Homesteading is very popular right now. It is best defined as “living off the land you have”. There are a lot of people turning to a self-sufficient lifestyle.
They are taking a small space of property and turning it into something special. If you look in some backyards, you will see gardens, fruit trees, greenhouses, and even solar panels.
When you see urban homesteading going full on self-sufficient, you may even see small animals. You may be wondering, is homesteading with small farm animals really possible in a backyard space? Yes, it is!
Some of the best farm animals for self sufficiency on a small space are chickens, goats, rabbits and even turkeys.
They are usually very easy to care for, and these small farm animals can be raised successfully in some backyards.
How to Get Started
There are some things you will need to know before you begin, however, to avoid heartbreak later on.
First, you need to know your zoning laws, as well as your HOA laws, if any.
Many cities are now allowing small farm animals like chickens and miniature goats grown inside the limits, but not all. Some require permits, certain housing structures or even permission from your neighbors.
It’s best to check with your town hall or city manager before you bring home those cute little chicks or baby goats. If they are not homesteader friendly, there are ways to work toward changing them.
We joined our local 4H clubs to get the assistance we needed in changing our local laws. It took some hard leg work, time and some tears along the way, but we were able to do it.
HOA laws are harder to work with. If you signed a covenant saying you won’t raise chickens in your yard, you may not be able to change that.
You can co-raise a flock with a friend who lives in a friendly area, sharing the cost of the feed/cleaning/maintenance though.
Secondly, do you have time for chickens, goats, or rabbits? They may be the easiest small farm animals to raise, but they still need time and energy daily.
If you are the sort who has to travel often for a job, or just likes to get away on the spur of the moment, small farm animals may NOT be for you.
Homesteading can be a full time gig. Unless you live with someone who can stay at home, those small farm animals may not get the care they need.
Hens require little day to day care, save fresh food and water, along with collecting eggs, but you need to check them daily.
Backyard poultry will give you lots of meat and eggs in return – along with soil-boosting manure – and while you’ll need to spend some time on daily care, there’s not much else you need to do besides protecting them from predators.
Goats need twice daily care, feeding and/or milking. Trusting all that work to someone else can be costly and not always effective if they don’t live right next door.
Third, do you have money to toss in the garbage? Homesteading isn’t necessarily the most profitable farm business.
This especially describes the expenses of keeping chickens and goats. Between feed, housing, hay, straw, and time expended, it would be cheaper to buy our milk and eggs at the store.
But, we do it because we like to know the entire food cycle, beginning to end. It’s not a cheap “hobby” by any means, but one that is most rewarding.
Getting to know your animals and their personality is calming and relaxing to me. Poultry vision, or watching hens for hours is one of the most destressing activities there is to me.
And, nothing says “good morning” like a goat who is happy to see you, nearly knocking you over until you scratch behind their ears.
Are You a Morning Person?
There will be times you wish you could sleep in, but getting up to milk your goat HAS to happen. That rooster (if you can keep one) WILL crow incessantly.
Don’t forget the times your neighbors will knock on your door, telling you that your chickens have escaped and are in the middle of the road.
And, if you are late on feeding your goat, she can and will knock on your back door until you get up. Well, just until she learns that the dog door is convenient for her to come into the house as well.
You’ll wake up to find the dog upset that she got kicked out of her bed by the goat, and the goat sound asleep in the dog bed.
Chickens don’t need tons of space, and can be happy with just a bit of fresh grass to munch and find bugs, some dirt for dust baths and sunshine.
Nigerian dwarf goats also do not need a lot of space. BUT, you will need to dedicate some of your yard to your animals.
Goats do need some room to run, play and explore. Trust me, a bored goat is a destructive goat.
Chickens do need some space to roam and get away from each other. Too close to each other, and they can also start pecking each other. We use a metal 8×10 shed for our animals and that seems to keep them happy.
Our chickens have room to roam in a fenced area, leaving the goats enough space to play in another fenced area.
Best Animals To Raise on an Urban Homestead
When most people think of homesteading, they imagine a life on a sprawling ranch with dozens of livestock. However, it is now possible to enjoy many of the benefits of homesteading without leaving the city.
While there are many animals that can be successfully raised in an urban setting, some are better suited to this environment than others.
Chickens are a great addition to any urban homestead. Not only do they provide fresh eggs, but they also help to keep pests under control.
Chickens will eat just about anything, including bugs, grubs, and weeds. In addition, their droppings make an excellent fertilizer for your garden. Plus, chickens are relatively easy to care for and don’t take up much space.
One of the most important considerations when planning an urban homestead is how much space you have for chickens.
Different breeds of chickens require different amounts of space, so it’s important to do your research before adding any feathered friends to your home.
For example, bantam chickens are a good choice for small spaces, as they only require about two square feet of space per bird.
If you have a bit more room to work with, breeds like the Rhode Island Red or the Golden Comet are good choices, as they are relatively calm and easy to handle.
Regardless of which breed you choose, remember that chickens need space to roam and scratch, so make sure to provide them with plenty of room to stretch their legs.
Ducks are a great addition to any urban homestead. Not only do they provide a source of fresh duck eggs, but they also help to control pests and aerate the soil.
Ducks are sociable creatures and do well in small flocks, so they won’t take up too much space on your homestead.
