As we’ve been building our backyard homestead, we’ve quickly realized that space is the limiting factor. After all, there’s only so much space in our backyard! And we still need space for ourselves. So which animals can we really keep together safely in our backyard?
Multiple kinds of livestock can pasture and/or house together with proper preparation. Proper preparation includes accounting for feeding, watering, housing, animal behavior, animal size, and overall care. Not all species can cohabitate or pasture share safely.
In other words, it’s complicated. As such, I’ve built a whole table for you to see which animals can be kept together in a backyard homestead safely. So make sure you keep reading to see the table (it’s pretty epic!) and to read the specifics on each animal later on in this article!
Livestock Compatability Table
You’re here because you want to know what kinds of livestock or animals you can keep together. So to keep things simple, I’ve compiled a chart to give you a short and quick answer.
Keep in mind that these are the quick answers – based on my experience, research, and talking to other homesteaders and farmers. There’s almost always an exception. So take these as the general guidelines they are, though they’re guidelines with evidence behind it. You’re always welcome to prove to be the exception. Just be sure you’re working closely with a livestock specialist veterinarian, too.
We’ll go into the detailed answers later in another section of this article. I’ll explain how to read the chart properly after it. I did try to make it pretty self-explanatory.
One important note – this chart is not small. So if you’re on a mobile device, you will likely want to turn your device sideways so you can see the whole thing at once. You can still see it without turning your device 90 degrees, but then you do have to do more scrolling – both side to side and up and down. The joys of technology, right?
I did a ton of research to compile this chart – and you can see all of my sources at the bottom of this chart. But first, let me explain to you how to read it. That way, you can see quick answers more easily.
You’ll notice that I use three answers in this chart.
- Yes – this means that keeping the two animals that match up here is generally safe and doable. You’ll still need to make proper preparations, but I’ve seen this particular match-up in forums, in research, or my own experience.
- No – this means that most experts I’ve talked to agree that this particular pairing would be a bad idea – either for you as their owner or for one or both species of animals.
- CR* – Calculated Risk (or Maybe) – this means that it may be possible to keep both animals together. You will definitely have more work to do than with a “yes” answer, though. And you will have to keep on top of things so that huge issues don’t arise in the future. Final note – I used the CR* in the chart because typing out “calculated risk” or even “maybe” made the table so ugly and huge it hurt my eyes to look at it. 🙂
Now, one other thing to notice about the columns. You’ll notice that I did give you answers on keeping an animal with itself. This isn’t to be cheeky, I promise. This is to let you know that different breeds of the same animal are generally compatible together.
For example, it’s usually okay and safe to keep a couple of breeds of cows together (as long as you don’t mind some cross-breeding). However, keeping several breeds of goats together can have some parasite concerns. So keeping goats with goats only gets a “possible.”
One final formatting note about the table: why the double-asterisk (**) next to pigs?
I’ve found that most backyard zoning laws are more lenient on pretty much every other animal – except for pigs. In our area, we’d have to have at least an acre per pig to be in compliance with zoning laws. So if you’re considering pigs, then there are extra considerations, like zoning laws.
Furthermore, pigs have kind of always terrified me ever since I saw “The Wizard of Oz” and learned that they’re not too picky about eating things – even poor Dorothy. Granted, I’m not about to buy a dozen pigs to keep. But even so, it’s a piggy trait that also needs to be a known factor before you house pigs with other animals.
But don’t worry – we’ll talk about this more later. The pigs’ eating habits, that is. Not my fears of animals that can be traced back to movies. 🙂 But just in case you have to know which animals I’m scared of thanks to movies, it’s pigs and sharks.
What Livestock Can Be Kept Together?
The biggest trick to knowing which animals can be kept together is in knowing the physical needs of each animal, their usual habits, and any idiosyncrasies of an individual animal. Once you know all of that information, you can then make an informed decision (or guess) as to whether or not it would be safe to keep those two animals together.
