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The Best Animals for the New Homestead
Choosing to homestead comes with many different decisions that will directly affect the success of your homestead. Whether you’re looking at self-sufficiency or profitability, how you decide to tackle everything from heating your home to the vegetables you grow and the animals you raise will have an impact on your homestead and its bottom line. The best homestead animals for beginners are also some of the best farm animals for homestead. Size matters less than sustainability and cost when looking for the right animals to raise, and a good homesteading journal helps keep things organized.
Everyone has a picture in their mind’s eye of the perfect homestead. Whether there are cows in pastures and horses in fields, or goats, chickens, and ducks mingling around a barn, what you picture for your ideal homestead is the goal you should be working to achieve. Living in a town or city doesn’t disqualify you from dreaming. Urban homesteaders are also able to enjoy some of the smaller homestead animals. Depending on ordinances, yard size, and your ability, there are several backyard livestock that may be able to work in your situation – even if you live in an apartment. The best animals for a homestead of any size are:
Before you can even begin dreaming, however, you need to know what regulations there are in your city, county, and even your state regarding owning livestock. Many communities have loosened their restrictions in recent years. Thankfully most of the best beginner homestead animals can be raised at home. You may be surprised to learn that you are allowed to have smaller livestock, such as chickens, in your backyard. However, there are still limits on how many and what type of animals you can have in your home. Chickens might be a yes, but a rooster is most likely a no.
The first step in assessing the best farm animals for homestead is determining your end goal. Are you looking for living hedge trimmers? Do you want to breed and sell heirloom bloodlines? Or are you just looking for a steady supply of high-quality eggs and companionship? There are no wrong answers, only solutions that create your dream homestead. Your homesteading journal can help you keep track of these goals and your progress towards them. A great journal, like this downloadable version from Homesteaders of America, also helps you track profitability, production, and expenses like feed.
My livestock goals and dreams: breed heirloom chicks and ducks to sell as straight run barter butchering in exchange for meat have a pair of dairy/fiber goats all to be able to finance the real dream: breeding Valais Black-nose Sheep
Secondly, if your homestead is less than a couple of acres in size, you should probably remove cattle from the picture. Share-cropped cattle better serve small homesteads. You don’t have to worry about covering the expense of raising bovines yourself. There are lots of other meat options that cost less in time, space, and upkeep. The best farm animals for homestead are not necessarily the ones you think of first!
Start out picking the best homestead animals using what many consider to be the ‘staples’, the best beginner homestead animals. Most homesteads, even urban homesteads, can get away with a couple of chickens or rabbits. Rabbits are not just excellent pets, but they are a great meat option if you can stand to butcher them. Chickens will even work in an apartment. You can keep them in a kennel at night and allow them to wander during the day with a little creative planning; like poultry diapers.
If you have a bit more space then you could look at goats. While perhaps one of the most challenging homestead animals initially, goats provide many different revenue streams and excellent meat choices. They need a playground to stay busy, a shelter for warmth, and about 25 square feet of space to stable a pair of goats in. One goat rarely does well; you’ll probably want at least two. Lastly, beginning homesteaders will want to pass on the opportunity to raise male goats with the intention of breeding goats themselves. While goats are one of the best beginner homestead animals, male goats are not for the faint of heart. It’s probably going to be a better idea to rent-a-stud for a while before keeping an intact male yourself.
Lastly, pigs are another excellent option because, like chickens and ducks, they can also be house friendly. However, unless you’re really comfortable eating a house-pet, you’ll probably want to keep a little distance between you and Wilbur. Pigs are social, which means you’ll need at least two, and they need a minimum of 10 square feet per pig.
Other animals such as ducks, sheep, and lots of poultry are also great options for the farm. However, the best homestead animals are the ones that work no matter what your homestead situation might be.