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).

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.

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.