Livestock for the Ex-urbs

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Peacock, Aug 25, 2006.

  1. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    I hope you all will be kind with me for not being "officially" a homesteader on a rural acreage, but rather an outer suburban dweller with big plans. I've been told I'm not rural, I'm "exurban." Fine. That's better than suburban or (shudder) city!

    But I was raised in the suburbs and so was DH. We're learning as we go. DH's idea of "livestock" at this point is two large dogs. :)

    We have 1.25 acres on a bit of a gently rolling hill, and I plan to do a LOT with it. Size of one's property matters less than its location in what you can do there. We're in an area that is "country" to the old-timers, "upscale suburb" to the newer folks. In other words, bleating goats might annoy the neighbors a little, but there are others nearby who have that and more, and our part of the township is highly agricultural, so they lack the right to complain much. In fact I'm fairly sure we're allowed to have livestock here, no zoning restrictions, based on the other neighbors who do so.

    I want chickens and goats. DH has been talking about getting goats for a couple of years now (before we moved here) but I think he was only "musing." I broke the news to him today that I REALLY intended to get chickens, and informed him just how we would go about doing that. He thought I was joking, then sort of rolled his eyes and pretended that he'd think about it. For him getting chickens is almost as outlandish as getting a cow.

    He said, "we can't. critters will get 'em." That was his argument? I was astonished. Why would critters get them more here than on a farm in a more rural setting? Surely there would be more "critters" there, not less! I told him that, and that we'd build a pen to keep them safe. He was surprised to hear that they were supposed to stay in the pen instead of just running loose all over the yard. I guess that's how most people think of chickens, free-roaming birds pecking all over the place. He also was of the opinion that a rooster was required for them to lay eggs. I got a kick out of that one.

    Goats? Heck, if he can't handle chickens, what will we ever do with goats?

    What do I do? Do I just get out there and build the dang pen myself, order the chicks and show him how it's done despite what he thinks? I'm not terribly handy, so he really has to be on board with this.

    Thanks for indulging me.
     
  2. sellis

    sellis Well-Known Member

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    go for it ..but... make shure you limit yourself on the animals per acer you have , for instance a cow here in wy must have about 40 acres to live on without suplemental feed for about a year , since we are in a drought it will take almost a 100 acers for that same cow , goats and are good weeders as we call them , they will keep the weeds down to a managble level , chickens will keep bugs under some controll , your husband may be right as far as the critters , the reason is your in suburbia where there is somewhat of a concentration of people , more people = more dogs,cats and other creatures and some people belive since they live in suburbia that they shouldnt have to keep there dogs close to home , henceworth dog come visiting and kills chickens . but most of all have your husband help with all the projects and make shure when you get your first egg you call him no matter where he is and let him eat the first egg, there is some since in pride while eating some of the fruits of labor and watch him smile when he does , there is nothing like eating a fresh farm egg ....
     

  3. Cat

    Cat Well-Known Member

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    Congrats on getting into what can be a really fun hobby!

    The first thing I would suggest is that you NOT put the cart before the horse and do a lot of research first because it's much easier for a newbie to go in well-prepared than to be devastated because you face a problem that you weren't aware was even possible beforehand!

    Things to consider...what are you looking for in a chicken? Do you want a few eggs and docile chickens that you can spend a bit of time with and possibly even hold & pet? Do you want a lot of eggs and birds that might be a lot more flighty? Do you want white eggs? Brown? Blue? Are you interested in preserving a rare breed or raising a heritage breed? Do you want 6-10 birds of different breeds so that you have a colorful flock? What are your most severe weather conditions and how will the cold you experience affect the birds and their combs? Do you need to stick with a rosecomb or a pea-comb bird so that harsh winters don't cause frostbite? These are some things that I think you would want to look at before buying birds, because what fits YOU and your environment might NOT be what you can buy locally.

    Myself, I prefer large-bodied birds or 'dual-purpose' birds because they're less likely to fly out of our chicken pen, they're much more docile as a general rule, (except for my silver laced Wyandottes, they're crazy, too.) and because I don't really need an abundance of eggs. I have Wyandottes, primarily, which are rosecombed, and they will set and hatch their own eggs with decent success. Our winters are brutal and the henhouse does not do much in way of preventing frostbite so I like to stick with rose or pea combed birds. I also have some Easter Eggers which lay a variety of green/blue shaded eggs and have pea combs. They're a bit more flight-capable but for the most part are rather reserved and non-flighty. I have a trio of leghorns that are a lot more flighty than either of the heavier weight birds, but they lay a white egg and are more prolific egg-layers. They also have monstrous combs which get frostbit quite easily.

