12 Farm Animals You Can Keep In Your Backyard

Best farm animals you can raise in your backyard

Before I moved to rural Idaho, I had 0.24 of an acre. Some people assume that you can’t own a farm animal because you only have a backyard. That isn’t true. There are 12 great farm animals that you can own in most city backyards.

What farm animals can you keep in your backyard?

  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Quails
  • Honey Bees
  • Tilapia
  • Goat
  • Mini Cow
  • Rabbits
  • Alpaca
  • Pigs
  • Turkey
  • Sheep

It is important to take into consideration several factors when choosing a farm animal for your backyard. This will determine which animals are the best suited to your situation. The factors that you should consider include:

  • Cost
  • Necessary space
  • The goal of having a farm animal: Personal enjoyment, self-sufficiency, or profit
  • Local ordinances, HOA restrictions, and zoning
  • Time requirements

If it seems intimidating, don’t worry! We’ve broken it out for you so you can choose what’s most important. Let’s dive into each animal and then we can check out a chart that compares each animal

Chickens: Freedom Ranger, Black Australorp, Easter Egger, Cornish Cross, Red Ranger and more.

Chickens are a great urban farm animal. They are quiet, relatively easy to take care of, and the produce both eggs and meat.

The best chicken breeds for urban farming can be broken into 2 categories: meat producers and egg producers.

What are the best chicken breeds for urban farming?

  • Cornish Cross: Meat producer
  • Red Ranger: Meat Producer
  • Freedom Ranger: Meet Producer
  • Black Australorp: Egg Producer
  • Easter Egger: Egg Producer
  • Barred Rock: Egg Producer
  • Rhode Island Red: Egg Producer
  • Buff Orpington: Egg Producer

The benefits of owning chickens extend past the eggs and meat capabilities of the chickens. They also make great fertilizer. Chickens are pretty quiet, especially if you don’t have a rooster. A novice farmer can care for chickens with a relatively little learning curve.

Backyard farm animals chickens

What do I need to backyard farm chickens? Chickens need 4 square feet per chicken in the coop. They also need shelter to stay dry or cool, and a place to lay their eggs. Although you can coop chickens in less space, it will make them less healthy. They will have respiratory problems and the entire flock will get sick if one gets sick. If you are planning to free-range your chickens, then 10 square feet per chicken is recommended.

What do chickens eat? Chickens will eat almost anything from bugs and weeds to compost, leftover food, and grain. Hens need protein to continue to be good egg layers. They can get protein from foraging bugs during the spring to fall. However, if you live in a cold area, once winter comes, you will want to supplement their food with a protein source. Chicken feed can be purchased locally or you can feed then leftover protein from your diet, including fresh, canned, or cooked protein. They also eat mice or small birds. I don’t recommend feeding them on other chickens as I have seen some health problems arise from that practice.

How do I make money on my chickens? Chickens produce three main products you can sell: eggs, meat, and pullets. 4-6-month-old pullets often sell for $10 to $20 dollars each. These are hens that haven’t started laying yet. Other urban farmers generally buy pullets. To produce pullets or more hens, you will need a rooster or the eggs won’t fertilize. If you own just hens, you can still raise the hens for meat or eggs, but you will need to buy more chicks if you want more birds.  

Chicken Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★★
Space Requirements Very little space required

4 feet recommended per chick

Smaller space is an option

Good For the beginner Yes
Cost of setting up $6 at Cal Ranch per chick

$20-40 to build a chicken coop

Ducks: Mallard, Pekin, Muscovy, Swedish, Khaki Campbells and more

Ducks are a great backyard animal for many reasons. Their eggs sell for more than chicken eggs. Their eggs are generally larger and cause fewer allergic reactions than chicken eggs. Ducks also eat more types of garden pests than chicken including slugs and snail. Some ducks even eat ticks, flies, wasps, and mosquitos. Additionally, ducks are hardier and resist diseases better than chickens. They will also continue to lay eggs into cold weather. Ducks do lay fewer eggs than chickens, but the eggs are larger. 

backyard farm animals ducks

What Breed of Ducks Are Great for Backyard Farming? The most popular breeds of ducks to raise in backyards include the

