Lambing Fold

A traditional lambing fold at Chiltern Open Air Museum

What is a lambing fold?

A lambing fold is a traditional shelter or pen used for lambing. COAM uses this practice and you can see our spring lambs in our traditional lambing fold in the spring.

How was a lambing fold used?

During lambing season, farmers built a shelter pen or lambing fold. This was a number of simple shelters, with wattle hurdles for walls and a thatched roof on top, built around a yard area.

Farmers built folds near grazing crops and a hayrick, used for shelter and food. They regularly moved the fold to a new location to avoid any build-up of disease and to be near crops.

COAM’s lambing fold has been moved to a new location for Spring 2023. The reconstruction of the lambing fold has been kindly funded by the Farming in Protected Landscapes Programme.

Oxford Down lamb in a traditional lambing fold

Lambing in the fold

Farmers brought ewes close to lambing into the yard and moved them into a secluded pen or ‘coop’ to give birth. The mother and her lambs stayed in seclusion to allow bonding and provide protection against the elements.

Lambing folds went out of use along with sheep folding in the early 1900s.

A Shepherd's living van in a lambing fold

Shepherd’s living van

During lambing, our mobile shepherd’s living van is moved near the lambing fold. Farmers moved these vans to the folds and lived in them until lambing was over. This meant they could keep a watchful eye on the ewes and lambs at all hours. Our team still use the shepherd’s living van as a place to sleep during the lambing season.

Our shepherd’s living van came from Little Kingshill in Buckinghamshire. It’s thought to have been from around 1915. It’s basically a wooden shed on iron wheels, with a corrugated iron roof to keep dry. The van could be pulled out to the field by horses, and had a straw mattress and stove for cooking and keeping warm.

Find out more about sheep folding and Oxford Down sheep.

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