While the thought of adding livestock to a traditional backyard can seem daunting, even a beginner can raise several animals. But before you decide which animal(s) you want to raise, ensure that your backyard is spacious enough so your livestock will have room to roam in. Since these animals will be a source of greener food options, the least you can do is give them a clean and healthy environment to live in.
We’ve listed five animals that are relatively easy to raise. Remember to start small before you decide on raising all five animals at once.
- Chickens — Chickens are a homesteader favorite because they provide eggs and are also great for keeping your backyard bug- and pest-free. Depending on the breed, chickens can lay a lot of eggs. However, it can take at least four to eight months before chickens reach the laying age. They also require enough space to roam around during the day. Give your chickens at least four square feet of living space. If you want to raise chickens for meat, keep in mind that this can be challenging since it’ll take several months before they’re ready. Chickens raised for meat can stink up your backyard, so make sure you’re ready to deal with this. Most hens will lay eggs for three years. Any longer than that and you will need to plan for their eventual retirement. (Related: Feed your backyard chickens for free with garden produce, common weeds.)
- Ducks – Muscovy ducks are the perfect breed to raise in a traditional backyard. These ducks don’t quack, so you’ll only hear them make “quiet hissing and pipping noises” unlike other duck breeds. While they don’t require a big pond, Muscovy ducks do require water that has been cleaned regularly. These ducks are a good source of eggs and meat, but they may forage in your garden, so take measures to protect your produce. Ducks are also good for pest control because they eat flies, mosquitoes, and snails. Keep Muscovy ducks in pairs, and clip their wings if you wish to keep their flying in control. Don’t forget to provide them with a roost since ducks need more space than chickens typically require. If you want to let these ducks loose, keep in mind that their droppings can run “loose,” which is good for your garden but not for your porch.
- Goats – If you’re interested in raising goats, consider the Nigerian Dwarf goat. This breed is suitable for traditional backyards, and the milk it provides is nutritious. Goat milk can also be used to make delicious cheese, and these animals can help keep your bushes under control. This smaller goat breed only requires at least one-fourth of the space a full-sized dairy goat needs, but give them at least 16 square feet per goat. Keep at least two goats since they need to be in a herd to stay happy. Sturdy fencing and housing will keep the goats warm and dry. Do check with your neighbors and zoning before getting some goats because they are noisy animals.
- Quail – Quail is another great option for backyard livestock due to their small size, which gives you many options when it comes to housing. Quails need a minimum of one square foot per bird. When it comes to egg laying, quails can start producing eggs after six weeks. They’re also fully grown after eight weeks. Even though quail eggs are smaller than chicken eggs, the former are creamier. Keep in mind that quails can also be noisy, so only keeping hens might be a better option, especially if you have neighbors that aren’t fond of noisy animals. Quail meat is darker and has a flavor similar to turkey, although you might need a couple before you feel full. When raising quail for meat, a 4:5 hen to rooster is ideal. Quails are low maintenance as long as you give them a high protein feed. Without enough protein, they can resort to cannibalism.
- Rabbits – If you’re looking for quieter livestock, get some rabbits. They’re easy to raise, and they require a cage that only measures at least 3×2 feet. But if your space is big enough, consider getting them a bigger cage. Start with three rabbits made up of two does and a buck. Rabbit meat tastes like chicken meat, and it’s mostly white meat and very lean. Do keep in mind that rabbits must be kept cool, and they don’t breed during the hot summer months. Give them shade and some frozen water bottles, fans, and misters to keep them comfortable.
5 things to remember when raising livestock
Once you’ve chosen from the list of suggested livestock above, don’t forget these five tips for raising livestock:
- Choose your livestock well – Consider the pros and cons before you decide on the kind of animal you want to raise.
- Think of the end game – Choose the animal based on what you and your family need. Is it eggs, meat, or milk?
- Expenses – Make sure you have the funds to care for these animals well so your efforts don’t go to waste.
- Time investment – Livestock require a lot of time and attention, so don’t bother planning if you can’t commit to taking care of the animals properly.
- Emotional investment – Remember that your chickens or goats are not kept as pets. While you feed and nurture them, livestock are primarily a food source. Don’t get attached, and if you have children, raising livestock is a good way to teach them about natural food sources.
You can read more articles about raising livestock and other homesteading tips at Homesteading.news.
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