Nigerian Dwarf Goats
for Urban Farming and Homesteading
Nigerian dwarf goats grow
to only 21 in. tall, about equal to
a medium-size dog. "But they have giant udders," says Novella
Carpenter. She should know: she has six goats that together provide a
quart of milk a day, which she drinks and uses to make cheese and
butter. And when the bleating
beauties are not grazing in her
1,000-sq.-ft. yard, they're hanging out on the porch of her
second-floor apartment in the middle of Oakland, Calif.
Carpenter, a city dweller
who in recent years has tried her
hand at raising turkeys (she got three day-old poults for $2 each) and
pigs (which she fattened to 300 lb.) for dinner, says she turned to
milk-producing goats because "I decided I needed a more long-term
The author of the new Farm City: The Education of an
Urban Farmer, she is eager to help others get into what she describes
as a "hobby that involves sex and birth and death and life."
Carpenter who lives in Oakland,
with dwarf goats.
Picture by Mark Richards for TIME
There have been lots of
stories lately about chicken coops
becoming a new urban and suburban accessory. But Carpenter
the squawking hen "the urban-farming gateway animal," the first
occupant of a big metropolitan menagerie.
Among eco-foodies, the
hottest urban livestock bleat, quack, gobble, oink, buzz and ... well,
whatever noise rabbits make. Just ask the folks
at Seattle Tilth, a
and gardening nonprofit
that this summer added goat sheds
and pens to its long-standing local chicken-coop tour.
Or ask the
participants in Detroit's Garden Resource Program, which
classes and saw them
fill up immediately. Even the
so-called Chicken Whisperer, a.k.a. Andy Schneider, who hosts an urbane
chicken radio show six days a week from suburban Atlanta, is branching
out. He is planning an episode on turkeys after fielding so many
questions about them from listeners. (Watch TIME's video "Barnyard Animals in
The growing popularity of
raising barnyard animals in
backyards — or indoors (at least two companies, ChickenDiapers.com
sell nappies to people who want their birds to bunk with them) — has
forced many municipalities across the country to statutorily reckon
with allowing livestock within city limits.
But legal or not, urban
animal husbandry is gaining cachet. That's not only because of the
desire to eat local and organic but also because the shaky economy has
more people wanting to be more self-sufficient.
garden educator Carey Thornton: "Food you raise yourself just tastes
keep chickens for eggs. Schneider's organization,
has groups in
19 cities in the U.S. and four outside
the country; of the 700 members in Atlanta, for example, only five
raise hens for consumption. Miniature goats are usually kept for milk
and weed-eating; bees for honey and pollination.
But the truly hard-core
urban farmers are plumping their
animals for meat, shortening the food-supply chain and being
responsible carnivores. "It's empowering," says Carpenter, who is
nurturing 10 bunnies to eat. "People want to own their meat-eating."
Of course, not everyone
wants to get that close to their food
sources. Dwarf goats in particular have been a point of contention.
They smell bad and can wreak havoc if they escape, opponents say; some
also worry that allowing goats will pave the way for legalizing llamas
and cows in cities. Goat advocates, who note that only horned males
emit musk, say the ruminants are gentle enough to be walked on a leash
and that they generate high-quality manure, which can be used as
The movement has led to
heated debates in city-council
meetings over the definitions of livestock, small animals and farm
animals. The result: a hodgepodge of animal-ownership laws across the
nation and even within a state. This spring in North Carolina, for
example, Asheville voted to allow temporary permits for goats to clear
vegetation, while Charlotte banned them from properties smaller than a
quarter of an acre — despite supporters showing up at a city-council
meeting with signs reading I LOVE MY PYGMY GOAT.
Those enthusiasts may have
taken a page from the godmother of
goat lovers, Jennie Grant, owner of Brownie and Snowflake, who founded
the Goat Justice League two years ago while pushing Seattle to legalize
miniature goats. It is now permissible to have three on a 5,000-sq.-ft.
lot, and some city departments have hired goats to clear blackberry
brambles. "Part of my lobbying effort included bringing fresh chevre to
city-council members' offices," she says.
Locavore yuppies and
suburban soccer moms aren't the only ones
committing to animal husbandry. Catherine Ferguson Academy, a Detroit
high school for teens who are pregnant or have already become mothers,
has for years had a working farm adjacent to campus. The school
considers gardening and raising animals integral to its curriculum.
Under the tutelage of life-sciences teacher Paul Weertz, the young
women built a barn one year and provide daily care for rabbits, horses,
chickens, ducks, turkeys and peacocks. The
acquired a pig and, says principal Asenath
Andrews, they're going to
Andrews hopes farming
teaches the girls to be more
entrepreneurial, well-rounded moms. "Breast-feeding, which is
definitely not a popular adolescent activity, is looked on differently
by the girls who experience the lessons with baby rabbits," she says. A
teachable moment happened the day students broke open an egg containing
what appeared to be a viable chick, which the girls frantically tried
to save, even calling in the school nurse. The chick died, but the
episode sparked a thoughtful conversation about premature human babies,
the risks they face and the possibility that saving ailing preemies
isn't always merciful. It was one of her most fulfilling days as an
educator, Andrews says. "If we have one of those discussions a year,
it's worth having a goat — or 10 goats — at the school."
Of course, which animal is
most valuable to the downtown
farmer depends on whom you ask. "Rabbits are the ideal urban farm
animal," says Carpenter, because "they can feed almost exclusively on
Dumpstered items like lettuce, stale bread, etc." Seattle Tilth's
Thornton thinks that ducks are better for gardens than chickens and
that they provide tastier eggs. "I think the duck is the future," she
says. Game on, chicken lovers. Urban Animal Husbandry
Times Magazine, Monday, Aug.
If you are looking for some milking shed plans
for goats we have some here. These are for milking 10 goats. So a
little big if you want to keep backyard goats, but they can easily be
adapted to suit your needs:
How to Build a Milking
Barn for 10 Goats
For some more plans on DIY visit our Do
it yourself projects page.
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