Thursday, July 18, 2013

Farm Pets

Can a homestead farm justify supporting pets? On my farm...sure. But any homesteader needs to be sensible about pets. Pets are freeloaders, and there are only so many that a homestead can afford to support.

Pets do indeed offer a service, at least for me they do. They can be enjoyable, offer companionship, teach me lessons. Companionship is their number one value to me.

Knowing that I will be on a severe budget in a couple of years, I try to limit the number of pets on the homestead. They're going to be living here for years and won't understand that my financial resourses have diminished. I don't believe in acquiring pets, then killing or dumping them when times get tough. I value life far too much to do that. So once they are here, this is their home for life.

Pets that can forage for their own food tend to be more welcome here. I have a pet goat, Mr Bucky. And 4 pet chickens, two silver dove wing banties, a frizzle, and a leghorn who doesn't lay.

I currently have 2 freeloader dogs, throwaways who no one wanted. One is elderly and the other partially blind, so their chances of getting rehomed is close to zero. They're here to stay. The farm also supports a group of freeloader cats. Not good ratters, they have become pets. Everyone is neutered, so at least the population won't grow. Right now they eat commercial pet food, but if times get tough, they will have to learn to eat pig, mouflon, and pheasant.

Pets on this homestead have a living standard on par with my own. Basic food. Decent shelter. Basic in-house health care. A low stress life. Nothing fancy. No pampering.

I believe a homesteader can get into trouble by adding too many pets. Sometimes it's intentional via impulse buying, or "rescuing" animals. Other times it just happens...feral cats wander in, stray dogs come by and stay, etc. Sometimes it's by no fault of the farm owner, other than having respect for life and thus not killing the strays. Sometimes it's the unrealistic approach by a first-time farmer. I know one quite small farm that has 17 rams in their flock because the lambs were too cute to sell or slaughter. Another mini-farm has 25-30 roosters running around because the owner couldn't bring himself to kill and eat them. Both these people are struggling to feed these animals that have become pets. In these cases, pets are a burden that brings stress, worry, and expense. Not good for a struggling farm, at least in my view. I've learned from those farms to be very careful not to fall into the same trap.

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