The Great Livestock Debate: Which Animals Are Best For Our Farm?

We had a real fantasy vision of our “farm” life when we found this property. “A Mini Farm!” we screamed and then we happily put on our blinders regarding all the day-to-day realities. I suppose that’s the job of the fantasy – it calls you to move swiftly with fierce excitement, knowing that you’ll cross/jump off the next bridge when you get to it. We watched The Biggest Little Farm no less than eight times as a family both before and during lockdown. We romanticized having a “mini-farm” like only two stifled city slickers could. In my “farm fantasy,” miniature goats would greet guests as they got out of their car – startling them at first, befriending them by the end of the weekend. In my fantasy, we’d be chasing rascal-y chickens back into the coop, with the naughty one always being a punk. We’d tuck in our “rag-tag group of misfits” – an alpaca, a mini-donkey, and a goat all snuggled together at night, and the kids would feed them every morning before they walk to school, and spend the weekend cleaning the stalls. And due to our excellent farm lifestyle and routines, our kids, who are far more privileged than Brian nor I ever were, would remain grounded, un-entitled, and become generous citizens in the world. Years of tending to our livestock, harvesting crops, and most importantly picking up loads and loads of shit on the daily would solve my biggest parenting fear. It writes itself! We need animals to snuggle with and shit to pick up!!

Wait, So Why Do You Really Want “Farm Pets”?

We have no plans of making this a business with their fur, milk, cheese, eggs or to breed them and sell off the babies. The real and only reason we want farm pets is that we really enjoy and love animals so much and we want more of them to take care of and snuggle with. We love our pups, including the multiple walks they require most days, so much. We were obsessed with our cats when we had them. We know that the right animals will bring us a lot of joy and hopefully vice versa. We aren’t doing it for optics or because we think it’s quirky and cool. We simply think it will be a lot of fun and we have a lot of love to give to animals. This is why making sure they are good “pets” is important to us (and very different than what is a typical good “livestock”). I’m admittedly not one of those people who want to take care of any animal off the street. While I wish I were, I’m not Kristen Bell, willing to take on any animal’s problems. I think it’s important to know who we really are going into this process. We want pets to love and take care of but know our bandwidth.

The Reality…

It’s wet and rainy for seven months of the year. Poop smells gross and can create parasites that make the animals sick if you don’t clean it up quickly. Parasites mean shots and vaccines that we have to implement. Fur needs to get sheared, toenails need to get clipped. We aren’t actual idiots and we know that owning animals is very different than petting them at a farm. So, is this the best idea? And if so which ones?

Before You Can Weigh In, You Need Some Facts:

  1. We both work/write from home and our schedules are pretty manageable most weeks. We’ve retained much of the slowness from lockdown, we are serious homebodies, and most of the kid’s activities are in the neighborhood. So the idea of tending to the animals and garden still sounds like what I want to be doing. In short – we have the time/desire.
  2. Brian wants to take the lead on all things animals, and he’s really driving this circus train. If he weren’t I would give it at least another year here to make sure we can handle it so I don’t overcommit myself. But his level of enthusiasm is off the charts, and in general, if Brian wants to do something, he does it really, really well.
  3. We have a feed barn and enclosed paddock which is about 1/4 of an acre. We are all set!! Right???

The Paddock & The Barn

So as you can see we actually are kinda set up – there is a fully enclosed paddock that has tons of grass/growth and shade. It’s not huge, but it’s big! And it’s not like we need it for any other purpose. So it is just sitting there.

The barn has two sides – one side has stalls, and the other is our kid’s current clubhouse for the summer (but at any point if we need it for animals we’ll do that).

Brian And I Were Both Raised With Farm Animals

This whole “want to have farm animals” started in our youth. Brian’s parents have a ranch-style home with a barn and a pasture in a horse community. It’s where he grew up, they still live, and where we got married. It’s incredible. He never owned a horse, but there are horses all over the neighborhood and often people would keep their horses in their pasture. I grew up in the woods of Coastal Oregon with a goat for blackberry upkeep and a lamb/sheep. The lamb was won by my oldest sister during a 4-H lamb scramble (uh, are we still doing that?) and we got to “keep” it. Yay us (not). My older brother put me on the sheep, trying to make me ride it which it did not appreciate. So for the rest of the summer, it would knock me down every time I stepped outside. I very much do not care for sheep to this day. My family also has a ranch in Wyoming and they are bonafide cowboys (NOT farmers, huge difference). So growing up we would go visit frequently and there they have all the animals (but for a real purpose, not for fun like us).

brian’s parent’s farm!


So today imma walk you through our deductive thought process. It’s riddled with naivete and privilege, but that’s to be expected when you buy a “farmette” or a “gentleman’s farm”. I also want to make sure it’s understood that we know that for many people this is a livelihood full of unbelievably hard work and I don’t want to diminish that by acting like it’s just a fun hobby that we can easily do. We know it’s work which is why we are taking our time and researching to figure out what makes sense for our family and this property. We know this won’t be easy or natural to us, but we are hoping it will help our family grow in ways (just like our pups did) and create lots of moments of joy for our kids and our neighborhood,

Chickens???? Everyone Has Chickens!!

