Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by a guest writer (Eva) filling in for Gina
Hello! I am stepping aside today for a guest writer with a great topic! ~Gina
Thinking of getting animals? Think again.
Why do you want animals?
What type of animals, which breed?
Start with something easy. Easy is small, cheap, easy to fence, easy to shelter – that often means chickens or maybe rabbits.
Talk to someone who has the animals you are interested in. Not someone who is trying to sell you his or her animals as they have a vested interest. Once you have narrowed it down to a few types of animals talk to several people who have these types. Ask them why they chose them, what problems they have had.
Think the whole process through – getting your first animals, raising them, housing through the winter, dealing with predators, fencing, watering all year, selling extras, acquiring new animals, dealing with sick and dead animals, slaughter. All of this may seem intimidating. You don’t have to learn it all at once or even before you get your animals – you just have to be willing to learn. An experienced neighbor is an invaluable resource.
Are you allowed to keep animals on your property? Sometime zoning and/or neighbors can make it difficult or impossible.
Consider if you can afford the animals. Housing, feed, vet costs? For years? Animals are a long-term commitment.
Make sure you have fencing and housing in place before you get your animals.
Do you have a vet nearby who has experience/expertise in this type of animals? Lots of vets only take care of pets.
Where will you buy supplies? A good feed or hardware store nearby makes keeping animals easier.
Sharon has an excellent run down on which types of livestock to get “Little Livestock for Urban and Suburban Gardens” http://sharonastyk.com/ February 12th, 2009
Things to consider when choosing a breed
- Is it a healthy breed?
Does the breed you are considering have easy births and are they considered to be good mothers? It’s a lot easier for an animal to mother and feed her young than for you to do it. Multiple births are often touted as being more productive, but can lead to more problems.
Giant or tiny breeds tend to be inbred and may have health problems. Also consider what size animal you are comfortable working around. Here we have a farm rule – no animal that we can’t comfortably wrestle to the ground. I’ve heard other people say: “no one shits bigger than me on this farm”.
Is this breed known to have any diseases? What about pests and parasites?
- Is it a common breed?
How hard is it to find more of this breed in your area? Unusual or exotic animals may be good or seem like fun but when it comes time to replace a few animals you’ll be glad not to be shipping animals across the continent. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider only the most common breeds. Pockets of different breeds exist in different place. Again look around.
If you can add an animal to your mix that eats the same feed as the animals you already have you have less to keep track of. Or if you keep animals that can eat a food resource that is currently wasted or not fully utilized. Consider the cost of feed and if you can grow some or all of it yourself. Where will you store the feed? Think about making your storage vermin proof.
Is it a high producing breed? Do you want a lot of milk, meat? Consider that animals that are bred to be very productive often have problems. All that “extra” often comes with a cost – more difficult births, higher feed consumption, more illnesses. Consider whether it is worth getting several animals that produce less, rather than a one high producing animal.
- Do you like them?
Chose both a breed and a type of animal that you like. This may seem obvious but it makes chores easier. It’s a lot easier to tend your animals well if you genuinely enjoy being with them. If you think they are ugly, mean, or smell bad you are less likely to take good care of them.
- Do you have helpers?
Other family member who are willing to help take care of the animals? Neighbors who can look after them for a day if you need/want to go away?
Eva dabbles in gardening and food activism. I have also mastered the following rural skills: sheep shearing, baking in a wood cookstove, using a chainsaw, making do and being satisfied with what I have.