Choosing the Best Farm Livestock Animals to Raise

The first thing a would-be small-scale meat producer has to decide on the best farm livestock animals to raise, includes information on rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats, pigs, buying animals and a comparison chart.

| November/December 1982

Raising small livestock means making a good choice on the best farm livestock animals to raise on your homestead. (See the backyard livestock comparison chart in the image gallery.)

Raising small livestock—from babes to butchering age—is no more difficult than cultivating a garden . . . and many types can be reared even in areas as limited as a large back yard or urban lot. However, choosing the animals that'll best suit your needs is crucial to small-space meat production.

And, although economy is obviously important, other factors are bound to influence your choices, as well. The chart that accompanies this article lists some basic aspects of livestock raising—such as initial cost of the animals, housing needs, feeding requirements, and expected harvest—that must be considered in selecting your stock . . . and I'll discuss some of the individual advantages and disadvantages of what I consider the five best backyard critters. These comparisons ought to help you make the final decision as to the best farm livestock animals to raise.


First of all, I should say a few words about regulations . . . namely, be sure to check local restrictions and laws regarding the types and number of animals that may be kept before you build any pens, butches, coops, or sties. In many well-populated areas such regulations are very specific, limiting the number of animals per household and requiring that shelters be placed a specified distance from adjacent property lines. So save yourself annoyance and extra work by checking the rules before you build or buy.

Of course, even if there are no detailed livestock laws where you live, you should strive to keep noise, odors, and flies from becoming nuisances to your neighbors. Indeed, if you live in an area where back yards tend to be small, you'll pretty much have to make your prospective project's effects on others a prime consideration when choosing your homestead critters.


As you read on, you'll soon notice that I've limited this analysis to rabbits, chickens, sheep, goats, and pigs . . . and left out the most popular mainstay of the American barnyard: the cow. The reason for that omission is the fact that although a beef or dairy cow could probably be kept in a very large back yard, Bossy poses many more problems than do other domestic animals for the limited-space meat producer.

Rob Eshman
5/19/2012 4:53:31 PM

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!