The obvious first choice is chickens. The Pandemic Poultry Pet! Of course, we’d love fresh eggs and chickens are funny and unthreatening to kids (plus they put themselves to bed at sunset which seems mindblowing). But the more we research we have decided to take a pause on chickens for now for the following reasons:

  1. Rats – I guess our neighborhood in particular has a lot of chicken coops and a lot of rat problems. We lived in New York for 10 years. We dealt with rats in our apartment every day. So to make sure you don’t get rats you need to pour a cement pad (or so we’ve been told) and that’s a level of commitment that we aren’t close to yet.
  2. Chicken poop is a real thing – It smells, has to be cleaned up frequently, and can cause diseases. We fear that this might be too much for us. We are idealists, but we also know our weaknesses.
  3. The main reason we wanted chicken is for the daily eggs, but in Oregon, there are so many farms that we can buy locally from with the best eggs ever so maybe our dollar is better spent supporting real farmers who make this their livelihood.
  4. Coyotes – We have a few large guys that visit the property in search of bunnies, so we’d have to really enclose and protect those chickens which again means a financial infrastructure that we aren’t ready to commit to.

It’s not a forever “no,” but currently we aren’t going to get chickens (please convince us either way in the comments).

Goats! Miniature, Pygmie, And Miniature Pygmie

Try not to buy a baby goat after going to a baby goat birthday party at a baby goat farm. Side note: Baby goat parties are Oregon’s version of LA parties where actors come in different character costumes (Frozen, Star Wars, pirates, superheroes, you name it). It’s funny how different states have different birthday party industries. In short, baby goats are so cute but they grow up to be big goats and I’m not sure we love big goats as much as we need to. Nothing is off the table (ha, goat/dad pun), but Brian and I aren’t currently leaning into goats for whatever reason (ok fine, some of them creep me out with the whole square white eyes thing and often their butts have a lot of grossness in them). Again, while I realize how pretentious this all sounds I think being honest with what you love/want/need and can handle is really important before you commit to taking care of another being. We don’t take this responsibility lightly so we have to feel really, really good about it.

Miniature Cows? Not So Miniature!!

There is a lot of misinformation out there in the miniature cow world. Y’all. These cows are not small. All the ones on social are miniature cow CALVES, babies. We just visited a farm outside Bend where we saw a few of their “miniature” cows which come up to my ribs and are 1000lbs. Sure, they are shorter than normal-sized cows, but they are so wide and still kinda terrifying! The one on the left above is a TWO-DAY-OLD BABY CALF. We even called about some miniature highland cows because the PR and marketing around them are so convincing, but the farm we called boasted that some were $45k each. FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS. I don’t doubt that these are the best in the world and maybe the owner saw my IG handle and thought that we were up for that investment, but I couldn’t get off the phone fast enough (mostly because I didn’t want to waste his time). Also with the rain, the highland cows with long hair aren’t the best idea. Still open to the idea, but we haven’t found a farm that had mini cows that felt the right fit for us.

Horses? Who Doesn’t Love Horses?

We all LOVE the idea of horses but we know they are a huge responsibility and we don’t think we are ready for that. I also got bucked off by a Shetland pony when I was nine so I still have a decent amount of fear around them. It’s actually been (hopefully) a great lesson to the kids because they know I’m a little scared but I keep getting back on them and they always celebrate me when I do 🙂 If someone needed a place to keep their aging horse we would totally be open to that, but for now, we aren’t pursuing adopting a horse.

PIGS! Do We Need KuneKune Pigs??

A few weeks ago we met this KuneKune pig and fell in LOVE. It was so funny, cute, and made us laugh a lot. All of us immediately responded to it so positively. This pig was in Bend and didn’t have any babies, so the following weekend we went to a breeder outside Portland. We loved the piglets, but we want to buy them from a breeder that has them socialized with humans from an early age. These piglets were very terrified of us because they were kept in a pen and while they might warm up to us, what we’ve read is that some are exposed to more animals/humans early on and therefore attach to them easier. We don’t want to have to chase around squealing piglets all day, but boy do we want some of these:

We were told that they also like being in at least pairs so if we were to adopt some KuneKunes we would adopt at least two. And then we’d stop eating Pork (yes, even bacon) forever. We’ve already talked to the kids about it and they have agreed.

Are Alpacas The Move??

Our love for Alpacas is unwavering. They are really funny animals that seem to have big personalities. We have been to 7-8 alpaca farms now and feel pretty darn confident that we want to adopt some. We have been recommended to adopt two lady alpacas, one pregnant so that we can help raise a baby and then have three. We like the short curly hair versus the long hair (mostly because of the rain) and since we aren’t interested in breeding, people say that ladies are better pets. Alpacas poop in a pile (all of them! in the same pile!) so it’s easy to clean up. The poop is also worth a lot of money to cannabis dealers which is interesting since we live in Oregon (they call it “Liquid Gold” for fertilizer). I’m sure there are one million things about alpacas that we don’t know and yet we feel ready for it and excited. The biggest challenge is that some of the farms we went to said that domesticated dogs are the biggest problem/enemy and that the dogs can attack them and vice versa. So thus the hog wire on the split rail fence to make sure that they stay separate. Our other big fear would be that our dogs would never stop barking at them every time they went outside.

So that’s where we are at – three alpacas and two pigs. I know it seems so random and maybe it is, but based on our in-person research these are the animals that all of us connect to the most and can’t WAIT to adopt. We would honestly LOVE any and all insight, good and bad. We know we are naive (it’s impossible to not be naive in this situation) so we want all the info to help. I’ll read every posted comment for the day I promise!!!!!! And thank you 🙂

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