Backyard farming comes with its own benefits; you may rear livestock in your yard as a hobby, part-time thing, or even earn a living by selling eggs and meat. No matter what your motivation is, backyard farming requires sufficient research, planning, and preparation. This will help you ensure that your farm animals are equipped with sufficient space and a hygienic surrounding to flourish and reward you with their produce.
This article will act as a brief guide to help you prepare to care for farm livestock in your backyard. We have done our homework to help you figure what all animals you can rear in your backyard farm. Continue reading this article to find all about it.
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Why Keep Farm Animals In Your Backyard: Benefits
If you are looking for a farm experience while at home, just set your backyard up with some farm livestock. Farm animals will help you set the direction and pace of the day. Plus, they provide their natural rhythm, manure, activity, and a possible income from egg and meat. However, it is easier said than done to raise farm livestock in a backyard, that too, in an urban setting.
Being an urban farmer limits your animal options. Other things like space and local restrictions on the type and number of animals you can keep come into play as well. Below, you will find the top eleven animals suited for backyard farming. If you are in search of some extra income, fertility from manure, or just plain entertainment, this article is here to help you start.
The Best Farm Animals You Can Keep in Your Backyard Farm
Let’s cut to the chase and look at the most suitable livestock that you can keep on your backyard farm.
Whether you want to go for Muscovies or Pekins, ducks make for a good backyard farm animal. Muscovy ducks don’t make much quacking noise, so they won’t cause trouble for your neighbors. Moreover, a duck can be a reliable source of delicious eggs and meat.
On the other hand, Pekin ducks are among the easiest animals to raise on a farm, with tasty meat and large eggs. Facing a space crunch? No worries, these ducks can live comfortably in a miniature house with a kiddie pool to swim. However, an adult mature duck would still need a minimum of 3 feet of space.
With a greater appetite than chickens, Pekin ducks are good foragers. Plus, they make for great garden helpers, eating your weak rooted plants while keeping the bugs away from healthy ones.
Overall, any duck will work well as a backyard farm animal and provide you egg and meat. Further, some little ducks consist of the following breeds – Indian Runners, Khaki Campbells, Rouens, and Blue Swedish ducks.
However, you must take particular care with larger ducks, for they are slow and thus weak targets for predators like dogs and hawks. Make sure to get proper fencing to protect your ducks from them.
Rabbits are the perfect animals for modest living spaces like backyard farms. Raised primarily for their meat, these efficient animals do not smell and are quiet enough to not disturb your neighbors. Rabbits are easy to raise and need just the bare minimum to start with.
Having said that, raising rabbits still takes some level of organization. Still, their upkeep is simpler, with less investment as a result of smaller pens, reduced fencing, inexpensive breeding stocks, and fewer food requirements.
You’d need to plan your rabbit breeding as per your requirements. If all you need are good companion animals to weed out your yard, it’s better not to put male rabbits and female rabbits in one place. However, if you are keeping rabbits for their fur or meat, breeding male rabbits and female rabbits together will ensure you a lifelong stock.
If you are a beginner in rearing rabbits, go for simpler-to-rear breeds like that of Angora rabbits which are known for their fur. Meat breeders can raise Champagne d’Argent rabbit, California, New Zealand, Creme d’Argent, or a combination of these rabbits. If you want to breed pet rabbits, the Lops rabbit, Miniatures, and the Dutch rabbit make for adorable, productive companions.
Goats make for a great backyard animal and can be reared for a dual benefit of tasty meat and creamy milk. Go for a handful of dwarf Nigerian goats if you have less space in your backyard.
Goats prefer living in herds, so for best results, keep at least two goats at once. One thing to consider is whether your neighbors can bear the sounds a goat makes or not, for goats are vocal creatures.
A Pygmy goat can do well in an urban setting, for they need a smaller quantity of everything. Not only are they cute, but these little goats are also a source of dairy and meat. You can easily accommodate Pygmy goats in a small backyard with their tiny size, measuring half or three-fourth the size of an average goat. Despite their size, both the dwarf Nigerian fiber goats and Pygmy goats prove productive farm animals. Among Nigerian fiber goats, a single goat can produce up to half-a-gallon milk a day. Pigmy goats, too, produce a decent amount of milk and are perfect lawnmowers as well.
