Goats are usually seen in rural settings and most commonly on a farm; however raising goats in the city is becoming more popular. Goats are considered small animals (which are classified differently than farm animals) and are completely legal in many cities including Chicago, St. Louis, St. Paul, San Francisco, Portland, Cleveland, and Fort Worth to name a few. So, why is raising goats becoming the next big market for urban homesteads?
Raising small animals like chickens and goats allows people to raise and produce their own food. In some communities, raising small animals promotes agriculture education, inspiration, and forms a stronger community. Once a family sees how beneficial urban farming is, some try a “goat share” where families could buy one goat, split the upkeep costs, and share the goat milk. The shared investment is already being done with cows, so why not expand to goats, too.
Goats are also great for land upkeep. In 2013, the city of Chicago set a herd of goats, sheep, llamas, and burrows free to handle the landscaping of 120 acres on O’Hare Airport property. Google also rented 200 goats to clear brush and weeds to reduce fire hazards around their headquarters. Not only did the animals clear the land fast and efficiently, it provided some entertainment for the city-goers.
However, raising goats takes a lot of responsibility and should not be entered into lightly. Female goats (called does) only produce milk for eight to ten months after giving birth. That means in order to get milk, your goat needs to be impregnated and give birth. Goat gestation (the amount of time the mom carries the baby in her womb) lasts approximately five months. Many does give birth to one baby (kid or billy) however, it is common for goats to give birth to twins and even triplets and quintuplets. Goats raised for milk means being there to milk them twice a day, every day. As mentioned before, they are expensive when it comes to a constant supply of food, water, proper fencing, shelter, and hoof trimming. You also need to have access to a veterinarian for medical and birthing emergencies.
The goat cheese market is also making a name in the Chicagoland area. The Standard Market in Westmont, Illinois took third place in the 2013 American Cheese Society Competition for it’s Aged Batista (a half cow/half goat cheese from Lovera Cheese Company).
Before you join the herd of urban homesteaders raising goats and other small animals, make sure to check your city’s laws and ordinances, establish a budget to make sure you can afford it, and talk with your neighbors to establish a relationship. Many city farmers say their success has greatly depended upon the support from of their neighbors who don’t mind the extra noise and smells that small animals bring.
Illinois State University student