The Shetland is one of the oldest Scottish breeds dating back to the 18th century when it is believed to have been introduced to the Shetland Isles by the Vikings.

The Shetland is a small, fine boned sheep will survival qualities required by hill breeds. They are hardy, prolific and thrifty. The appearance is extremely varied with many shades and variations. Rams usually have spiral horns and ewes are usually polled (no horns).

Shetlands have fine, soft wool and is considered one of the finest of any UK breed. Shetland wool is used to produce gossamer lace, Fair Isle knitwear, and many of the finest tweeds.

Shetlands sheep belong to the Northern European short-tailed group, which also contains the Finnsheep, Icelandics and Romanovs.

Ewes will typically weigh between 65 and 100 pounds. Rams (and wethers) can weight as much as 150 pounds. Sheep are shorn each spring with fleeces averaging between 3 – 5 pounds.

What They Eat

In an ideal situation, sheep would graze all day (and all night). My sheep have a small pasture so I am required to supplement their diets. I usually have several varieties of hay for them to choose from to provide a varied diet. My sheep would just as soon eat a tree or a bush, as they would grass. I take them for an evening walk, as regularly as possible, to help provide a little variety in the diet, not to mention exercise. Not only do they enjoy it, but get upset when they cannot have their evening outing.

In the winter, I try to provide several types of hay daily, each with different qualities and different nutritive values. I usually provide the best quality hay in February, March and April when it is coldest and as lambing time nears. I always reserve some of the very best alfalfa for the ewes right after they have delivered. I am always in search of the best quality hay and grass; I love to talk to the local farmers about hay.

Who we are

Shepherd’s Folly is home to 16 Shetland Sheep, 4 Huyaca Alpacas, about 22 assorted varies of chickens, 2 hives of Italian bees and 1 mixed breed dog (half Labrador Retriever and half Golden Retriever).

Each animal has a name and a unique personality (ok, not the bees). There is a pecking order (again, not the bees). I observe the order but try not to interfere in their dynamics. They know who I am, and understand how I fit in … that’s not to say they go along with what I want, after all, they have a mind if their own. They all know that I provide the food so I am usually welcome. John only enters the pen to help catch the sheep at shot time, so they are not particularly fond of him…even though he does help unload the hay.

Sheep are easily scared. I guess that comes from always being the hunted and never the hunter. Sheep are always on the alert to their surroundings. If I notice their ears go in a certain direction, it can mean that something is moving around us – it can be a deer, a dog, a fox. If they start a stampede in my direction, that can mean that a turkey buzzard swooped low in their direction, or can mean Jack is coming on the bike and has spooked them…it doesn’t take much. If I pay attention to them, I can usually anticipate their reactions.

The alpacas are the guard dogs. They are vigilant. The sheep have come to rely on the alpacas to alert them to any danger and it is quite interesting to see. One of the alpacas, usually Flo, let’s out a high-pitched screech when she observes something of concern. She bends her ears back and emits a repetitious, high-pitched noise that is attention getting. All the sheep turn in the direction she is facing to see what she is alerting them to, and I do as well. Most often it’s a fox crossing the yard (from my neighbors chicken coop to mine). One day when we were out for our evening walk, the neighbor’s dog got quite close to the sheep. Flo, the alpaca, was off in the distance. The neighbor’s dog barked because the sheep didn’t want to play, Flo cam running to protect the sheep. The dog got between the neighbors legs as close as he could. It was fascinating to watch.

The older sheep, Anna Hyatt, Bobolink, and Clara Carter, are not as close to the alpacas as the younger ones. I had them several years before I got the alpacas so they were a little intimidated at first. The younger generations have been born with the alpacas in place, so they often snuggle right up together. It is wonderful to see their relationship.

Notes

George Washington kept Border Leicester and Hog Island sheep at Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson kept sheep at Monticello.

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival

Held the first weekend in May each year.
Shepherds Folly has participated the last several years and taken the following awards:
(list in progress)