Here are some of the questions I ask myself before I consider keeping two animals of different species together. I ask this of each animal species individually.
- What are the watering habits of this animal?
- What are the preferred eating habits and styles of this animal?
- What housing requirements does this animal have?
- Are there special macro or micronutrient requirements?
- What type of care does this animal need?
- Does this animal’s size have any influence on keeping it with other animals?
- What is considered poison for this animal (plant, food, or other)?
I also like to ask myself this question: Does this individual animal have any behavior issues that would make living with other animals (of the same or different species) impossible?
Sometimes, you do get a rogue animal that just doesn’t play well with others. That’s okay – it happens. But you do need to weigh that into your decision-making process. Then, I look at how the various species would interact together.
- Could one animal species accidentally or purposely hurt the other one?
- Is the size difference going to be a problem?
- Are the feed and watering setups compatible?
- Is one animal’s micro/macronutrient needs a poison to the other species?
- Are grazing habits compatible?
- Are there any care issues between the species that could be a problem?
- Does this animal carry a parasite that could harm the other species?
- How does the dung of each animal affect the other?
If I think that I can keep both species together with a minimal-to-reasonable amount of accommodations, then I’ll go ahead and draw up plans for keeping them together. I’ll try to think up every possible worst-case-scenario and how I’d prevent it. Then, I go back through my questions to make sure that each animal can be kept safe while being kept with another animal.
If my plans can’t keep both animals reasonably safe, then I’ll scrap the plan – and start over. This is before I even try keeping the animals together! This is because of my own personal standards for keeping animals – and for keeping them in my backyard homestead with our family nearby.
However, I did take a step back and realize that my standards are perhaps a little bit different than some worldwide standards for keeping different species together. So I looked up information from various governments and governmental agencies worldwide to make sure that my table and data weren’t subject to too many biases. And, throughout this article, I’ll try to differentiate my own thoughts from my research.
So given that information, let’s look at some reasons to keep different animals together.
Pros and Cons of Keeping Different Livestock Together
No matter which animals you’re considering keeping in your backyard homestead, odds are you’re also considering keeping them together. That’s probably why you found this article, right?
So let’s look at some of the pros and cons of keeping different livestock together. We’ll first start on a general, overview type of list for pros and cons.
Pros to Keeping 2+ Species of Livestock Together
- Saves space. This can be a huge win, depending on how much space you have in your backyard. Just make sure you do it in a humane, ethical, and appropriate manner. A backyard homestead shouldn’t be unsafe or inhumane for anyone – animals included.
- Better use of pasture grasses. Various animal species graze and eat differently. Some nibble the tops of grasses, while others eat brush or forbs (flowering, non-grass plants). Yet others only go for the bugs. Pasture sharing and/or rotation can help you maximize what space you do have available.
- Fun, diverse herd identity. It’s really fun when animals adopt a different species into their herd. It makes for some fun, dynamic animal watching in the backyard.
- Better herd protection. It’s a whole lot easier to protect small animals by putting them in a herd of larger animals. And as long as it works? It’s an awesome situation.
- Parasite control. Chickens are an especially great way to control some types of parasites from spreading to other animals, provided the chickens aren’t susceptible to the parasites.
Seems like a no-brainer to keep various animals together, right? Actually, no. Let’s look at the general negatives now.
Cons to Keeping 2+ Species of Livestock Together
- Some livestock can’t share spaces. Realistically, some animals just can’t be kept together for whatever reason. Usually, it’s safety-related to food, water, housing, or behavior. Safety issues for your family also need to be evaluated.
- Pasture rotation works better than sharing. Depending on the number of animals owned and space available, pasture rotation may be better than pasture sharing. It’s definitely the safer of the two options if we’re just looking at overall generalities.
- Some animals don’t get along with others. Despite your best efforts, it’s possible that some animals just can’t play nicely with others. In that case, too-aggressive or the scapegoat may need a separate place.