They are also relatively easy to care for, and their waste makes excellent fertilizer. In addition, ducks are excellent foragers and will help to keep your garden free of pests.
The key is to choose the right breed and to provide enough space for the ducks to live comfortably. For example, breeds like the Cayuga or the Crested Duck require far less space than standard breeds like the Pekin or the Muscovy.
In terms of outdoor space, a good rule of thumb is to allow at least four square feet per duck. So, for a flock of six ducks, you would need a minimum of 24 square feet of space.
Contrary to popular belief, raising ducks as a form of backyard livestock doesn’t require a pond. You can usually get by with just a small kiddie pool.
When most people think about urban homesteading, they envision a backyard chicken coop or a few raised beds filled with vegetables.
But for those who want to take their self-sufficiency to the next level, rabbits can be an excellent addition to the homestead.
Not only do they provide a source of meat and fur, but they also make excellent compost that can be used to improve the soil in your garden.
And with so many breeds to choose from, it’s easy to find one that will fit well into your space.
For example, the Dwarf Hotot is a small breed that is well-suited for life in an apartment, while the Flemish Giant is a good choice for those with more space to work with.
If you’re raising rabbits outside, whether for rabbit meat, fiber, or anything else, all you need are a few hutches to keep them contained.
Quail are small, quiet birds that can be easily managed in even the smallest backyard. They are also prolific layers, and their eggs are prized for their nutrient-rich yolks.
In addition, quail meat is lean and flavorful, making it a healthy alternative to chicken or turkey. And because they are so efficient at converting feed into protein, quail can be raised with minimal impact on the environment.
There are a few things to keep in mind, though.
Because quail are such social creatures, they need to have plenty of room to move around and interact with their flock mates. A good rule of thumb is to provide at least 10 square feet of space per bird.
However, if you’re planning to raise more than 50 quail, you may need to increase that amount to 15 or 20 square feet per bird. As for the best breeds to consider, there are a few that stand out for their docile nature and ease of care.
Bobwhite quail are a good choice for beginners, as they are relatively easy to handle and have a calm disposition. Coturnix quail are another popular option, as they are known for being prolific egg layers.
For those wanting to add some animal life to their urban homestead, honeybees are a great choice. They don’t require a lot of space and can be kept in relatively small city yards.
While there are many different breeds of honeybees, some of the best for beginners include Italian, Carniolan, and Russian bees.
They are gentle and less likely to sting than other breeds, making them a good choice for families with small children.
You have very little that you will need to do to care for honey bees, besides maintaining the hives and providing them with a food source like sugar water. The initial investment in honey-processing equipment can be high but you can often get items used.
Honeybees are also very productive, producing up to 60 pounds of honey per year. In addition to providing a delicious treat, honey can also be used in a variety of recipes or sold at farmers markets.
Best of all, beekeepers do their part to ensure the health of local ecosystems by providing much-needed pollination services with a hive.
If you’re considering adding turkeys to your urban homestead, you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to accommodate them.
Depending on the breed, turkeys can range in size from four to six feet tall and weigh up to 30 pounds. As a result, they require a considerable amount of space.
In addition, turkeys are social creatures and need to live in groups, so you’ll need to provide space for multiple birds. When choosing a breed, it’s important to consider the climate in which you live.
Some breeds are better suited for warm weather, while others do better in cooler temperatures. However, all turkeys require access to fresh water and plenty of room to roam.
If you have the space and resources to care for them properly, turkeys can make a valuable addition to your urban homestead.
If you’re considering starting an urban homestead, pygmy goats are a great choice. They’re small and manageable, and they can provide you with milk, meat, and fiber.
But how much space do you need for pygmy goats? While goats don’t require a lot of space, you should consider their grazing needs.
Pygmy goats need about 10-15 minutes of grazing time per day per goat. So, if you have two pygmy goats, you’ll need a pasture that’s at least half an acre in size. Additionally, goats are social creatures, so it’s best to have at least two of them.
Goats can be raised for goat milk, fiber, meat, or even just controlling shrubbery. These low maintenance animals are fantastic backyard farm animals – and don’t forget that you can do all kinds of things with dairy goats milk, including making cheese, too.
And when it comes to breeds, Saanen, Oberhasli, and Toggenburg are all good choices for urban homesteaders.
Dexter Cattle are a small breed of cattle that originated in Ireland. They are well-suited to small farms and homesteads, as they require less space than other breeds. Dexter Cattle are also very adaptable and can thrive in a variety of climates.
For these reasons, they are an excellent choice for urban homesteaders. When choosing Dexter Cattle for your homestead, it is important to consider the amount of space you have available.
Dexter Cattle do best when they have access to pasture, so plan accordingly. You will also want to consider the climate of your area and choose a breed that is well-suited to the conditions.
Overall, Dexter Cattle are an excellent choice for urban homesteaders who want to raise their own beef.
When you are ready to undertake the small animal keeping of homesteading you will wonder why you waited so long.
The fresh eggs and milk, along with the deep connection you will form with your animals will make it all worthwhile. Or at least provide you with some entertainment and happy memories.
Heather’s homesteading journey started in 2006, with baby steps: first, she got a few raised beds, some chickens, and rabbits. Over the years, she amassed a wealth of homesteading knowledge, knowledge that you can find in the articles of this blog.
Learn more about Heather and the rest of the writers on this page.