Sweet-natured, curious and social, sheep thrive in herd environments and do not like to be separated from friends and companions. They are known for having excellent memories when it comes to remembering faces and can distinguish between familiar and unfamiliar humans who interact with them.

Farmer brings sheep to sanctuary instead of slaughterhouse

In 2018, a farmer named Kumar made the compassionate decision to move away from the farming industry for good. After feeling heartbroken while driving his sheep to the slaughterhouse, he brought them to Goodheart instead….

Fascinating sheep behaviours


For our woolly friends, it really is safety in numbers. Sheep are innately a prey species and so rely solely on their ability to flee from predators together in order to survive. Flocking behaviour is seen in groups as small as four individuals, and if an individual becomes isolated from their flock, they can become stressed quite quickly.

Foot stamping

When escape from a threat is not possible, sheep may stamp their hooves or even charge to intimidate their opponent. This is often displayed between rams (male sheep) when they are ready to copulate with ewes.

Seeking affection

When handled frequently by humans, sheep are not afraid to show just how much they love fuss from humans. Within our rescued flock at Goodheart, we have a number of individuals who will actively seek out visitors and staff to give them a scratch on their head and chest. Sometimes, they’ll even gently bunt or “paw” you with their hooves if you stop – just as a dog would do.

Social bonds

Just like many other farm animals, sheep form close friendships with other flock members and can become upset if separated. As well as choosing to graze together and curl up side by side for warmth, sheep will even rush to greet and nuzzle with their friends after a period of separation.

Meet some of our elderly rescued sheep

Find out more about how we care for our flock of elderly sheep here at Goodheart Farm Animal Sanctuary…

Bottle feeding our rescued lamb Bob​

Bob was found all alone on the roadside with no other sheep to be seen. Since his arrival at Goodheart, he has proved to be a bright and inquisitive soul, keen to make friends with all the residents large or small…

Farmed vs Free

The average lifespan of a sheep is between 10 and 12 years but some can live as old as 15!

Sadly, within many agricultural settings, the lifespan of a sheep is determined by the purpose that it serves humans. Lambs reared for meat may be sent to slaughter between 10 weeks and four months old. Ewes used for breeding will be sent to slaughter when they are no longer deemed productive’. Surplus tup lambs may be deemed worthless if they are not intended for mating, and thus may be culled just a few days after birth.

Natural life expectancy
up to 15 years
Lambs intensively fattened
10 weeks
Sheep in farming

Life in the farming system

Many sheep kept for meat are reared outdoors, but it’s not all rolling hills and green grass….

  • A number of welfare concerns arise in large scale settings, including physical mutilation (tail docking), lameness (loss of movement) and high lamb mortality rates
  • An Australian breed known as the Merino sheep have been bred with particularly wrinkly skin resulting in increased production of wool. Sadly, this also comes with an increased risk of flystrike. “Mulesing” is a cruel yet common practice in Australia where farmers remove strips of skin around the sheep’s buttocks to reduce this risk.
  • Each year, around 1.5 million live sheep (as young as four weeks old) are transported across the EU for slaughter. Trucks are often overcrowded with insufficient headroom and no access water at all. This is a highly stressful process for the animals involved. Read more about live animal exports on our blog.

Life at our sanctuary

For the lucky sheep at Goodheart, their life is a happy and content one…

  • We make sure that our sheep remain in familiar flocks where they can build strong relationships over time. Many of our sheep have best friends that they choose to graze and nap with.
  • All our sheep have access to large fields where they can play, explore, and just be sheep! There are plenty of trees and hedgerows where they can find shade on hot days, and field shelters to nestle in during cold weather.
  • We give our sheep visual health checks twice a day, making sure to identify and bring in any individuals which may be under the weather so that we can provide them with immediate treatment. We also give our flock an additional check every 6 weeks to maintain their condition and general health.
rescued sheep shearing

Get familiar with the flock...

We have a variety of quirky characters here at Goodheart from elderly rams to energetic youngsters…

Mindy the rescued ewe


Mindy the ewe suffers from a neurological disorder and her upper and lower jaws aren’t aligned, making it difficult for her to eat grass and hay, but she doesn’t let that stop her from enjoying life!

Our Animal Care Team feed her a special mix twice a day to ensure she maintains a healthy weight.

Adopt a sheep today


Bob came to us in May 2020, when he was found all alone on the roadside with no other sheep to be seen. Since his arrival at Goodheart, he has proved to be a bright and inquisitive soul, keen to make friends with all the residents large or small.

Bob’s friendly nature has made him particularly popular with our visitors and he always loves trotting over to say hello!

Reg the rescued sheep


Reg was found wandering along a road, with no companions in sight. A local resident managed to coax him into the grounds of a neighbouring school, which kindly let him stay with them while they attempted to track down his owner.

The pupils formed an instant bond with Reg, visiting him on their Nature Walks and hand-feeding him over the fence. When no one came forward to claim him, they reached out to us here at Goodheart, to see if we could offer him a permanent home. 

Kent sheep before and after

Towards the start of 2020, we welcomed a group of sheep from horrendous circumstances. Here is their story. 


Ever wondered if there are non-domestic sheep, and where they might live? We take a look at all things woolly and wild.


Sadly, it’s not all green pastures and sunshine as often depicted on TV. Learn more about sheep farming and why sheep need our help