Livestock like chickens are important for small producers

Animals need space and there are strict limits on what sort of livestock you can keep inside county boundaries or city limits. The keeping of farm animals or livestock is also the most regulated pastime for the backyard farmer.

Most backyard livestock keepers choose to go with poultry like chickens, ducks, Guinea fowl , quail or turkeys.

Below: Most first timers opt to go with chickens. Here are some of mine.

With livestock there is also the biggest opportunity for things to go wrong so some planning and care is required. Over the years I have kept just about everything except peacocks and ratites (Ostriches).

When choosing livestock for your backyard homestead, it is important to consider your climate, space limitations, and personal preferences. It is also important to do your research to learn about the specific needs of the animals you are considering.

Here are some additional factors to consider when choosing livestock for your backyard homestead:

  • Legality: Check with your local zoning laws to make sure that keeping livestock is permitted in your area.
  • Space: Some livestock, such as goats and sheep, require more space than others. Make sure you have enough space for your animals to roam and exercise.
  • Fencing: You will need to provide secure fencing to keep your animals contained. The type of fencing you need will depend on the size and type of animals you are keeping.
  • Housing: You will need to provide shelter for your animals, especially in cold or hot weather. The type of housing you need will depend on the size and type of animals you are keeping.
  • Feed: You will need to provide food and water for your animals. The type of feed you need will depend on the type of animals you are keeping.
  • Veterinary care: You will need to provide regular veterinary care for your animals. This includes vaccinations, deworming, and other preventive care.

Of all the cloven hoofed animals I have looked after, goats were by far  the most troublesome.

Which animals are classed as livestock?

Any domestic animal kept for farming purposes or profit is livestock.

The word itself is a contraction of the words live and stock. Examples of livestock are:

  • All poultry including chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese, quail, guinea fowl, pheasants, peacocks and ostriches.
  • All cloven hoofed animals including sheep, goats and cows.
  • Fish and shrimp.
  • Pigs and wild boar.
  • Horses, mules and donkeys.

Some definitions include poultry and some do not and some list fish farming as aquaculture. For the purposes of this website I will use the term livestock as an all encompassing one.

What livestock animals can I keep in my backyard garden?

Keeping livestock can be immensely rewarding as well as being a learning experience.

Most people can keep a few chickens, ducks or quail in their backyard garden without much trouble at all.

Below: Raising chickens from chicks with a mother hen.

By far the most common livestock kept by the average backyard gardener is chickens. Their food is the cheapest to buy and the equipment you need to look after them is easy to find.

Here are some common types of livestock that can be raised on a homestead:

  1. Chickens: Chickens are one of the most popular and versatile livestock for homesteads. They provide eggs, meat, and pest control (by eating insects). They are relatively easy to care for and require a chicken coop or a secure shelter to protect them from predators.

  2. Ducks: Ducks are similar to chickens in terms of care and benefits. They also lay eggs, and certain duck breeds are raised for their meat. Ducks can be excellent foragers and help control pests in ponds or wet areas.

  3. Goats: Goats are valuable for milk, meat, and fiber (in the case of Angora or Cashmere goats). They are good grazers and can help manage vegetation on the homestead. Goats require sturdy fencing and shelter.

  4. Sheep: Sheep are primarily raised for their wool, meat (lamb or mutton), and milk (in some breeds). They are grazers and can help maintain pastures when properly managed. Sheep also need adequate fencing and shelter.

  5. Cows: Cows are larger livestock that can provide milk and meat. Dairy cows are raised for milk production, while beef cattle are raised for their meat. Caring for cows requires more space and appropriate fencing.

  6. Pigs: Pigs are raised for their pork, and they are known for their efficient ability to convert food into meat. They require secure enclosures and regular access to food and water.

  7. Rabbits: Rabbits are an excellent source of meat, fur, and manure for the garden. They are relatively small and easy to raise, making them suitable for smaller homesteads.

  8. Bees: While not traditional livestock, bees are beneficial for pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax. Keeping beehives can enhance the productivity of your garden and provide a source of sweet honey.

  9. Turkeys and Geese: These poultry birds can be raised for their meat and, in the case of geese, their feathers and guard abilities. They require appropriate housing and protection from predators.

Fish like tilapia can be kept easily in a pond or even in an aquaponics system.

You should not be tempted into keeping sheep, goats or cows in a small backyard plot, these types of farming livestock need several acres at least.

What do you need to keep livestock in the backyard garden?

The keeping of livestock requires space, shelter, feed and water.

There are five freedoms that livestock require and the keeper must provide:

  • Freedom from hunger and thirst,
  • Freedom from discomfort,
  • Freedom from pain, injury or disease,
  • Freedom to express normal behaviour,
  • Freedom from fear and distress.

This means the keeper will need to supply fresh clean drinking water and nutritionally appropriate food as well as clean, dry and comfortable living quarters with enough space that the animal can indulge in natural behaviour.

In the case of chickens, this is scratching, perching, nesting and dust bathing.

Animals also need medical care and not be beaten or starved.

This article was updated on July 31, 2023

John Hayes

I developed a love of gardening at a young age and would often help my grandfather in the garden. I like to think I am a a talented gardener with a passion for plants. I have a particular interested in growing native plants and wildflowers without the use of chemicals and artificial fertilisers. I think most people can grow something for themselves even in the tiniest spaces and that doing so has many benefits for the mind and body.

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