It’s not like you don’t have enough to take care of.
Are the animals really worth the work?
Can’t you buy milk for less than it costs to keep a goat?
Chickens stink. Are you sure you want them?
While there are a lot of folks who support and desire the acquisition of backyard chicken flocks and homestead dairy sources, there are just as many who think it’s wacky and impractical to keep these types of animals. Why would you keep a “farm animal” if you don’t live on a farm? There are several reasons why we prefer to keep our lively mini-farm bleating and clucking outside our doors, rather than to house domestic animals indoors.
The first reason is usefulness. Some people like to keep a dog or cat. We like to keep animals that help to feed us. Both my husband and I are “dog people”- that is, we like dogs and think they’re wonderful companions. However, we feel that at this point in our lives, we can’t justify the expense of feeding and caring for an animal that doesn’t give us something practical in return. Not only do our animals feed us, they are also scrap-consumers and free compost producers. Pretty cool.
The second reason is cost. We used to spend about $30/monthly on litter and food for our two cats (who have since changed ownership). While we enjoyed having them, it was an extra bill that we didn’t need. We now spend about $15/month on our goat’s grain, and we get milk in return. (Usually. 😉 The crazy goat is calming down and increasing supply a bit.) We spend about the same on organic chicken feed monthly, but we also get wholesome eggs to feed our family daily. For the same cost as two cats who peed on our furniture and tried to scratch the baby, we now keep animals that significantly lower our grocery bills.
The third reason is cleanliness. While chickens and goats aren’t particularly clean animals, their mess does stay outside. I don’t mind cleaning a coop out every few weeks. I do mind a smelly litter box in the laundry room.
The fourth reason we like our farm animals is that they bring us closer to our food sources. I love knowing where my food comes from, and it can’t get more local and hands-on than our backyard. There’s something deeply satisfying about being involved in raising your own food.
Finally, I like that our kids will grow up around these animals. I think that any animal can teach valuable lessons to children- responsibility, carefulness, and dealing with life and death, to name a few. But I particularly like that our children will have the chance to contribute to our needs by caring for these animals. It’s not just walking the dog because he has to be walked- it’s gathering the eggs so we can make pancakes together, or milking the goat so we can have a fresh glass with our breakfast. Not only do they learn responsibility by caring for the animals, they also become valuable providers for our family by completing their chores. (This is all in my head, as they’re not tall enough to reach the nesting boxes or strong enough to deal with the goat kicking yet… but you know. Eventually.)
While we are fully aware that our little patch of ground and the few creatures that live here are nowhere near a full functioning farm, we enjoy keeping our handful of “farm” animals. They help to meet our basic needs, while still providing entertainment and wholesome work for all of us. Even though they’re not as common a choice as a dog, cat, or fish, I think we’ll keep on keeping them for now.
Do you own a backyard farm animal? Why do you keep them?