Backyard Poultry

Things to Consider When Starting Your Backyard Paradise

Hobby Farm : Hobby Farming

Patrick Biggs, Ph.D.

Nutritionist, Companion Animal Technical Solutions

Ready to start your backyard paradise but not sure where to start? Owning hobby farm animals, whether for entertainment or production, is a big commitment and responsibility. There are many things you’ll need to consider, supplies to purchase and questions to answer.
To help you organize your to-do list, start with the four most important considerations for any backyard paradise:

1. Food

Diet is one of the most important aspects of owning hobby farm animals to consider.
Knowing which animals will depend on feed and which you’ll need to supplement can save you time and money. For example, allowing chickens to feed free-range can be a great option, but most animals need another feed option even if they’re able to forage. Chickens and pigs will need a feed to supplement their nutrition in most cases. Horses, sheep, goats and cattle could get by on eating grass in warmer months, but you’ll need adequate pasture area with high-quality forage to meet their nutrition needs.
The amount of feed an animal needs may change throughout the year. For example, chickens lay eggs year-round, so some feed requirements stay consistent. However, some duck species have a narrower laying period and won’t utilize the same nutrition year-round. And grazing animals will need supplemental forages during the winter when grass isn’t available.
If feeding a medicated feed, keep it separate from animals it isn’t intended for to avoid accidental ingestion. 

2. Water

Every farm animal will need access to clean water sources daily, in both summer and winter.

Consider how much water each animal will drink in a day. Horses will need more, and chickens will need less. Plan for multiple sources of water to avoid competition between your backyard buddies.
In general, keep water accessible, cool and clean. Cleaning water buckets and troughs daily or weekly encourages hydration, helps keep disease at bay and helps make sure water doesn’t freeze over during cold weather.

3. Housing

 Protection from sun, snow, wind and rain is important for every animal.
There are a number of chicken and duck coop styles, but be sure your choice provides protection from weather and predators so your birds can be comfortable and safe.
Larger farm animals require more space. Housing for horses, sheep, goats and pigs can be as simple as a lean-to or a more elaborate shed or barn.
Boundaries are equally as important as shelters. For example, chickens and cows may not mix well. And anything pigs can get to, they’ll eat. Goats will jump over or crawl under any barrier, given the chance. Chain link fence, woven wire or hog panels are great options for keeping animals safe and out of trouble. 

4. Cleaning Schedule 

Creating a consistent cleaning schedule for your farm is critical for your family’s health as well as the health of your animals. Providing new bedding, clean shelters and fresh food and water will help save on veterinary bills and headaches down the road.
Implementing a manure management plan is a great way to give purpose to waste. Composting is a great option for many backyard farms. If your animals produce more waste than you can use (and they likely will!), other farmers or gardeners are often happy to take some off your hands.

Ready to expand?

Help your backyard paradise become a happy, healthy place for all. Whether you want to build your flock, expand your herd or start blending both, we’ll help you find what you need:

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