Contributed by Farmstead Assistant Sara Miller
We have some new additions to our farmstead here at Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village! I am pleased to introduce you to the newest members of our BNHV family; sheep. Building and Grounds manager, Scott Schotz, and I purchased six Hog Island breed sheep (1 Ram and 5 Ewes) from Genesee Country Village Museum in July, and after months of preparations we picked them up and brought them home on October 3rd and 5th.
Hog Island sheep are a heritage breed which are in critical need of conservation. There are fewer than 200 in North America, according to annual registrations, and fewer than 2,000 in the entire global population. Therefore, we are very excited to have this specific breed here with us. In order to protect our new family members, we spent months upgrading our sheep and ox fields to keep predators, such as coyotes, out.
One of our first steps was to fortify the sheep house. I added extra pieces of wood to cover the cracks between the siding so that critters can not break their way in that way. Then I placed rocks around the base of the house on the outside, and bricks around the base on the inside so that nothing can dig their way into the house. Scott also attached windows which we close at night to keep animals from jumping into the sheep house.
Next, Scott and I enclosed the front of the sheep house by adding siding and a door. We need to be able to lock the sheep up at night since coyotes are prevalent in this area. In order to make it easier rounding up the ewes, we added a feeding area on the side of the house. We feed the ewes in here and then scoot them inside the house once they are finished.
After some fencing modifications were completed, the ewe field was ready to go. So we don’t have lambs year round, the ram must be kept separate from the ewes. Therefore, he is going to live with Jack and Flynn in the ox field. A number of fencing modifications were needed there due to the fact that a ram is much smaller than an ox and can squeeze through fences that Jack and Flynn cannot.
Finally, all the modifications were complete and we headed out to Genesee Country Village Museum to pick up the ram. Loading him up went surprisingly well, and we were headed back in no time at all. Little did we know that we had quite an adventure in store for us. The ram did not care for Jack and Flynn initially, and found a weak link in the fence escaping out into the village! After chasing him around, and catching him, twice Scott and I realized that we needed to make an adjustment. We therefore replaced the four wire electric fence with field fencing, and he has not gotten out since. He is even settling in with the boys and especially likes to snuggle up to Jack!
On October 5th, Scott and I headed back out to Genesee Country Village Museum to pick up the five ewes. Again it went quite smoothly, and before we knew it we were back on the road headed to BNHV. Having learned from picking up the ram, dropping off the ewes went much smoother. They have adapted to their new home easily! Make sure you stop on out to meet our newest members of our BNHV family.
 Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius; Storey’s Guide to Raising Sheep; (Vermont: Storey Books, 2001); 31.