Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Farm Animals and Gardening - A great combination!

With the trend towards backyard vegetable gardening and the production of our own food, many people are getting interested in keeping animals as part of a small-scale farming eco-system. Many municipalities now are even allowing residents to keep a few chickens in their yard in urban areas. Those who live outside urban centres are finding interest in housing a goat or two, a few rabbits and some honey bees as part of a small scale farming enterprise.

This concept is not new as our forefathers all had small scale farm operations, even in their backyards. Raising farm animals is part of a sustainable gardening or agricultural system. Take chickens for example, not only do they provide us with eggs and meat but they help in the garden by scarifying the ground once a crop has been removed and they eat those nasty pests and bugs that can harm our crops. And not to mention, they help fertilize the gardens as they walk through depositing their excrement. The same is true for ducks, turkeys, rabbits, goats, pigs, sheep and cows even though you may need to relegate them to a zero graze unit or small barn structure. And we haven't even discussed the possibility of other commercial by-products like goat's cheese, fudge, soaps, wool and more. And what about the honey bees? A few hives will provide bees that help pollinate our vegetables and flowers while at the same time providing delicious and nutritious honey, along with products like bee pollen, beeswax for candles and other uses.In urban areas, there is even the suggestion of keeping rooftop hives but take note of the cautions in terms of extreme heat and cold and the difficulty of lifting the honey filled supers.

If you are interested in enlarging your backyard agricultural garden to a more sustainable and inclusive ecological system then perhaps the addition of a few animals might be for you. A great book to help you learn more about incorporating small farm animals into your backyard homestead is "The BACKYARD HOMESTEAD Guide to Raising FARM ANIMALS", Edited by Gail Damerow. This is a wonderful book for novices as it uses simple language with great drawings to show the different breeds of animals, how to determine their sex, care and maintenance, and even down to dealing with disease. It even shows birthing positions of normal and problem births for goats. Each chapter gives drawings for different kinds of animal housing along with feeding instructions. As well each chapter explains the parts of the animal that are used for culinary purposes. Even though I live in an urban area and can only hope someday soon to be able to have a chicken or two in my backyard, I was fascinated to learn so much about all the other animals that can make up a sustainable farming enterprise (makes me want to move to the country). This book is certainly an essential part of any small scale gardener or farm business library as it covers it all.

A companion book to The BACKYARD HOMESTEAD Guide to Raising FARM ANIMALS is HOW TO BUILD Animal Housing, 60 Plans for Coops, Hutches, Barns, Sheds, Pens, Nest Boxes, Feeders, Stanchions and Much More" by Carol Ekarius. This book is gives more detailed architectural type drawings of the various animal enclosures from small portable chicken coops to full scale horse and cattle barns. It outlines the minimum area requirements needed by each different type of animal  for optimal aminal health encompassing the Five Freedoms for Domestic Animals: Freedom from: 1) Malnutrition; 2) Discomfort; 3) Disease; 4) Fear or Distress and 5) Freedom to express their natural behaviour. The line drawings with detailed dimensions and instructions will help even new farmers to build proper structures correctly. The book discusses issues like working safely with sidebars on "Caution" and "Tips" helping you to achieve a positive outcome while maintaining a safe working environment. The Chapter on Construction helps you identify the various kinds of building materials, tools you will need for building and even helps you understand the load-bearing capacities of soil so that you can build a strong and true foundation. This book is also a  much needed element of any small-scale farme'rs library.

It's time we starting considering more about healing our planet earth and ridding ourselves of our reliance on fertilizers and chemicals and got back to a more natural and sustainable way of raising garden produce with the help of our four legged friends. These easy to read books will help get your started and are available from Storey Publishing.

1 comment: