Best Farm Animals for Hobby Farms
When I moved to a hobby farm I had to learn a lot about some farm animals. This is a basic introduction to some farm animals, with links to further resources.
Not every farm has a dog, mine doesn't, but most farms have more cats than they know what to do with.
When my wife and I moved into our 10 acre hobby farm in rural Alberta the previous owner left behind their farm cats. We already had our own cats, and have since taken in a few feral kittens.
Farm cats often have tough lives, few farmers feed them, fewer allow them in the house. They are often at risk from predators that come to the farm - coyotes, raccoons, and so forth. Farm cats are seldom vaccinated, or dewormed, and often are loaded with worms as a result of eating mice.
Some farmers do not spay or neuter their farm cats - and have more kittens than they know what to do with, and often shoot, or drown, them.
Read more about taking better care of Farm Cats
Read about Why you should Not Abandon Your Cat on a Farm
Although you might think the animal in the picture is a goat, it is in fact a hair sheep. He is just a lamb in the picture here and will grow big curled horns.
Sheep are often thought of as being used for meat and wool, but as you can see, no every sheep has wool. We got sheep to keep the pasture from being over grown as it would be a fire hazzard. Hair sheep are low maintenance and wool is not worth much where I live.
They do need a barn in the winter and especially when lambing. Sheep can have 1-3 lambs, and sometimes a keeper may find they need to bottle feed a lamb or two.
Read more on Barbado Hair Sheep
Read more on the Advantages of Hair Sheep
Learn about Bottle Feeding Lambs
Llamas and Alpacas
These animals were introduced to North America and Europe as a novelty animal for fiber. They were, at one time, priced extremely high, so my wife and I thought we got a good deal when we bought two female llamas for $100 each.
Turns out, you can buy a llama for cheap, and we have even been to one auction where the auction market was paying people $1 to take the male llamas.
Llamas and Alpacas are neat to have, very graceful to watch and are the snobs of the farm. We have had both and learned that you should only have 1 if their purpose is to guard sheep, if you have more they don't hang out with the sheep.
Learn More about Alpacas and Llamas
Donkeys are another fun farm type animal, and are often kept for novelty reasons or to guard sheep.
I will warn you against keeping jack (intact male) donkeys unless you have jennys (females). A jack can get mean if not handled right and will chase other livestock.
Gelded donkeys are great as pets and companions, but are not the same as horses. They are smarter and like to "think". As well they are more effecient eaters, and don't need as much hay or grain - in fact if given grain they often founder.
Read more on Donkeys
Read about the Differences between Horses, Donkeys, and Mules
There are many different birds that are kept on farms. Most people will think of Chickens and Turkeys when they think of farm birds, but some farmers keep ducks, quail, peafowl, or even pheasants.
I myself found pheasants to be tricky, they would lay eggs but didn't incubate them. We have had great luck with chickens and enjoy their eggs, but don't eat the hens - as they have come to trust us.
We also had good luck with ducks, and look forward to more ducklings this year. We also have had pigeons and doves and enjoy the sounds they make, although they really have no other purpose than ornamentation.
Read more about Keeping Pet Chickens
Read about Doves
Read about Pet Call Ducks
You will note that I didn't mention Cattle, Goats, or Pigs.
Cattle may be too large for most hobby farms, and goats are surprisingly tricky, they can climb fences, and may have horn issues. Pigs.. well I just do not know enough about them to comment further on their care. Another Wikinutter has written this great post about Pigs!
Read How to Start a Hobby Farm
Be sure to check out my wife's Sheep Blog
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