Children love animals. Many children and farm families already have experience with cats, dogs, or birds, so venturing out into raising other animals and livestock might seem like a feasible next step. Raising farm animals gives children the opportunity to spend time outdoors, learn responsibility, and learn how to care for a living animal. The type of farm animals can make a difference in how much time, commitment, and space your family would need to devote to their care.
Giving your child the opportunity to raise farm animals could help them gain confidence, learn responsibility and discipline, and keep kids active and happy. FFA and 4-H’s livestock programs are a great resource to help kids as young as five starts learning about the benefits of raising farm animals and exhibiting them, too. Some animals are more low maintenance like goats and quails while others require more care such as chickens. We’ll talk about some of the best farm animals to consider for your kids.
Rabbits are social animals so make sure they have a playmate or your kids have enough time to dedicate to their rabbit each day. While rabbits are easy to care for and take up very little space, the more time you spend with your rabbit, the happier they’ll be. You will find a variety of colors, sizes, and temperaments among rabbit breeds, allowing you to choose the best fit to add to your family.
If your child is ready for the responsibility of caring for an animal that needs attention but loves a good cuddle, then rabbits are a good choice. Most rabbits are fed store-bought feed in addition to some fresh fruits or veggies. They need a water bottle, a food dish, and a cage with bedding, and safe items to chew on to keep their teeth from overgrowing.
Raising chickens is fun for all ages. Chickens make for one of the best farm animal pets because they can recognize faces, they have their own personalities, they lay fresh chicken eggs, and also provide pest control in the garden, not to mention their poop makes the most amazing fertilizer.
Families have a broad range of kid-friendly chicken breeds to choose from, including Silkies, which are very affectionate. Plymouth Rocks and Orpintongs are gentle creatures. Other kid-friendly breeds include Brahmas, Australorps, Polish, Cochins, and Easter Eggers.
Kids can raise the baby chicks or start with pullets to keep as pets. Baby chicks require a brooder, feeder, waterer, bedding, and a heat lamp to keep them warm and cozy. Chick starter feed is essential to support your baby chick’s energy requirements during their early stages of growth.
Teach your kids how to gently handle the baby chicks and ensure there is adult supervision when small kids are handling them. Be sure to practice safe chicken handling by teaching kids how to wash their hands before and after handling eggs and birds, disinfecting equipment, and wearing clean clothes and shoes before spending time with their chickens.
Chickens require a coop, nest box, and work best in a flock. While they require daily care, kids can have fun raising these birds and see their hard work pay off when they collect their farm-fresh eggs every day or so.
Interested in raising chickens with the whole family? Check out our Chickville resource center featuring guides on every step of the chicken-raising process, from choosing breeds to setting up a coop to managing poultry health.
Raising ducks are great for pest control, egg production, and fertilizer.. Ducks are smart and social. They get along with other animals like dogs and cats. Pekin ducks and Welsh Harlequin ducks are breeds to consider if you want great pets.
Campbell, Runner, Buff, and Welsh Harlequin produce some of the best duck eggs. Pekin ducks are known for their meat and eggs. Ducks produce eggs that are larger than chicken eggs.
Check out our ultimate duck breed guide for more information on choosing duck breeds.
Horses are a popular pet for children, but they are a big responsibility. Horses can be expensive due to stables, horse trailers, tack, and other veterinarian care. They are energetic and need space to run around. They can be loving, attentive, learn easily, and do well with children.
Your horse can become a long-time member of the family since they are good companions for humans. Depending on the breed, horses have gorgeous coats and strides. Horses are a good pet to give the kids some exercise, too.
Learn more about preparing your property for a new horse.
There are several goat breeds for kids such as the intelligent and loving LaManchas or the adorable and spirited Nigerian Dwarf goats. Goats are relatively low maintenance and are smart and inquisitive animals. Goats produce milk and goat milk can also be made into various cheeses. Nigerian Dwarf goats are particularly known for their impressive milk production and playful nature.
Goats are great at providing fertilizer and clearing brush. They are escape artists though so double-check and make sure you have proper fencing. They may also headbutt into each other or you, so be careful and find ways to reduce this behavior. If your kids are not into goats, you could try sheep instead.
Sheep are good livestock to have as pets. They are docile, gentle, and pretty friendly. Sheep are best known for their wool and need to be sheared annually. They are social animals and do best in a group setting. Some breeds are chosen for their wool but all breeds make great pets. Be sure to choose females (ewes) or neutered males (wethers) as pets and that they are dehorned. Check that your fencing is secure. Sheep need good shelter and protection from predators. They also need their hooves trimmed every few months.
Pigs are highly intelligent animals. They have strong personalities and require care. Pigs are large animals that will eat almost anything when it comes to food, such as kitchen scraps, meat, fish, fruits, potatoes, extra veggies, bread, corn, and grains. Slop is a combination of whatever food you have on hand all mixed together.
Pigs will need strong fencing since they are larger animals. Pigs require more room than other small farm animals like chickens or quails so it is best to choose a smaller breed like mini pigs if you do not have a lot of land.
Beekeeping is an accessible hobby for kids and adults and has seen a surge in popularity, including in urban environments. While we don’t recommend having your toddler handle bees, hive boxes are a great way to raise bees, learn about their life cycle, and get a bit of honey. You will need items like bee suits, a smoker, gloves, and some more equipment to care for your bees. When handling bees, kids should be protected from head to toe with a veil, jacket, hat, gloves, pants, footwear, and a full beekeeping suit to prevent bee stings, especially in sensitive areas like the face and eyes.
Bees are often misunderstood so working with them can allow children to learn about bee characteristics. Backyard beekeeping can be a good activity for the kids as long as they are old enough to understand how serious bee stings are. The bees can pollinate your garden and provide you with a tasty source of honey.
Raising Livestock and Having Farm Animal Pets
Learning responsibility for a living thing and caring for farm animals and livestock is an invaluable experience for children. The type of farm animal, their maintenance, and care are only a few things that are considered before making the important decision of which is the most well suited to your family.
Children will learn about their habits, how various animals live, and if they work best alone or in groups, herds, or flocks. They may learn to identify the different sounds they make, what their life cycle is like, and what they like to eat. From chickens to rabbits, most people can get hands-on experience raising livestock and farm animals in their own homes.
Wilco Farm Stores have just about everything you need to keep your farm animals happy, from a rabbit hutch to horse toys. We have lawn and garden items, poultry supplements, and farrier supplies to make the animal farm raising experience a joy for the entire family.