    The next thing I think you want to look at is what type of pen do you want to build? Is your yard fenced to where you don't really have to worry much about neighborhood dogs? What other predators are common in your area? Will you have to enclose the pen so that birds of prey don't feed on your chickens? Do you have mink that can go through the smallest of holes and wipe out a lot of chickens before you even realize what's happened? How big of an area are you wanting to commit to the chickens? As with all animals, the more space you're able to provide the better off they'll be. Maybe you want a smaller regular pen but have an area where you can let them out to forage for greens and insects? Being able to forage is great, not only for the health of the bird but also for the nutrients that are then passed on into their eggs.

    Here are a few sites that show various types of structures built for city-chickens as well as rural chickens, hopefully it'll give you some ideas...

    http://home.centurytel.net/thecitychicken/index.html (Be sure to check out the chicken tractor page)

    http://www.backyardchickens.com/ (A lot of great information here!)

    http://www.henspa.focuspage.com/

    Hope those help! I don't want to scare you or overwhelm you, but I think you'll be much happier in the long run if you build a good foundation before you jump into chicken-raising!
     
  4. trixiwick

    trixiwick bunny slave

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    I think you're headed in the right direction with chickens and goats. As other people have mentioned, you will need to give some thought as to how to protect the former, but once you've accomplished that, chickens are incredibly easy keepers. I have Buff Orps and love 'em. Don't get a roo and you'll have no complaints from the neighbors. Enlist your hubby's help to plan out a setup for the chooks and I'll bet he'll warm to the idea.

    When you're ready to think about goats, be sure not to get Nubians. Talk about loud! :help:
     
  5. Tabitha

    Tabitha greenheart

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    well, one thing at a time. Like Grandma Moses said, first you get the sty, then you get the pig. If you have a proper fence around the periphery you can start dividing up for the critters and gardens. but you probably have done that already. start little. you are two people? 3 chickens will do you for starters. don't get a rooster at this point. the chickens will eat all your scraps and you will need little in the way of feed. Three chickens you can keep in an old cabinet under the eaves. Hubby should get used to them really quick and appreciate the almost free eggs. you did not mention rabbits. they do not take up much room for the return you get. good luck, more power to you.
     
