Both sheep and chickens are great farm animals and less resource-intensive than larger animals.
This makes them great for small farms.
Both animals will help you maximize space, but to maximize space, you might think to keep them together.
The question is:
Is it safe to keep them together?
Will one of the species suffer more than the other?
In the right environment, keeping sheep and chickens together is a great option to maximize the available space. One species will not harm the other. However, to keep these two species together, you’ll need to make some accommodations to make it safe for both.
Keep on reading, and we’ll cover the accommodations and considerations when keeping sheep with chickens.
We’ll also talk about some of the advantages and disadvantages of keeping them together.
How To Keep Sheep And Chickens Together
The first step is to ensure both animals have everything they need to keep them healthy and happy.
Nesting boxes, grain, fresh water, calcium supplement, and a fence are all needed for raising the chickens and keeping them safe.
Similarly, the sheep will need shelter, water troughs with fresh water, space to roam and graze, and a tall enough fence to keep them in.
Dehydration is one of the biggest concerns when keeping sheep and will result in a hot-dry body as an early sign.
Using the same fence for sheep and chickens is possible.
Use fencing material small enough to keep the chickens contained and at least 48″ tall to keep the sheep from jumping out.
This fence will double duty as a deterrent to keep predators out, and the sheep will help to steer away some predators from the chickens.
Another important thing to remember when designing the chicken coop is that chicken grain is bad for sheep.
The grain can cause bloat, which is potentially deadly.
Securing the chicken grain should be a priority for the benefit of both livestock animals, so the sheep will not eat all the grain.
Nest boxes should also be secured and raised so the sheep will not accidentally step on and crush the eggs.
For the most part, you don’t have to worry about any issues between the two species interacting.
Keeping them together may be a preferred method with limited space.
Pros and Cons Of Keeping Sheep and Chickens Together
Advantages to Keeping Sheep With Chickens
Saving space is just one of the advantages of keeping sheep and chickens together.
With the multiple species, you’ll notice a decrease in fly populations compared to keeping sheep by themselves.
Not only will chickens be effective at keeping the flies down, but they will also eat most insects and tear up droppings to prevent any other insect population from building up.
Chickens are such efficient predators of insects.
In short amounts of time, they can clean up larvae from flies and turn them into nitrogen-rich fertilizers.
Related: Will fertilizer hurt sheep?
The combination of manure from both animals is great for your garden.
It is high in nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.
It also has other minor nutrients, including carbon and whatever else is in their diets.
Another advantage is only one fence provides plenty of space for a free-range environment.
More space will allow the animals to exercise and search for food, keeping them happy and healthy.
Chickens and sheep do not share many of the same diseases.
And cross-contamination between species is rare, except for salmonella.
With proper cleaning procedures, you won’t have any problems with diseases between species.
Disadvantages To Keeping Chickens With Sheep
While there are many benefits to keeping sheep with chickens, there are also some disadvantages.
Using the manure from sheep is okay to be used cold, meaning without any composting.
However, the addition of chicken manure means some composting is required.
Chicken manure contains bacteria and is potentially dangerous to people if added straight to plants as a fertilizer.
Chicken manure applied directly to plants will cause nutrient burning and decrease the harvest.
Free-range chickens run a higher risk of being taken out by predators, especially birds who can fly over the fence.
Salmonella is another big risk as it is common in chicken feces, can affect sheep, and is particularly dangerous to lambs.
If you are using sheep for meat production, this is also a consideration as the likelihood of salmonella is higher than usual.
Diseased animals need to be monitored for and separated early.
Otherwise, the sheep run the risk of body surface fecal contamination being kept in the same area as a sick chicken.
Long-term interaction between them increases the risks.
In general, keeping two separate species will increase animal welfare concerns if the animals are being kept for food production.
But on a small scale basis, the risks are low.
One disadvantage is during lambing time you’ll need to separate the chickens from the birthing ewes for the safety of the lambs.
Lambs come out covered in blood and juices chickens will peck at and are interested in eating but can cause pain to the lambs.
Lambing is often a potentially stressful period anyways.
The added stress of worrying about the chickens being dangerous to the new lambs is an unnecessary addition of stress.
Other Animals Who Do Well With Sheep And Chickens
If you are already planning on keeping sheep and chickens together, you might also want to know if any other animals will get along with both of them.
Many species of food animals or farm pets get along with these species.
Larger animals who are social animals also get along with sheep and chickens well.
Cattle are a popular choice, targeting different weeds than sheep when grazing, and are great companions.
Cattle and chickens are also great companions because chickens will naturally break apart cow patties searching for insects.
This more evenly spreads the manure, which will be better for your fields.
Horses are another great companion who’ll get along with sheep and chickens.
The image of these three animals together creates a peaceful image of farm life.
Goats can be kept with sheep and chickens but are more likely to let their curiosity lead them to eat the eggs and get into places they don’t belong.
With some extra care and containment reinforcement, they are also a great companion for sheep and chickens.
Best Methods To Process Your Sheep
If you are keeping sheep to harvest lamb or mutton meat from them, you’ll need to choose a humane method of slaughter.
The easiest slaughter methods involve stunning the animals followed by neck-cutting.
This method will sever major blood vessels and cause a drop in blood pressure and is one of the most humane ways to slaughter a stunned animal.
Stunned animals have a reduced sensibility to pain, making this one of the best ways to harvest your meat.
Using a slaughterhouse is another way to process your animals and can be a less intensive option than doing it yourself.
Certain slaughterhouses will also allow you to find the best method for you, including Halal methods, Jewish methods, or even Japanese methods depending on your preferences.