Night Pen Set Up

We night pen the flock during particular times of the year to assist with predator protection. Our night pens are small paddocks, ranging from five acres to twelve acres in size, so not really a pen as the name suggests. Just an area where the livestock will be contained overnight.

We like to move the flock to different night pen areas since keeping them in one area for too long will have detrimental effects even though animals are only staying there during the night.

Our current night pen is a 60 foot wide alleyway situated between two paddocks. It is a long rectangular shape and has no fence at the ends. The area was a planned shelter belt strip but after a failed year of tree planting nothing has been done with it. The sheep graze it a bit each year but otherwise it is a weedy strip and serves as our access route to other pastures.

Because it is not fenced on the ends we had not previously viewed it as a possible paddock. Earlier when we were looking for an option that gave us easy access to this years winter pasture, and we drew it out, it occurred to us that it might work very well. With some Electra-net erected on one end and blocking the gate access on the opposite end we are able to contain the sheep.

From this area there is access to four different pastures plus the main hub area where the winter water bowls are located.  It is an area not used previously as a night pen which is a plus. Within this space there is ample room to move the bedding area when it becomes too well used and animals are not crowded. We do not need to be concerned with the depth of the bedding because it will be okay for this weedy patch to have a heavy layer of residue mulch come spring time.

The one downside is that it has no natural shelter. We solved that by moving two wind break panels into the area and setting up a row of old, stale round bales for protection from the North and West winds. We dropped a few straw bales in and spread them around for bedding. We like the bedding area to be on a slope so it drains come spring melt.

Around here everything drains into a wetland in a very short distance. We can’t avoid it but we can alleviate how much runoff any one wetland receives by moving the night pen locations around (and establishing riparian areas for filtering).  Moving the night pen area also lessens the impact on the ground in that area. This night area has been in use for a couple months now.

We are satisfied with how it works so when the ground thaws we will put up permanent fence on both ends, a simple move that will result in two new future grazing paddocks and more possibilities. 

Sheep filing into night paddock (eliminating work for Cajun who is looking over my right shoulder)