There are plenty of animals which are suitable for a backyard homestead.  Take a look at 8 livestock options which are available to urban homesteaders depending on where you live.

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8 practical livestock options for urban homesteaders that you can raise in your backyard. Click to find out more or pin it for later

A brief history lesson

I was inspired to write this post by a little old book.  It has many clippings from ancient newspapers which still refer to the British Empire in them amongst rose pruning tips, recipes for nasturtium pickle and beetroot relish!  

The book is vintage, it is a 1946 reprint of Practical Gardening and food production by Richard Sudell which my Granny gave to me a couple of years ago when I was visiting the family back in England.  In the book is lots of advice from World War 2 era gardening in Britain and a section about rearing meat in your own backyard.

practical livestock options for urban homesteaders

The book recommends chickens (mostly) and rabbits as an easy to raise and care for source of protein.  

I know in the rural villages where my grandparents grew up, backyard poultry and rabbits was the norm.  Neighbors collaborated to raise a couple of pigs fed on kitchen scraps which were then butchered and shared with all who helped in raising them.

Times were hard and rations were in force; you had to make things stretch and almost everyone was digging for victory to help the war effort.

Going back to basics or those old fashioned victory gardens is on the rise in the modern West especially in North America and United Kingdom and people are more interested in raising their own food than ever before.

Not everyone in suburbia or in cities can have a cow or pigs and this post is to show you what other livestock options you may be able to have in your area.

Check the Regulations Regarding Urban Livestock

I really can’t stress this enough but check your city regulations and ordinances for livestock restrictions and zoning requirements before you get your animals. It will save you from headache and heartache with fines or a visit to the magistrate’s court later.

Some allotments allow you to have animals, if you live in the UK and are lucky enough to be an allotment holder, look at your rules for keeping livestock!

Without further a-do let’s take a look at 8 practical livestock options for urban and suburban homesteads!

Doves/pigeons

pigeons for backyard livestock

Photo Credit: Fabrizio Verrecchia

Back in ye olde medieval Europe, the dove and pigeon were an important food source.  Dovecotes were built in the backyard for the birds to roost and they were kept for their meat, eggs and even their manure!  People who kept doves and pigeons were called colombiers or pigeonniers and were a common site in France and western Europe.

A dovecote was a status symbol of nobility and the manure was in demand by farmers for their crops!

Why keep them?

Aside from manure for your vegetables, squab (young pigeon) can be ready to harvest in about 25-30 days from hatching which is relatively quick.

A good pair of breeding pigeons can raise 12 to 14 squabs in a year.

Eggs are always a good source of protein and dove eggs are bigger than quail eggs.

Feed costs are relatively low since they fly off to gather their own food.

Pigeon can be found in fancy restaurant menus throughout Europe and it’s pretty delicious.  Occasionally pigeon would make an appearance at the dinner table and Big Granny & Grandad’s house but this was usually game that my Grandad brought home shooting or ferreting.

For more information have a look at these posts:

Find out more about raising doves or pigeons via Temperate Climate Permaculture.

See this post from Mother Earth News about raising pigeons for meat.

In depth information at Pigeon Farming via Roy’s Farm.

Chickens

Practical livestock options for urban homesteaders

Chickens are the quintessential homesteaders livestock!  They provide eggs when they are around 6 months old and meat.  Chickens are also relatively inexpensive and take minimal time.

If you care starting with baby chicks, I recommend getting sexed chicks so you know  you’re getting hens, or at least a higher probability that you will have all girls!  You will need a brooder box when they are small and a chicken coop when they get a little older.

You can also get hens at point of lay which are about 6 months old and are going to start laying.

Why keep them?

Chickens are one of the frugal homesteading animals with many benefits!

Large eggs, medium eggs, small eggs, multicolored eggs and more are provided by chickens!  Bantams give small eggs whilst breeds like Jersey Giants give large or jumbo eggs.

Many heritage breeds are great layers and make good meat birds,  These are known as dual purpose birds some of which are mentioned in Practical Gardening and Food Production In Pictures such as Light Sussex, Rhode Island Red and Wyandotte.

Some birds do well in the hotter parts of the country whilst others do better in the areas which long or harsh winter, do some research to get breeds which will do best where you live. I started with a mixed flock of Delaware, Rhode Island Red, Black Laced Wyandotte, Jersey Giant, Speckled Sussex and Australorp.

Meat birds such as Cornish Cross birds are ready relatively quickly and can provide enough meat for your family throughout the year. You should learn how to process your birds and be prepared to harvest your chickens.

Manure is a great benefit to backyard chickens and it makes your garden grow really well!  Many people put compost piles into the chicken coop for them to scratch over and forage in.

For more information have a look at these posts:

Find out more by checking out my post Raising Chickens In Your Backyard.

36 Frequently Asked Questions About Chickens by Kristee at Homestead Wishing

Find out how we process the chickens in my post Death To The Chickens!

Ducks

backyard livestock for urban homesteads

When I think of ducks, I am taken back to feeding them as a child and visiting Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District and reading about Jemima Puddle Duck in the Beatrix Potter book collection my sister and I have.

I want ducks.  Really really really want ducks.  Not just because they are cute but they are great pest controllers and will hunt down slugs, snails, crickets and more!

Why keep them?

There are meat varieties and egg varieties and some ducks can be more prolific layers than chickens!  There are many varieties available from the upright Indian Runners to the quiet Muscovy ducks which can suit a range of homesteading situations.

Duck eggs are rich and make wonderful cakes and pastries or a decadent breakfast.  I have never seen duck eggs commercially for sale in a grocery store here in the US but they are often available in the UK.

