When most people think of homesteading, gardens, self sufficiency, and preserving are usually the first thing that comes to mind.
However, one of the most important additions any homesteader can make are farm animals. In many cases large livestock such as cows are not feasible.
There are several types of farm/homestead animals that are not only economical to keep but add value (or earn their keep).
The animals we are going to cover in this article are easy to keep, can be fed by simple crops that can be raised on the homestead, and contribute in several ways to the success of the homestead.
How To Choose Animals For Your Homestead
When deciding on which animals will fit your homestead, there are a few things to take into account.
How much land space can you devote to farm animals? Different animals require different amounts of space to really thrive and stay healthy.
Larger livestock for example, will require a larger fenced area. They will also require land that is suitable for grazing.
One example of recommended space for large livestock is horses. It is a general rule of thumb that horses require 1 acre of land per head of horse. Cattle would rank close or even more.
For many homesteads, this would not work nor be a large enough contribution to warrant using that much land for grazing only.
Smaller animals require much less space and can be housed in smaller pens. Or in the case of most fowl, be free range.
What type of feed is or can be readily available on your homestead? Corn for example, is a feed source that can be easily raised on just about any homestead. It is relatively easy to store and keeps well if allowed to dry.
Exhausted garden plants and unusable vegetables are another great source of feed for many farm animals.
Areas of the homestead that are not used for tilled ground and can be allowed to go to hay are another feed source.
Many of these areas if cut at the proper time, can be a rich source of sugars and proteins for hay eating farm animals.
If you have access to fruits and vegetables from a farmers market or a grocery store that is no longer sellable, this would be a good source of feed.
(Note: It is always advisable to add a supplement block and/or feed especially if in doubt of the nutrition facts for your farm animals).
Do The Homestead/Farm Animals Contribute To The Homestead?
This is probably one of the most important questions you can ask yourself. If you are homesteading, or just living a self sufficient lifestyle, you already know there is not a lot of room for excess baggage.
While having a few pets is quite understandable, even a necessity, too many can do far more harm than good in the long run.
An example of contributing to the homestead would be, as a food source, protection, and fertilizer.
As a food source would mean eggs, meat, and milk. As a source of protection, that would be allerting to unusual activity and/or aggressive behavior toward an unknown trespasser whether animal or person. As a source of fertilizer, that would be manure that can be composted.
Five Animals Every Homestead Must Have
The following are four animals the contribute greatly to the homestead, and are among the easiest and most economical to keep.
Goats are among one of the heartiest of milk and meat producing livestock. They will eat just about anything and stay healthy and fit doing so!
Goat milk can be used in pretty much every way a cows milk can be used but at less than half the expense.
Goat meat is a great source of protein and is a lean meat. It can be prepared in much the same way as beef.
Goats generally do not require large pastures. They do well in smaller enclosures with a fresh water source and excess fruits and vegetables as well as corn.
Chickens have always been raised as a source of eggs and meat. Most chickens can successfully be free ranged on the homestead.
This means they really do not need an enclosure. A place to lay eggs and roost, as well as an area to escape predators, and a brooder house will suffice.
If your homestead will not allow for free ranging, depending on the number of chickens you have, the enclosure does not have to be very large.
Another consideration if you can not free range would be chicken tractors. These are pens of various sizes that have wheels on one end. They can be rolled across a grassy area allowing chickens to eat grass and insects. After they eat in one area they can be easily moved to another.
There is a large variety of chickens to fit the need of your homestead. Some are bred for meat, therefore they get very large very quickly.
Some are bred for egg laying. These particular chickens lay almost year round, and some are bred for both.
Who doesn’t love bacon? Even better if it is home grown. Pigs like goats, will eat just about anything.
Pigs can easily supply an entire family with all the meat they will need for a winter and then some.
Pigs are relatively easy to keep and like the other animals mentioned, do not require a large area to grow and stay healthy.
Another plus side to pigs is the fact they have large litters of babies fairly often. This allows the homesteader to have a constant supply of meat as well as sell or barter the remaining pigs.
Pork allows you a large selection of cuts of meat. Most cuts can be cured, frozen, or canned. Depending on the cuts of meat your homestead prefers.
A pen with a shelter and fresh water is all your pigs really need. The size of the pen and shelter will depend on the number of pigs you have but does not require a large pasture.
A great source of protein, makes rabbitts a great addition to the homestead. Rabbits breed and raise young at a very fast rate, this is another reason rabbitts contribute greatly to the meat production of a homestead.
It does not take a large area at all to house rabbits. You can build or buy specially designed rabbit hutches. You can also build or purchase divided pens that can house several rabbitts.
Many homesteaders tan the furs of rabbits for sale, barter and use on their own homestead. These tanned furs can be very valuable.
Rabbits do well with leafy greens and fodder. This makes them economical to raise. Some homesteaders will set aside a bed to raise greens for rabbits.
While not a great source of meat, many people do like guinea eggs. The reason guinea fowl made our list is because it falls under the category of protection.
Guinea fowl will certainly let you know if a strange animal or person approaches your homestead with an extremely loud chattering.
Guinea fowl are also very territorial. They can and will, give an uninvited predator or trespasser a run for their money.
Guinea fowl are easy to keep, most homesteads allow them to free range with their chickens. While they may not contribute more than a few eggs, they certainly pack a punch as an economical easy to keep watchdog
While there are many other animals that contribute to the homestead, we have covered the top 5 that gives the most for less. Whether it is a source of meat, eggs, milk, protection, or in the case of all of the above, fertilizer.
We hope you enjoyed this article and got some ideas for your homestead. Feel free to leave a comment or ideas you may have for future articles.