As more and more of us aim to lead more sustainable lives, the emphasis on growing our food is vital. An extension of this is to consider having your livestock supply food to your family. But what kind of livestock can live in your backyard?
One of the best places to start keeping your own livestock is 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 extraordinary for providing fresh daily eggs that cost less than the store and don’t have all the associated costs. You can also eat the meat from chicken, which is nutritious white meat and versatile.
You will want to provide a protected space to stop predators from getting near and somewhere for the hens to lay their eggs. You may also want 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 somewhere 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 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 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 an excellent yield in terms of meat. Buy them as weanlings and raise them until fully grown (around 200lbs) before taking them to slaughter. This means you need to feed and water them during their growing time.
You will need a robust 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 most miniature garden owner can consider. A backyard hive can produce some 100 pounds of honey a year to be sold for a good profit. And there are 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 quickly 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 ensure nothing stops you. Being self-sufficient is excellent, but only if your local laws allow it.