When it comes to choosing livestock for the homestead, everyone will have a different opinion about what type you should get started with. Here are three types of livestock best suited for the new homesteader or someone without much experience with raising animals.
Hands down, chickens are the ultimate livestock for the homestead. These birds have a lot going for them.
- Eggs: If you’ve never had farm-fresh eggs from happy hens, then you are going to be amazed at the color and texture compared to typical eggs from the grocery store.
- Meat: You can raise your own meat breed of chicken or raise layers and cull the roosters for meat. Chickens are easy to process and don’t require the help of another person.
- Pest control: Have a problem with insects? Chickens will take care of them. This is a great way to control bad bugs without resorting to pesticides.
- Gardening: Tilling a garden is made easy with chickens. Just put up some electric netting around the area you need tilled and let them go to work. As a bonus, they will fertilize while they till. Chickens are also amazing at preparing land for a garden. They will quickly scratch out brush and grasses, leaving you with bare ground.
- Composting: Using chickens for composting is a brilliant idea. The hens will quickly scratch up brown and green materials so you don’t have to worry about shredding. They will add in their own manure and leave you with rich compost — with hardly any effort on your part.
There really aren’t any disadvantages to keeping chickens. They are easy to care for, and many heritage breeds are quite independent and hardy. Chickens are very entertaining and you will find that they each have their own personalities.
Chickens are allowed within some city limits (no roosters!) so they are a great way for the urban homesteaders to add some food to their table.
Similarly to chickens, rabbits are a great addition to the homestead. Some of their advantages include:
- Meat: Rabbit meat is delicious! It is very lean and healthy as well as easily digestible. Aside from taste and nutrition, rabbits are super easy to butcher and process. You won’t need to worry about feathers like you would a chicken.
- Pelts/fiber: You can get pelts for craft use from all rabbits and fiber from certain breeds. If you enjoy crafts or hobbies like knitting, raising rabbits is a great way to contribute. You may even be able to make a little money from selling extra pelts or fiber.
- Fertilizer: Rabbit manure is an amazing fertilizer and can be used as-is — no composting or maturing necessary (although it’s recommended). Extra manure can be sold to gardeners to help with the cost of raising the rabbits.
- Green recyclers: Rabbits will gladly eat up grass and other green materials that you don’t want. They’ll also consume scraps from your vegetable garden.
A possible downside of rabbits is that they are cute! Some people can easily get over the idea of rabbits only being pets, but there are individuals who can’t bring themselves to viewing Peter Cottontail that way.
Rabbits are quiet and don’t require a lot of space. They are easy to manage, and a good breeding stock should reproduce without a problem. Rabbits are especially good choices for urban homesteaders who can’t keep/don’t want to chickens or just want variety in addition to their hens.
While goats can be challenging at times, their versatility and the sheer fun of keeping them easily makes them perfect newbie homesteader stock.
- Dairy: Sure, dairy cows are the ultimate milk machines, but dairy goats are a much better choice for the average new homestead. Their smaller size makes them far more manageable and also decreases feed costs. You won’t need anywhere near as much land, either. A small family can’t drink as much milk as a Jersey cow can produce in a day, so going with a goat or two makes much more sense.
- Meat: You can raise a meat goat or two every year for the freezer. Again, meat goats are often much easier for the new homesteader to raise than a beef cow. Also, if you keep dairy goats, you may as well breed her to a Boer or some type of meat cross so you can raise her kids for the freezer.
- Fiber: Fiber breeds offer a third way of getting something back from your goats. There are only a couple breeds of fiber goats and it can be tricky to find a breeder, but it’s worth it if this interests you.
- Brush Clearing: While sheep are mostly grazers, goats are browsers. Have a wooded lot or brushy area you want cleared? Add some goats! This is a great way of naturally clearing out an area without backbreaking labor on your part.
People sometimes struggle with goats because they lack good fencing. Goats are escape artists and very intelligent. If you have a weakness in your fence or a flimsy-latched gate, it’s safe to say they will find it. Don’t skimp on quality fencing and you will enjoy having a small herd of goats on your property.
Do you keep livestock? Please share your stories or tips for new homesteaders below!