At some point along your homesteading journey, you will either feel led to add animals to the mix because of price increases at the store, or there is another outbreak in relation to food that will become a health risk to you and your family. Or an opportunity will present itself to you that’s too good to be true. You might fall in love with a baby sheep, or your neighbor is moving away and doesn’t have the space to take all their animals. Whether you’ve made an off-the-cuff decision, or this is a pre-planned adventure, it’s a good idea to know what animals to raise on your property.
Raising sheep is rewarding and fun, they are gentle and docile animals and serve many purposes such as meat, milk, and wool. Sheep have several advantages over other types of livestock including:
- In comparison to horses and cows, sheep are easy to handle and relatively small.
- Sheep do not require perfect pasture land; they have no problem feeding on weeds, grasses, and brush that grow in poor soil.
- You can use sheep manure as fertilizer.
- Sheep are easy to train.
- Also, sheep don’t require a lot of space; you can support a small flock with one acre.
Rabbits are among the easiest livestock to raise, they are small, docile, mild in their temperament, light in weight, and easy to pick up and move around. For their daily care, you don’t need to do much, neither do they eat a lot and they are not at all fussy with their food. Rabbit manure makes excellent fertilizer because it contains four times the nutrition of horse or cow manure. Additionally, you don’t need to compost rabbit manure; it is cold manure and you can spread it directly onto your garden, or use it as a soil treatment by working it into the soil. Rabbits don’t need a lot of space and they are very nutritious. They are considered a lean and high protein source with 28 grams of protein per 85 grams of meat. Rabbit is high in iron, containing 4 mg per serving. In general, rabbits require less energy, less water, and less land to grow than other livestock.
When it comes to raising livestock, the pros definitely outweigh the cons with chickens. For the following reasons, I believe every homestead should invest in raising chickens:
- Chickens are low maintenance, all they need is a coop to nest in, food, and water. They require a lot less work than most livestock.
- You won’t need to use insecticides or chemicals on your property because chickens can control the overpopulation of slugs, snails, grasshoppers, crickets, and other pets.
- Chickens more or less eat anything; instead of throwing away leftovers, give them to the chickens. They really enjoy food scraps such as seeds, nuts, fruits, rice, vegetable peelings, and salads.
- You won’t have much mess to clean up with chickens. They are very hard-working birds; when fruits fall from the trees, they will eat them before they rot and attract insects. Chickens also help to get rid of harvested garden beds of weeds.
- Also, chicken manure is full of potassium, phosphorous, and nitrogen. These are the main ingredients in garden fertilizer, which makes chicken manure the ideal replacement. You can compost chicken manure and add it to the soil of your lawns, shrubs, trees, flowers, and garden.
- Chicken eggs are fresh, nutritious, and tasty because you control what the chickens eat. You can also sell your fresh eggs for extra cash; some breeds don’t lay eggs daily and will lay 3 to 4 eggs per week. But in general, you can expect each hen to lay 1 egg per day.
Turkeys are easy to raise, they provide pest control for the homestead and quality meat for your family. Turkeys are a lot cleaner than chickens because they don’t have the same scratching instinct. Their droppings are not all over the place, and their food remains in the same location.
If you have just started the homestead life, you may have bought into the stereotype that pigs are dirty. But they are in fact extremely clean. Yes, they do like to roll around in mud and dirt when they are too warm and need to cool off. If you keep them in a shaded covered area, cleaning dirt off a pig won’t be on your to-do list. Pigs are not fussy when it comes to mealtime, they will eat the majority of the foods you give them including bread, fodder, compost, and corn. If you are about organic life, you can purchase organic feeds for swine made out of sustainable and fresh ingredients. Raising organic pigs will mean a larger financial investment. However, you should also take into consideration the fact that you can sell your organic pigs for a higher price, and the U.S organic market is a multibillion-dollar industry.
Goats are a fantastic homestead animal, they provide meat and milk, enrich the garden and improve pastures. Here are a few reasons why you should raise goats on your homestead:
- Goats prefer shrubs and weeds over grass and trees which means they will help clear your garden and improve your pastureland.
- Goat droppings don’t require composting before adding them to your garden. Additionally, goat manure won’t burn your plants.
- Also, goats will provide you with plenty of meat and milk. They have an advantage over cows because they need less water, feed, and space than cows.
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in homesteads turning towards back or backyard pasture livestock. The most important thing you will need to do before getting started is to prepare yourself. As rewarding as it is to raise animals, it’s also very time-consuming so you will need to make sure you’ve got enough time on your schedule so you don’t overwhelm yourself. Additionally, do some research on strategies that will make things easier for you and your animals as you raise them.
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