For more information have a look at these posts:

Learn more about Raising Ducks at The Free Range Life

 How To Raise Pastured Ducked at The Paleo Mama

 

urban homesteading

Rabbits

rabbits as urban homestead livestock

Photo Credit: Peter Lloyd

Raising rabbits for meat is gaining some popularity as rabbits are renowned as prolific breeders, that are a quick source of lean, healthy meat.

We aren’t currently keeping rabbits although we do hunt for them.  You can substitute rabbit in recipes calling for chicken.  We like chicken fried rabbit, leek, potato and rabbit pie, rabbit curry and pot roast rabbit to name a few culinary ideas with rabbit meat.

Why Keep Them?

Kits (baby rabbits) are available to harvest at about 12 weeks old.  To keep a family of 4 in rabbit meat every day for the year would be 4 does (females) and 1 buck (male).  A doe can have litters on average 4-8 kits.

The cost of raising rabbits is fairly minimal and they will eat most greens including chickweed, dandelion, clover, sow thistle, lettuce, grass and your leafy greens.  Do not feed them wet or frozen greens as this can make them ill.

The hides can be tanned and sold or if you are into sewing or leatherworking made into items from purses to slippers and whatever your imagination can think of!  How about a fur lined sleeping bag or some mittens for winter?

For more information have a look at these posts:

Points To Consider Before Raising Meat Rabbits by The Rustic Elk.

Imperfectly Happy Homesteading has a great article about Breeding Meat Rabbits 101.

Living Echo A Guide To Meat Rabbits: A Sustainable Food Source.

Quail

Quail as livestock for urban homesteadersPhoto Credit: Annie Spratt

My Grandad kept quail in his aviary with finches and some other birds.  I think I have eaten quail and their eggs maybe twice in my lifetime.

Why Keep Them?

Quail are small and don’t take up much space.  In temperate  or cooler climates, I have heard of people raising them in greenhouses. 

Quail are small and delicious they also use less feed and are cheaper to raise than other birds.  Some sources suggest that quail are very quiet, others say they are noisy.

Quail eggs are considered a delicacy and usually fetch more if you are selling them in a CSA or farmer’s market.  Quail can be very prolific layers too!

For more information have a look at these posts:

Post by The 104 Homestead How To Start Quail Farming On Your Homestead.

Raising Japanese Coturnix Quail by High Lonesome Homestead.

 

practical livestock for urban homesteaders

Goats

goats as backyard livestock

Photo Credit: Dave Ruck

I love goats,  I love how metal they look!

They are an animal I have always gotten along well with. I went to a zoo in Essex years and years ago and the small herd of goats in the petting zoo area escaped and followed me around the zoo.  They hyenas and lions got rather excitable at one point as did the staff trying to round them up!

I have helped bottle feed goats on farm tours and rounded up escapees throughout many family outings.  Unfortunately for me, my city’s ordinances will not let me have a goat and my husband draws the line under me getting a licensed therapy goat as a pet whilst we live here in Utah!

Why Keep Them?

Goats eat anything and everything!  But using them as a garbage disposal isn’t one of the reasons why you should keep them.  Goats are a great dairy producer (up to 2000 lbs of milk in a year) and are wonderful if you are lactose intolerant.

Goat meat is delicious.  I mean really delicious!

Baby goats are adorable and fun to watch instead of the TV.

Goat manure is great in the garden and will help your plants flourish.  You can compost goat manure and you may also be able to sell it through your local classifieds as an extra source of income.

You can use goat milk in skincare products such as soap and make it yourself from scratch.

For more information have a look at these posts:

Weed ’em and Reap post about How To Care For Baby Goats.

What I Wish I Had Know Before Raising Goats by A Life of Heritage.

Bees

bees as urban homestead livestock

Bees are fascinating to watch and are great for homesteads wherever you are! Once you have a beehive and your bees which are a little expensive to buy or you can make your own hive if you are handy at woodworking the bees require minimal input from you other than regular hive checks for pest, diseases and some feeding.

Join a local beekeeping association to find out more and take a look at the posts below:

Bush Farms Beekeeping Basics.

Beehive Inspection and Video by Carolina Honeybees.

Why Keep Them?

Honey is the obvious reason as is the wax to make skincare products and furniture polish or candles. Honey is quite expensive a 1 lb container of local honey near me with the comb was $14!!!

We have a friend in Texas who sells honey and it helps to keep his hobby going.

Bees also pollinate plants extremely well which will be a huge benefit to your garden and you are likely to see greater yields of your crops.

Bees can also produce an income if you produce queens, nucleus colonies or bee packages to sell.

urban homesteading

Fish

fish as urban homestead livestock

Photo Credit: Jakub Kapusnak

Fish are a great source of protein and can help keep the mosquitoes down! Aquaculture and aquaponics are gaining popularity and fish can be ready for the table in about 6 months.

Why Keep Them?

There are a good range of fish which are suitable for this type of farming and in the aquaponics system, there is no waste.  The waste from the fish is used to grow plants.

The tank and piping need not be expensive, many are made from recycled materials.  They also can take up less space than a conventional garden and you don’t have any worries about soil borne pests or diseases.

For more information check out the posts below:

Introduction To Backyard Aquaponics by Suburban Homesteader.

Survivalist 101 Raising Fish For Food.

Freecycle USA Aquaponics For Idiots.

 

What’s your favorite livestock to raise in an urban homestead?  Let me know in the comments!

If you have any tips to share with me or other readers please share them in the comments or at the Misfit Gardening Community Forum, we would love to hear your ideas and tips.

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8 practical livestock ideas for urban homesteaders that you can raise in your backyard. Click to find out more or pin it for later

 

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