It’s important to provide your sheep and goat residents with enough space- but what does that mean? There are so many factors to consider when determining how much space individuals need; there is no magic number we have to offer. While there are plenty of recommendations out there about how much space sheep and goats “need,” may of these recommendations are coming from people who, even if they genuinely enjoy caring for sheep or goats, still view them as a commodity. And what does “need” even mean? At a sanctuary, “need” really should be replaced with “thrive.” So, if you are looking at how much space your residents need to thrive, you really need to understand the species in general, as well as the unique individuals in your care. Not all residents are going to do well with the general recommendations offered online or even those offered by established sanctuaries, so you’ll need to be prepared to increase their living space if that’s what they need. While this is true of both sheep and goats, it especially true of goats, where certain personalities or social dynamics may require additional space.
A few sanctuaries offer recommendations, but keep in mind that these are minimums and may not reflect the amount of space they strive to provide for their residents. Global Federations of Animal Sanctuaries also offer guidelines. Some of the outdoor space recommendations are based on availability and quality of pasture space, which we will discuss specifically in the Feeding section.
Farm Sanctuary– Their 2018 A domesticated animal that is used by humans either for their body or what comes from their body. Farmed animals have fewer regulations governing their welfare than other species in many countries. Care Conference resources recommend a minimum of 20- 25 square feet of space per sheep or goat. In terms of outdoor space they offer separate recommendations for sheep and goats (1 acre of land for every 3-6 sheep and “no more than about 500 to 800 pounds of goats per acre”).
Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries– Their Standards For Ruminant Sanctuaries states, “Room dimension is dependent on intended purpose and/or duration of confinement, ensuring that ruminants can be housed with at least one other member of their species. Enclosures are large enough to allow all animals to comfortably move around and to lie down.” For outdoor space it recommends a “minimum area of 150 sq. ft. (14 sq. m) per sheep or goat.”
Use these as a starting point, but be aware that there are many factors to consider when determining the amount of space needed to keep your residents comfortable and happy. Age, breed, sex, health issues, activity level, group dynamics, climate, and type of outdoor space should be considered when creating a space or determining a space’s capacity. For example, a herd of 5 Nigerian dwarf goats will require less space than a herd of 5 Boer goats. If groups contain one or more territorial, Behaviors such as chasing, cornering, biting, kicking, problematic mounting, or otherwise engaging in consistent behavior that may cause mental or physical discomfort or injury to another individual, or using these behaviors to block an individual's access to resources such as food, water, shade, shelter, or other residents., or simply rambunctious individual, more space will likely be necessary to keep everyone comfortable and safe. In colder climates, a smaller (but still well ventilated) indoor space will be easier to maintain at a comfortable temperature than a larger space, but if residents must spend most of their time indoors due to inclement weather, their indoor space must be able to safely accommodate this activity.
It’s much easier to design a space when you know the individuals who will be living there, but often sanctuaries are designing spaces for future residents. In this case it’s a good idea to err on the side of more space per individual, especially when it comes to outdoor space. Even if your residents choose not to utilize their entire outdoor space, it’s still important to offer them the choice. Providing safe choices for residents that allow them to have some control over how they spend their time is ideal. Choices are limited in small spaces.
However, the amount of outdoor space offered may vary based on the season. Smaller outdoor spaces are easier to monitor for dangerous conditions during winter weather, and generally residents won’t venture out very far in cold weather. During periods when there is vegetation on the pasture or when weather is comfortable, larger outdoor spaces make sense.
Pay attention to your residents- if individuals are picking on each other, or it seems they don’t have enough room to get away from each other, they likely need more space.