- Let's take it critter by critter. I will give you the pluses and minuses as I learned them in 24+ years. You should also do more research. My notes are not exhaustive.
Asking friends, neighbors and experienced animal breeders is a great idea. And, of course you always have the internet. 🙂 Just a note about feed: GMO feed is dangerous for people and animals. Corn, soy, wheat and cottonseed are not good choices either. Please do some research on the type of feed for each animal you choose.
GOATS: Goats take time and work. Price range varies from $20 to thousands.
- They need secure fencing to keep them in and predators out. Goats are escape artists. Many people obtain
guard animals (dogs, donkeys, etc) for added protection.
- Good dry housing is a must. Ventilation with closing windows/shutters is recommended.
- They need feed (no GMO) and/or lots of pasture. They especially like weedy pasture.
They are NOT grazers like cows and horses. Goats are browsers. No matter what people say, goats don't eat everything and can be downright fussy.
- Hooves need to be trimmed at least every 6 weeks.
- A buck is needed or easy
access to one for breeding to obtain milk. Remember, from this union comes kids. And, they multiply quickly.
- They love attention and don't like being the lone goat. They are herd animals. A lonely goat will yell and make
you and the neighbors quite upset. A female (doe) in heat will scream also.
- If breeding, you will need a clean kidding area and milk room with stand.
- Bucks can run with does, but that is not always a good thing unless the buck
is gentle. They can be territorial and dangerous. If a buck has its own housing, it should be clean, dry and fenced well. Bucks smell... During mating season, they perfume themselves with urine.
- Kidding season
is a time to learn the ropes. Be sure to know about kids before breeding or purchasing goats...especially if you plan to breed. You can always purchase a wether, which is a neutered male goat.
- Goats are great at clearing out brush, but
they also love tree bark. If not enclosed, they will eat your garden and yard plants. They do not eat everything like some say. They are picky.
- Discover what you are looking for in a goat. Some are for meat, meat and milk and
milk only. Many folks use them for pulling carts or packing for hiking. It is suggested that you do a lot of research before you buy.
- Goats have wonderful milk--healthier than cow. However, you will find it a problem to make butter
from their milk. You can make cheeses, yogurt, kefir, etc.
- They are friendly and love people. Children enjoy being around goats. They love to play like "kids."
- RECOMMENDED: www.hoeggerfarmyard.com
RABBITS: They need some time, but are less work. Inexpensive for common rabbit breeds.
- Rabbits are cute and they don't eat much. However, unless you are going to use them for meat (we
raised them for our dogs' meals), pelts or selling, they will become pets. If you have a buck, you will have lots of pets.
- You will need secure cages, with the bottoms enclosed. Predators will grab the rabbit's feet through the wiring.
Some folks fence in around the cages and cover the entire thing to keep out rain.
- If breeding, you will need a buck with his separate cage and boxes for the kittens (kits or baby rabbits).
- If you raise rabbits and goats, be sure to keep
the rabbit feed away from the goat bucks. The alfalfa in rabbit food will cause kidney stones in the goat buck should they eat it. I lost two bucks before I discovered the problem.
Easy care. Ducklings, goslings & guinea chicks are inexpensive.
- Ducks and geese can be destructive to a pond or creek. They will eat pond plants.
- Not all ducks or geese need a pond, but some type of water like a
creek is helpful.
- Some geese can be mean and "pinch." They sometimes like to chase people or act aggressive.
- They eat grass and weeds. Supplemental feed can be black oil sunflower seeds, wild bird seed (without GMO corn), and
oats mixed together.
- They are fun to have and will alert you to strangers or predators on the property.
- Guineas are loud. They call to each other and if a predator comes on the property, you will definitely hear their screams. However,
like geese, they are very alert and super watchdogs. The female makes a "buckwheat" sound to call a male.
- Guinea hens usually end up killing their young by either drowning them in a creek or becoming a predator's meal when they nest in the woods.
Over the years, I have had about 50 guineas. Between 4 and 6 is a good number.
HORSES: Need care and cost is higher.
- The intial cost of a horse can run from
the 100s to the 1000s.
- They need adequate housing, hay for food and bedding and good pasture.
- Farrier service (horseshoeing) is needed every 6-8 weeks.
- Tack--saddles, bridles, etc are needed.
- Grooming is
important to keep the animals coat looking nice.
- Good fresh hay and clean water is a must.