  • Pekin Ducks – Both great egg layers and meaty. 90% of duck meat comes from Perkins. All white ducks.
  • Indian Runner – Good egg layers. “Penguin” ducks makes them more entertaining
  • Muscovy – Quackless, they are very quiet. They are great for eggs or meat. If they are bred with other duck breeds, the babies are usually sterile.
  • Khaki Campbells – Superior egg producers. Also used for meat.
  • Blue Swedish –  Slow growing used for meat and eggs. Calm dispositions.
  • Mallard – Beautiful, can be used for eggs or meat. They are smaller ducks.
  • Cayuga – Beautiful black feathers,. They are a slower growing breed. Very calm birds. Listed as a threatened breed.
  • Magpie – Excellent layers. Eggs vary in color, calm bird.
  • Welsh Harlequin – Eggs and meat. Critically endangered ducks.
  • Runner – Eggs. Fast ducks that don’t waddle. More nervous ducks that can stampede.
  • White Call – Eggs. Very loud ducks with a calm temperament.
  • Saxony – Meat and eggs. Lays a large number of eggs and grows fast. Critically endangered ducks
  • Buff Orpington – Medium-sized duck used for eggs. Listed as threatened species.

What Do I Need To Raise Ducks In My Backyard? Ducks are more territorial than chickens so you will either need to raise fewer ducks or will need to allow them more space. Ducks need 4-6 feet per duck in their duck house. They will also need between 10-25 feet per duck to roam around. Ducks love water so you’ll need a little pond or kiddie pool to keep them happy. You will need to be careful about how you supply the water though. A bucket is too deep and doesn’t provide the ducks with a way to get out of the water will usually end up in a downed duck.

What Do Ducks Eat? Ducks love bugs and insects and are excellent foragers. They also eat a variety of other things.

  1. Fish and fish eggs
  2. Snails and worms
  3. Grass leaves and weeds
  4. Algae and aquatic plants
  5. Seeds and grains.

How Do I Make Money From Ducks? Ducks eggs or meat can be sold. Some more profitable duck farmers make money from raising heritage ducks or raising the ducks to show in competition.

Duck Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★★
Space Requirements Ducks need 4-6 feet in the duck house and at least 10-15 minimum in a duck run.
Good For the beginner Yes
Cost of setting up Cost varies on variety. (Mallard ducks can legally be taken from the wild)

Duck run and duck house

Pond or shallow water for the duck

Quail: Coturnix, California, Gambel’s, and Blue Scale, and Bobwhite.

Qual is popular both for meat and for eggs. They are smaller than chickens and breed easily and quickly. They start laying eggs at 8 weeks. They will lay about 1 egg a day.  Quail are usually small eaters so supplementing their diet will be a lot less than with ducks or chickens.

Backyard farm animals quail

What Are The Best Quail Breeds To Raise In My Backyard? The best breed will depend on what your purpose is and how close your neighbors.

  • Coturnix – Noisy, but one of the most popular breeds for backyard farmers. They need very little space, about 1 square foot per bird to be happy. Produces dark meat.
  • California Quail – tolerates people. They are often found in parks and suburban gardens. They spend most of their time foraging for food.
  • Gambel’s Quail – Best suited for aviaries. Mated pairs will attack other birds.
  • Blue-Scale – Need sandy dry soil to thrive. Very social birds except during mating season. Often used to show off their beauty to neighbors.
  • Georgia Giant – Egg layers. They will lay 100 more eggs each year than a Bobwhite quail.
  • Bobwhite –  Used for training hunting dogs. They take 26 weeks to start laying eggs. Can lay year round with the right conditions

What Do Quails Need? Quails need a covered enclosure. They also need roosting areas and brush to keep safe. Quail need more protein than other backyard birds so you will want to supplement their diets. If they don’t get enough protein, they will become cannibalistic.

How Do I Make Money on Quail? Quail can be more difficult to make money on than other backyard birds. They lay smaller eggs, necessitating 3-4 eggs for one chicken egg. They can also be more seasonal layers. They can be sold for meat and quail meat is considered a more specialty meat than chicken or duck meat. However, quail are happier in smaller spaces so if you have a small backyard, quail can be a great option for a backyard farm animal!