  6. lunagardens

    lunagardens Well-Known Member

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    I too live in that type of neighborhood! I have 1.18 acres that include a few apple trees and walnut, oak,cottonwood, plus various others. Alot of wild roses too which the goaties love! Everyone on this streethas at least 1 acre, but I am the only one on my road living this way. The road behind us has horses cows, pigs, etc. But you cannot see into their yards like mine. Ours is a rectangle shape with long side along the road.
    Build it and they will come....
    Go for it. Bring home the supplies and make it a weekend project. You only need be handy with the shopping cart to get the supplies. Hubby can jump in when you get home. Lots of info on the net about building easy housing for the animals.
    If money is any issue for housing them, do what I did. I called the local lumber yards and asked about getting their culled lumber (for free). I got enough to build my 2 dairy goats an 8x4 house, 2 bench's,a milk stanchion, a potting bench, and garden bed borders. I also recieved free fencing- enough to fence my entire property 2x). Not new but used from an exotic animal farmer who was replacing his pens before "he got old and would have to do it then". Some was rusted (used for areas in the back where no one goes) and alot of intact perfect rolls. I even got a few 10 foot tall panels used for his camels pen area. Pick up a few books from your local library about animal housing and books specific to the care of the animal you wish to have.
    The chickens live in an old (free!) childrens simple clubhouse on 2 ft tall stilts. Placed next to one of the apple trees so they get to eat the apples as they fall into the pen and it looks nicer to drive by onlookers hidden behind the trunk and under the canopy of leaves. I buy straw & hay from the local farmers and grain from the local TSC. I grow tons! of sunflowers and lettuce for them. I dry the sunflower heads for winter treats that get thrown into the pen or stuck on a stick. They need no special care to grow and they look pretty all lined up along the road. I even made a sunflower house for the kids to play in.
    My milk stanchion is in my walkout basement/garage and have a room in there for my hay/straw/tack storage. Cement floors and walls with a drain for the stanchion area. Pallets in the extra room for the straw/hay storage kept off ground and covered with an old cloth/vinyl shower curtain. My mud room is my "grain room". This has a potting bench (first wood project I made so not pretty) that stores all my feeding supplies, buckets, grain containers (rubbermaid),hooks high up holding wire baskets with hoof trimming supplies, brush's, goat shampoo, homemade fly spray, etc. I keep a pair of old coveralls (trust me- you need them unless you shower afterwards) and boots/summer slide ons in the room for when I go out to feed in the morning. I check hooves, tail areas for heat signs, and do a "rub down" on each of them (which they just love their necks done) checking for any bumps, lumps, ticks, etc and a general handling of their udder so they get use to being touched when it comes time to milk. Morning Mist Nubians Roseanna gave me that tip when I bought my Cleopatra from her. She could care less if you touch her udder area- just stands there chewing her "cud".
    Sorry if it appears I am rambling, but thought if I threw out how I do things in my same land situation as you, it may help to encourage & prepare you.
    I could always email over a layout and pictures of some of this if are interested in how I manage with my small acreage. We are searching for larger acreage and will not buy/make newer housing untill then. So for now my simple housing does just fine for the amount of animals I have. I hope this helps with your questions. You can do it just start small so you do not get overwhelmed.Oh yeah- do not buy a buck!!! I made that mistake because at 5 weeks it was such a cute baby in the auction arena and I did not find out till afterwards what I bid on. skip forward 1 year and now he is sold because his odor & rut behavior is not for us small acreage holders. Trust me on this... Good luck on your adventure!
    ~Tammie
     
  7. Timberline

    Timberline Keeper of the Cow

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    I have major predation problems with my chickens and have found the nice heavy dog kennels work great (not the one piece kind, the kind with separate panels). If you can run a wrench, you can put it up yourself. I buy an extra panel for the top (we have lost many birds to airborn attacks). When the kennels go on sale, I often buy one and add on, the chickens love that. It certainly costs more, but it keeps out the predators that were shredding my chicken wire. I do have to use a bit of chicken wire with baby chicks because they can go out through the chain link. You can start with just one kennel, your henhouse and just a few layers. Then add on if you want to increase your flock size. If it doesn't work out, the kennels are easily taken down and used for something else or sold.

    Good luck and the first time you serve your dh farm fresh eggs from your own hens, he'll change his tune!
     
  8. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    First, check out your zoning. There is someone who is in charge of zoning. This person will have a map showing how the township has been divied up, and you can see right away if you are zoned ag. They will also have rules as to how many acres you need for what. I would assume you need one acre minimum to have a horse or cow. Don't assume that because your neighbors have livestock that you can too. Besides, it's a good way to meet the powers that be, and they like to see that you are respecting their rules and regulations. If you are not zoned ag, you should be able to appeal and be allowed chickens, at least.

    Chickens are a wonderful start. I think Orpingtons would be a great chicken for you. When they are big enough not to squeeze through the openings, a chain link kennel will contain them at night. We found that they should be behind electricity, regardless of what kind of henhouse you have. Four strands of electric wire will keep critters out, but the chickens can breeze in and out as they forage. You will need electric if you have goats, anyway.

    You better get those chicks soon, you want them feathered out before the snow flies.
     
  9. Freeholder

    Freeholder Well-Known Member

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    Actually, you don't *need* electric fencing for goats, though it can be nice. Cattle panels will hold them just fine, and you won't have to worry about whether or not your fence is hot enough, or power outages.

    Kathleen
     
  10. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

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    I second the dog kennels. We have cages within the kennel. The upper story of cages are those cargo boxes used to ship pets on airlines. We call these the night cages and put the poultry in there at sunset. Even if a coon got into the kennel, it couldn't get into one of these cargo cages. The lower story is a heavy wire rabbit cage, with 4 individual cages. We put the poultry in these when we are not at home during the day. They can see each other and feel like they are outdoors, but are protected from predators. We have a roof over the main cage of wire fencing and one panel of roofing tin to keep rain and sun off the cage section. Sometimes we let them loose in the kennel itself, which they seem to think is a treat. Sometimes they range free outside the kennel. But having lost all of the previous flock to a panther and hunting dogs, we are much happier with the kennels. We move it every few weeks to a new area (usually one that needs weeding anyway. The grass grows back much greener in the area we move them from.
     
