There is a growing trend for everyone from city dwellers to the suburbs to incorporate a few chickens, goats or even a pig to offset the high prices of food. Of course, you don't have to become a butcher in order to do this successfully, yet the rewards are tremendous.
Are you tired of fluctuating egg prices or the thought of what commercial egg growers feed their chickens and the conditions in which they grow them? Now you can both give your children a few pets to take care of as well as fresh eggs that are healthy and right in the back yard. No matter what happens at the grocery stores, your kids will know they can eat eggs even if money gets too tight to secure food at the supermarket. This gives any child a sense of security that they will eat no matter what.
Chickens are very easy to maintain as long as you provide them some shelter and a little room to peck around and forage. You will need to buy layer feed to keep the hens laying eggs, as well as some grit and either ground up eggshells or oyster shell supplement to keep their egg shells strong. They'll eat weeds, bugs and grass too. A rooster is not needed to get eggs from your hens, but these eggs will never hatch. This is the same type of egg you get from the supermarket. Provide adequate water, but never try to bathe a chicken or make it swim. They are much different than ducks and will drown. Chickens give themselves dust baths and will use the litter if no other sources of dust are available. If you use the deep litter system, your chickens will stir it up all the time and keep it clean on top. You only have to change it 3-4 times a year. If you are worried about bugs or mites in the litter, be sure and scatter a little diatomaceous earth, or DE. You can purchase all of these items at a farmers market or even online. Be sure to check with the laws where you live to be aware of any limits on how many chickens you can have.
Goats are often kept for milk and to make homemade cheese. Be aware that goats will eat nearly anything. If you have a lot filled with honeysuckle or some other pesky weed, you may like to let a few goats help you clear the land, and if the female goat is about to wean a baby you can continue to take the milk by milking her yourself. Goats are not for everybody, but many love the freedom a goat brings regarding food. You can also eat goat meat if you wish after she no longer is able to reproduce. That is a personal preference.
A pig might be to your taste. They don't have to be a muddy mess, but they do like it. Get a few piglets in the Spring, and by fall they are ready to eat. Inexpensive bacon as well as organic meat if you wish can fill your freezer for just a little feed and some room. You and your kids will have a ball enjoying the little guys, but be ready to part with them as soon as they can be butchered. Again, you probably need a bit more room for pigs unless you just have one.
Ducks are also a great source of very large eggs, but they do require a source of water to bathe in and keep their nostrils clear of feed and other congesting things. A duck can live without a bath, but she will be a very unhappy duck and will have a hard time breathing from time to time. They make a bigger 'poopy' mess than chickens. Just think of chickens as dry and ducks as wet. They require nearly the same feed, but cannot process medicated feed.
The options of farm animals in your backyard are probably endless, but these are the most practical. Give one or two a try and watch your children's confidence grow, as well as their sense of well being when money is tight. They will always know there is food in the back yard and will help you gather eggs, and between the animals and your kids you are sure to have plenty of entertainment.