Quail Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★
Space Requirements Qual need about 1 square foot to be happy
Good For the beginner ★★★★★ Yes
Cost of setting up Quail shelter, bushes for protection, and protein in their diets

Honey Bees: Low maintenance and peaceful

Honeybees are a great animal because they require so little maintenance. Bees provide the pollination of most of the world’s plants and are very important to a strong ecology. You may be a little intimidated by this small animal, but honeybees tend to be very calm. The level of aggression is determined by the queen bee. If your hive starts to breed with African bees or other more aggressive breeds, then you can calm them down by replacing the queen bee. Queen bees can be ordered online.  Bees swarm in the spring and if you capture the swarm, your hives will grow rapidly.

backyard farm animals honey bees

Why Honeybees? In addition to being some of the calmest bees, honeybees will also provide your family with honey. They will help to pollinate your garden and require almost no work. In fact, you can nearly forget about them and may see then thrive with no attention, even for a couple of years. Honeybees produce their own food through the honey so if you harvest honey from them, make sure that they have enough warm season to gather more, or that you supplement their diet with a sugar water combination.

What Do I Need To Farm Honeybees? Bees don’t require a beehive, but it will help to keep your bees from wandering away. You can build your own beehive for minimal cost or spend as much as hundreds of dollars on fancy beehives.

Bees swarm and until the queen bee decides she wants to stay in the new hive, you will want to keep it sealed off. It usually takes 2-3 days for that to happen. If you want to harvest the honey, you will want a bee suit, gloves, and sugar water. Bee feeders make mixing and providing the sugar water easy. Bees travel 5-10 miles a day for pollen so you won’t need to worry about supplementing their diets as much during the warm months of the year.

How Do I Make Money on Bees? A single beehive will not produce enough honey for you to make a lot of money on. Even if you live in a warmer southern climate, you will probably need many hives to get enough honey for a profit.

However, a single hive can produce some honey for home use and because bees are self-sufficient, you will have very little expense. Watch your hive in the early spring to mid-summer. If you split your hive, or capture the swarmed hives, your bees will grow and you can create a more profitable bee business.

Honeybee Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★★
Space Requirements Beehive
Good For the beginner ★★★★ Some learning curve
Cost of setting up Minimal cost for the bee suit and hive. Bees can be obtained for free when they swarm.

Tilapia: Best Fish To Raise For Meat

Tilapia produce great meat to feed conversion. They can be raised in a large tank, pond, or water barrel. Some Tilapia producers even raise them in old bathtubs. Tilapia are easy animals to own, they will breed and reproduce on their own. You can grow worms or other feed on your own so you don’t have to purchase it. Some backyard farmers combine Tilapia and an aquatic garden to create a self-feeding system.

Tilapia takes about 12 months to grow to full maturity so how often you can harvest them for food will depend on how large your tank is and how many fish you have. Tilapia is considered clean fish because they will basically keep the fish clean. This is a great option for warmer climates. 

What Do I Need To Farm Tilapia? You will need adequate water. You will need 4-5 gallons of water per adult Tilapia. You will also need to provide them with food such as worms, maggots, or black soldier fly larvae. If you live in a place that freezes, you will need to make sure that you have the equipment to keep the water warm enough to not kill the Tilapia. Tilapia need water that is 76 to 80 degrees warm to thrive.

How Do I Make Money On Tilapia? Tilapia are one of the most efficient meat producing animals. THey convert 1.7 pounds of feed into 1 pound of meat. They are the #1 fish consumed in the USA. Tilapia can be sold directly to restaurants, consumers, or at fish markets.

Tilapia Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★
Space Requirements 4-5 feet per adult, less for babies
Good For the beginner ★★★★
Cost of setting up Higher cost for those living in northern, colder climates.

Goats: Pygmy, Nigerian, Pygora, Nigora, Pygora and more!

Goats serve the backyard farmer in many aspects. They are great for weed control, produce great manure, and are used for meat, dairy, and fiber production. Goats are great for producing milk and don’t need much space. This makes them ideal for a backyard.

What Is The Best Breed Of Goat To Raise?

  • Pygmy: Dairy or Meat
  • Nigerian: Dairy 1-2 quarts a day of milk
  • Pygora: Fiber producer
  • Nigora: Fiber Goat
  • Saanan: Milk
  • Alpine: Milk
  • Boar: Meat
  • Kiko: Meat
  • Tennessee Meat Goat: Meat

Backyard farm animals goats

What Do I Need To Backyard Farm Goats? Goats will need a sheltered place. They are also more susceptible to illness so you will need to deworm them twice a year. If they get a stomach issue, seek immediate help as goats can die within hours of getting sick.

