Dwarf Fortress: How to Feed Animals
When you first place a Meeting Hall zone in Dwarf Fortress, you may be confused by the slowly growing number of icons above your animals' heads telling you that they're hungry. It's time to learn how to put your grazing animals to pasture to keep them fed.
Carnivorous animals are non grazing animals and won't be sated by a pasture; as you probably expect, they tend to feed themselves through meat in your stockpiles (eggs also count as meat). Herbivores, outright livestock or otherwise, can be put in a pasture and feed themselves. Once you have the zone set and it's large enough, you shouldn't have any trouble feeding grazers.
How to Place Animals in a Pasture in Dwarf Fortress
As with many things during your time with Dwarf Fortress, you'll need to play with the Zone menu to make a pasture for your grazers.
In the Zone menu, look for Pen/Pasture among the list. It's the fourth selection down in the left column with an icon of a horse.
The more animals you'll be turning loose in this zone, the larger you want it to be. The size of the herbivores will affect their appetite as well; for instance, a yak will do more plant grazing than a peacock.
You'll need a larger pasture size than you may expect, particularly for larger grazers. The Dwarf Fortress Wiki has detailed information on optimal pasture sizes per animal, with the largest being the Elephant and the smallest being the Rabbit.
You've really got to think about how much grassy space you have and which animals you can support in a pasture before going ham and deciding you want to keep them all. Having too many or too large of animals in a pasture can lead to starvation as herbivores compete for grass to graze on.
Now that you've got your pasture(s) placed, you can assign animals as necessary. This is done simply enough by selecting the pasture and clicking on the icon with a rabbit in the info tab.
Through this menu, you'll be able to add and remove grazers from a pasture as necessary.
If you want to alter the animals in a pasture you've already placed, just bring the Zone menu up again and click on the pasture to make edits.
There's more to know about the subject of feeding animals in Dwarf Fortress, but this should be enough to get you started on upkeeping your grazing animals and not watching them fall to starvation depressingly quickly. Check out our growing list of beginner guides for Dwarf Fortress here on GameSkinny.