Can sheep eat sweet peas?

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sheep in the meadow

Sheep update:

Backstory: If you are new to the blog I introduced the lambs here and then was sad to announced that one died unexpectedly here.

After I wrote last week’s post on Freckle’s unexpected death I shared a picture of the new lamb we got on Instagram. I mentioned that we still didn’t know why Freckles had died but it was nice that the other lamb was happy with his new friend. A friend of mine commented on the picture wondering if it could be the sweet pea plants that were harmful because in the movie Into the Wild a man dies from eating sweet peas. The sweet peas being the problem had never even crossed my mind. Not ever! So this sparked my curiosity and I was up until 1am researching the toxicity of sweet peas. Low and behold they ARE toxic, to animals that are ruminants (cows, sheep, goats), and the seed pods that look just like peas are the worst part. Those little pea pods just developed on the plants in the last week and are now everywhere!

I slept horribly because I was so worried that the lambs were still just lounging around in the stuff that killed their friend. Who would have guessed?! I talked to so many people, read so many books, and felt like I had been so careful. Sweet peas are only toxic in large quantities, but that is exactly what they had. I bet that at least 80% of their diet was sweet peas. Crazy right?! So yesterday morning I woke up early and borrowed a machete from our friends and went to chop down all the sweet peas on a quarter of our acre that has less than the side the lambs are currently on. Our friends were kind enough to offer the lambs a temporary home with their goats until I could get things figured out. I took them up on the offer, helped my sister-in-law packed the two lambs to their house in the back of her truck, and went back to my major sweet pea removal.

Did I mention Husband was gone all that week so I was having to deal with all of that alone? Not the best timing…

Me and the machete were such a great team. Who knew that chopping down gorgeous yet toxic flowers could be so rewarding. I thought during this day long escapade, covered in sweat, standing in the middle of the biggest nest of biting ants this side of Kansas, that I liked this kind of work. Weird. I thought of it as productive exercise. I enjoy exercise and I feed on productivity; combining the two is an awesome idea.

So after a day of sweet pea hacking, a quarter of an acre was cleared and the fencing was ready to be moved. I helped Husband get things moved around when he got home and then we brought our lambs back home.

And just FYI, here’s a huge list of plants that are poisonous to ruminants. You never know when you might need this. I’m just sayin’ 🙂

So now the lambs are living quiet happily in their new sweet pea free pasture. And they are growing up so quickly!

sheep in the grass

So can sheep eat sweet peas? I would tell you no. I think most things in small quantities are OK, but who decides what a small quantity is? Better safe than sorry in my book… avoid sweet peas if you can!

sheep black and white

And now that it’s been a few weeks since this all went down things are just back to normal and the sheep are pretty much maintenance free. They did get out of the fence one afternoon and out into the larger lot of the Shanty (which is still all fenced in) but they did get into my garden and ate some jalapenos and sweet corn. Thomas got them back in and that was that. They haven’t gotten out again though we aren’t sure how they escaped in the first place.

The ants in the area they are in are unbearable, so we don’t go in too often to pet them and such. We just check on them from across the fence while we are at the garden. If we do go in the pen they generally run away from us instead of running right up to us. I think this is a great thing considering the fact we plan on eating them in the fall. They are so fun to watch and have around though. I’m really enjoying them.

sheep eating peaches

And I think that last picture is so funny. May was trying to stop one from eating our dying peach tree. We have fencing around all of the bottom of our small fruit trees but those smart little lambs just stand on the fence to reach the low-lying branches and the apples that hang down on other trees. This drives Thomas nuts and obviously May knows that 🙂 She’s such a good helper!

So hopefully these to will stay in the fence and be safe and happy all through the summer and fall!

Thanks for letting me update you on my little adventure in hobby farming and enjoy those adorable lamb pictures. I’ve had lots of requests for more lamb pictures so I don’t think anyone minds too much 🙂


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1 Comment

  1. Amanda says:

    Oh goodness! I never realized sweet peas were toxic!! I’m so glad you were able to figure that out before you lost another one. That would just be heartbreaking.