What Do Goats Eat? Contrary to popular opinion, a goats first choice isn’t to eat grass. Goats love weeds, shrubbery, and wood. They will eat vegetables, hay, and will eat store feed. Goats are curious animals so they can be excellent escape artists. But when happy, they are less inclined to explore.

How Do I Make Money On Goats? There are 4 ways to make money on goats: meat, milk, fibers, and renting them out as weed control. However, you will need permits to sell the goats for meat or milk. There are also requirements around selling goat milk that you will need to follow. Goat fiber can be sold but is a more special niche market. You can also rent out your goats to neighbors or friends for weed control.  (Werentgoats.com)

Goat Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★
Space Requirements 10 Sq feet indoor, 16 Sq feet outdoor per goat (minimum), 200 feet to pasture
Good For the beginner ★★★
Cost of setting up Need more care with deworming and illness

Mini Cows: Dexter Cow,

The Dexter Cow is a smaller cow than other cow varieties. Dexter cows require ½ acre per cow so it’s not a good fit for small yards. Dexters are great milk cows and can be used for meat as well. Dexter cows usually mature in a year and a half to two years.

Dexters will produce almost 500 pounds of meat. They can also provide 1.5 to 3 gallons of milk a day.

Backyard farm animals cows

What Do I Need To Farm Dexter Cows? You will need at least a half acre per cow to grass feed a dexter. You can farm them in smaller areas but will need to feed them 12-15 pounds of hay a day. You will also want to understand how to herd a cow as they are larger animals and more difficult to “manhandle.”

Cow Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★
Space Requirements ½ Acre
Good For the beginner ★★★★
Cost of setting up Higher cost if you need to purchase feed.  

Rabbits: Pets, Food, or Manure

You may consider a rabbit more of a pet than a farm animal, but rabbits make a great farm animal. They breed quickly, grow quickly and are becoming more popular for meat. Some farmers use rabbit hair for fiber use.  Rabbits can be used for meat in 12 weeks.

They are easy to care for and often considered the cheapest meat to raise. Rabbits are super popular as pets and there are many unique beautiful varieties.

Backyard farm animals rabbit

What Do I Need to Raise Rabbits? You need a rabbit hutch or a protected area for the rabbit to stay out of the weather. Rabbits are vigorous diggers so you will want to provide them a place that they can’t dig out of. They love to eat vegetation and can be used for weed control. You will want to bury some chicken fence or keep it beneath your rabbits to keep them from digging out of their areas.

What Do Rabbits Eat? Rabbits will eat nearly all vegetation. You can feed them scraps from your table, the greens, and peels of carrots, onions, and other vegetables. Rabbit pellets can be purchased at animal supply stores, or they can be let to forage. If you let them forage, make sure that you move their cage or hutch around so they can get plenty of food.

How Do I Make Money On Rabbits? Rabbit farmers make money on rabbits in several different ways.

  • Rabbit Meat: Rabbits are very prolific so they are fast, easy meat to raise
  • Rabbit Poop: Rabbit droppings are very good for gardens and farms.
  • Rabbit Kits: Rabbit babies can be sold for pets, or to other farmers
  • Breeders: Your rabbits that breed well and produce more babies can be sold to other farmers
  • Rabbit Pelts: Those in colder climates will produce better pelts for selling

There are other ways to sell rabbits. If you are selling them as a product, rather than the live animal, it may tug at your heartstrings and be hard on your children. Make sure you are prepared to turn such a common pet into meat or pelts.

Rabbit Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★★
Space Requirements Rabbits can be kept in small cages
Good For the beginner ★★★★★
Cost of setting up Minimal cost with a cage or protection and fencing.   

Alpacas- Great for Small Farms

Alpacas can be used as load bearing animals, for their wool, or fertilizer. They are generally calm animals that are happy to much and easy to care for. They will need some grain and hay to supplement their grazing diets.

Backyard farm animals alpacas

What Is The Best Breed of Alpaca? Alpacas come in two breeds: Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya wool is soft and fluffy. Suri wool is long and soft.

