25 Jan GARDEN BUDDIES: WHAT CAME FIRST?
We started our urban farm life five years ago when our goat, Goatier, was unceremoniously dropped off on our 1-acre property by friends who, we’re sure, were planning to enjoy him for Christmas dinner. The poor goat was so afraid that I made it my life’s mission to win him over — and once I won him over, there was no way I was sending him off to be an entrée.
That led to the purchase of a second goat, Coco Chanel, so that Goatier would have a playmate. Goats are herd animals, after all, and don’t do well on their own. From there, we got chickens, ducks, bees, and then a pot-belly pig. The funny thing is, we’d originally only planned to have the chickens. All the rest just sort of happened.
Now, if you’re interested in starting an urban farm of your own and don’t know where to start, don’t follow my lead. It’s worth spending some time to think through what animals you want and why, if you have the space for the type of animals you’re interested in, and finally (and, I think, most importantly) if you are able to commit to their care. There are pros and cons to each type of animal, but here are some thoughts to get you going:
Chickens and ducks are the easiest. Seriously, they almost raise themselves. Give them the proper nutrition, adequate space, and stay on top of any health issues, and you’re good to go. I often say that chickens are the gateway drug to urban farming, though, so watch out! What starts with a few little furry chicks easily morphs into something bigger.
Goats need more space. And, although they are also fairly low-maintenance, you’ll need to tend to regular chores like hoof trimming, vaccinations, and deworming. If you’re planning to breed your goats, you’ll need to commit to additional responsibilities for healthy pregnancies and births.
Bees require more knowledge. Our friend, Todd, is the one who started the bees on our farm. He and his friend Lisa took a bee-keeping class so they understood hive health, food and water sources, hive location, and hive inspection. And you have to be patient, as it’s recommended to wait at least a year to harvest honey or beeswax.
Pigs are fun and smart, but stubborn. And don’t believe it when a “breeder” calls that adorable piglet a “micro-pig” that “won’t get bigger than 30 pounds.” While pot belly pigs are definitely smaller than hogs, no pig stays small. Our pot belly pig, Olive, is over 100 pounds, and could easily grow to 150 or more. Still, I have a pig on an urban farm, and she knows her name and sits for her food. What’s better than that?
The bottom line is to do your research — farm animals are a big responsibility, and it’s up to you to make sure you are able to adequately cover their needs so they have a happy and healthy life.
By: Jenny Peterson