Yards are great for keeping all kinds of pets in from rabbits to goldfish. However, they can also be ideal environments for other pets too. If you’ve been looking for an alternative pet and you’ve got a backyard, why not consider a few of these animals?
The biggest reason people keep pet honey bees is to produce their own honey. Beekeeping can also be a fun hobby and it is great for your local environment as it helps to keep plants pollinated. Setting up hives and learning how to keep bees isn’t too difficult. You will however need to make sure that your backyard has enough space (ideally 54 square feet) and that your local neighborhood permits beekeeping (it’s always worth confirming if it’s okay with your neighbors). There are beekeeper kits you can buy with bee suits, hive tools and smokers to help you get started. Use a reputable bee breeder when buying bees.
Chickens can be another great pet to keep in a backyard. By keeping hens, you can produce your own fresh eggs. Chickens will also help reduce garden pests and can also eat various food scraps (although you don’t want to feed them too many scraps as they’ll get overweight). Chickens can be raised from chicks or you can adopt adult hens. In order to raise chickens, you’ll need a coop with at least 3 square feet per bird and a run with at least 10 square feet per bird. Chickens can be allowed to roam free around your backyard, but you’ll need to make sure your yard is suitably fenced off to stop them escaping. A chicken starter kit will provide you with other equipment you may need for feeding and drinking water. As with bees, make sure to look into local laws (you may not be able to keep roosters in many areas due to the noise).
Tortoises are very low maintenance pets – they don’t make a mess and don’t need much attention beyond regular feeding. They’re also very friendly animals – they enjoy being stroked by their caregivers and rarely bite unless threatened. This makes them great alternative backyard pets. Ideally, a tortoise enclosure should be 3 times as long and 4 times as wide as its shell. Be wary that many tortoises like to burrow so the enclosure will need to be escape-proof. Tortoises can be allowed to roam free around a backyard, but the whole backyard will similarly need to be made escape-proof. Make sure to provide an outdoor shelter for sleeping in.
The two main types of fish that people keep in outdoor ponds are goldfish and koi carp – largely because they’re the easiest fish to accommodate and look after. However, an often overlooked fish is the stickleback, which is also perfect for ponds. Sticklebacks don’t require too much space and won’t overeat tadpoles or dragonfly larvae like some predatory fish. A downside of keeping sticklebacks is that they don’t always get along well with goldfish or carp.
Another alternative backyard pet to consider could be a pygmy goat. Pygmy goats can make loving family pets, can keep an unruly lawn maintained and can even be raised to produce milk. They are however high-maintenance pets and typically need a dedicated fenced-off enclosure and shed (do not keep them near outdoor furniture as they will likely jump on it and chew it). This enclosure should be about 25 to 50 square feet in area. As these creatures are herd animals, you will need to keep at least two in order for them to live happily.