What’s Wrong With Backyard Breeding Anyway?



This is a question that my husband and I ponder every now and then, and lately, it’s become a conversation that we’ve been having more frequently. Though both types of breeders may have the end goal to sell quality animals, there are clear differences in thought between those who sell ‘responsibly bred’ animals, versus those who breed animals on a farm or in their backyard to sell.

What's Wrong With Backyard Breeding Anyway? - Stone Family Farmstead

This post is was borne out of a conversation that I recently had with a breeder of show animals (chinchillas to be specific), and it just really left Todd and I scratching our heads and wondering, what’s wrong with ‘backyard breeding’ anyway?

Preface

Let me preface the rest of this post with these few thoughts: We know, have met and gotten to know, and have bought from many different types of breeders of many different species of animals. Most of them have been what would be considered ‘backyard breeders’, a small few have been those who try to breed only show quality animals, adhering to a rigid set of standards (also called ‘responsible breeders’), and some of them I would consider to have their foot in both arenas. All of them have been well versed in the breed of animal they sell, and if we have needed it, have been open to any questions I might have in regards to proper care of the animals we have acquired from them (and even those I have not).

There are many reasons to breed animals. Some breed to create a beautiful animal, or an animal with a better temperament or better skills, for nice color, for a healthier line, or things along that vein. There are others who breed because they must, as in the case of a dairy or meat animal who will be providing food for their family. Some just breed to allow their much-loved family pet to breed once or twice in their lifetime, and use it as an opportunity to make a few bucks to offset the cost of their animal’s care, or even just for extra money in their wallet. I’m sure there are still those out there that are just evil people and breed animals purely for their own personal gain with no consideration for breed genetics, health of the animals they are producing, or the animals they are using to breed, but that hasn’t been a typical thing that we have encountered. Most have been people just like us who love their animals very much and choose to breed, using vastly different methods and for vastly different reasons.

Isabella - Stone Family Farmstead

Isabella, our healthy, fully papered Vizsla puppy, bought from a ‘backyard breeder’.

Todd and I believe that each of us who would like to has the freedom to make the choice of which type of breeder we will be, and in our eyes no breeder has necessarily been better than the others as far as the type of people they are. We have liked them all, and respect the choice of each breeder that we know. We have enjoyed animals of all kinds and from many different breeding situations, so my writing this article is in no way meant to disrespect anyone; rather it is to give a different perspective on the topic of responsible breeding.

Where We Are Coming From

Our family loves animals, we always have. Admittedly, we have not always been the best at caring for them and if I’m truthful, we still have a lot of learning to do. Over these past few years of acquiring and raising rabbits, chickens, goats, dogs, and rescuing feral cats, I have had occasion to study basic animal care, animal behavior, basic veterinary care (not formal), using herbs with animals, and common animal illnesses. It is an interest of mine to be able to recognize and treat health issues in my animals in as natural way as possible.

We do not forego proper veterinary care (especially in emergency situations), but we do aspire to learn about preventive care, as well as whatever can be done safely to provide simple veterinary care for our animals when the need arises. We are learning to vaccinate where we feel is necessary, treat our animals for parasites, GI issues, and anything else that we can safely treat here at home. We are a work in progress, but we are definitely making progress.

Our goal is to give the best care–health and otherwise–that we can to our animals, as well as provide happy homes for them. My drive to learn about the nutritional and preventive care needs of all of the species of animals we raise here is what I believe will be foundational in keeping our animals out of the woods healthwise. It won’t be enough to make sure we don’t lose any, or that none will ever become ill, but I believe that the more we know, the better the chance our animals will have for good health and a long, happy life.

Having said all that, we do aspire to be a working farm, and a working farm needs its animals to be working animals– meaning, they need to bring some sort of return to us that makes it worth it to raise them. That return can be food, fertilizer, rodent control, or simply just companionship, and often animals will naturally fill more than one of those job descriptions. Every one of our sixteen animals serves the farm in some way, not by force, but just by doing what they are designed to do. It’s a plan that works well for us because it’s close to how things work in nature.

Since the beginning of our homesteading adventure, we have talked over the idea of breeding our animals. Because Todd and I believe that our animals, present and future, are God’s creatures and deserve the best care we can give them, we have been reluctant to get into any type of breeding. We knew that once we allowed our animals to bring babies into our world, the ultimate responsibility for their basic care, veterinary care, and where they would live would fall squarely on our shoulders, and we weren’t ready for that. With the exception of Abi’s 4H show rabbit of grand champion lineage (who never conceived), we have foregone breeding any of our animals for the past few years because we don’t take the responsibility of animal lives lightly.

