sheep drinking still water

Will Sheep Drink from Running Water? (Is It Safe?)

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It’s a no-brainer that sheep, like other living things, require water to thrive and survive; in fact, these animals tend to drink a lot of water. However, will sheep drink from running water, or are they set on just drinking still water?

Sheep are not picky, so they will drink any available water, whether running, still, dirty, or clean. Therefore, the idea that sheep won’t drink from running water is entirely a misconception, but they are wary of it since it can be dangerous.

If you are considering rearing sheep, you must ensure they have a sufficient supply of clean drinking water.

sheep drinking still water

Still Water Vs. Running Water (Which is Better For Sheep?)

Still water refers to water in watering holes, ponds, troughs, and such areas, while running water is found in taps, streams, and rivers. While both options offer drinking water to your sheep, one is safer than the other.

Running Water

While running water is more resistant to stagnation, contamination and better aerated than still water, discourage your sheep from drinking from fast-flowing water.

Sheep have wool that quickly absorbs water. Thus, your sheep will soak if they fall into running water, making it hard for them to climb out, and they can easily drown.

Older or sick sheep and pregnant ewes are more vulnerable to being swept up and drowning in running water.

Moreover, it’s hard for sheep to move against flowing water, and the water can be contaminated despite looking clean.

And finally, your sheep can also lose balance when they step on the rocks.

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Still Water

You are better off providing your sheep with drinking water in troughs that you can empty and clean regularly. This is because it’s safer for your animals, and sheep prefer still water to running water.

However, still water can freeze during winter. Therefore, consider getting a trough heater to ensure the drinking water is ice-free in winter, and position your drinking points in the shade in summer.

How To Give Your Sheep Water

Here are the different ways you can provide drinking water to your sheep.

Water bottles

Water bottles will come in handy if you have lambs on your farm. Besides helping them drink water, you can also use them to provide milk to orphaned lambs.

Water troughs/ artificial watering points

These are large containers or buckets where your sheep can access drinking water. Water troughs are simple without moving parts, affordable, and let you monitor your sheep’s water intake.

However, you must change the water in these containers daily and regularly clean the troughs to avoid contamination and ensure your sheep have access to quality drinking water.

sheep drinking water from a water trough

Open ponds

These are mini lakes, and your sheep can drink from them, but you must ensure the water is clean and your sheep are safe. Keep your sheep away from polluted ponds.

Sheep drinkers

This is a product explicitly made for sheep. It encloses your sheep’s drinking water, keeping it clean and free of contamination. In addition, it keeps your sheep from misusing and wasting water.

Get as many sheep drinkers as you need, depending on the number of sheep on your farm. Having sufficient drinkers prevents your sheep from competing for water.


Stream water is typically clean and safe for animal consumption, but other dangers linger there. For example, your sheep could slip and fall into the water, so watch out for them attentively to ensure they stay safe while drinking in the stream.

Sheep drinking from the stream can also contaminate water for people living downstream using water from the same stream.


It may be tempting to offer your sheep running water because it’s not stagnant and has low contamination, but sheep prefer still water. These animals hesitate to drink from a running source like a fountain or stream.

It will also take time to train your sheep to drink running water without fear.

How Much Drinking Water Do Sheep Require?

Sheep need about 1.5 to 3 gallons of drinking water every day to stay hydrated and ensure their bodies function properly. In addition, nursing and pregnant ewes will drink more water- up to 5 gallons daily.

Water helps regulate the sheep’s body temperature, lubricate nasal and eye passages and joints, and flush out toxins.

The following factors dictate the amount of water a sheep will drink every day.

  • Humidity
  • Outdoor temperature
  • Amount of exercise
  • Wool thickness
  • Wind
  • Lifecycle
  • If you milk them
  • Nursing
  • The feed’s water content

Below is the average amount of water different sheep need daily.

Sheep Amount of Water
Adult sheep 1 to 2 gallons
Ewes 2 to 3 gallons
Feeder lambs 1 to 2 gallons
Lambs 0.5 to 2 gallons

How Frequently Do Sheep Need Drinking Water?

Water is an essential component of a sheep’s nutrition, and they tend to drink plenty of it, especially those that eat dry feed often, such as straw and hay.

Therefore, leaving drinking water accessible to your sheep is recommended so they may drink it whenever needed.

Provide more water if you feed your sheep dry hay or grass since your sheep need sufficient water to offset the dry food. In addition, the water must be clean because your sheep won’t drink visibly gross water.

Your sheep will eat less if there’s less drinking water at their disposal because they must balance their water intake and forage.

Furthermore, they will lower their feed consumption if the drinking water is poor, leading to disease prevalence and reduced wool and meat yields.

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How Long Can Sheep Stay Without Water?

Sheep can stay for months or even years without water provided the weather remains calm, and they can access pasture with water-rich clovers or grass. The animals can receive enough water from soft snow, grass, or dew.

However, sheep can only survive without water for 3 to 10 days on hot days. So while sheep rely on water to stay cool, sheep with pasture will last longer than those without feed.

Sheep drinking water in a bucket at a farm

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are sheep afraid of rushing water?

Sheep are afraid of rushing water and will hesitate to approach such water. Therefore, they tend to look for quiet water to drink.

Moreover, they don’t swim much because they fear running water.

2. Will sheep drink from a pond?

Sheep will drink from various water sources, including ponds, streams, water troughs, drinkers, and even water bottles.

3. Will sheep drink dirty water?

Sheep will drink dirty water, but you should strive to ensure you provide clean drinking water to your sheep to keep them healthy. Regularly change the water in your sheep’s drinking stations and clean the containers to eliminate contaminants.

4. Can sheep swim?

Sheep don’t typically swim, but they will face the water for food, mate, and escape a predator. Moreover, they can swim if a sheepdog or shepherd leads and even clean themselves, particularly before the shearing season.

Final Remarks

Sheep can brave running water for a drink, but provide your sheep with high-quality still water for drinking for their safety and comfort. Should you lead your sheep in a stream for a drink, be attentive to keep them from drowning.


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