  11. Peacock

    Peacock writing some wrongs Supporter

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    Thanks everyone!

    The "backyard" is fenced entirely with 6' high chain link, so that's a good start. We have 2 dogs though, so the animals will need division from them. Unless by some miracle the dogs learn to leave them alone, which I'm not optimistic about. :)

    I definitely will check the zoning. But since we have nothing behind us but woods and a hay field, I've got a pretty large area to use without annoying anybody. The neighbors on our left side are very nice folks, too and I think they'd get a kick out of our little farm.

    You've all given me some wonderful info, most of all that it can be done and I'm not a weirdo for wanting this. Do I really have time yet this year? I think I might just work on building the enclosures this fall (got a lot of building to do...raised beds, etc.), getting some equipment, and get the chicks in the spring.
     
  12. Cat

    Cat Well-Known Member

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    Another thing that goes toward fostering good neighbors amongst chicken/non-chicken owners is sharing a dozen farm-fresh eggs now and again!

    You're definitely not a weirdo! If you buy adult birds you can start as soon as you have a place for them. You could even buy chicks as a lot like fall-hatched chicks because they begin laying the next spring, but myself, I do NOT like labor-intensive winters. I consider that 'vacation' from the rush of spring/summer. So, no fall-hatched chicks for me!
     
  13. Terri

    Terri Singletree & Weight Loss & Permaculture Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    If it must be, then it must be. My first building project ever was the hen house.

    Since I only wanted 4 birds to give us eggs, I made a 3' by 4' box with a lid I could lift and a door in the side.

    DH helped me put the first wall up, after that I propped it up while I nailed. There is a trick to this: first you start the nail and THEN you set it on a scrap of board to make it the right heigth. Prop up the side and give the nail a whack. If it falls down, set it up and do it again. Sooner or later the nail WILL bite well enough to keep it up!

    Heck, if I had known what I was doing I would have used an electric screwdriver! Just prop it up and ZZZT!

    I found that banties were cute, but they flew over the fence even AFTER I clipped their wings! The heavier birds are more likley to stay in, and with 2 big dogs they MUST stay in! It took me 6 months befor I would trust my dog when the hens were loose: they are just TOOO enticing to a dog! :help:
    Are you wanting eggs to sell, or just to eat?
     
  14. Sassafrassa

    Sassafrassa WorkerBee

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    I must second Cat in the advice to read, read, read before you get your chickens. Lay out your space for your coop(s) and gardens and learn all you can about what kind of chickens you want. We did it the other way (started too big, too fast with no research), and have had some problems because of it....Oh, well. Live and learn. :rolleyes:

    We did the dog kennel route as well. Easy to assemble, and easy to expand. Not the cheapest route, but with your big dogs, you won't have to worry about if they can get to your chicks. I would imagine that they will try. We used a large doghouse (up off the ground on a short platform) to put our first girls in. They loved it! It is so much fun to have fresh eggs, and the hens are delightful to wake up to. They talk amongst themselves, and make happy chicken clucks as you give them scraps. We enjoy them so much...they have really made our lives better for it.

    Raised gardens beds are the route we are going in the spring for our kitchen garden. Mulch like crazy, and you'll be fine. And all the fresh veggie scraps make even more food for your girls.

    One other thing that I wish that we had done is plan out our long term goals for both the chickens and gardens. The use of our 1 acre hasn't been the best...rather chopped up, and much wasted space. We are planning some reworking this fall that wouldn't have been necessary if we had done our research better.

    Have fun with your new "family" members. You'll love it!!