When it comes to backyard farming, or animal farming in general, chickens are a staple. These birds are reared for their white meat and nutritious eggs. Chickens are relatively quiet farm options, especially the hens. Due to their growing popularity, chickens are becoming legal in more and more states.
Apart from catering to your meat and egg needs, chickens also help to produce nitrogen-rich manure, which, when mixed with soil or compost, acts as a great natural fertilizer. Care requirements for chickens include a secure coop coupled with nest boxes to allow them to lay eggs and a roost area for sleeping. Ensure a fenced area to let your chicken roam around, take in the sun, and forage for insects and bugs. Chickens need only a limited space; 4 square feet of space per chicken should suffice. And if you allow your chickens to free-range, they would need more space.
You need to choose a chicken breed, as per your requirements. For excellent and good quantity meat, you can go for the Cornish Cross hens, the Freedom Ranger, or the Red Ranger chickens. For laying breeds, there are again countless amazing options to choose from – Black Australorp, Barred Rock, Easter Egger, Buff Orpington, and Rhode Island Red, among other hens. To be sure that you end up with chickens fit for your region, get your birds from your local farm supply store.
You can eat the eggs and meat produced by your backyard hens or sell them to earn a fortune.
With flexibility in housing and their small size, Quails make for efficient animals to keep in your garden. Caged quail is the easiest to maintain, while cooped quail too can stay happy and thrive in a backyard setting. Care-wise, like chicken, a Quail too can live comfortably in a fairly small backyard space. It just needs to be cleaned and covered.
These underrated birds are reared for their small, yet nutritionally-rich eggs. And their meat has a high protein value which makes it healthier. However, unlike chicken, they are more commonly raised as pets than for food production.
Bobwhite, which is its most common Quail breed, mature just within 16 weeks, and even begins laying eggs post 24 weeks. Certain quail breeds, like Coturnix, can even lay from 4 to 6 eggs in a week. You can sell these for more than what it would cost you to maintain them. You can earn about 50 cents per egg at a higher range, making them surprisingly profitable.
Raising cows generally calls for a special permit, in addition to a larger space. Urban settings may permit only as many as one or two cows for your backyard garden. You can raise a complete herd more comfortably only in a rural area with abundant space. Raised for their milk, cows also form great companion-like pets.
However, owning a small property shouldn’t discourage you from raising a cow; you can always go for a Dexter cattle. These cows are naturally squat and little in size and reward their farmers with an impressive feed conversion rate and milk-producing capacity. Dexters would need roughly 1/2 acre of quality green grass per cow or up to 15 pounds of hay coupled with some grain to meet a day’s feeding needs. This makes these dairy cattle particularly suited for outlying suburbs rather than core city centers.
A Dexter fed on grass will reach its finishing weight within 18 to 24 months. They can then produce enough milk; with a maximum of 3 gallons of milk daily or roughly 500 pounds of meat.
Though a sheep is most suited for grassland areas, you can feed them grain in a city-style backyard-cum-farm setting. They can be raised for both commercial and personal benefits of milk and wool.
If you are rearing sheep for their wool, you would be required to sheer them each spring season. As a result, you’d need a space convenient enough for wool sheering. On the other hand, if you want to raise them for dairy products, go for hair sheep that shed naturally once a year and thus don’t need manual shedding.
Similar to backyard chickens, you’d need to ensure the correct space and housing facility for raising turkeys in your backyard farm. However, when compared to chicken, these are easier to breed and maintain and are raised for eggs and meat.
As a backyard farmer, if you are raising turkeys to eat or sell their meat, go for heritage turkeys which are greatly valued for their delicious flavor and beautiful plumage.
A rather interesting creature to raise on your backyard farm is a bee. Cultivated for a fresh supply of natural honey, you can harvest bees for commercial or at-home needs. In an urban setting, you’d need to abide by your area’s beekeeping regulations.
Among other things, your backyard would need a fence, plus you’d need a beekeeper suit to avoid getting stung while handling the hive. Another thing to do is check by your neighbors, especially in case of risk of allergies from bees. Also, make sure to place your beehive away from children or bystanders’ reach.
These magnificent creatures demand little maintenance to live. Cultivating bees would need hive boxes and just a small water source to start with. They swarm in the spring season and are considerably gentle while doing so. You’d need a bee suit, sugar water, and a pair of gloves to catch them and set up your virtually free hive.
