As more and more of us aim to lead more sustainable lives, the emphasis on growing your own food is strong. An extension of this is to consider having your own livestock to supply food to your family. But what kind of livestock can live in your backyard?
One of the best places to start with keeping your own livestock is with chickens. Chickens don’t need a lot of room and many towns and cities now allow you to keep them in your garden. Chickens are great for providing fresh daily eggs which cost less than from the store and don’t have all the associated costs. There is also the fact you can eat the meat from the chicken which is nutritious white meat and very versatile.
You will want to provide a protected space for them to stop predators getting near and somewhere for the hens to lay their eggs. You may also want to be able to protect them in colder months but even a simple coop can work in most gardens.
Rabbits may be cute and cuddly, but they can also be livestock. And when it comes to reproducing, they are very good at it – often the problem might be stopping them! Even in a small garden, you can keep rabbits with somewhere for them to live and an area to run around and forage. You can sell the young as pets or older animals for meat and their pelts are also used for coats and other items.
Like chickens, you do need to protect them from predators and ensure they have somewhere safe and warm to birth their young. And you may want a system to remove males from females as a way of birth control.
Sheep require a little more space than chickens but if you have a garden that is around one acre of land, maybe a little wooded area in this, then there’s no reason you can’t keep sheep. If you have a small flock of up to 10 sheep, you will be able to produce plenty of resources for your family and even have some left to sell or barter.
You can get wool from the sheep to make clothes or home goods, as well as milk and meat. Sheep don’t need too much care – mainly somewhere to forage with grass to eat, water and some protection in colder months.
Pigs also require a little more space than the average garden but are very easy to feed. Scraps from the kitchen and garden will make good food for these animals and one or two hogs will offer a great yield in terms of meat. Buy them as weanlings and raise until fully grown (around 200lbs) before taking them to slaughter. This means you just need to feed and water them during the growing time.
You will need a strong penning system to keep the pigs in place and somewhere for them to shelter. Again, protection from predators can be a good idea although they are less vulnerable than smaller animals.
Bees might not seem like livestock, but they are something that even the smallest garden owner can consider. A backyard hive can produce some 100 pounds of honey a year which can be sold for a good profit. And there’s the added benefits to the environment that come from keeping bees – yours will be the best pollinated garden in the area if you keep the right ones!
It does cost a bit to get a hive set up and there is some learning involved but once you have mastered the basics and have a healthy colony, it will easily pay for itself many times over.
Do some research
If you are considering starting with livestock of any kind, always check with your local regulations to make sure there is nothing that stops you. Being self-sufficient is a great thing to do but only if your local regulations allow it.