    Sassa
     
  15. ajaxlucy

    ajaxlucy Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I was in much the same situation as you - grew up in the suburbs not knowing a thing about country life - but maybe even worse because I live in the (*shudder*) city. Now I'm the oddity of my urban neighborhood because I have dogs, chickens, and sheep. We've raised turkeys in the past, too. If I can do it, you can too. We were much more ignorant than you, because we didn't know about this very helpful forum, but we read and learned and finally just jumped in and did it. Chickens were our starting point, too. We've had them for about 8-10 years now, and find that they are easier to manage than the two dogs, once you have the structures and equipment in place. On the other hand, our dogs have learned to co-exist with them and even help protect them by scaring away would-be marauders (even in the city) like hawks and raccoons.
    We began with 25 newly hatched chicks from Murray McMurray (a homeschooling project for my son), but I think you'd find it much easier to start by buying a few pullets or older birds to learn on. Some breeds are very gentle and quiet and don't ever fly away into our neighbors yards, like the cochins and brahmas. Other breeds, like our Speckled Sussex, are wanderers. I think you're right that chickens probably face fewer dangers (aside from dogs) in urban and suburban areas than out in the country. We let ours out of their fenced area into the back yard much of the time, but they go into their house at night, and we've yet to lose one to a predator other than a pet dog.
    I hope you can convince your husband that chickens are a good idea, or at least an idea worth exploring. We've used a doghouse for a couple of chickens before, too, and it worked fine. Good luck getting started!
     
  16. Mountaineer

    Mountaineer Well-Known Member

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    1.25 acres may be big enough for a few goats, but it isn't big enough for goats and anything else. Such as chicken forage, garden, veggies, fruit trees, etc etc etc.
    I researched goats and decided against them. They are very needy when all cooped up. And they are destructive when allowed free range of the property.
    All I'm saying is start small, and research. Plenty of free/very cheap animals out the as people get tired of the drama fast.
     
  17. Cat

    Cat Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't rule out goats...always possible to go the Nigerian route, lower input costs, smaller space requirements...a doe and her kid or 2 does or a doe and a wether, I'd definitely keep two so that they're not bored/lonely, but they'd provide enough milk for a couple, definitely!
     
  18. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I'd get a momma goat w/babies if possible(and sell or eat babies)...a nice tame goat used to being milked.....FWIW my goats are exactly this and NEVER been anything near the goat horror stories people tell...there are good dogs and bad dogs and irresponsible owners....same goes for goats :) They are easily trained and if you are lucky dogs will bond w/ goat and you CAN have just one goat and take it elsewhere for breeding.

    A few hens would be fine...you might not get the roo if you are so in town...personally I have two very loud roos and I LOVE them to pieces...they will eat out of my hand and let me pet them :shrug: Our dog is a Border Collie who will chase the chickens for pure amusement from time to time...however she never does more than pin their wings :shrug: and she gets a timeout in her kennel for it :grump: 28 hens and no predatory losses on free range thus far...

    It is important to keep the animals to a routine, well fed and wormed w/ close confinement...thats about it.
     
  19. Cat

    Cat Well-Known Member

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    You know, my BC Belle absolutely cannot stand chickens...there's something about them that irritates her. She doesn't mind the ducks or the geese, but she'll follow me along the chicken pens and sit there while I do chores and if I'm trying to catch one she'll wait for me to corner them near her so she can nip at them...go to get eggs from the henhouse and she'll crouch under the nestboxes just waiting for one to make a wrong move! Generally the only time she'll nip at one is when it's flailing - from being caught or chased. Wonder if it's a breed characteristic?!? :shrug: :)
     
  20. mpillow

    mpillow Well-Known Member Supporter

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    My dog is from a cow dog line...and quite "wolfy" with the goats when putting them in...but the goats are not afraid of her..they'll butt at her if they feel like it...I tether one goat and Lilly-dog never bothers her.
    We actually do "use her" to put the chickens in at dusk...and she is fed as soon as chickens are in...like she earns her supper and this way the chickens arent in her dish!
    The chasing never lasts more than a minute because one whistle and she comes and sits at my feet. Sometimes I think she is hungry when she does it but she is smart enough to know I dont fall for her tricks. :nono: She despises her kennel timeout too.
    We've never done any formal training w/ her...but she does her job quite well, but prior to 1yr she was a nutjob :rolleyes: She will be 2yo Dec.11.
    I almost got rid of her until a friend from England(Border Collie beeder) visited and advised me not to...he made a video and explained some of her behaviors and we learned to go with her line of thinking...
    Sorry for the thread-drift :help: Here she is w/ Kitty waiting for breakfast. She is looking into my bedroom window :nono:
    http://s31.photobucket.com/albums/c...=HiMomKittyLily.jpg&refPage=&imgAnch=imgAnch4