- Larger animals don’t always protect smaller ones. Sometimes, larger animals don’t see the smaller ones – and then you’ve lost an animal due to an accident. Spoiler: it’s usually the smaller animal that doesn’t survive. Sometimes, larger animals may see the smaller ones as annoying pests. Then if things go too far, you’re still dealing with the loss of an animal.
- Parasite load increase or sharing. Some animals can accidentally share parasites with other species. This is why feeding, watering, and defecating habits need to be known and evaluated before keeping two species together. It’s also good to research the specific parasites most common to all species in question.
With all of this in mind, let’s start looking at the individual species. Because what I found and figured out through research, way too many thought experiments, and my experience is nerdy but fascinating.
What Animals Can You Keep with Cows?
Cows, in general, get along with other cows the best! There are thousands of photos on the internet showing how awesome cows are. Some cows are just like really large dogs. They are playful and gentle – just really large. So you can raise different breeds of cows together. They are sociable and cool with co-grazing, just as with sequential multi-species grazing.
That being said, cows can pasture share or even be housed with various other species. It does work best if the cows are gradually introduced to the other animal – and it’s even better if they’re raised together.
In my research, the best option for a different species being kept with cows was chickens. Free-range chickens who house and pasture with cows can help clear paddocks of fly larvae (including maggots), which will dramatically decrease the parasite load that can impact the cow herd. And, according to my research, it’s totally safe for the chickens, as long as the cows haven’t been recently dewormed. If the cows have recently been dewormed, then it’s safest to keep the flock away from the cow dung for a while.
The one that really shocked me as being “safe” to keep with cows was rabbits. My personal bias says that rabbits and cows oughtn’t go together. The size difference alone just seems like it’s too dangerous.
However, in my research, I did find some homesteaders in countries outside the USA who kept rabbits and cows together safely. The key to their success was in the number of animals they had – they didn’t have a large herd of cows. They also did monitor introductions to make sure it would work safely. They reported to me that the cow ended up loving the rabbits and would even groom them!
As far as the other animals, keeping them with cows will depend on your preparation, personal preferences, and personal risk aversion. But I’ve seen stories and research that support keeping them together in various circumstances. So do a lot of planning and thinking it out.
What Animals Go Well with Chickens?
A backyard farm must have chickens! Okay, you don’t have to have chickens, but I’ve loved adding them to our backyard homestead. Not only are they awesome to watch, but they also provide eggs and keep the bugs under control. Including mosquitos! They also have a relatively low water footprint (according to a 2010 UNESCO-IHE report), which makes them easy to keep. Finally, they also go well with most other species of livestock.
Chickens work well with cows. Joel Salatin (a farmer and lecturer) said it like this: “The cows shorten the grass, and the chickens eat the fly larvae and sanitize the pastures. This is a symbiotic relation.”
They also go well with most ruminants and other animals in most regards. However, the big reason they get rated as a calculated risk instead of an automatic and super-enthusiastic “YES!” is this: chickens poop everywhere – including in the animals’ water sources. Poop in water isn’t safe – including chicken poop. If you can keep them out of the other animal’s water source, then the risk goes down a ton.
It’s totally possible to keep chickens with rabbits – and do it safely. In fact, I’ve got a whole article about keeping chickens with rabbits together safely here.
We’ve successfully kept our chickens with goats – make sure you read my top tips on keeping goats with chickens together here. The main way we did that was by training the goats to drink out of an enclosed watering system with hog watering nipples. Keeping chickens with sheep shouldn’t be too different.
Keeping chickens with llamas and alpacas did warrant a calculated risk based on the water, too. We’re trying to add alpacas to our backyard homestead – and alpacas need clean, poop-free water. So that’s the biggest thing we’re working on there.
Ducks and chickens can be kept together, but it is a risk. Not only are their feed and water requirements totally different, but I have heard stories about mallards who get too fond of hens, and the hens don’t survive. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of keeping ducks because they’re a lot messier than chickens. If I were to keep them together, I’d make sure only to keep female ducks – and only keep a few.
