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Bees, Chickens & Other Critters

Many Bay-Friendly gardens provide ideal habitats for honeybees, chickens, ducks, rabbits, and other less common small livestock, like miniature dairy goats. After all, Bay-Friendly Gardens are designed and maintained to be healthy for people and wildlife—so it’s only natural that they can provide a healthy home for other critters too.

These days, there’s a resurgence of interest in raising backyard bees, chickens and other small livestock to provide healthy, local food. But that’s not the only role that urban farm critters can play. Bees provide important pollination services.

Chickens, rabbits and goats will make fast work of many of your garden and kitchen scraps—but keep in mind that they’ll also make fast work of your entire garden if they’re not kept out of areas you want to protect. In return for providing them with food, water and shelter, chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats will produce nutrient-rich manure that you can use to improve your garden soil.

On some properties, goats can be used to control weeds, but they’ll also eat the plants you want to keep unless you can set up appropriate fencing. Chickens can be moved around the garden in portable coops (called chicken tractors) to scratch the ground and turn their fertilizer into the earth. Ducks will patrol your garden for slugs and other bugs and don’t scratch up the ground the way that chickens do.

Raising animals requires a major commitment, even on a small backyard scale. But for many people, the benefits—from fresh eggs and luscious honey to natural fertilizer and even companionship—make the effort well worth it.

Tips on raising bees and animals in your garden:

  1. Before you start, check with your city about any restrictions on raising bees, chickens or other animals on your property, including the number and type of animals you’re allowed to keep, requirements for the type and location of housing (including distance from neighbor’s properties) and so on.
  2. Do research on the needs of the bees or animals you’re considering raising, and think about how those needs mesh with your situation. Chickens, ducks, rabbits and goats, for example, need secure protection from predators such as dogs and raccoons.

Links for More Information

  • Biofuel Oasis in Berkeley offers urban farming workshops, including classes on beekeeping and raising backyard chickens.
  • Institute of Urban Homesteading has classes in Oakland, Berkeley and other Bay Area cities on urban gardening and animal husbandry. They also sponsor an annual urban farm tour.


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