Although many farms coat only their adult sheep, we coat our flock nearly from the moment of birth. Minutes after a lamb takes its first breath, I clip the umbilical cord and put on its first coat. Throughout the year we collect sweatshirts and sweatpants from our own household and from clothing donated by others. When breeding season begins, I turn these items into homemade coats for our newborns. Although the original instructions are archived in our blogs, I thought it might be time for a repeat, making the guidelines easier to find.
STEP 1: You will get two coats out of every pair of sweatpants or sweatshirt. Lay out the garment on a flat surface and cut off the arms or the legs to lengths that correspond to a baby lamb. I cut them to different lengths (ranging from 6″ to 17″) because lambs come in all sizes. We have short coats and long coats, and everything in between. Keep in mind that if you make them too long, you can always cut them down, but if you make them very short, there’s no remedy later.
STEP 2: Cut along the seam found in the underarm (for sweatshirts) or the inner leg (for sweatpants) from the cut edge up to (but not through) the cuff. If you are using sweatpants with elastic at the cuff, be careful not to cut into the sleeve that holds the elastic.
STEP 3: For knit cuffs (not elastic ones), turn the cut made in step 2 down toward the table and cut through the cuff that now faces up. If the cuff is stretched out, a short cut to the seam where it attaches to the sleeve might be enough. Otherwise the cut can go an inch or so past the seam and into the sleeve. Either way, you’re creating a neck opening that will be comfortable for your lambs as they grow into your baby coat.
STEP 4: At about the middle of the coat and slightly away from the opened bottom seam, cut a small slit about 1/2″ – 1″ in length through both sides of the coat. This will accommodate the tie under the lamb’s belly. I sometimes make these slits in a couple of different places along the coat so that I can use the same coat for shorter or longer lambs by simply moving the tie from one set of slits to the other. This is optional, however; you can make one set of slits and simply use those.
STEP 5: Tie a piece of shoestring about 12″ long through the slit on one side, keeping the ends approximately even. This step prevents the tie from getting lost during use or in the laundry. Your baby lamb coat is now ready to use!
STEP 6: Put the cuff over the lamb’s head — if the opening is too small, you can always extend the slit on the top of the cuff to enlarge the opening. Feed one end of the shoestring through the second slit and tie under the lamb’s belly. The coat should allow the ewe to freely sniff under the lamb’s tail for easy identification and bonding.