What could be more exciting than purchasing your first homestead? Most of us dream of owning that first homestead for years before it becomes reality. When it finally happens, there are so many decisions that need to be made, it can quickly become overwhelming! One of the first things a brand-new homesteader will want to consider is what type of livestock to start out with.
My first recommendation when considering livestock is to do your research! Hopefully you checked your county’s regulations on livestock before you purchased your property, but if you didn’t, do it before you bring any animals home. When you are making decisions about livestock, consider time commitment, space, housing, cost of purchase and feed, and level of care. Always have a plan in place for covering surprise veterinary bills as well as regular wellness care like vaccines and parasite control.
Start with just a few animals and add more over time. If you have a regular job to go to off the homestead every day, be sure you choose animals that will be easy to care for around your schedule. Here are some of the best livestock options for the brand-new homesteader.
The Best Livestock Options For The Brand-New Homesteader
Rabbits are another great option for those just starting out. They require very little space, and if you have their pens set up right, you can have them fed and cared for in just a few minutes every morning and evening. Rabbits are very susceptible to predators and extreme temperatures, so you will need to set them up with a pen that is safe and well sheltered from heat and cold. The best food for rabbits is hay, but they will also enjoy veggies and fruits from your garden, as well as rabbit pellets.
Depending on the breed of rabbit you choose, they can be raised for meat, pelts, fur for spinning, or simply to be sold as pets. Their manure can be put directly on the garden without damaging your plants, so that’s a huge plus when just starting out. For those just getting started with rabbits, I recommend purchasing one buck and two does for breeding purposes. Remember, they multiply fast!
Khaki Campbell Ducks
Khaki Campbell’s are a great option for those wanting to get started with some type of poultry. I love that they are land ducks, so they don’t require a pond or other body of water to be happy. They are also gentle, hardy, and not likely to get sick as long as their living conditions are clean and sanitary.
Their space requirement is pretty minimal. I like to give them a little duck house to keep them safe at night, and a fenced in, covered run to go out in during the day when I’m not home. If predators are not a problem in your area, let them free range. Khaki Campbell’s are great foragers. They can practically feed themselves on vegetation and bugs around the yard.
A small flock of these ducks can provide your family with plenty of rich, delicious duck eggs. They can also be harvested for meat and they provide excellent pest control and manure for your garden. In addition to feeding and changing their water morning and night, their pen will require regular cleaning. Ducks can be a little messy, so keep that in mind.
Almost every homestead has a little flock of backyard hens, and I can see why. Six hens can easily keep a family of four in eggs most of the year. They are more susceptible to illness than ducks, and good sanitation is critical for a healthy flock. They require fresh food and water morning and night, as well as regular cleaning of the coop and run.
They need a safe place to sleep at night and shelter from the elements. A fenced in, covered run is also a good idea to keep them safe from predators during the day. They will eat lots of bugs and forage if you choose to let them free range. Or, consider building a chicken tractor that can be easily moved around the yard to allow them to forage in a new spot each day, while still being safe from predators. They will dig up your garden plants looking for worms and bugs, so keeping them in a chicken tractor prevents that, too.
Hens will love to eat most of your kitchen scraps, even meat. They are great helpers with the compost pile, scratching and turning it for you as they look for worms, bugs and other tasty morsels. They’ll even eat your garden weeds if you throw them in their pen. Chicken manure is a great fertilizer for the garden, too.
More For Your New Homestead
Okay, I know that worms are probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of what to add to your homestead, but you really can’t find an animal that’s easier to care for! Setting up a worm bin doesn’t cost much either, especially if you build it yourself, and it doesn’t require much space. You will probably want to purchase your worms from a supplier, but you can get a lot of worms for around $25. Be sure to get red wrigglers because they are the best type for composting.
If you are just starting out with gardening on your new homestead, having a worm bin will provide you with a rich source of fertilizer in the form of worm castings. They are happy to eat just your vegetable scraps and used coffee grounds, so you can’t find a critter that’s cheaper to feed. Just give them some fresh “food” a couple times a week and harvest the worm castings when the bin is full. Easy peasy!
Honeybees are a great choice for the beginning homesteader who needs to be away from the homestead a lot during the day for work. Beekeeping does require learning some new skills, but once you get it down, the day to day time commitment is minimal. You will need to purchase some special equipment, as well as your hive and bees, so there is some initial financial investment getting started.
Focus on what will have more than one benefit for your homestead. Honeybees are a great example of this! Not only do you get delicious honey you can use or sell, you get beeswax for making candles and other crafts, and the bees will pollinate your garden, making it more productive, which means more fruits and veggies for you.
These small additions can be a productive and fun for any homestead. Do it gradually, and enjoy the journey!