Weeds are the bane of every landscaper's existence, especially for environmentally conscious gardeners who don't believe in spraying harmful chemicals all over their yards. The good news is that hired help is now readily available on the cheap, but perhaps not in the form you're expecting.

Goats, it turns out, have proven far more effective than herbicides at removing certain kinds of weeds and invasive plants. They're more eco-friendly, more efficient, and cheaper than chemicals. And now they're also available to do your home landscaping, thanks to new craze of rent-a-goat services popping up around the country.

For the average person, the idea of hiring a goat to rummage around in the yard might sound a bit eccentric, but it's not as unusual as you'd first think. When manpower was scarce during the World War I, President Woodrow Wilson relied exclusively on sheep power to cut the White House lawn. Animal grazers were also responsible for keeping the playing field of the Philadelphia Phillies trimmed in the 1920s.

Somewhere down the line, the idea of making use of domestic grazers to keep our lawns trim and the weeds at bay was lost. But many animals — goats especially — make for surprisingly efficient help in this regard. Goats can go places heavy farm machinery can’t, they're cheaper and better at finding weeds than people are, and they are natural fertilizers. And let's face it, these staples of petting zoos everywhere are pretty cute too. When you add it all up, why not hire a goat? Goats were born for this work. In fact, it's not even work for the goats — it's just lunch.

So is a goat grazer right for your yard? Well, it depends. Goats have a rather varied diet that includes many unwanted plants like thistle, blackberry, English ivy, kudzu, poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, wisteria and more. But they also might like munching on your garden plants. The good news is that most rent-a-goat services have ways of controlling for this, by putting up temporary fencing around the areas where the goats are meant to graze.

The best way to find out if a goat grazer is right for you is to have a consultant examine your particular situation. This service, along with receiving an estimate, is free for those using Amazon's service, for instance.

Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Got a weed problem? Try renting a goat
When it comes to killing weeds, herbivores are better than herbicides for a number of compelling reasons.