Homestead bill introduced to the Ohio Legislature

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Modern homesteaders rejoice for a recent bill introduced to the Ohio legislature by Rep. Thomas Brinkman Jr., R-27. House Bill 175 permits owners of residential property to keep backyard birds, rabbits, goats and other small livestock.

Currently, many cities’ municipal codes do not allow residents to keep small livestock on personal property. Noise, odor and concerns about aesthetics are cited as reasons for the limitations. Bill 175 prohibits zoning authorities from regulating ag activities conducted on residential property for noncommercial purposes. If enacted, the bill will give modern homesteaders the freedom to raise backyard livestock for eggs, meat and milk.

The bill addresses nuisance concerns with mandates for good sanitation and animal care. Animal housing must be well constructed and size-appropriate. Livestock must be contained at all times. The bill limits the number of animals kept on the property to 1 livestock unit per 1 acre of property. Units: .05 per bird, .05 per rabbit, .3 per goat.

Find the full text of the proposed bill here.

How to keep small livestock on five acres or less

Laying hens. Chickens are a delightful addition to modern homesteads.  A few backyard hens will provide plenty of eggs for the average family. They also reduce food waste by gobbling up your fruit and vegetable scraps. Adding composted chicken manure to garden beds is a great way to boost soil health.  

Chickens require a coop for shelter and nesting. A chicken coop should provide 2 to 3 square feet of indoor space and 4 to 5 square feet of outdoor run space per bird. Equip the coop with nesting boxes and a roost. Give chickens free access to nutritious feed, fresh water and calcium-rich grit.

Meat chickens. Although several breeds of chicken are deemed dual-purpose, my experience is that the texture and flavor of meat from Cornish X chickens is superior to meat from dual-purpose or layer breeds. I notice meat breeds are less active and messier than layer breeds. Meat birds also require a higher protein feed than layers, and intake twice the volume of feed.

Ducks. Ducks can also provide eggs and homestead meat. Like chickens, some duck breeds make better egg layers and others better meat birds. Campbell ducks are prolific egg layers; they lay as many eggs as chickens. The most popular meat breeds are Muscovy and Pekin. Whether you intend to raise backyard ducks for eggs or meat, choose breeds with limited flight ability.

Duck housing should provide a minimum 4 square feet of indoor space per duck. Domestic ducks do not need a large or permanent body of water. A kiddie size wading pool is sufficient for a small flock.

Rabbits. New Zealand and California are the most common meat rabbit breeds in the United States. Both are considered medium weight, reaching 9 to 12 pounds at maturity.

Rabbits are territorial animals, especially during breeding and birth. Although young females will typically co-exist in a single hutch, mature females (does) and males (bucks) should be kept separately. Keep a watchful eye on their behavior and temperament for signs of aggression.

Does can produce between 6 to 8 litters each year. The average litter is eight to 10 kits, making rabbits the most productive backyard livestock for meat production.

Goats. Fresh goat milk is nutritious, easy to digest and can be used to make cheese, yogurt and sour cream for your family. The average dairy doe produces ¾ to 1 gallon of milk a day.

Goats thrive on a balanced diet of wholesome grain, hay and supplemental minerals. As an added benefit, they eat invasive vines and weeds growing in your yard.

A word of warning: Good fencing is critical to keep goats contained. They are always looking to sample greener grass on the other side of the fence. They will eat fruit trees and lawn ornamentals if you fail to protect your plants.

Goats are not solitary animals. I recommend homesteaders keep at least two. Males are larger than does. If space is an issue, consider using an off-farm service buck or artificial insemination to keep does in production/lactation.

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