- Supplemental feed is a very good idea, but this also needs to have no GMO corn, soy, etc.
- They need exercise--riding or lunging on a
- Secure fencing to keep them in and predators out. Bears, large wildcats and dogs have been known to attack horses.
- Floating of the teeth and cleaning of the male's "sheath" are important.
CHICKENS: Easy care. Chicks are inexpensive, compared to goats, horses or cows, but the price is going up.
- Choosing a breed is one of the fun parts of having chickens. If you select multiple
types and try to hatch the eggs, you will have "FLCs" or funny-looking chickens.
- My preference: Brahmas, Buff Orpingtons, Black Australorp, Rocks breeds, Auracanas.
- Need very secure housing. Predators in my area include: dogs (even
your own pet), wild cats, foxes, coyotes, wild dogs, weasels, minks, raccoons, opossums and hawks.
- Good food (free roaming with supplemental feed is best) and fresh water. No GMO corn, soy, etc for these critters either. They love grass.
- Chicks can be purchased rather inexpensively from mail order or local farms or feed stores in the spring and early summer. I do not care for mail order because I believe it stresses the chicks. I do not vaccinate.
- Choice of wire for
housing and run should be considered carefully. Chicken wire does not last long. I have gone the extra expense and use 2" x 4" x 6' fencing for the day run and rabbit wire (1" x 1/2") for the housing needs around windows, doors, etc.
Chickens are closed in at night because predators are on the prowl. Some wild critters like minks and weasels can get through very small openings. Be sure to keep this in mind. Also, don't forget to cover the top of your run with fencing.
Hawks love chicken for lunch!
- Free-roaming chickens usually come in around dusk. At this time, be sure to check the cage for opossums, raccoons and other chicken killers that hide in nesting boxes or even sit on perches trying to pretend they
are chickens. It's funny, but they will do this.
- Eggs and meat are the specialty of chicken raising. Eggs are gathered in the afternoon. Harvesting meat is not difficult. There are many videos online and books to show you this
easy farm task.
- Many chickens lay eggs until the day they die of OLD AGE, which can be 6-8 years old. Yes, mine have lived that long. But, they are spoiled.
- Egg color is determined by the color of the hen's earlobes. According
to Vital Times (Vol 14, Issue 7) The secret to eggshell color is a hen's earlobe color. No yoke! Brown hens with red earlobes lay brown eggs. White hens with red combs and blueish earlobes lay True Blues or blue green/turquoise eggs. Also, blue eggshells
are blue all the way through, unlike brown eggshells that are white on the inside. The true blues are True Blue Azurs. www.vitalfarms.com/True-Blues
- You will need nesting boxes--about 1 for
every 5 chickens.
- Roosters are not a must, but they do help give the hens the impetus to lay eggs. However, they do crow in the day and night. You need one rooster for every 10 hens.
- RECOMMENDED: www.backyardchickens.com
DOGS & CATS: Fun, helpful and easy care. There are lots of "pound puppies & kitties" that need a home.
- Cats are great mousers/ratters. I have 2 outdoor cats.
They really do their job and they eat well, which is contrary to what people say about not feeding the cat and it will mouse better. I fed them a mixture of wet food and local fish combination. It's a little pricey, but I see the difference in
their eyes and coats.
- Dogs are great for watching farm critters, protecting the property and protecting the farmer and his/her family members. My dogs eat only homemade wet food and are supplemented with freeze-dried Dr. Marty's.
They get vitamins/minerals for dogs & cats and mercola.com enzymes and probiotics. I worm them with ground, raw pumpkin seeds. Again, bright eyes and beautiful coats. I train with a very small, raw burger patty that I freeze and defrost
as needed. Dogs eat raw meat in the wild, not cooked--the best being raw organ meats.
- We have raised poodles, a schnoodle, hunting dog/lab, 2 Appalachian Mountain Feists, 2 Great Pyrenees and now own a Shihpoo.
Book - Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, By Dr. Pitcairn, 1995 edition.
I had a Quaker parrot and other birds and still own a Macaw. Some parrots live a long time. My last Quaker lived to be 33 years old!
They usually only live to be around 20. It was sad to watch him slowly grow old and die. My Macaw is said to live 80 years. Someone in the family will definitely inherit that one.
As stated, these are just some of my farm observations. I
hope you will do much research before taking on a farm animal. You will probably save yourself a lot of heartache and expense.