As well as traditional cats and dogs, some people are taking on farm animals as pets. The increasing popularity of livestock in our back gardens is a rewarding hobby, but proceed with caution! Farm animals do not have the same legal status as cats and dogs. Read up before you commit.
Chickens, geese and ducks are great for fresh eggs. For the best eggs they’ll need insoluble grit such as calcium rich oyster-shell to aid digestion, otherwise you’ll get soft eggshells.
Chickens forage all day, so wood shavings and loose straw should be placed on their shelter’s flooring, especially if it’s wet outside. Ducks need to forage around water, whereas geese forage on dry land, so it’s important to have enough space and the right environment. Geese also make good ‘guard dogs’ as they are loud and aggressive towards strangers.
Our feathered friends require a good diet, fresh water, and a warm dry shelter that is secure against fox raids. They are flock animals, so it’s best to keep a pair together.
Cute and intelligent pigs, such as Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, make unusual pets.
Look out for strict movement and disease regulations though.
Pigs need exercise to keep their feet healthy and to prevent obesity, but you’ll need a licence to walk them on a lead! They sunburn easily and don’t fare well in sudden temperature changes, so a suitable shelter must be provided.
Pigs enjoy a varied diet, but it’s illegal to feed them kitchen scraps. Enrich their environment with old tyres and hard plastic balls. Pigs are intelligent and need stimulation.
Contrary to popular belief, goats and sheep won’t eat anything, so you’ll need a good supply of grass, hay and supplements. Be aware that they will eat a lot of shop-bought fodder in the winter. Provide a mineral salt-lick and lots of fresh water too.
They are herd animals and ought to be kept as a pair, but remember that they often breed twins and male goats are smelly at mating time! A big outdoor space and secure fencing are a must for these powerful animals.
We’ve kept transport and ploughing horses since the beginning of time, but they still make rewarding pets in the motoring age. Whatever their size, horses need dry open space to graze, and a diet supplemented with fodder such as hay, particularly when it’s cold. Be sure to monitor fruit intake, as it ferments and leads to fatal illness.