Keeping chickens with pigs is another one where I’d be cautious. It can be done – I’ve seen success stories online. However, pigs can also hurt chickens. The size and temperament differences aren’t things you can ignore. But if you can raise them together, then it’s probably safer than introducing an adult pig to your flock.
Which Animals Can Go with Rabbits?
Rabbits can be a great addition to your backyard homestead. They really are versatile animals. They can be raised as pets or as a source of meat – and they’re still awesome.
Rabbits can be kept with cows, contrary to my initial thoughts. Of course, it does depend on how many cows you’ve got. The more cows you’ve got, the more dangerous this becomes. But I did find some success stories where cows and rabbits went well together, so it can work. Just know it takes an awful lot of planning, so it may be too much work for your liking.
Rabbits and chickens go well together – and here are my top 19 tips on keeping them together safely and humanely.
Rabbits can go with other livestock as long as they aren’t noisy. Rabbits are scared of sudden noises (like quacking ducks) and have been known to drop dead if they get too scared. However, the noise alone isn’t the only reason why goats, sheep, llamas, and alpacas only warranted it being a risky venture to keep them together. They can work. Just know that the size is also an issue.
Rabbits can get run over and trampled by the larger animals. That’s why I wouldn’t keep rabbits with horses.
But if you have miniature and/or small livestock, then keeping them with rabbits can totally work. I’ve read stories where rabbits do well with mini pigs – just don’t forget to account for potential Yersiniosis infections. Both pigs and rabbits are susceptible to that particular bug.
Can Goats Live with Other Animals?
Goats are amazing animals. They’re one of my favorites! And because they are adaptable foragers, they can be kept with other species with a few accommodations. Just remember that goats are like the acrobatic escape artists of the animal world. They can get where you don’t want them to go – so be prepared! They also poop everywhere, so make sure you know what to expect about goats, poop, and hygiene.
Based on my research, cows are not usually affected by goat-specific parasites, so cows and goats can be kept together. More on this in a moment.
In my experience, chickens and goats go well together – provided you’re prepared! So make sure you read my top tips on keeping goats with chickens. My biggest tips are these: keep the goats out of the chicken feed – and keep everyone’s water clean.
An experiment in 1983 by the Jornada Experimental Range (JER) introduced a technique of flocking goats and sheep into a cattle herd, making them “flerds”. These groups stick together while grazing and as a result goats are guarded against coyotes and other predators. You can have donkeys, horses, and llamas do the same thing.
That being said, I rated keeping goats with llamas or alpacas as a calculated risk – because there are some shared parasites and diseases that are a huge risk. Make sure you read my article on keeping goats with alpacas before you actually do it.
Though cows make excellent friends for goats; their cousins, sheep, can prove otherwise. Sheep and goats are affected by the same internal parasites. Thus, keeping sheep and goats together usually works better via pasture-rotation than pasture-sharing. Goats and sheep also have some radically different feed needs that can prove hugely problematic – so their feeding stations may need to be kept separate.
Pigs do surprisingly well alongside goats and sheep. They love hunting for just about anything organic to chomp-chomp. Pigs would grub for roots, stubs, and other matter cattle, goats, and sheep leave behind. So even though I personally can’t have pigs, they still got rated as a strong possibility as roommates for goats.
Can Sheep Live with Other Animals?
Sheep can totally “flerd” – or mix flocks and herds. The technique applies just as well to sheep. You can choose to pair them with cows, other cattle, donkeys, or llamas for a “flerding plus reaping more produce from the same little paddock” situation. Just make sure all the members have good temperaments and you can be good to go, even with the risk in size differences.
In my research, I found that studies by Mike Humann (1983), Don Kirby (1984), and James Nelson(1990) advocate a sheep with cow ratio of “one ewe to every cow.”
Sheep can be raised with chickens, but they run into a lot of the same issues as keeping goats with chickens. So make sure you check out that section of this article.
