Sheep Care

Betty and babies (Pearl and Mickey)

Click here for the Breed Standard for Harlequin Sheep

General Information

Harlequins are known for their color, laid back personality, small build, and hardiness. These sheep are naturally polled (hornless) and can have blue eyes. Harlequin Sheep are a miniature breed originating in the United States Harlequins with ewes weighing from 80-120 lbs and rams weighing 90-150 at maturity. They are usually easy lambers. Harlequins are known for their fine, medium staple length wool, similar to the wool from Babydolls. When a tri-color fleece is processed, the roving often comes out a beautiful light gray. The fleece of most mature Harlequins can be separated into off white, brown, gray and tan.

Taking Your New Lamb/Sheep Home

Sheep are herd animals and you need at least one other sheep flock type animal for your new lamb/sheep to be with. When you first get your lamb home it is best if you can put a halter on them to ease handling and to get them used to the feeling of it. Let them settle in for a day or two then try and handle them every day or so and take a couple minutes to sit with them, scratching the sides of their faces, under their neck and shoulders. I offer pellets twice a day so they get used to you being the provider of yummy things, I shake the container and call a chirpy “sheep, sheep sheep” to set up a routine. When they are getting used to you, you can put pellets in your hand or bowl. Over time you can teach them to walk on a leash or halter, I do this by always taking them somewhere with very yummy plants to graze. If you take the time to regularly handle your sheep they will easily tame down, walk on leashes, and enjoy socializing with people. Videos showing how to get them used to hand feeding.

Your sheep should have at least a 3-sided shelter to protect them from rain, sleet, snow. or wind. Sheep are subject to pneumonia when kept in an enclosed structure with poor ventilation due to inhaling ammonia from urine. You can plan for about an acre of good, improved grass pasture per 5 ewes and their lambs. Check your pasture for plants that are toxic to sheep before letting them loose in it. Be sure to have good predator-proof fencing and possibly a Livestock Guardian Dog or guard Llama. If you do not have a livestock guardian please lock your sheep in a predator proof barn at night at least.

Food/Supplements and Water

Be sure all feed and supplements are labeled for sheep, copper, found in other animals feeds (including goat) can be toxic. I feed 1/2-1 cup of lamb grower or pelleted feed twice a day until they are 6-8 months old. I use Elk Grove Milling Sheep Feed but have used Purina and Dumor Grower feeds as well. I keep pellets on hand for hand feeding treats and bribes for handling. Pregnant and lactating ewes may need supplemental pellets as well. You can use sheep labeled grain as well but I find the pellets keep better and the sheep love them. My sheep graze most of the year but during times of poor grass and snow I feed orchard grass. For males the high calcium in alfalfa can cause urinary stones. They should have free choice loose sheep mineral or block. Water should always be available. If you are breeding check to see if your ewe will need selenium/vitamin E supplementation, we do in our area.


Lambs received a Clostridium C&D & Tet at 4 weeks of age which is boostered 4 weeks later. Then they should be vaccinated for this yearly. In my area Rabies is a concern so all are vaccinated at 4-6 months for Rabies and it is boostered 1 year later then every 3 years. I do not deworm my sheep unless needed. I assess need for worming, and which wormer to use, by performing a fecal at the veterinarian in the spring and fall. I have only had to treat our sheep once but have had to treat some of our purchased sheep/lambs before introduced to our flock. I do give Tetanus antitoxin when I dock tails and band the lambs to be safe.

Shearing/Hoof Trimming

Sheep should be shorn yearly in the spring, but hand shearing around the face and rear end may need to be done more frequently. Some ewes will urinate down the wool or their rear and get urine scald so be sure to monitor this area your ewe. Wash the area with detergent and water, and trim back the wool. Hooves should be checked and trimmed if needed 2-3 times a year.


Book: Sheep Health, Husbandry and Disease by Agnes Winter adn Clare Phythian and Raising Sheep The Modern Way.

A skilled livestock vet is your most valuable resource. In the first couple of years, you can learn a lot and take over the most routine aspects of your sheep’s care.

Hand shears if needed to trim faces and rears and to use to do yearly shearing by hand if desired. We tried doing the yearly hand shearing and self shearing with clippers and it is well worth the fee the professional charges to have them do it instead.

Buckle halters and leash/lead

Hoof trimmers (flat rose pruners do just as well at a fraction of the cost)


You will probably want to wait until your ewe lambs are over a year old to breed. This ensures they are full grown and well developed.

Harlequins are able to breed twice a year, unlike most breeds. Mature moms often have twins, and triplets are also possible. Mothering instincts are very strong and even when she has multiples, a Harlequin ewe will usually care for all of them without help. Giving birth is usually very easy for Harlequin and is most often unassisted.

Harlequin Generations

Harlequins are registered based on generations: F1, F2, FP, A, B, C, AP.

Foundation Status

F1: One parent is a registered Harlequin and the other parent is a different breed, approved by the registry. (Babydoll Sheep)

F2: One parent is F1 and the other parent is a harlequin that is higher in the registration process or both parents are F1

FP: Foundation Pure – one or both parents are F2 or one parent is F2 and the other parent is a harlequin that is higher in the registration process.

**Note: Unknown parents that possess qualities of a Harlequin will be registered as F1. Once the offspring of that line show proven characteristics of Harlequins, they can be upgraded to F2, and so on.    

**Sheep with registered lineage that do not carry the characteristics of a Harlequin can be registered and will be marked with an ‘O’ to represent not having the physical characteristics, but carrying the gene.

True Harlequins

A:  One or both parents are FP or one parent is FP and the other parent is a Harlequin that is higher in the registration process. 

B:  One or both parents are A or one parent is A and the other parent is a Harlequin that is higher in the registration process. 

C:  One or both parents are B or one parent is B and the other parent is a Harlequin that is higher in the registration process.

Purebred Harlequins

ยท AP: American Purebred – Both parents are C Generation. This is the highest generation in the registration process.

This link is to the Harlequin Sheep Society Page’s Generation Calculator