Updated: February 8, 2023
By Neith Little

The types of livestock raised in urban areas are constrained by both space and local regulations. Some municipalities allow the keeping of some kinds of poultry (chickens, turkeys, quail, etc.), goats, sheep, bees, or rabbits. More unusual, innovative “livestock” like fish, shellfish, earthworms, mealworms, snails, black soldier flies, and crickets are also raised by some urban farms. Be sure to check with your local zoning office and also find out what permits are required to keep animals in your area. For example, in Baltimore City, miniature goats are allowed with a permit, but other breeds of goats and sheep are not allowed. Please also note that local municipalities may regulate slaughter within city limits.

Poultry, goats, rabbits, bees, and composting earthworms are often integrated into outdoor urban production systems. For example, chickens might be allowed to forage for pests and vegetable scraps in a vegetable bed after harvest, and their droppings might become part of the nutrient input into the soil, whether by “direct deposition” or after composting the litter from the henhouse. Aquatic livestock are sometimes grown alone (aquaculture) or integrated into hydroponic crop production (aquaponics). Integrating livestock and crop production systems has a lot of potential value for environmental and economic sustainability. However, when integrating livestock with crop systems, food safety planning and nutrient management planning become more important.

Poultry: Poultry includes all domesticated fowl. UMD Extension’s Poultry Team have gathered helpful introductory information for those who want to raise small flocks of poultry.

Goats and sheep: UMD Extension's Sheep and Goat web-page has a wealth of information online about raising healthy sheep and goats.

Rabbits: Penn State Extension has a helpful introductory article on raising meat rabbits. For Maryland regulations on rabbit slaughter and sales, see this article from UMD Extension. The Maryland Department of Agriculture  Poultry and Rabbit Program offers trainings about on-farm slaughter of poultry and rabbits.

Aquaculture and aquaponics: UMD’s Aquaculture Program offers information for both seafood farming and for traditional fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. The United States Department of Agriculture - National Agricultural Library has a section on aquaponics, which is the production of fish and plants together.

Bees: UMD Extension keeps a list of beekeeping resources online here. Additionally, the MD Beekeeper’s Association offers regular classes. Local UMD Master Gardeners sometimes offer beekeeping classes. The Honey Bee Lab at UMD College Park conducts research on bee health.

Earthworms: The UMD Home Garden Information Center has a great introductory factsheet on composting using earthworms (vermicomposting). For more information on commercial vermiculture (raising earthworms) and vermicomposting, see these pages by North Carolina State Extension and Cornell University. If you want to sell your earthworm castings as compost, you will need to register your product with the Maryland Department of Agriculture. 


Other invertebrates:


Mealworms: SARE research report: “Growing Mealworms as a Fish Feed for Sustainable Aquaponics

Crickets: Texas A&M guide to raising crickets

Black soldier flies: SARE research report: Black soldier flies as a value-adding tool within organic farming systems