If you have the right zoning, you might be able to raise some backyard livestock for meat, wool, eggs, milk and more. Here are some that are well suited.
Have you ever thought have keeping livestock in your backyard? Depending on where you live, it might be a real option.
More and more, cities and towns are allowing people to have small flocks of chickens, for example. With a few chickens, you can have fresh eggs daily, and you can even have organic, free range meat for a lot less money than buying it from the store.
But what if your zoning is less restrictive? Where we are, just ten minutes outside of town, we fall into “county” zoning, which means that we can have small backyard livestock, and my children are already making plans to get us back into meat-raising.
But what livestock are suitable when you don’t live on a farm?
Raise Sheep if You Have a BIG Backyard
This won’t work on your typical quarter acre lot, but maybe you have a larger property? Many people in semi-rural areas do. While they’re not your typical backyard livestock, they might be just what you need.
My great-grand-grandfather’s will left “twenty-five sheep and the chickens” to his daughter who was raising a son on her own. I thought it was strange until my dad pointed out just how valuable an inheritance that was – it meant food, clothing, and income.
If you have at least an acre of open land, plus a few acres of woods, you can raise sheep for wool, milk and meat. A flock of eight to ten should be more than enough for a family, with plenty to spare.
You do need the right climate for sheep – it can’t be too hot in the summertime. That’s why they do so well in cool climates like the Canadian Maritimes. Sheep are great foragers and not nearly as inclined to spontaneously die as goats.
And here’s my confession time, something you definitely don’t know about me. When I was about three or four, I climbed into the sheep pen of people my parents were visiting. Yes, I was a curious child. I’m not totally sure how old I was, but I was shorter than the sheep.
Those huge, terrifying, and very smelly creatures chased me relentlessly around the pen while I screamed in fright. After an eternity, my parents rescued me. I assumed their laughter was some sort of charm to scare off the monsters.
And I’m still scared of sheep. I like goats much better.
Laying Hens are Perfect Small Backyard Livestock
If you can build protective pens, and have plenty of room for them to lay eggs in the chicken coop, you can raise hens for eggs.
A family of four to six can keep about 14 hens to keep them in eggs most of the year with plenty to spare.
Not only will you have eggs, but you’ll also have fewer bugs and plenty of compost for your garden. Each hen will lay about one egg a day when healthy.
Become a Bee Keeper
You may not have thought of bees as backyard livestock, but it’s still something even people with the smallest yards might consider. They might not be for you if you’re allergic to bee stings, though.
You can easily set up a backyard hive and what’s great is that they do not require a lot of upkeep to get over 100 pounds of honey each year. If you know how much honey costs, this is a tremendous savings over the cost of about 500 dollars to get started with your backyard hive.
A good side effect of keeping bees is that you’re helping the environment which is short of honey bees. The more bee keepers we have the better, as plants need honey bees to live.
Raise Some Rabbits
Even people with small yards and lots of restrictions can often get away with raising rabbits.
You don’t need a lot of space, and all you have to do is keep them clean and fed.
They reproduce fast so once you get started you can get about 80 pounds of meat each year. You can also sell their pelts that are used on coats and for other purposes, or you can use them to make things like fur blankets and mittens.
Getting started is inexpensive, but it can be time consuming with cleaning the cages, protecting them from predators and controlling the expansion of your litters.
Grow Some Pigs
Using scraps from your garden and kitchen you can turn your investment in one or two hogs into a great meat yield each year. Okay, you might need a bit more – but pig feed is still inexpensive and you can certainly supplement with leftover bread from a local bakery and some foraging.
Buy them as weanlings each year and raise until full sized (about 200-250 pounds). You’ll need to keep them fed and watered, of course. Good food for your pigs will translate directly into better quality meat.
Check with your state, city and county regulations before embarking on any of these suggestions. Each area has its own rules and regulations. It’s best to know for sure about permission before you waste any time or money on the project. Being self-sufficient can happen right in your own back yard if you know what to do.