Do sheep eat hay?

do sheep eat hay

The sheep is ruminant mammal, and grazes just like the goat, cow, and other mammals who have four stomach chambers do. In this article, we will be sharing the basic details of the sheep, and most importantly this article will answer the question which is: “Do sheep eat hay?”

In answering this question, we will also share a few other things sheep feed on, and why do sheep feed on hay.
Firstly, it is important to note that a flock of sheep feed on hay, even though there are times they will rather feed on any other thing, but not hay. On the other hand, there are conditions that can facilitate a flock of sheep or sheep in general to eat hay.

Why a flock of sheep may feed on hay

Whether sheep feed on hay or not is no longer a question to be answered. In this section we will be sharing with you a few reasons why sheep generally feed on hay.

  • Climate Change

A change in climate can affect what the sheep feed on. A flock sheep can feed on hay throughout the period of winter. Not just as a supplement to another feed, but also as feed in itself.

  • Lack of Pasture

Apart from a change in the climate, another reason flocks of sheep can feed on hay or eat hay is if there is no pasture. Remember that like other ruminant mammals the sheep is a grazer; so the absence of a pasture can make sheep feed on hay.

Not only can the lack of pasture make flock of sheep feed on hay or eat hay, the lack of posture can also result in the sheep having to live on hay. Being ruminant their appropriate food is grass and other forages, but the absence of hay can take this biological diet from them and leave them at the mercy of hay, from which they still get nourished.

  • Sheep enjoy a variety of feeds

Both subsistence and commercial farmers who enjoy rearing domestic animals like to keep sheep. This is basically because sheep are known to be quite a flock of self-sufficient species or type of animal or livestock. It has an easy going nature that makes it all the more interesting to keep at home.

More so, the sheep like other ruminant mammals (just like the goats), have an appetite for a variety of feeds. This simply means that the sheep can feed on hay even when there is a pasture enough to feed the entire flock, and it will feed on hay because it wants to feed on hay.

However, it is important to know that even if flocks of sheep can eat or feed on a lot of things like hay, grasses, or even human foods as the case may be, there are still certain types of food both natural feed and the man-made feed that the sheep feed on, there could be a resultant effect of ailment, which can really result in a major health issue or even a cold death as the case may be.

  • Hay is a major diet for the sheep

Although the sheep feed on different things or on a variety of food, it is important to know that the feed ‘Hay’ is in reality and also biologically a major part of the diet of a sheep. The ruminant which is one of the four stomach chambers of the ruminant animals can be a source of discomfort to the sheep or even other ruminant mammals like the deer, the goat, the elk, the cow, and other ruminant animals or grazers.

In the case of the sheep the discomfort is usually as a result of consuming the wrong things a lot. Sometimes even the wrong things that are consumed in small quantity can also result in medical issue for the sheep, the feeding habit of the sheep which makes it very easy for the sheep to taste other things or try out new feeds makes it prone to this discomfort.

Some of the medical issues attached to this is stomach bloat and stomach pain, the inability of the sheep to communicate as human, could make it difficult for the shepherd to understand the plight of the sheep, and the fact that it is difficult to tell a healthy sheep from an ill makes it the more difficult. To be safe, incorporate hay to the feed of your sheep, then also be very observant with your sheep that you know when one shows any discomfort, also get your vet doctor to examine them as often as you can.

Why sheep may not eat hay

We have established that the sheep eat hay, and we have also shared why they eat hay, in this section, we will be sharing some of the reasons for which the sheep may not eat hay in the following sections.

  • Bad Taste:

One of the most common reasons your sheep will reject eating hay could be a bad taste. The habit as well as the appetite to taste or eat anything at all could make the sheep eat something that tastes quite bad, and when the sheep eats something sour or something that has a bad taste, the sheep may not be able to eat any other thing. It could also be that feed is spoilt which has resulted in a bad taste or in a certain internal reaction, you just have to be on the lookout to know.

  • Ill Health:

Another reason the sheep may not want to eat despite being hungry is if the sheep has an ill health. Just like other living organisms, sheep can also be unwell and require the medical attention only a vet doctor can give. Some of such ailments could be the contraction of pneumonia, or a pain in the mouth, or even sore throat.

However, first aid treatments like the vitamin B injections, the probiotics, and even the use of baking soda can be used to relief the sheep from the pain of minor issues, it is still very important to involve a vet doctor so that the live of the sheep and the entire livestock is safe from any form of medical harm.

Cancer could also be a cause of loss of appetite in the sheep, make sure to consult vet. Or it could also be that the sheep ate the leaf of a plant that is poisonous, or that the sheep contracted a parasite, or just that the sheep have some vitamin deficiencies, it could be diarrhea, it could be blood, it could be elevated temperatures, it could be nasal discharge, or difficulty breathing, or it could even be lethargy or anything at all. Just know that an ill health could be the reason a sheep is not eating hay or any other thing at all.

  • Climate Factor:

Sometimes a sheep may not be eating hay or any other thing as a result of the climate, or perhaps a change of environment, or a change in the environment. You will have to be very observant to find out why and help the sheep start eating again so that it does not die from starvation.

  • Change of Feed and/or pasture:

Another reason a sheep may not be eating could be as a result of a change of feed or pasture, although sheep are known to have enough appetite for a lot of things, a change of pasture or feed after getting used to a particular feed could be the reason the sheep is not eating, if this is the case, give the sheep sometime and it will start eating again. It could also be the hay they have refused to eat is wet and if this happens to be the case, then you will have to change it. So a change of feed or pasture can lead to a loss of appetite.


Flocks of sheep do eat hay for a good number of reasons that we have seen, and they could still be unable to eat hay for a huge number of reasons as well, a sheep farmer or a shepherd has to be very observant in order to decipher why the sheep is not eating.

If you have time on your side, and if you are sure that the health of your sheep is in good condition, then you can give the sheep sometime. You can also think about sticking to changing the feed one after the other, while you observe the sheep to see if there are any changes in the health of the sheep or any improvement in the eating habit of the sheep.

For instance, if the sheep eat other things but does not eat hay, then there is no problem, keep feeding the sheep other things like the grass, some human food, new pasture, and a whole other thing bearing in mind that the sheep has a huge appetite for different tastes in feeds. There are chances that the sheep could again have an appetite for hay with time.