Our “Why” for Starting a Hobby Farm in Southern Illinois
When we moved our family back home to Southern Illinois finding a property with room to grow was key. My husband and I both grew up on family farms and we shared a strong desire to teach our children responsibility and instill a strong work ethic.
Our Farm Life "Why"
In 2019, we started looking at options to cut down on grass and weed control and we decided to start a hobby farm. We felt like life among animals would be such a wonderful way for our young girls to grow up. Not only would interacting with the animals teach them communication and patience, we thought it would provide a positive model for future human relationships as well. For us, we really took our time researching the types of animals we wanted to bring to our farm and it has just evolved naturally over time. We knew it would be important to start small so we could dedicate the attention and care required.
Before we were able to bring any animals home initially, we knew we would have to prepare our property for farm life. Fortunately, when we purchased our home, it came with an outside storage barn. During our first year, we gave our barn a makeover and a few summers ago my husband added onto it and enclosed a new area to offer protection for our animals against the elements. Our most recent makeover involved making over the barn exterior as well as the interior tack room. All of our home improvement projects have been completed DIY style by us (mainly my husband).
We quickly fell in love with the Olde English "Babydoll" Southdown sheep.
They met our need for grass and weed control and we loved how their small size would be much easier to handle than many other farm animals. In 2019, we purchased two wethers from Missouri and last fall we added twin lambs from Indiana. It has been such a joy to see our girls interact with our sheep.
The sheep have such a sweet temperament and will come right up and eat out of their hands. When our girls are old enough, I hope they will show sheep in 4-H like my grandmother once did.
Since we already had a shelter for the sheep, we did a little more research and settled on adding jumbo Pekin ducks, Buff ducks and chickens to the farm.
With access to our large pond, all of our poultry free-range and we love having farm fresh eggs! Ducks are a great addition to any homestead. There are many benefits, but for us, one big one is that ducks have an insatiable appetite for bugs and grubs making them a great organic choice for pest control.
They nose their bills through the top inch of soil in hopes of finding anything that moves – including parasites which could be deadly to our sheep, alpacas, and llama. We fully believe we also have fewer ticks and mosquitoes than a normal farm due to raising ducks and chickens.
Our animals give us great fertilizer that we use for gardening. We love how all the animals work together to help us strive toward sustainable living. We’ve been able to say goodbye to toxic, costly pest control solutions as well as store-bought fertilizer.
With smaller farm animals, safety has always been upmost importance. My husband and I built the fencing ourselves and while we felt it was secure, we knew we should also consider adding a large guard dog or llama to the farm. Did you know that llamas can instinctively bond with other animals and provide a high level of protection from predators like a coyote? After talking to other sheep owners, we decided a llama would be the best option for us. We loved that they would eat the same things as our sheep and alpacas and we were lucky enough to find a llama that had previously been with Southdowns.
Family Hobby Farm
I hope this gives you a glimpse into our "why" for starting a hobby farm and how we've prepared for them along the way.
In our area it is not common to raise Babydoll sheep, ducks, chickens or own a llama and alpacas, but we wouldn't have it any other way. We are continually learning and looking for ways to become more self-sufficient. This was our first year to harvest the wool fiber and we look forward to using it to make Christmas ornaments as well as other items. It seems like our favorite days are ones spent outside watching the animals interact or our girls helping care for them. We are always learning something new and I love that we get to do it together as a family.