Caring for a small number of pet farm animals, such as poultry or pygmy goats, can be really rewarding. However, before you make the big decision to get some farm animals, there are some very important things to think about.
What types of farm animals are suitable?
We would strongly advise not to try to keep cattle or pigs, as it’s very difficult to care for them properly without a lot of knowledge and experience, large amounts of land and specialist facilities.
Can you get appropriate training or experience in farm animal care?
You would first need to get enough knowledge and experience of farm animal health and welfare, including:
- understanding about the animals’ physical and behavioural needs
- knowing how to provide them with the correct diet
- being able to recognise signs of injury and disease, knowing how to prevent these, and knowing when to get veterinary help
- knowing how to handle the animals correctly and safely
- knowing how to carry out day-to-day husbandry tasks
- understanding the laws and requirements for those particular farm animals.
To get this experience, you could learn from some experienced owners, join a breed club or society, help out on a farm, or attend a training course.
Can you provide the right type of environment?
All farm animals need enough space, the right type of land, the right kind of housing and shelter, and things to keep them interested and let them behave normally. For some animals this may mean building new housing. The correct type of fencing is also important, and can be expensive to put up. Most farm animals need to live in groups, and you would need to keep at least two animals of the same species together.
Can you afford veterinary care?
Farm animals often need regular visits from a vet for things like vaccinations, health checks and emergency care.
Do you know about the laws affecting the keeping of farm animals?
There are strict laws covering the keeping and transport of farm animals. For example, depending on the type of animals, your premises may need to be registered with the government department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra), the animals may need special identification, and licences may be needed to transport them. You may also need to keep up-to-date records and paperwork, such as medicine records. More information is available from Defra.
If you are thinking about rearing animals for meat, do you know about the laws on animal welfare at slaughter?
If you are thinking about rearing farm animals for meat, you must be aware of the strict laws covering animal welfare at slaughter and meat hygiene. We very strongly recommend that you do not try to slaughter animals yourself - you could cause severe suffering, which would be a serious offence under the law. Further information is available from the Humane Slaughter Association, Defra and the Food Standards Agency.
Will your neighbours be happy, and do you need planning permission?
You would need to check that neighbours would have no objections to you keeping animals before you get them. Some animal housing may need planning permission.
What to do next…
If you still feel you have the knowledge, time, facilities, money, and commitment needed to care for some farm animals, a good first step would be to read some of the information sources below, and talk to some experienced farm animal owners. We have produced more information about pet goats, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese (see menu on the left).
Further sources of information