Backyard Poultry

Everything You Need to Know Before Starting a Hobby Farm From Scratch

Starting a Flock : Hobby Farming

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

How big does my yard need to be? Is there a significant time commitment? What kind of investment do I need to prepare for?
These are questions many of us have when contemplating starting or growing a hobby farm. And while the answers may vary depending on the type of animal and number of animals you’re considering, start with these guidelines to learn more about labor requirements, expenses, space needs and more.

Is adding more animals a big time commitment?

Any animal is a time commitment, but a good rule of thumb is the smaller the animal, the smaller the investment. However, the amount of time spent with your animals beyond their care requirements is up to you. Do you want to spend 15 minutes collecting eggs or hours bonding with your flock and creating a routine?
A group of goats in a fenced in area.As you grow your hobby farm, the time commitment is also going to increase. For example, collecting eggs for ten chickens differs greatly from collecting eggs for 25. It also varies on the animal and its purpose; a dairy goat needs to be milked and has to be fed more often than a non-producing animal.
However, large animals have their benefits. Horses are a great hobby and an excellent way for your family to bond and learn new skills, while a growing a cow herd can be an excellent way to reduce your grocery bill. No matter the animal, they become a part of your family.

How much does it cost to care for different farm animals?

Time and money tend to go hand in hand. And just like the time commitment, smaller animals can come with fewer expenses. They require less space, eat less, produce less manure and require less upkeep.
The flip side of that coin is, adding production animals to your growing hobby farm means you can sell the goods, creating a small economy for yourself. Dairy cow or goat milk, meat from beef cattle or pigs, eggs from a flock or even leasing out goats to help clean up weeds can be great ways to earn additional income from your animals.
No matter the size of the farm animal, consider these costs when expanding your hobby farm:
  • Quality feed
  • Veterinary visits and overall health costs
  • Fencing
  • Housing
  • Equipment

How much space is required for my farm animals?

Another topic that greatly depends on the size of the animal. You wouldn’t put a goat in a rabbit enclosure, right?
Housing, fencing and space needs are important considerations when choosing backyard animals, especially if you live in an urban area. Depending on your location, make sure animals are allowed in your neighborhood and that you have enough room to keep them comfortable. Check with your homeowner association before you open yourself up to receiving a fine. 
For example, while animals like goats are great to clean up weeds and keep your yard mowed, they can also be fairly destructive if left to roam free, so they need some sort of fence to keep them contained.
Finding the balance of how much room an animal needs can be tricky, whether a goat or a chicken, keep an eye out for their grazing patterns, behavior and routine so you can best meet their space requirements.

The bottom line: Do your research before starting a hobby farm

Knowing what you’re getting into before you dive in is important no matter what new adventure you take on, but especially when it comes to owning animals. Understand your animals’ needs and be prepared to care for them properly before they become a member of the family.
Whether you’re just starting a hobby farm or expanding, it’s always good to be prepared for your new animals. We’re here to help!
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