How To Prepare A Backyard Animal Farm (Tips & Guidelines)

Food security. The term means different things to different people. One definition involves having a reliable source of basic foods and not having to worry about going hungry. Another requires the food to be of sufficient quantity and quality to meet your dietary needs and satisfy your food preferences. Still, other definitions specify that the food is nutritious, safe, and healthful. And some definitions incorporate the concepts of local self-sufficiency and environmental sustainability.

Taken together, these various definitions point in one direction: Grow your own. And unless you are a vegetarian, that means raising livestock. As a lot of people are learning, you don’t need to live on a farm to raise food animals. A pair of rabbits in the carport or on the back porch will provide a year-round supply of meat while taking up hardly any space at all.

A beehive or two will give you healthful honey while pollinating your garden. A few hens will provide you with fresh eggs while living happily in one corner of the garden. When I started with livestock, I lived on approximately one acre on which I raised a variety of rabbits, chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese, along with a big garden and a small orchard.

The garden and orchard benefited from the manure produced by the animals, and the animals benefited from surplus produce gleaned from the garden. Best of all, my family enjoyed food security of the highest order.

Getting Started With the Animal Home

If you have difficulty finding what you want locally, cast your net a little farther afield. When purchasing animals from a distance, try to travel to the seller’s location to view the breeder stock and pick up your purchase.

No matter how carefully animals are transported, shipping always involves certain risks. We have occasionally purchased a calf from a dairy in the next county and transported it home in our pickup camper.

We never had a problem until one extremely hot day. During the 45-minute drive home, we stopped to offer the calf some water. It was too frightened to drink, so we decided the better plan was to get home fast and get it off the hot truck.

By the time we arrived home, the calf was nearly prostrate from heat and dehydration, and after a good hosing down with cold water and several gallons of Gatorade, the calf was fine, but the incident gave us quite a scare. Since then if we have to transport livestock in the summer, we do so in the cool hours of early morning or late evening.

If you cannot pick up your purchase in person but must arrange to have it shipped, have a clear written understanding with the seller regarding who bears the risk if the animal gets sick or dies. The stress of long-distance travel compromises an animal’s immune system, risking infection during travel or on arrival at its new home.

Tips To Consider Before Setting Up A Farmyard

Before bringing home your first animal, have everything ready for it. A little preparation will smooth the way.

Ensure family support.

Check with all members of your family to see how
they feel about having livestock in your backyard. It’s always best to have everyone’s full support, especially when you may need a substitute to do your daily chores whenever you must be away.

If not all members are involved in maintaining the livestock, strife can result when the uninterested members feel the others spend too much time at the barn, yet they share in the bounty.

By contrast, relations in families in which everyone is involved in some phase of animal care are usually harmonious. In our family, my wife and I normally do chores together; we each have certain responsibilities, but each of us pitches in for the other when need be. We enjoy our time together walking to and from the barn, but at the barn, we devote our full attention to the animals.

Establish caretaking responsibilities.

Establish a caretaking schedule and decide who in your family will do what chores daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonally. Children, for instance, can be in charge of the daily routines of feeding, milking, and gathering eggs; these simple tasks will help them learn about responsibility.

Adults or older teenagers should probably be involved in the less frequent but more difficult tasks, such as vaccinating, cleaning stalls, or attending births.

Check zoning regulations.

Every area has a slightly different set of zoning laws, which may prohibit you from keeping certain species, limit the number of each species you may keep, regulate the distance animal housing must be from nearby human dwellings or your property line, or restrict the use of electric fencing.

I saw firsthand how zoning works on my little one-acre farmstead, which was rezoned after I moved there. Although my poultry activities were grandfathered in — meaning the authorities could not make me get rid of the birds I already had — I was not allowed to increase the population. Now the nature of raising chickens is that after the spring hatch, you have more, and as the year progresses you butcher some, and have fewer.

Complying with the new law meant I would not be able to hatch and raise young chickens for meat. I managed to prevail as long as I lived there, but not without hassles from neighbours and occasional visits from the authorities.

If you plan to raise livestock on the property you have yet to purchase, check not only existing laws but also proposed changes. If existing zoning laws are not livestock-friendly, several websites explain how to get the laws changed.

Prepare facilities.

Once you learn of any zoning regulations that will
influence where on your property you may keep animals, and prepare their housing.

