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Five Awesome Animal Landscapers
While a large, lush backyard is one of homeownership’s biggest draws, lawn maintenance can quickly become a major drag. In some parts of the country, you might even get slapped with a fine if your lawn-care duties lapse!
Whether you take on the job yourself or pay a professional landscaper to do it, keeping a lawn neatly trimmed and free of weeds is a daunting prospect. Gas-powered mowers are loud, cumbersome, and useless against weeds. There is, however, a natural solution that is gaining traction, particularly thanks to growing interest in the homesteading movement.
The >homesteading movement hearkens back to a self-sufficient, sustainable lifestyle that includes growing one’s own food, reusing greywater, and keeping livestock. Allowing animals to maintain the lawn makes a lot of sense. Instead of spending money on gas that pollutes the air and pesticides that poison the ground, homeowners can keep the grass trimmed while also feeding their animals.
Of course, keeping any animal requires a commitment of time and money, so this is not a good option for those who are merely too lazy to mow their own lawns. With the right research, animal lawnmowers can add value to your life beyond keeping the grass short. Which animal is best suited to your needs? We break it down below.
Goats are the classic choice for lawn maintenance. Though they’re renowned as some of nature’s most extreme omnivores, goats don’t really eat tin cans (the myth began because goats like to lick the glue behind the paper labels). They do, however, love to eat weeds such as poison ivy, kudzu and wisteria, at a rate of about eight pounds a day. If you don’t want to commit to goat ownership, you might consider renting one.
- Superior weed-whacking capabilities
- In addition to grass, they’ll eat brush, leaves, and twigs
- Independent, inquisitive personalities
- Ability to climb makes them more of a flight risk
- Can stand on hind legs to feed, posing greater risk to trees
- “Browsing” habits may lead to wildly uneven grass lengths
Sheep are another popular choice for lawn maintenance. They’re good grazers, but are pickier than goats about which grasses they’ll eat. If you have a lot of weeds to clear, sheep probably aren’t the best bet. However, if you have a large area of grass, sheep will do an excellent job. They have a strong herd mentality, and lack the goat’s subversive spunk.
- Incapable of climbing, reducing risk of escape
- Can be used for wool and milk
- Docile creatures that pose little threat to other animals
- Because they’re social animals, you’ll need at least two
- Will strip tree trunks of their bark
- Extremely dull personalities
A single cow can eat over 25 pounds of grass per day. Cows are easier to contain than goats or sheep. However, even one cow will overwhelm the average American yard. Zoning laws are also an issue. To consider using cows, you’ll need a minimum of two acres worth of pasture.
- Easy to keep fenced in
- Grass-fed cows produce excellent milk
- Much too large for most properties
- Produce an overwhelming quantity of manure
- Harm the environment with methane emissions
These birds are enjoying a surge of popularity in the urban homesteading community. Not only can chickens be kept as egg layers or used for meat; they are also excellent lawn mowers. “Chicken tractors” are a time-tested method for keeping a lawn short, as well as providing the chickens with exercise. The “tractors” are A-frame chicken coops with an open floor that allows chickens to graze. The chicken tractors are moved once chickens have finished with a patch of grass, providing for a complete lawn trimming every 10-14 days.
- Egg quality is improved by grass diet
- Will eat bugs in addition to grass
- Also provide fertilizer
- Excess manure is difficult to wash away
- May dig holes in lawn for dustbathing
Guinea pigs may seem too small to make a dent in your yard, but get this: each of these critters can eat five times its body weight in grass every day! They’re small, cute, and make excellent pets. Their tiny, sharp teeth clip grass to a neat, uniform length.
- Small and portable
- Easy to keep indoors during winter months
- Ideal for small lawns
- Worthless against weeds
- Require other food in addition to grass
- Vulnerable to predators
Of course, there’s no rule saying you have to commit to one animal. Use our calculator to discover how many animals it would take to keep your lawn in order.
The Math Behind the Mowers
In order to find out how many of a specific animal it would take to mow a lawn we had to find out:
- The volume of grass in a square foot;
- The volume of grass an animal could eat in a day; and
- The number of times you would mow your lawn per year (30).
We used square footage as a basis, so all other area metrics were converted from a square foot calculation (Just in case you notice any rounding errors in metric units). Here are the sources for how much each animal can eat:
Math provided by mechanical engineer and Product Manager Chris Bernardo.