Turning your backyard into a barnyard

Turning your backyard into a barnyard

Posted by Janice Stillman on 31st Jan 2020

Converting your backyard into a barnyard can make you feel like you have the working farm you’ve always wanted. But it’s more responsibility, not less, and your animals will let you know when you’re late with their dinner. You’re going to love it!

Dear Barnyard Believer,

Who among us doesn’t aspire to self-sufficiency? Equipped with only a little land and less knowledge, we think about getting some chickens for the backyard. And as long as we’re feeding the chickens, why not raise a pig? Or a goat? Maybe even a cow? How about a horse?

The desire for healthy, affordable food and a connection to animals has driven a backyard livestock boom. Knowing the pros and cons of common farm animals can help you to make a good choice–or send you to the nearest market, happy to empty your wallet.

The Backyard Chicken Coop

The domestic chicken can be traced back some 10,000 years. Today, the world has three times as many chickens as human beings, but you may not recognize all of them: In suburbs where they are prohibited by zoning, people have been known to put their chickens in dog costumes. (Though we have yet to hear a chicken bark.)

The pros of keeping chickens include eggs, of course. But if you get one of the smaller (little) breeds, you will know before everyone else when the sky is falling. (Cue the laugh track.) In all seriousness, though, you can keep a few chickens in far less space than a goat or pig or cow.

And on average it takes only 2 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of chicken meat.

As for the cons, keeping your brood safe may be a challenge, as foxes, coyotes, and weasels all love chickens. And no matter how hard you try, you can NOT milk a chicken.

Get Your Goat

Really, you can’t milk a chicken. But you can milk a goat. Fresh goat milk (which you can use to make cheese) is one of the big pros of having a goat. Goats are also highly social–curious, interactive, and smart. You can read to a goat, and it will listen. Plus, baby goats (kids) are hilarious. They love to hop on top of sheep and adult goats.

The downside of keeping goats is the, shall we say, essence of billy goat. If you have an intact billy goat, you will know it. So will your downwind neighbors. And everyone you meet at the store if you wear your barn clothes. Billy thinks that this is awesome, and occasionally, so does the nanny goat.

A Horse Is A Horse, Of Course

Whereas you can’t saddle and ride a chicken or goat, you can ride a horse. People stop by, and from them you will learn a great lesson: that the best kind of horse is the one your friend owns.

Horses are majestic, intelligent herd animals that like open space, so make sure that you have enough of it to keep your horse content. Note that you’ll be feeding your horse, but the horse will not be feeding you. At least not nutritionally. Spiritually, however, the connection to a horse can be strong and meaningful.

The cons? If you are not in sync with your horse or are not an experienced rider, your horse will have final say over who rides whom. Still want a large animal in your backyard barnyard, but aren’t sure you’re ready for a horse? Maybe a cow is the right choice.

Mooooving On

Having a cow makes you feel like a real farmer, and between you and me, Bart Simpson was wrong when he said, “Don’t have a cow, man.” Cows can provide fresh, unadulterated milk for you, your family, and your neighbors. And cheese! And if you don’t mind “harvesting” the manure, you can sell it for a pretty penny. Cows can also give you the answer to that age-old question, “Where’s the beef?”

Owning a cow isn’t all fun and games, though. Before you get a dairy cow, talk to a dairy farmer. It won’t be difficult, as they won’t be on vacation. He or she will tell you how to make a small fortune (from a large one). It will also be important to get to know your large-animal veterinarian. Give him or her all your money and you will understand immediately what it takes to keep a cow healthy.

If you want to find out more about keeping livestock in your backyard, including the pros and cons of raising pigs, and much more useful information, wit, and wisdom, you can get it and a bundle of FREE GIFTS, with an Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club Charter Membership!

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What you’ll get with an Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club Charter Membership.

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The Old Farmer’s 2020 Almanac—Our newest edition, the hard-copy version will be shipped to you with everything you’ve come to expect from the world’s premier almanac.

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Janice Stillman

Editor, The Old Farmer’s Almanac

P.S. You should act today to claim your Charter Membership in The Old Farmer’s Almanac Best Value Club—including your 2020 issue of the Almanac …and your bonuses, too!

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