All animals sleep and all animals have to sleep somewhere!
If you own sheep, are looking to own sheep, or simply find them interesting, you’ve likely wondered at some point where and how they prefer to sleep.
As herd animals, sheep prefer sleeping in close groups, either standing or lying down. While they don’t always seek shelter before sleeping, it’s best to have a designated sheltered area for your herd to sleep in at night to keep them safe from the elements and predators.
Keep reading to learn more about how sheep sleep, where they should rest at night, and how to ensure your flock gets the best night’s sleep possible.
When Do Sheep Go To Sleep?
Sheep are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day and tend to rest and sleep at night.
They are typically most active in the middle of the day, between 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.
Interestingly, sheep only sleep for around 4 to 6 hours a day and get most of their sleep shortly after the sun sets.
But, they tend to sleep for a few minutes to an hour.
They will also occasionally take short naps between grazing and ruminating during the day.
One part of why sheep sleep so little and sporadically is to keep an eye out for potential predators.
Like most prey animals, sheep are light sleepers, so it’s rare for them to sleep eight hours like the average human.
Another reason why sheep sleep so little is that they are ruminant animals.
Ruminants have a special stomach cavity to store partially digested food, or cud.
Cud is meant to be regurgitated and re-swallowed (and, eventually, digested).
Sheep, goats, cows, and other ruminants eat a lot of plant material, and plant matter is very tough to digest.
Rumination, or cud-chewing, allows sheep to fully digest the plant matter they eat.
This way, they get every last bit of nutrition out of their food.
The rumination process takes up a lot of time, so ruminants like sheep have to spend nearly all their waking hours grazing or ruminating.
Between watching out for predators, grazing, and ruminating, sheep don’t have much time left for sleeping!
Where’s The Best Place For Sheep To Sleep?
There are lots of places a sheep would potentially choose to sleep!
As we discussed earlier, they get most of their sleep at night but take short naps during the day, too.
Generally, sheep will rest anywhere they feel safe, usually in a comfortable spot with a group of other sheep.
In a pinch, a sheep might choose to rest on a patch of grass under a shady tree, in a barn, or some other sheltered area if it’s raining or particularly cold or hot.
Alternatively, they might also choose to sleep out in the open if the weather is calm and they feel safe.
Additionally, sheep are herd animals, and they are highly social and surprisingly intelligent.
It’s an instinct for sheep to do things in groups for their safety and mental stimulation.
This behavior extends to their sleeping habits–you’ll usually see a flock of sheep huddled closely together when they sleep.
By sleeping in groups, sheep have more safety in numbers.
Occasionally, a few sheep stay awake and watch for predators or other potential dangers while the rest of the group gets some shut-eye.
Sheep can sleep lying down or standing up.
But they will usually lie down if they plan to sleep for more than a few minutes, as this is believed to ease their stomachs during the rumination process.
Do Sheep Go Inside At Night?
If the weather is bad, sheep will go inside at night.
This includes when it’s raining, snowing, windy, cold, or more.
But the sheep have no problem sleeping outside at night if the weather is mild.
This is, of course, if they feel safe and there aren’t predators around too.
What Kind of Shelter Is Best For Sheep?
Even though sheep don’t always seek out a sheltered area when they want to sleep, it’s highly recommended to have some kind of secure, sturdy, lockable shelter within a fenced-in grazing area.
Establishing a favorite sleeping spot for your flock will help keep them safe from predators and the elements.
Having a designated area to sleep in is also a good idea to make your sheep feel safer, regardless of whether they’re in immediate danger of predation.
In general, sheep aren’t too picky about their sleeping arrangements.
Anything dry with plenty of room and access to drinking water (and perhaps some comfortable bedding) will be enough.
If you live in an area where predator animals like coyotes, wolves, and bobcats are a threat, the more secure the shelter is, the better.
It’s a good idea for it to have a lockable door if needed and no potential weak spots or openings that a predator would be able to breach.
Besides an actual, physical shelter for your sheep to seek at night, it’s also recommended to have plenty of “natural shelter” for them. This shelter is for them to seek during the day or in case of an emergency.
Many trees, plants, logs, rock formations, shrubs, and even tall grasses provide excellent hiding/resting spots for sheep.
A combination is best for most domesticated sheep.
This combo should include a larger, secure designated building or structure to sleep in and various natural shelter
This way, they’re never far from safety, no matter where they happen to be grazing, socializing, or ruminating.
What Kind of Bedding Is Best For Sheep?
Opt for bedding in your flock’s primary resting spot to keep the floor dry, clean, and comfortable.
Even though sheep don’t mind sleeping directly on the ground, a soft, dry layer of bedding ensures you have healthy, happy sheep.
There are lots of kinds of bedding that are suitable for sheep, and most of them are inexpensive and easy to clean.
Straw is one of the most popular choices, as it is super cheap, lightweight, and comfortable enough for sheep to sleep on. It’s also safe for your sheep to munch on!
Pine shavings are also a great option, as they are highly absorbent for soaking up messes.
Related: Are pine needles bad for sheep?
Notably, wood shavings, in general, are also slightly easier to scoop and clean than straw.
Alternatively, wood chips, various types of paper bedding, grasses, dried corn stalks, and even sawdust are all viable options depending on your (and your flock’s) preferences.
Again, as long as it’s absorbent, comfortable, non-toxic, and easy to clean, it’s likely a fine choice for sheep bedding.
Further reading: What type of bedding is best for sheep?