Babydoll wool is in high demand with crafters and handspinners. It is short (about 2 inches), its micron count classes it with cashmere, and it has a higher barb count than most other wools, making it ideal for blending with angora (rabbit or goat). It can be needle-felted, but otherwise its ability to felt is low.
  • Meat. While many babydoll owners keep them strictly as pets, or for wool, some do raise them for meat. If you want a small, dual purpose sheep, this is the one to get. Some other miniature breeds have a greater focus on wool, and do not have the high quality carcass that the Babydoll has.

Links of Interest

 

tags: babydoll sheep   sheep