Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sheep-less in Seattle

My son had a play date the other day and when I went to pick him up at his friend's house, I heard the sound of bleating in the backyard. I thought it sounded like some fake farm critter toy thing. I asked my son's friend and he answered, "it's a sheep."

To which, I assumed he was referring to the toy. Incredulously, I asked if it was real and was informed, that indeed it was. He told me that the sheep was their neighbor's - there were four of them - and one of them just had babies.

I still can't get over the fact that their neighbors have that many sheep. In fact, since I'm such a crazy person, I drove down the block behind them to see if I could see the sheep better from the other side. One thing I noticed is that the row of houses on that side has huge yards, about double the size of an average city block and many of the neighbors had fencing that looked like something you'd see on a farm.

Now, I don't think sheep are legal animals to be kept in the city and I still don't understand how they manage to keep them without someone noticing or saying anything. Needless to say, I'm not only totally impressed and very jealous, but I'm also trying to figure out how to get my hands on some sheep's milk for making cheese.

Anyone know the scoop on keeping sheep in Seattle? And, I'm not talking about the "outskirts", I'm talking Ballard area here. My understanding is that we are allowed bees, mini pigs, poultry and mini goats, but no other "farm" animals.


e4 said...

Don't ask, don't tell?

Seriously, I think zoning rules like that are typically only enforced if someone complains. I have a neighbor who raises hogs, which is explicitly not allowed here. He lives right on a state highway on the way to all the local schools. The pigs are not obvious, but they're not especially well hidden either. But I guess as long as his neighbors or passers-by don't say anything, local officials don't feel the need to spend their time on it.

Just a guess.

Sonja said...

Yup, you're right: no sheep, unless the lot is huge (in excess of 20,000 square feet). But a 20,000 sf lot in Ballard? I'd be surprised. Our lot is 11,000 and that's about 1.5 'regular' city lots. You can have one sheep for every 10,000 sf, so four sheep = 40,000 sf lot. At least for goats, you have have kids up to a certain age without having the additional sf. Perhaps until they're weaned? I'm not exactly sure..

It's a major bummer: I would much rather have a sheep than a goat since sheep are much better for lawn mowing and I love sheep cheese. Maybe it's because I don't own either (and am thus uniformed) but I'm at a loss to explain why goats are ok but not sheep. Aren't there mini sheep out there too? Perhaps we should lead a push to add sheep to the city goat code!

Here are the specifics:
D. Farm Animals. Cows, horses, sheep and other similar farm animals are
permitted only on lots of at least twenty thousand (20,000) square feet. The
keeping of swine is prohibited, except for miniature potbelly pigs allowed
under subsection B of this section.

More information here:

LatigoLiz said...

Sonja posted a great link. Here is the search term "livestock":

Robj98168 said...

They're dogs... Yeah thats it... Little Cock-A-Poos... and they all have colds.

Really, I don't think it is anybodies business what goes on in a neighbor's yard... As long as no one is getting hurt. Of course I am a big believer in property owners rights, and think HOA should be outlawed.

Anonymous said...

That is really silly. Having raised both sheep and goats, I can tell you that sheep are much quieter, much easier to keep in a fence, and much less messy. I own 6 (non-breeding) ewes that keep my 2 of my 5 acres in tidy shape. I have Shetland-Finn cross and they barely come up to my knee (I'm 5'1" -- so small!). On most days, you barely know they are there. Unless, they hear me coming out with the alfalfa pellets. Then everyone knows I am on my way!

Tree Huggin Momma said...

OK so I grew up in the country, my neighbors had a pet sheep, just the one. And it was a fun pet.
But that is off topic. There are 2 answers:
1. The owners don't know, and neither do the neighbors (or no one cares)
2. They have a variance. You can get a variance for any code, you just have to want it and pay for it (Oh yeah and prove its safe).

Farmer's Daughter said...

Wait, so according to what Sonja posted, you can have a cow or horse on a 20,000 square foot lot? That's not even half an acre! That sounds not only smelly, but inhumane (of course compare it to a CAFO and it's luxurious).

Sonja said...

I think (if I'm reading the regulations correctly) you could have TWO horses on a 20,000 sf lot, not just one. Twice as smelly!

For sheep folk out there, how many sf would you consider humane for two sheep? Would that number change for 'mini-sheep'?

Kim said...

Sonia -- I would only keep 3 small ewes on 1 acre. Assuming, of course, that it is well watered, well drained, and you can rotate them around on it.

I have 6 ewes that rotate through 2 acres, plus they have access to another acre when there are "slim pickins." We also have 2 more acres that are woods where they can be allowed to roam a few hours at a time. Not much longer than that because they will girdle the trees. They keep the yards very tidy. In fact, we no longer own a lawn tractor. Just a reel mower to tidy up the edges. We're the only ones in our rural area that do this, so there are always lots of questions.

I do buy local hay for them during the non-growing season. They get free access to minerals and water.

I don't breed mine, but when I did I would sell the lambs at 4 months. You wouldn't want a ram on that small a holding. Rams are a whole 'nother ball of wax. Even with all my experience I won't keep a ram.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Oops, KMH is me HedgesHappenings

Lisa said...

I want sheep!! And go for it on the milk!