There are plenty of pets that you can keep in your garden. Some can even be suitable for much smaller gardens. Your garden can be an amazing space – and plants are not necessarily the only things that can grow there. Even in a domestic setting, there is often livestock that will be suitable.
Even if you do not want to go the whole hog and establish a smallholding or become a small-scale farmer, keeping animals as pets can still bring many rewards. Of course, before you begin, you will need to make sure that your plans are permitted where you live. You will need to make sure that you can provide the right conditions, with enough space for the animals you are considering keeping to be happy and healthy.
Of course, which options are open to you will depend on where you live, and the size of your property. But here are twelve species that could potentially be kept for fun/ as pets in a domestic garden:
Worms as Pets
You might not think of worms as pets. But they can actually be fascinating creatures. And if you keep special composting worms, you can benefit in a number of ways. Composting with worms, also known as vermicomposting, is a great way to avoid food waste, and to recycle nutrients back into your garden systems.
Fish as Pets
Worms might also become an additional food source for another ‘pet’ that you could keep in a garden pond, or an aquaponics system – fish. There are several different species with which you might consider stocking a pond or aquaponics tank. Koi or carp in an outdoors pond, for example, and trout or tilapia in an aquaponics system. Fish might themselves become an additional food source. But you may also simply decide to enjoy their presence in your garden.
Another interesting option – one which won’t take up a lot of space – is bees. Honey bees could be another intriguing creature to keep in your garden. Of course, they can not only be interesting but very useful too. They will provide their pollination services, and many also provide honey for you and your family to eat.
Chickens as Pets
One of the most common and popular options when it comes to keeping livestock in a garden is of course keeping chickens. Keeping chickens can be a very rewarding experience. They can be a lot of fun – an almost endless source of amusement. They’ll give you eggs. And they will also provide a reliable source of manure which, once well rotted down, can be used to maintain fertility in your garden. They’ll also help with pest control – eating slugs and a range of other pests – helping to keep their numbers down. Consider getting some rescue chickens and saving some lives.
Ducks are also a valuable addition to your garden for pest control. They can be even better than chickens for keeping slugs and other pests in check. And of course, they can also provide eggs, manure and entertainment. Just remember that they will need water – and can make a bit of a muddy mess.
If you have a somewhat larger garden, geese may also be an option. Keeping a few geese as pets can mean that you can keep grassy areas short without mowing. You’ll also get eggs, and manure to keep your garden growing strong. Geese can also be useful as guards for other livestock, or for your property.
One other bird that you might consider keeping in your garden are quail. They lay tiny eggs, of course, and don’t take up too much space. Keeping quail in a fruit cage between fruiting shrubs and small fruit trees, with protection from cold and rodents, could be one interesting option to consider.
Rabbits are another pet which can be kept outdoors in a hutch even in a smaller garden. As long as they are given protection from winter cold, and ideally given access to an outdoors run fenced in on all sides and below, to prevent digging. Rabbit manure will also be excellent for your garden. And unlike other animal manures, can be used in your garden right away, without composting.
If you have a somewhat larger garden, other livestock might also be an option. Goats can make wonderful pets, as long as you give them what they need. They can be escape artists, but a couple of pygmy goats could work well as pets and productive animals in many gardens. Of course, goats may be kept for their fibres and manures. They might also be milked, and the milk can be used, or turned into cheese. So keeping goats in your garden could be an excellent option.
Those with more space might also consider a small flock of sheep, who will graze grassland and keep it short without mowing, and also provide you with yields – including their wool. Keeping sheep in your garden is only something you will be able to do if you have sufficient space. But if you do, a polytunnel can be an effective and affordable sheep shelter.
Alpaca are another type of grazing animal that could be a great addition to a larger property. These hardy and resilient creatures can make good pets, and, of course, provide you with animal fibre for sale or crafting. A polytunnel could also make good housing for alpaca here in the UK.
Pigs can also be kept as pigs, and are another type of livestock that could potentially be housed in a suitable polytunnel with some outside space. Pigs will ‘recycle’ some kitchen scraps and provide you with manure that can be composted and used in your garden. And these intelligent animals can also make good pets – they’re not just kept for food.
Branching out from vegetable and fruit growing and thinking about rearing animals as pets on a smaller scale in a home garden can be another interesting way to make sure that you make the most of all the space that is available.
The above are just some of the animals that you might consider keeping in your garden at home. If you have experiences with any of the above, reach out and share them using the links below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.