Hobby Farm Animals

One of the most rewarding aspects of owning a hobby farm is being able to raise animals. Whether your goal is to provide more nutritious food for you and your family or to just enjoy their company, animals can be a key part of owning a hobby farm. And when you’re thinking about raising animals as a source of income, you may be wise to build a business plan first. Take a look at our tips on how to run a profitable hobby farm, and learn about livestock options that have worked for other homestead producers.


What Animals Work Best on a Hobby Farm?

When considering animals to raise, keep in mind that each species will need a physical shelter and an area to graze or free range as well. Larger animals will typically require a more substantial amount of acreage and tend to be more expensive when starting a hobby farm. Take a look at this list of common hobby farm animals, their basic shelter and acreage needs:

Pekin Ducks

Widely considered one of the easiest animals to raise, a small flock of Pekin ducks can be both a great source of eggs and meat. They tend to be hungrier than chickens and better foragers too. Pekin ducks don’t scratch as much as chickens, so they won’t rip up your garden as much. And they’re better at eating bugs off of vegetation. Muskovy ducks may not be a good choice since they can disrupt local mallard populations among other issues.

Space needed
Nominal penned area or a high-fenced, free-range space works well. A pond or kiddie pool is another necessity.
Shelter Details
A small coop for roosting and brooding.
Cost to raise
$$ - Relatively inexpensive.
Predator concerns
High – these animals are easily predated by hawks and dogs because they’re slow and domesticated.

New Zealand White Rabbits

Rabbits in general are a fantastic addition to any hobby farm for a number of important reasons. As space requirements go, they’re very economical. Rabbit meat isn’t too well received but you may find a market for your fare in nearby restaurants.

Space needed
Nominal.
Shelter Details
A small hutch with hay, weeds and garden clippings works great as a home. Some hobby farmers allow their bunnies to free range, however.
Cost to raise
$$ - Relatively inexpensive.
Predator concerns
High – Rabbits are prone to predators. Fencing around their habitat can help to reduce losses.

Brown Leghorn Chickens

Acclaimed as the best bird for both meat and egg production, brown leghorns are great free range foragers that do well in hot climates. These birds are known for reliable chicken eggs through the seasons.

Space needed
Nominal.
Shelter Details
A coop is necessary for brooding and roosting. Proper ventilation is key — chickens can be prone to respiratory illness. Choose your bedding wisely to reduce exposure to mites and lice.
Cost to raise
$$ - Relatively inexpensive.
Predator concerns
High – Proper fencing and overnight protection can really help to reduce predation. Hawks, dogs and raccoons are among some of the main predators.

Alpine and Spanish Goats

If you’re looking to harvest both goat milk and meat, you may need two different breeds of goats to maximize your benefit. Alpine goats are great milk producers and Spanish goats are known for being relatively low-maintenance. They’ll help to keep vegetation down and graze on just about anything that grows out of the ground. The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a good, friendly alternative for milk production.

Space needed
A small pasture to free-range is required, approximately one-quarter to half an acre per goat works best.
Shelter Details
A 15-square-foot area of sleeping space works well for each goat.
Cost to raise
$$$ - Expensive. Goats require about 4 pounds of feed per day. Hay and bedding are other cost considerations.
Predator concerns
Some – larger dogs, coyotes, wolves and foxes are known to predate on goats. Good fencing and stable doors can help reduce losses.

Berkshire Pigs

One of the older heritage breeds of hogs, the Berkshire pig is popular because its meat production is consistently strong. Their temperament is easy going but they can get big — around 600 pounds when fully mature and allowed to forage.

Space needed
About 8-9 pigs per quarter acre, at a minimum. Large areas to root around and explore are best.
Shelter Details
Two swine are able to live comfortably in a 16 x 16 foot space. Pens should be made of very sturdy materials.
Cost to raise
$$$ - Expensive. Because these pigs will eventually get large, they’re going to escalate feed costs as they reach adulthood.
Predator concerns
Some – immature and smaller piglets are more prone to predation to the usual suspects: dogs, coyotes and wolves.

Holstein Cows and Angus Cattle

Much like their goat counterparts, some bovine species are better at producing milk and others are known for their meat. Holsteins are the go-to selection for milk, while Angus cattle are a great breed for meat production. Any time you’re working near large animals, it’s key to approach them calmly and with a plan.

Space needed
Cows graze all day. Their consumption will depend on the density of available foliage and edible grasses.
Shelter Details
A 20 x 30 foot pen will be necessary for a cow weighing around 1,200 pounds.
Cost to raise
$$$ - expensive. Average estimates range from $2 -$3 per day for the average weight heifer. A 700 pound feeder steer typically costs around $800 to raise.
Predator concerns
Some – the youngest being the most vulnerable. Coyotes, bobcats, cougars, dogs and wolves have been known to predate cows and cattle.

Italian Honeybees

Best for beginners, Italian honeybees are a great selection because the hive does not split into sub-hives as frequently when compared to other species. Because of this, the hive is able to produce more honey. They’re also known for being relatively docile, and not quick to sting. And they also produce lots of delicious honey.

Space needed
Most standard colonies can support two hives per acre.
Shelter Details
Most standard hives can house anywhere from 10,000 – 60,000 bees. Look online for starter hive kits or build your own.
Cost to raise
Beekeeping costs vary on your goals and your initial investment. Costs range from $500 - $800 for introductory hive structures which includes bees.
Predator concerns
Some – skunks and bears are known problems. Hive beetles can also predate bee populations.

With the right precautions in place and proper planning, your hobby farm animals will thrive. While you’re making arrangements to launch your hobby farm, don’t forget to check in with your American Family Insurance agent. You’ll find they’re experts at customizing coverage for all of your property and liability concerns.


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