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Working Pets

Working Pets

Working pets can make a big difference - you just want it to be the right difference

Working pets are glorious creatures. They can turn your scraps and weeds into food and beautiful gardens. And, with a bit of a mind shift, they are a practical alternative to dogs and cats.

Having been an owner of chickens, ducks, goats, rabbits & bees, I can tell you that if you keep an open mind, these alternative pets are great fun. There are quite a few alternative pet breeders on, but make sure you do your research. Just like getting a dog, the right breed makes a big difference and you need the right things in place on your property to manage them.


Chickens are surprisingly easy to keep and are allowed in most backyards across Australia. Raised from chicks, they make hilarious and affectionate pets, but this does require a bit of work. If you are keeping chickens for eggs, then best to get them from Point of Lay. There is an incredible array of accessories for keeping hens these days and companies like City Chicks in Brisbane will even rent you some, with coops and feeding accessories to let  you try before you buy.


Ducks are very social animals so  you will need more than one. If you keep a drake, best to only keep one with more female ducks. The best breed to keep will vary dependent on the kind of environment you are keeping them in and whether your main reason for keeping them is as a pet or for meat or eggs, so talk to the breeder to make sure you are getting the right one for you. 


Many rabbit owners report that rabbits are a little like cats to keep, although my experience has been that they are slightly harder to toilet train and even less obedient than cats. Still, they can be kept indoors and they make excellent vegetable composting machines, pretty much with an overnight turnaround. They are very social with dogs, cats and pretty much any livestock. The RSPCA has some excellent info on keeping rabbits.


Everyone has heard the story of the person who bought the teacup pig that turned into a 70kg bundle of barrelling destruction and had to be sent to a farm somewhere. The thing is that the smallest pig is a pot bellied pig and they just don't stay that small without being starved or fed the wrong food. Pigs are great pets however as they are super smart, naturally curious, easily trained and socially affectionate. Do your research before buying a pig - they are the latest 'it' pet, but you need to be very sure you know exactly what you are getting into. 


Goats are herd animals and will socialise well with pretty much any other domestic animal. They are great pets for people of all ages as they are gentle and don't tend to bite or scratch and have excellent temperament. Talk to a breeder if you are thinking of keeping goats or miniature goats.

Sheep - Lambs

If you live on the outskirts of town or have a rural property, sheep are a trusting, loving and friendly pet and great for young kids or those with disabilities. Sheep don't require a lot of maintenance, but they do need space, feed and shelter. They are great lawn mowers, but they need plenty of lawn or they will mow what you have down past the roots. Animals Australia offer some fun info on the secret lives of sheep.

Regulations, Registrations and Legalities

Regulations around the kind of animals you can keep on your property will define if you are allowed to keep livestock. Contact your local Department of Primary Industry (DPI) to find out how yours is zoned. Most livestock like goats, sheep, pigs in Australia require an NLIS tag placed in the animal's ear to keep a track of animals movements in case of a disease outbreak.

Registration and keeping requirements for working pets vary city to city, state to state. Best to check what your local council requirements are before you buy.

Unless you are a registered Magician, it is illegal to keep rabbits in Queensland.

You can't keep Roosters in suburban areas - check with council. (They make one hell of a racket.)

Photo: Unsplash | Adrian Infernus

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