We can raise both rabbits and hares alongside goats and sheep. But there are two things to watch out for: hooves and feed-stealing. Yes, goats and sheep will steal and enjoy rabbit-feed if they happen upon it.
Keeping sheep with goats has a major parasite concern. A parasite control study at the University of Arkansas concludes that soil-borne and grass-dependent parasites like the barber pole worm that affect sheep and goats can easily develop resistance to anthelmintic drugs (de-wormers). In other words, there’s a strong risk of accidental parasite sharing between goats and sheep.
With the risk of parasites, it may be safest to rotate pastures if you’re getting sheep and you have enough space. You can set it up so that sheep go first, followed by horses and cattle, and then the chickens clean up the field before it rests to reset the whole chain of events.
What Animals Can Horses Live With?
Horses are amazing, beautiful creatures. But they don’t do well with every other animal species or type of livestock. Personally, I’d keep any horses in a separate pasture – and use pasture rotation if I could. Okay – maybe I’d let in some goats and chickens with the horse if I needed to.
However, if I had to keep horses with any other animals, then other horses, cows and goats are probably some of the safest options. Llamas could also work. I’d be more hesitant to keep alpacas with them, simply because they’re about 10-15% of the weight of a horse.
Chickens and ducks can work – because they’ll get out of the way of a horse. Just know that keeping smaller livestock (like ducks, chickens, and rabbits) with horses will probably end in having a few trampled animals. But the chickens especially will help keep the pasture and parasite load cleaner for the horse.
Goats surely are a match made in equine heaven! Not only do they make a great grazer and browser pair, they can but be the best pals too. Both of them are social herd animals. The Del Mar Thoroughbred Club shares many instances where race-horses are comforted and kept company by their best goat buddies.
My sister-in-law has a horse – and she kept goats with it for a while (until the goats escaped too many times). These days, she does let the chickens into the pasture. But the horse doesn’t care for the family dogs, so they don’t go in the pasture.
I would also be careful keeping sheep with horses. Sheep have different tolerances for copper than goats and horses do, so a salt lick full of copper (that’s good for horses and goats) can be deadly for sheep.
In my research, I found that pigs can also be a decent companion for horses. Personally, I don’t think I’d try it, though.
Can Llamas and Alpacas Live with Other Animals?
Camelids (like llamas and alpacas) are another amazing group of animals. Llamas can be great guard animals for other types of livestock, while alpacas can give soft, amazing fiber that makes some amazing blankets and clothing. Just be smart about who you put into a pasture or shelter with your camelids.
While llamas and alpacas can be pastured with larger animals like cows and horses, I’d be really careful about actually doing it. In fact, here’s an article I wrote about keeping alpacas with horses and another article on running alpacas with cattle. I’d rather keep a llama with the cows and horses than keep an alpaca in there. And even then, I’d be wary – depending on the temperaments of both animals in question.
Keeping camelids with ducks, chickens, and rabbits is another calculated risk, based on size. That being said, it’s totally possible for llamas or alpacas to live with chickens – here’s the article I wrote on keeping alpacas with chickens.
While I would be warier keeping goats and sheep together, I’d also be fine keeping alpacas or llamas with sheep – or goats. There are just a few things to keep in mind. But don’t worry – I’ve got you covered.
Make sure you read these articles I’ve researched and written for answers. They’re included in my research above, but these will go into even more detail about how to keep the animals together safely.
- Can alpacas live with goats?
- Here’s how alpacas guard sheep and lambs
- Can alpacas live with chickens?
- Can alpacas live with pigs?
The biggest concern about alpacas, llamas, goats, and sheep is that there are some parasites that do go from one species to the other, as Dr. Evelyn Mackay at Texas A&M College warns us.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering if you should get male, gelded male, or female camelids? The Ohio Camelid Institute suggests the use of gelded llama males and adult females as single guardian animals for smaller camelids, sheep, goats, cattle, and miniature horses. Skip the intact males – unless you’re aiming to breed. And then I’d keep the studs out of view of the females – or you’ll want to read my article on if camelids like alpacas are dangerous.
