As a kid, I think we all dreamt of being able to keep a pony or a goat in the back garden. How fun would it be to wake up in the morning and look out of your bedroom window to a Shetland pony grazing on the lawn, or an Alpaca dozing happily in the morning sun?
Well, if you have a big enough garden and a lot of time to dedicate to farmyard animals, then this dream could become a reality for the adult you!
Keeping small farm animals can be super rewarding, not only can they supply food and materials like wool, but they can also be super loving and fun pets!
So, how do you keep animals in your garden?
Well, there is a fair bit to consider. First of all, you need to decide what kind of animal you want to keep as this can is a big factor in how you set up your garden to keep your new companions.
All of these animals will require decent sheds to store food in – dustbins make perfect mouse-proof food containers if you want to save money! But there is a lot to consider when it comes to these animals individual needs.
If you take on a pony, they’re super expensive, perhaps the most expensive when it comes to a potential garden pet. You’ll need to consider vet bills, feed bills, farrier bills, general care equipment, and general tools. They also need secure paddocks, so you’ll need to invest in some electric fencing – especially if decide to take on a pony like a Shetland pony as they are master escape artists!
You will also need to buy a stable or at least a shelter. While ponies can and do live out all year round, it is always best to give them the option of at least a shelter for those super hot or super cold days.
That being said, keeping a pony is wonderfully rewarding, especially if you have kids. It can teach them all about responsibility, and a pony nearly always provides your child with a lifetime hobby!
Returning to fencing, the most important part of keeping animals in your back garden is having the right kind of fencing. As previously said, a pony will require electric fencing, and this is the case for most other small farm animals. Ponies typically require two or three lines of tape or rope which has to go through your fence posts. The type of fence post you use depends on whether you want it to be permanent fencing or not. You may want to avoid wooden fence rails, if you’re not planning on combining with electric fencing equipment, because even though they may look more aesthetically pleasing, they’re much harder to maintain (i.e. painting and rotting wood) and ponies are buggers for rubbing against hard objects, so can easily damage or snap wooden rails. Plastic electric fence posts are more economical and just as efficient, electric fence posts combined with electric fence tape or rope will allow you to safely keep animals in your garden, but don’t forget that you’ll also need an energizer to power up your fence.
This type of fencing is also suitable for animals like pigs – who make great garden companions! Pigs will also require a warm, dry shed for overnight.
Animals like sheep, goats, and alpacas require a slightly different type of fencing.
Sheep wire is great at keeping these animals in; it means they can’t wiggle their way out between the lines of fencing! Sheep are pretty easy to keep when it comes to shelter, unlike goats, sheep can be left with very little shelter in milder conditions, if winters are quite cold though, you may want to consider bringing them into a shelter, at least overnight.
Meanwhile, goats are a bit more delicate and definitely need to go into a shed overnight and when it’s wet or cold.
You will also need to be careful if you have any garden plants or vegetables growing as they will eat them.
Fencing for poultry is not unlike sheep wire, but with smaller holes in the netting. This not only stops them from escaping and damaging any lawns or vegetable patches but also helps keep out unwanted visitors.
Always remember that keeping poultry does attract wild predators like foxes, so an electric chicken wire is a necessity! Also, remember that foxes can dig so you will need to have additional fencing that goes at least 46cm into the ground.
Chickens, in particular, will require a shed, and probably a chicken run if you want to protect your garden as these little fluffy feather balls are pretty destructive! They will need access to grass and green leafy plants as well as chicken feed to munch on though.
Meanwhile, ducks require water to bathe in, and whilst they won’t cause much damage to flowers, they can harm your vegetable patch so keep that secure! Despite the lack of floral damage, both ducks and geese are incredibly messy so beware of your lawn getting churned up and pooped on.
Of course, all of this depends on whether you have enough room to house small farm animals in your garden! You need to check to see if you have permission to keep animals in your garden, particularly if you are in rented accommodation.
All animals are also all huge responsibilities, and can easily fall ill without the right kind of care. Remember to do plenty of research and seek professional guidance if you’re new to taking on any of these animals.