Even though cultivating bees is free, you may incur upfront costs such that of hive boxes, water sources, bee suits, and the like.
You think about a farm, and a picture of a pig pops up in front. Primarily raised for their meat, these pink little creatures make for great companions that can do well for a small-sized backyard farm.
However, it goes without saying that pigs can create a mess, and it would cost you some extra bucks to keep their bellies fat and full. To care properly for them, you’d require fencing your backyard, housing enclosures, and a clean drinking water source.
Since pigs produce a whole lot of organic waste, you would need to figure out what to do with all the manure lying around your yard. You can either compost it to use as a fertilizer or sell it to make some money.
If you have a really small backyard, you can rule out this option. But a large-sized backyard may allow you to have a small stable suited for one or two horses. Maintaining a horse is unlike taking care of farm birds like chickens. Horses usually require some work, and you’d need a large green grassy area for their feed.
Plus, these active animals will require adequate running space, or else you’d need to carry them using a trailer to an area approved for riding or running. It is a good idea to keep water buckets handy to quench your active horse’s thirst and exhaustion.
The stable must be kept clean to maintain hygiene. You would consistently need to refresh it with hay. Having a veterinarian’s contact on hand is always a good idea to ensure your horse stays healthy and strong.
Things to Consider When Raising Farm Animals In Your Backyard Farm
To avoid getting in trouble for the animals you are planning to bring home, there are certain things you should keep in mind.
1. Check Local Zoning Ordinances
First and foremost, research your local zoning ordinances and laws of your place of stay. Check for the kind and quantity of animals you are allowed to keep. Among the permitted animals, see which ones interest you. Go through the facility requirements to maintain your shortlisted animals and see whether you can properly care for them.
Even for the permissible animals, you would need to follow the set regulations. Before setting your backyard farm, you may need to submit specific documentation to your local authority. In fact, there may be laws governing the manner in which you can sell the eggs, dairy, or meat from your livestock.
2. On-site Location of Each of Your Animals
Before you get your animals home, you need to decide on their perfect place to stay, roam around, sleep, and eat. If you are planning to keep multiple animals within one single backyard, you’d need proper demarcation and fencing to ensure that your animals co-exist.
Another reason why you must pay care in allocating confined spaces to your animals is to prevent the spreading of disease from one of your livestock animals to another.
3. Sanitation Requirements and Hygiene Maintenance
Keeping several animals as livestock or pets means your farm needs to be cleaned more often. To prevent your backyard from smelling like a dump, you need to have a proper animal waste disposal mechanism in place. If you are planning to utilize their produce as manure, be sure to collect it on time to mix along with your soil or compost.
4. Regular Veterinarian Checkups and Vaccinations
If you want healthy and hearty animals in your yard, make sure to take them to timely vet checkups and keep up-to-date with their vaccinations. Farm animals, like other animals, may catch diseases quite often, so it is better to prevent them with proper vaccination and to nib the disease in the bud.
5. Emergency Plan In Case of Injury or Disease
As a livestock owner, you must be prepared for situations where animal control needs to intervene. This may be in case of injury, reported abuse, abandonment, or fatal disease to one or more of your animals.
6. Basic Supplies
It goes without saying that to start with, you’d need a continuous supply of feed, suitable bedding materials, and even pest and insect control products, to maintain your livestock.
7. Noise Level
Your love for backyard animals may not be reciprocated by your neighbors. To make sure your animals don’t become a headache to your next-door neighbor, check-in with them and try to maintain the odor and noise level at a minimum.
It is safe to say that you can indeed raise animals in your backyard. Given the required permits, you can have an educational, fun, and rewarding (monetarily or otherwise) experience. Of course, you can not replicate a full-sized country farm in your humble backyard, but with animals listed in this article, you can still have your share of animal farming.
For a start, you need to decide what to choose among these available backyard animals, whether you want to raise chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits, or a few horses. If you are just beginning with your farming journey, consider getting little, easy-to-maintain animals that can easily fit your backyard. Before setting up your backyard farm, take a look at the handy checklist of all the important things you must keep in mind while getting farm animals. These range from checking the zoning laws of your city to filling up on basic supplies and trying to keep low noise and odor levels.
James Fields is the founder of Gardener to Farmer. His passion for gardening goes back to his childhood days when he would visit his grandfather during the holidays and help him with the plants in the backyard. This has now translated to creating a dependable resource for gardening.