And one other important note: llamas and alpacas prefer cooler climates. They are from the mountains, after all. So you might need to consider that and livestock with the same liking as their companions. They also do not like waterlogged housing or heat-stress. So their “neigh”bors should be chosen carefully.
Can Ducks Live with Other Animals?
Ducks are the perfect addition if you prefer chemical-free insect control in the wetter sections of your pasture. Ducks and pigs can get along really well, and even share corn and wallow. Just remember that ducks need more water – and they’re apt to swim in any water that’s not covered – even drinking water. They’ll also appreciate having a pond with small fish in it.
Though chickens are alright with ducks, I would try to keep mallards out of the mix. I’ve heard horror stories about mallards deciding to keep the hens’ company – and it not ending well for the hens. The only time ducks won’t do well with chickens is if you are planning on keeping open water vessels or troughs. This might work ok with adult chickens, but baby chicks may drown in in a large enough trough.
You will also need to keep ducklings away from hens and roosters while keeping chicks away from adult ducks. They are protective of their own young, but might not do the same for other babies. This also prevents baby ducklings from eating chick food, which is not suitable for them. Eating the other species’ food can prove fatal for either chicks or ducklings.
Ducks can use the guardianship horses, donkeys, cows, goats, pigs, sheep, and other large animals offer them. They can get along with these mammals well. I would be careful with llamas and alpacas, though. The risk of water contamination by swimming ducks is on the “too much” side of things.
Can Pigs Live with Other Animals?
Pigs can live with other types of animals in theory, yes. Here’s a quick review of keeping pigs with other animals.
However, you do need to know about their feed and watering habits before you put them in a pasture with other animals.
- Pigs like to poop right next to their water source. It helps them identify where their water is. However, it also has a huge risk of contaminating the water for your other animals with parasites and dung-related diseases.
- Pigs commonly knock over watering troughs. Maybe they want some extra mud, or perhaps they did it while using the watering trough as a scratching post. In either case, the watering trough still gets knocked over – and your other animals now don’t have clean water. Pigs do better with a watering tank with a watering nipple.
- Pigs are omnivores, meaning they’ll eat anything they can forage, root, or kill. As your pigs get larger, they may kill and eat smaller animals, livestock, or baby animals. It’s not because the pig is being evil – it’s just hungry for some extra protein. But this is a potential risk you do need to weigh before keeping pigs with any other animal.
- Pigs have different zoning laws and requirements. As I mentioned at the start of this article and the table where I outlined which animal species can live with others, pigs usually have different zoning laws than do other animals.
In my area of Utah, I’d need at least an acre per pig in my backyard. The zoning laws say this is to offset the usual smells and other “unpleasant” things associated with keeping pigs. Which is fine, as I do live in the suburbs. However, our backyard homestead is 0.5 acres – which means we cannot keep pigs at all. We simply don’t have enough land.
Now, if we had more land, then keeping pigs may not be an issue. And we could evaluate keeping them with other animals. For example, I wrote a whole article on keeping pigs with alpacas. I highly recommend you go read it, because I’ve got a lot of data there about what pigs need – more so than I can include in this article.
In any case, I’d like to reiterate one point here that I made in that article: keeping pigs with any other animals is a calculated risk.
The risk is much lower if you introduce the pig as a piglet to living with other animals because then they adopt the other animals as their herd. However, there is still a risk that you’ll have to decide if it’s worth taking – if you can even have pigs in your backyard homestead.
It’s not a risk I’m personally willing to take, even putting my Wizard of Oz-inspired fear of pigs aside. Of course, it’s a moot point for us – we can’t have pigs and be compliant with our local laws and zoning codes.
Smarter Pasturing Tips for Multiple Species of Animals
Now that you’ve got the idea and generalities set about how to have multiple types of animals in a pasture, let’s talk about how to pasture smarter. There are several ways to do this. The way you choose will depend on you, your situation, your animals, and how much pasture space you have available.