Most animals require all-weather housing. If your area has particularly hot days or cold days, consider those extremes right from the start, or you may never get around to providing proper housing.

If you are starting with babies, remember they will grow; make sure your facilities are big enough to handle them when they mature. If you wish to breed your stock to raise future babies, chances are pretty good you’ll want to keep one or more of the babies, so allow space for expansion.

Since things have a way of taking longer than expected, have your facilities ready and waiting before you bring home your first animal. Provide adequate feed and water stations.

Lay in a supply of feed. Unlike wild animals, which are adept at balancing their own nutritional needs, domestic animals rely on us to furnish all the nutrients they need. The best choice for a beginner is to use bagged feed from the farm store.

If you are concerned about what’s in the ration you can opt for an all-natural formula. If you prefer certified organic feed, expect to pay 50 to 100 per cent more.

After you become knowledgeable about your chosen species’ habits and dietary needs, you will be in a better position to develop an alternative ration, should you so desire.

Meanwhile, if the bagged feed you will be using is different from what the animal has been eating, purchase some of its usual feed from the animal’s seller. Gradually mix in greater quantities of new feed with the old to avoid an abrupt change that can cause digestive upset in an animal already stressed from the move.

Install sturdy fencing.

Secure the livestock area with a stout fence that not only keeps your livestock but also keeps out predators.

When most people hear the word predator, they think of wild animals such as foxes, raccoons, or coyotes. But the number one predators of domestic livestock are dogs.

Our neighbourhood was once terrorized by a dog that killed countless chickens (including some of mine), a calf, a couple of sheep, and dozens of 4-H rabbits.

When the animal-control officer finally caught and euthanized the dog, the owner was furious that her children had been deprived of their beloved pet.

Sometimes a predator dog is not the neighbour’s but your own. I’ve heard many a tale of dogs that got along well with poultry and even guarded them, then for reasons only the dog could know eventually went on a rampage and killed the birds.

Most livestock books recommend farm fencing of one sort or another, which securely confines stock and excludes predators, but may not be legal in more populated areas. The type of fencing you use must be acceptable in your area, both legally and aesthetically.

To make your fence animal safe as well as publicly acceptable, you may have to fudge a bit by camouflaging the farm fence to look like something else from the outside; for instance, having small-mesh
woven wire on the inside with attractive post and rail board fencing on the outside.

Attractive fencing that blends well with the neighbourhood landscape is more likely to be acceptable to neighbours.

Inform your neighbours.

Let your neighbours know about your plan to raise livestock. Explain that you are taking great pains to keep your animals from getting into other people’s yards and to keep other people’s animals out of your

Describe what you are doing to maintain clean housing and minimize odours and flies. By letting the neighbours in on your plans, you are less likely to hear complaints from them later. You might even get them involved by asking for their input and advice.

Perhaps they’d be willing to help out, for instance when you go on vacation, in exchange for fresh eggs from your chickens, fresh milk from your cow or goat, or barnyard compost for their garden. Who knows — you might pique their interest enough that they’ll want backyard farm animals of their own.

How Many Animals Can You Keep?

The following illustrations show some of the possibilities for the number of animals that can be kept in an average yard. A quarter-acre lot, planned out well and intensively maintained, can provide milk, meat, honey, and eggs for a small family.

Adding another quarter acre allows you to inexpensively raise steers for beef. These examples show what can be done in a given amount of space, but remember the less living space your animals have, the more time you will have to spend cleaning and maintaining their quarters.

A Homestead on One-Tenth of an Acre

A Homestead on One-Tenth of an Acre

A Homestead on One-Tenth of an Acre

A Homestead on a Quarter Acre

A Homestead on a Quarter Acre

A Homestead on a Quarter Acre

A Homestead on Half an Acre

A Homestead on Half an Acre

A Homestead on Half an Acre


To prepare a backyard animal farm, it is important to consider the needs of the animals and the family’s ability to care for them. This includes ensuring that all members of the family are supportive of the idea and establishing clear caretaking responsibilities. It is also important to consider the space and resources available, as well as the local regulations and zoning laws. When purchasing animals, it is best to visit the seller in person or have a clear understanding with the seller about the risks of shipping. Proper preparation and care will help ensure the health and well-being of the animals and the success of the farm.