Michelle the MiniLop - Stone Family Farmstead

Michelle, Abi’s healthy, fully papered MiniLop, acquired from show breeders

Why I’m Writing This Article

I am writing this article because this subject has been one that has always bothered me–what makes one type of caring breeder better than another? (Remember, we are not talking about breeders that care more about money than their animals.) It seems like the answer is usually the same as it is in politics, religion, and any other place where an attitude of elitism can form: a difference of opinion, and the demonizing of those with a different opinion than I have. It’s amazing how often and where this attitude can crop up, and crazy that people don’t really realize when it’s happening in their attitudes. But that’s a different post for someone else to write.

Some of what I will say here is in response to the apparent disdain I have experienced of late from those who would call themselves ‘responsible breeders’ while deeming me “the very definition of a ‘backyard breeder'”–basically the equivalent of a ‘puppy mill’–if I choose not to breed according to the standards they believe are correct. These are people that I don’t know, but they feel they know me somehow.

It’s not the term that bothers me. Heck, I would be breeding in my backyard! It’s the quick judgment that is made after getting to know me through brief conversation, and the forcing of a set of breeding ideals that bothers me–a set of ideals that we don’t really believe to be the right ones for us here at Stone Family Farmstead.

Lucas - Stone Family Farmstead

Lucas, a feral cat rescued in 2013 to take the place of our elderly mouser, who is now 19 years old

The Conflict

Recently, we were offered a herd of chinchillas for breeding. The owners were not able to give the breeding program the attention that they thought it should have and offered it to us if we wanted to give it a try. We thought about whether we would have the space and proper situation to take on a breeding program for animals like these. I went to researching what it would take to give these chinchillas a proper home and what breeding them actually entails. In my search for information, I connected with some breeders in hopes of getting some honest questions answered about the possibilities of making this work.

Sadly, I was treated with little respect despite the fact that I was only in the researching stage of this endeavor. I was told that there was no way that what I was proposing could or should work at all because the chinchillas have no pedigrees and do not meet the standards of what the ‘responsible’ chinchilla breeding community feels is appropriate. I was told that I should “get one or two and have some happy pets”, and forget about breeding these because I would just be introducing back into the breed the diseases and issues that breeders have worked so hard to breed out of chinchillas. What?

This really stumped me because the way it sounds, no breeder would ever touch any of the chinchillas that I breed anyway, simply because there is no recorded health or pedigree information for them. I’m not sure how my pet chinchilla babies could *ever* corrupt the lines if no breeder would ever take one from me for use in their chinchilla breeding program. It just doesn’t make sense.

(Let me just point out that this situation wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered a disrespectful attitude from a ‘responsible breeder’ for choices that we felt were best for the animals that we’ve taken into our family. It is actually somewhat prevalent; however, let me interject here that not all ‘responsible breeders’ are this way, and should be treated as individuals, rather than a predictable part of the whole.)

Our Thinking

We believe at Stone Family Farmstead that understanding nutrition and feeding, proper care, and breeding is a good start to moving in the direction of actually breeding. In nature, the animals don’t understand genetics, nor do they check each other’s medical records in order to breed. Obviously, knowing those things in a breeding situation is helpful, but it’s not always possible to know. It’s very difficult for us to think that we ought to never breed an animal unless someone else said it was okay–that’s just not how we roll in any situation. We need to feel that we can make those decisions for ourselves, our animals, and our farm, and would be hard-pressed to allow anyone else to do that for us.

It’s not a pride thing, though it may sound like it–it’s more of a thing where we are willing to do all we can to learn about the animals we have and take the responsibilities that go along with keeping them, including breeding if we choose to. No one else will be taking care of our farm, and no one else will know it and our animals better than we do. That’s just how it is on every farm.

Having said those things, I feel it’s worth mentioning that we do our best to buy papered animals that can be registered with whatever organization is appropriate for their breed, and we keep meticilous records on all of our animals, inasmuch as we can. However, we understand that there are sometimes genetic issues that we may run into, and that sometimes animals get sick. I study a lot about my animals needs and nutrition, and I try to understand the genetic predisposition of each breed of animal we have, as well as the predisposition of each individual animal. I keep records on how and when they have been ill, what I did to treat it, and how successful it was. We do our best to keep their living spaces clean, cool, and with fresh air, but this is a farm, and some of those systems are still a work in progress (particularly the cooling systems lately here).