- Flash grazing – brief grazing involving a high livestock concentration. You turn your herd loose and let them eat all the grasses and weeds down. Flash grazed pastures need long periods of rest between reuse.
- Mob grazing or paddock grazing – this is short-duration, high-intensity grazing. All the animals are run as a herd. Incompatible species should be avoided. You’ll need multiple pastures between use.
- Leader/follower grazing – this is similar to pasture rotation. You let the species with the highest nutrient needs go in first, followed by those who are less picky. This can be done in timed intervals during a day or over weeks. The animals who will eat the parasites go last.
- Set stocking – a paddock is grazed without much resting. This is similar to continuous or variable grazing.
- Rotation or Rest-Rotation grazing – animals are rotated through pastures in single-species or mixed-species groups, with some pastures (or parts of pastures) being empty to rest and regrow.
Now, it may take you some time to figure out a system that works best for your backyard homestead. Just know that trying to find the best system possible will benefit you, your animals, and your land. You can only benefit from these practices. Here are some of the benefits of trying to improve your existing systems.
- The pasture improves considerably.
- More of the green is converted into animal products.
- You can stock more species and breeds – and in larger numbers.
- Having some knowledge about parasites will help in cutting down de-worming drugs.
- The right plan can even keep predators at bay.
- Lesser foraging work is left for other animals.
- Prevents losses – of animals, time, or space.
- Diversification of the farm.
- Mineral toxicity can also be prevented.
- Parasite load can also be controlled through smarter pasture practices.
Like I said, being smarter about your pasture practices will only help your backyard homestead. And it’s really going to depend on how much space or land you have available. Make sure you read my articles on how much land you need for a small homestead – and how to make money with a few acres of land. In that article, I’ll give you some pointers on how to manage your land – and I’ve got it sorted by acreage so that you can have the ideas you need to be smarter faster.
Livestock that Should Never Be Kept Together
Most livestock can live with at least one other type of animal in small groups, though individual animals may prove this generalization false. Larger herds of individual animals may not be able to intermingle with other species as easily or safely as smaller groups.
If I’d tried to answer this question before my research, I’d have given you an actual list of animals and livestock that should never be kept together. So I’m glad I did the research because now I know that most livestock can actually be kept with others. However, the more animals you add to the mix, then the more this becomes less and less true.
For example, we did totally fine keeping our flock of 12 chickens with our 2 Nigerian dwarf goats. But if I had 50 chickens and 50 goats? Then it may not have worked as well – simply because the scale is different.
So if we’re talking about keeping huge herds of cattle with huge herds of rabbits? That won’t work. The stories I found that say keeping a cow with a few rabbits is safe had exactly that – one cow with 5-6 bunnies.
In other words, it’s not necessarily the species that’s the problem. It’s also the scale, number of animals, size of the land, and availability of resources.
Oh, and it’s also dependent on your local zoning ordinances and laws. If you can’t have pigs (like us), then it’s not a great idea to add a pig to the mix. Even if the animals get along, you’d be liable to run into legal problems.
What’s Worked for Us: Livestock We’ve Kept Together Safely
Our backyard homestead is still quite small. We’ve got our half of an acre and we love it. So far, we’ve kept 12 chickens and 2 Nigerian dwarf goats. Our chickens are of assorted breeds. So we’ve had a lot of success with that so far – and learned a lot of “what not to do” lessons.
We’ve also researched adding alpacas, llamas, and other livestock. Our neighbors and other family members have horses, goats, chickens, and other animals.
So we’ve had a lot of real-life experience with all of this – and we’ve loved it.
Final thoughts on Compatible Livestock and Keeping Animals Together
Keeping multiple species together is an amazing way to be efficient with a smaller, backyard-style homestead. It’s not as simple as just adding another animal to the mix, though. You really do have to be thoughtful, deliberate, and intentional about how you do things. And there’s always a lot of research needed!
