Backyard Poultry

Best Hobby Farm Animals: Ideas to Grow Your Hobby Farm

Starting a Flock : Hobby Farming

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Backyard chickens are often the gateway animal to the hobby farm of your dreams. Maybe you start with a few cute baby chicks, but before you know it, your backyard will look like Old McDonald’s farm!
Introducing new animals is a big, but exciting step. Identifying your goals and available resources such as time, facilities, pasture and money can help make the transition a smooth one. Here are some hobby farming ideas to consider when choosing new additions to your brood.

Turkeys, ducks, geese and more!

If you’re already a backyard chicken enthusiast, adding different poultry species may be for you! Turkeys produce great-tasting eggs and meat. They require a spacious outdoor area with predator-proof fencing. Ducks and geese make wonderful companion animals and help control insects and weeds while providing you with delicious eggs. They are happiest in a grassy area, and while not required, they enjoy a swimming pond or pool. Turkeys, ducks and geese are a great way to start if you’re looking for new hobby farming ideas.
Game birds like peacocks, quail and pheasants can be a fun, unique addition to your hobby farm. They can provide fresh eggs, meat, colorful feathers and companionship. They can also be raised for release programs. Game birds do best when provided with a spacious coop and plenty of room in an enclosed outdoor space.

Have fun with backyard goats

Want to expand beyond birds? Goats are curious, playful and social animals – you can’t just have one! In addition to the daily entertainment, they can provide many great products your family can use like milk, cheese and soap.
The biggest challenge is learning how to build a goat pen your new companions can’t escape. Chain link fence, woven wire or hog panels set at ground level can work nicely. Plan for a minimum of 15-by-15 feet of space per pair of goats. The more space for them to move, the better for their overall health and well-being. Don’t forget to include items for goats to climb or jump from – it will not only provide entertainment for the goats, but for you as well.
It's also a common misconception that goats will eat anything; quality nutrition is vital. Each day, goats need to eat 3% of their body weight in forage, such as hay or grass, and will require high-fiber, low-energy goat feed and free-choice loose mineral.

The pros of having rabbits 

Backyard rabbits don’t require much time, space or money to raise but serve many purposes. They’re great for pets, 4-H projects, wool or meat. Some pros of having rabbits: rabbit manure is the garden gold of fertilizer. Rabbit droppings don’t require composting, break down slowly over time and help improve soil stability.
There are a variety of housing options for rabbits. The types of rabbit housing aren’t important, as long as they provide protection from predators. The shelter should also have ample shade and ventilation, as extreme heat can be problematic.

Learn a lot by raising pigs

Raising pigs can be an excellent project for a family. They’re remarkably smart and personable and provide companionship or delicious pork. Unlike other farm animals, pigs don’t do well with leashes or collars, so be prepared with tools like sorting boards or rattle paddles to guide your pig. Pigs are fast learners, and these tools work best when you work with them daily and they are comfortable around you.
Small, frequent meals keep pigs feeling satisfied and comfortable. Self-feeders are a good option so pigs can eat on demand and automatic nipple waterers ensure a steady flow of water with minimal waste.
One warning: pigs create a lot of manure. Plan to compost their waste, including manure, bedding and feed, or find a commercial composter to take it.
Growing your hobby farm is an exciting time, and being prepared will make the process more enjoyable for you and your animals. Get more hobby farming ideas and tips from our experts by signing up for our management tips.