Small animal systems
Column 6 in Homegrown, Weekend Magazine, Sunshine Coast Daily, by Zaia Kendall
Here on the farm we have chooks, dogs, cats, goats, cows and a duck. We are trying to get things in place so we can run more diverse animal systems such as geese, more ducks, sheep and pigs.
Domestic animals and livestock are dependent on us. In many ways we are their servants. We feed them, ensure they have a safe and dry place to sleep, are healthy and have a happy life. They completely depend on us to take care of them, and it is important we do the right thing by keeping them safe and healthy.
Here on the Sunny Coast we need to ensure our smaller animals are safe from snakes and other predators. Before you take on animals, you need to think about the best way to house them. Do you need to install a fence, does the fence need to be dog proof? Do you have issues with foxes? What about snakes?
Our chooks are protected by dingo wire at the top of our system, as we back onto National Park. They have their separate fenced runs and then their night pen which is secured with snake proof fencing wire.
Chooks are great, they give you eggs and meat, scratch and prepare the soil, give you compost material with their scratching and pooping, and put themselves to bed at the end of the day. By sowing out their food in the morning, they will eat all their food in a short amount of time giving them lots of time to scratch. It also ensures that there is no feed left, and rodents won’t be an issue.
Other small animal systems also suited for urban and suburban environments are ducks, geese, guinea pigs, pigeons and fish.
You need to ensure that ducks have access to fresh water at all times. Geese need a bit more space and can be quite noisy, so you may need a larger property for them. Guinea pigs (and rabbits, but rabbits are not allowed in Queensland) breed a lot and quickly, provide lots of manure and eat greens and left over veggies. They are a great protein source. Pigeons do not need much space, they can be trained to return to their roost and can be a lot of fun.
If you have the space you can have fish in a pond or a dam. For smaller spaces, look into aquaponics. This grows fish and vegetables through an interconnected system, where the fish fertilises the vegetables and the vegetables provide food for the fish. You can set up this system in a very small area, even by using your bathtub in your house. You will likely find a number of different methods online, I have even seen one where people had clear tubing running through their apartment with holes where vegetables grew, and fish swimming in the water in the tubes. Interesting idea if you have little space!
We love our animals and we are their servants. We feed our animals before we feed ourselves in the morning, and ensure they are happy and healthy. And they give us nutrition and a lot of joy!
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