Raising small animals at home can be very rewarding. Backyard animals can provide food and fertility for your yard. They can help you recycle your food and yard waste.
Many people think chickens when they think about backyard animals. Some parts of Maryland allow them, and others don’t. Laws are changing, usually for the better.
But there are other small animals to try besides chickens! Depending on your backyard, and the area you live in, you may be able to try some or all of the animals listed here.
Why Raise Small Animals at Home?
Even vegetarians can benefit from raising small animals at home! Besides the obvious perks of eggs or meat, animals can help improve fertility and help you process wastes from your kitchen.
Chickens and other poultry give eggs. Rabbits can give wool, manure, and meat. Worms process scraps and can be fed to chickens. Bees pollinate and give honey. Fish can offer fertility and meat.
Depending on where you live, pygmy goats or cows could also be an option. It depends on your county or city code, on the size of your lot and zoning restrictions, but some Marylanders might get milk from their own goats.
Raising small animals at home can be as simple as a worm bin or as complex as a mini dairy cow. Everyone can raise something, and can supplement their local diet with high quality foods.
Even if you have no outside space to work with, you too can raise worms, fish or rabbits inside.
Even an apartment dweller can raise worms! Having an indoor worm farm will allow you to easily compost your food scraps. The NRCS estimates that we throw away 25% of the food we buy.
Keeping your scraps out of the trash can help lower your greenhouse gas emissions. There may be places you can donate your compostables, but taking care of it at home is easier and requires no transportation.
Worm bins are simple! An appropriately sized container, bedding, vegetable food scraps, and some composting worms are all you really need. You can buy fancy containers or make your own. There are many places to learn more about building a worm farm.
Use your worm fertilizer for houseplants if you don’t have a garden, or offer it up to friends or community gardens to help them grow more.
Worms are the easiest way to raise small animals at home. No special equipment, no electricity, no outside feed, and you can recycle your leftover scraps!
Bees can be a welcome addition to your yard. With little maintenance, they will pollinate your flowers and provide honey. There are many local beekeepers who are available to help out a new beekeeper.
Having honeybees requires some maintenance and specialized equipment. They aren’t as demanding as other animals that require food and water regularly, but they do require care.
You will often see local beekeepers selling honey at the farmers market, and they are a great source of information about raising your own bees. Do your research and connect with others so you can learn best how to care for bees in Maryland.
Even if you don’t want to have your own hive of honeybees, you can do your part to provide habitat for mason bees! Mason bees are solitary bees (no colony), most are native, and they may pollinate more than honeybees do.
Though mason bees produce no honey, providing habitat for them will ensure your flowers get pollinated in spring. They can be a lot of fun to watch!
Chickens are a popular first animal to have in your backyard. Thanks to loosening restrictions in Maryland on backyard hens, you too may be able to keep chickens in your backyard!
Keeping chickens in Maryland usually means getting a permit first, so make sure you know all the laws and restrictions on chicken keeping before getting them.
Chickens are great for eggs, for meat (if you have space), and for fertility! They are also great for recycling kitchen wastes, for tilling a garden or a compost heap, and for eating insect pests.
Chickens can be a great addition to many backyards, both for food and as a working animal in the garden. They are also be a source of entertainment.
Some Marylanders can have other poultry, such as ducks, geese, or turkeys. Check your local regulations, as you might be pleasantly surprised to find out what you can have.
If you can’t have chickens or other larger poultry, you could try raising quail. They are small, need little space, and are very quiet. They provide small eggs, small amounts of meat, and fertility as well.
Rabbits are another good source of fertility, meat, entertainment, and even wool. They are quiet, need little space, and can be raised indoors if needed.
Even apartment dwellers can keep rabbits for pets and use their manure for houseplants or balcony plantings.
If you want to raise rabbits for meat, they breed easily and can be a source of meat year round. They are considered pets, so there should be no restrictions on having rabbits in your yard or house.
Angora bunnies are available for those who like to spin their own yarn. A small backyard won’t be enough for sheep raising, but if you like to knit or crochet, you can still raise your own fiber animals!
If you aren’t comfortable butchering your own rabbits, there is at least one farm in Maryland that will do it for you. Pineline Poultry also butchers chickens for home consumption.
Though Americans aren’t really accustomed to eating rabbit, you can always learn more about it by buying some rabbit meat locally or talking to other rabbit producers.
Since rabbits are considered pets you can find feed and litter easily at the pet store. Rabbits are very smart and can be litter box trained as well.
Rabbit manure doesn’t have to be composted before using it in the garden either! Even if you aren’t interested in eating your rabbits, keeping a few for manure can be a great source of fertility for your plants.
Raising dairy animals in a small backyard is no small feat. However, there are mini goats available. If your local restrictions allow it, or you have more land, you might want to try raising some.
If you have the space, and can get away with it, keeping a few goats around might be a great choice for you!
Fish can be raised inside or out. You can have them for pets, or for meat. At a minimum, you can use aquarium water on your garden. There are people building aquaponics systems in their homes and yards to mix fish and plants.
Aquaponics is a mix of hydroponics and aquaculture. Aquaponics is where people raise fish and plants together in a symbiotic relationship.
Aquaponics is better as a fertility aid for plants than a large source of meat for people, with enough space you too could be eating fish grown in your own yard.
You can add plants to small aquariums and keep it inside, which is perfect for those with little space. Aquaponics is a growing field, full of enthusiasts that are happy to give advice on setting up your own fish system.
What Are you Looking For?
What are your reasons for getting animals? Are you looking to build fertility for a garden? How much space do you have? What are you allowed to have? Are you interested in meat, eggs, or fiber?
Even with a small (or non existent) backyard, you too can raise animals at home! Hopefully this gives you some ideas of the possibilities out there and you can do more research on what you really want to have.
Even if you can’t have bigger animals like chickens or dairy goats, you can find ways to recycle waste, produce food, and offer your family hyper local food!