However, I’ve done a lot of the research for you – with regards to animal behavior, watering and feeding needs, and more. The only thing I can’t research for you is what your local laws, zoning ordinances, and codes say about which animals you can (or can’t) have in your area.
In our area, we can’t have pigs – we don’t have enough space. We’d need an acre per pig to be compliant with our local laws. But we can have up to 50 chickens while being compliant with our local laws. But your local area may have different rules about how much space you need for each animal – so make sure you familiarize yourself with those.
Because having a backyard homestead is an amazing, wonderful, and lifestyle-improving experience. So get out there and enjoy your own backyard homestead, friends.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to also learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Anderson, D M et al. “Managing livestock using animal behavior: mixed-species stocking and flerds.” Animal : an international journal of animal bioscience vol. 6,8 (2012): 1339-49. doi:10.1017/S175173111200016X
- Anderson, Dean M. Pro-Active Livestock Management – Capitalizing on Animal Behavior. jornada.nmsu.edu/bibliography/98-002.pdfv.
- “Agriculture: Province of Manitoba.” Province of Manitoba – Agriculture, www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/livestock/production/sheep/multi-species-grazing.html.
- “Animal Environmental Requirements.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2020, www.fao.org/3/S1250E/S1250E10.htm.
- “BeefTalk: Sheep and Cows: Some Do and Some Do Not.” Plone Site, 2020, www.ag.ndsu.edu/news/columns/beeftalk/beeftalk-sheep-and-cows-some-do-and-some-do-not/.
- “Camelid Community.” Camelid Community | International Camelid Institute, icinfo.vet.ohio-state.edu/content/camelid-community.
- “Flash Grazing.” National Drought Mitigation Center, 2020, drought.unl.edu/ranchplan/BeforeDrought/GrazingStrategy/FlashGrazing.aspx.
- Goats and Horses: A Pairing That Works Well at the Racetrack, 2019, www.dmtc.com/media/news/goats-and-horses-a-pairing-that-works-well-at-the-1411.
- “Grazing Strategies: Meat & Livestock Australia.” Meat & Livestock Australia, 2020, www.mla.com.au/Research-and-development/Grazing-pasture-management/Improved-pasture/Grazing-management/Grazing-strategies.
- “How to Reduce Heat Stress in Dairy Cattle.” University of Missouri Extension, extension.missouri.edu/g3620.
- Manning, Lauren. Cattle & Sheep & Goats – Oh My! How Multi-Species Grazing Benefits Ecosystems, Farmers, and Consumers. 16 July 2020, www.sacredcow.info/blog/diverse-multispecies-grazing.
- Mekonnen, M.M., and A.Y. Hoekstra. “The Green, Blue and Grey Water Footprint of Farm Animals and Animal Products.” UNESCO-IHE, 2010, waterfootprint.org/media/downloads/Report-48-WaterFootprint-AnimalProducts-Vol2.pdf.
- “Parasites in Small Ruminants.” Internal Parasite Control for Small Ruminants, 2020, www.uaex.edu/farm-ranch/animals-forages/sheep-goats/internal-parasite-control.aspx.
- “Rotational Grazing.” National Drought Mitigation Center, 2020, drought.unl.edu/ranchplan/BeforeDrought/GrazingStrategy/RotationGrazing.aspx.
- Starr, Kimberly. Can Alpacas Live with Pigs? 3 July 2020, backyardhomesteadhq.com/can-alpacas-live-with-pigs/.
- “Water: the Forgotten Nutrient in Pigs.” Agriculture and Food, Government of Western Australia, 2020, www.agric.wa.gov.au/water/water-forgotten-nutrient-pigs.
- “A Whole ‘Llama’ Fun: Alpacas And Llamas As Pets.” Texas A&M University Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, 1 Dec. 2020, vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk/a-whole-llama-fun-alpacas-and-llamas-as-pets/.