We may make mistakes. We will feel sad about them if we do, but then we will pick up and carry on. I think mistakes are sometimes made, or something goes wrong with breeding and there are losses, and we, just like any caring breeder (‘responsible’ or ‘backyard’) will do our best to avoid those things next time. We will choose to do what is best by each animal we choose to breed, and honestly, we will likely choose not to breed most of our animals because of the responsibilities that it carries. I think that most caring breeders would feel the same way that we do.

In Conclusion

In the end, Todd and I don’t at all understand how breeding animals here on our property, allowing the mamas to take care of the babies the way God and nature intended, intervening in the birth and care of the animals (if needed), and eventually selling them to those who want to use them on their farm, or simply love them as pets is much different than what ‘responsible breeders’ are doing (only with different functions for each animal, of course). It seems that it’s a basic framework that both follow, only the attitude and rules are different.

We are not dissing the ‘responsible breeder’ community–many of them are great people who care deeply for the breed they work with. We just feel that there is another definition of responsible that doesn’t not necessarily adhere to the ‘responsible breeder’ communities’ rules, but still has the ultimate goal of the proper breeding, care, and placing of the animals involved. We aspire to be part of that community.

Naomi and Willow - Stone Family Farmstead

Naomi and Willow, our dairy goats. We are hoping to breed Naomi in the fall as long as she is at the proper weight and is healthy. Willow will be bred the following year if all is well with her health and weight. The plan is to allow these mamas to raise their babies and then sell them to families who would like dairy goats of their own.

Shared at Wildcrafting Wednesday, Homestead Blog Hop, Maple Hill Hop, Tuesdays with a Twist, MisAdventures Monday, Our Simple Homestead, Weekend Blog Hop, Awesome Life Friday, From the Farm, Front Porch Friday, Farmgirl Friday, Simple Saturdays, Simply Natural Saturdays, Good Morning Mondays, The Art of Homemaking Mondays, Make Your Home Sing Mondays, Homemade Mondays, Hey Momma Monday Link Party, MisAdventures Monday, The Gathering Spot, Maple Hill Hop, Tuesdays with a Twist



 
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Kristi Stone

Kristi Stone

Honestly? I'm the author of this blog...sometimes. My family and I live in Sunny Southern California on a one acre hobby farm where we are working diligently to one day produce our dairy, eggs, and produce. That takes A LOT of work, so if you don't hear from me as soon as you'd like, give me a shout out in the comments and I'll chat back as soon as I can between the garden, goat kids, chickens, husband, human kids, and playing with my grandboy, Kieran. And in the mean time, if you'd like to see more frequently what goes on at our farm, please feel free to join my Facebook group (see the right column) where I am more active. I'd love to get to know you! 🙂
Kristi Stone

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Comments

  1. Hi, Kristi. What a quandary! (I just noticed we live in the same state.)

    I’m sorry you’ve had this trouble. I say do what you love and stick to your guns, so to speak. The world will see that you raise your animals ethically and with integrity and that will be the proof. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • HI Sally! Thank you for your encouragement! We do try to do our best, and it’s sad when all of the efforts we take are treated as if it’s nothing. I suppose I feel like there is room for many different ways of doing things! 😀

      I didn’t know you were in California too! That’s fantastic to know, I can use all the help I can get in the area of California gardening!

      Thanks for kind comment. 🙂

  2. Complicated topic, but you addressed it with tact and respect. I applaud you for that. Boy, your Lucas is beautiful. We used to live in a neighborhood with tons of feral cats. Some I captured, had spayed, and released. Some I found homes for. One (Frank) I fed everyday and he lived in our yard. Before we moved from that house, I made sure my neighbor agreed to feed him. Last I heard, he had started coming into her house. Warmed my heart!

    Thanks for linking up at the Weekend Blog Hop at My Flagstaff Home!

    Jennifer

    • Thank you, Jennifer, I was hoping to. It’s a touchy topic, for sure. Lucas is a cat we fell in love with the first day. He was sort of an ugly little guy in a cute sort of way, but I think we loved him because he was so vocal. Or maybe we felt really sorry for him because he couldn’t find his mama. 🙂 That’s cool that you did the spay and release thing–some neighborhoods really need someone to control the cat population (ask me how I know). Aw, that’s great about Frank. We had one kind of like that called “Stripey Cat”. He was Lucas’s friend before we moved, but he was so skittish that he would never have allowed us to catch him. I don’t know if anyone took on his care, I hope so. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer!

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