What Do I Need to Farm Alpacas? Alpacas need shelter to keep them protected. They will also need a food source, either grazing or hay and grains provided to them. You will also need to shear them annually to keep your alpacas in good health.

Alpaca Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★
Space Requirements Alpacas can be housed on small farms, larger yards, but can’t be confined in a very small space
Good For the beginner ★★★★
Cost of setting up Minimal cost with shelter and food   

Pigs

Pigs can be a good backyard farm animal. They can be confined but will be much happier if they have more space. Pigs will be clean animals if given enough space. Pigs take about a year to grow to full maturity if you plan to butcher one. You can also sell a mostly grown pig to others interested in finishing raising them.

Pigs produce an average of 11 piglets per liter, which makes them very sustainable as a farm animal.

Backyard farm animals pigs

What Do I Need To Farm Pigs? Pigs will need some shelter, food, and water. They will eat almost anything so you can feed them leftovers from your table. However, because of that, pigs can also develop worms and other parasites that make it necessary to be careful when handling the meat. Pigs can be a little moody so you will need some tools for handling them and protecting yourself if they decide to run you or bite.

How Do I Make Money On Pigs? Most farmers sell pigs either alive or as meat. Pigs fetch a higher price the more they weigh so some farmers raise piglets into mid-grown or full-sized pigs. Others raise them to maturity and slaughter them for the meat.

Pig Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★
Space Requirements Pigs can be kept confined, but eat a lot
Good For the beginner ★★★
Cost of setting up Pig feed is likely to be your largest expense   

Turkey

Turkeys are easy to raise and care for. They are difficult to raise from poulets (babies) so if you don’t have experience, you will want to purchase an older turkey to raise. Turkeys are very popular in November so they are fairly easy to sell. Just like any other birds, they will easily fit in the backyard. However, turkeys can be noisy so it can be an issue if you have very close neighbors.

backyard farm animals turkey

What Is The Best Breed?

  • Beltsville Small White: great layers and a good table turkey
  • Bourbon Reds: Considered one of the best tasting turkeys
  • Broad Breasted Whites: Used the most commercially for meat. Can’t fly and are more susceptible to disease
  • Midget White: Great flavor, but a smaller bird
  • Narragansett: The original turkey staple before other breeds created
  • Standard Bronze: One of the largest turkeys available

What Do I Need To Farm Turkeys? Turkeys need more protein than chickens and will need to have their diet supplemented. They also need clean water. 12 turkeys generally need 2 gallons of water daily. They will also need shelter from the elements.

Turkey Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★★
Space Requirements Work well in backyard spaces
Good For the beginner ★★★★
Cost of setting up Minimal

Sheep

Sheep produce good wool, milk, or meat depending on the variety. Many backyard farmers say that sheep milk is superior to goats milk for making cheese. If you want sheep for milk, then you will want a hair sheep, which sheds naturally and won’t require shearing.

Backyard farm animals sheep

What Are The Best Varieties of Sheep?

  • East Friesian Sheep: Best dairy sheep
  • Polypay: Dairy or Wool
  • Icelandic: Diary or Wool
  • Awassi: Dairy
  • Blackbelly: Meat- Hairless varieties
  • Dorper: Meat
  • St Augustine: Meat
  • American Cormo: Wool
  • Leicester (Bluefaced or Border): Long Wool
Sheep Considerations
Ease of Care ★★★★
Space Requirements 5-7 sheep per acre
Good For the beginner ★★★★
Cost of setting up Low cost

Related Questions

What Is The Easiest Farm Animal To Take Care Of?

Among all the animals you can raise in a backyard farm, rabbits, chickens, quail, ducks, honey bees, and tilapia are going to be your easiest animals to raise. Other animals will require shearing, moving, and other care.

Are Farm Animals Allowed In City Limits?

Which city you live in will determine which animals are allowed in the city. Generally speaking, chickens, rabbits, honey bees, and other types of birds will be allowed within city limits. In the suburbs, you may have zoning that allows for Dexter cows, pigs, and goats. Sheep and Alpacas are becoming increasingly allowed within city limits.

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Annemaria Duran

Hi, I’m Annemaria Duran. I moved out to the country 6 years ago, mainly so I could have more land. I love all aspects of country living. First, we got chickens, then ducks. Now we have sheep, goats, and rabbits. I'm always learning and love sharing it!

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