Print Friendly, PDF & Email

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

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.

Laying Hens

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

Composting Worms

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

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!

Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of



Oh, we are all about…




Pigs on the Homestead: All Your Burning Questions Answered

When I was a little girl, I was absolutely terrified of Grandad’s pigs. In my opinion, they were big, loud, and scary, and not in any way cute! I blame Grandad, really, because he was always drilling it in to me that they could bite my fingers right off if I stuck them where they didn’t belong. No problem, Grandad! I wasn’t going anywhere near those pigs!

As I got older and started out on my own homesteading adventure, I realized that I love bacon! And pork chops! So, one year, I convinced my husband that we needed to raise a couple of pigs for the freezer. We did our research and built a good sturdy pig pen. And then we went out and purchased two little baby pigs to raise.

Well, that’s when the trouble began! It turns out that baby pigs are cute! Like really, super cute! And they can be sweet, entertaining and very smart, too. You really need to remember their purpose, otherwise you’re going to end up with a couple of pet pigs in the pasture, and no bacon or pork chops in the freezer! We had a similar problem with rabbits… but that’s another story!

Over the years, I have learned a lot about raising pigs on the homestead. Here are the answers to all your burning questions!

Are pigs dangerous?

It turns out Grandad was right. Some pigs do bite, and they can really do some damage! And pigs are really big… like 500 to 1000 pounds when grown. Just like any other large farm animal, they need to be treated with respect and handled carefully. Children will need to be taught boundaries, because sticking little fingers through the fence to pet a hungry pig could have disastrous results. Don’t get me wrong, most pigs are very sweet, but they are also very large and very food motivated.

Are pigs destructive?

Pigs have amazing digging abilities, and they love to root. The more room they have, the less destructive they will be, but even pastured pigs will tear up the ground pretty good. You could use this to your advantage by enclosing them on the garden or a field that needs to be plowed under and cleaned up. That’s what we do, and it saves us a lot of hard work. The pigs are happier, too.

What kind of housing and fencing do pigs need?

I like to use a hutch that can be moved around the property. It can be pretty simple, just something to give them shade when it’s hot, and somewhere to go to stay dry when it’s raining. We use straw for bedding in their hutch. They will probably eat the straw and move it around, but you just throw in some more. If you plan on keeping your pigs through the winter, you will have to beef up their shelter a little bit to keep them warm.

For fencing, my preference is electric fence. I use a solar charger so I can move them around. You should start training them to respect the electric fence when they are small. If you decide to go with traditional fencing, you will need to use heavy duty posts and hog panels because pigs are very strong, and they are notorious for breaking out of their fencing. If they do, they can be very hard to catch, and you can probably kiss your garden goodbye, too.

What do I feed my pigs?

Your pigs will eat all of your kitchen scraps, as well as any surplus milk, whey from cheese making, or extra fruits and vegetables you may have around. Pigs raised for meat require a diet that’s high in protein if you want quality meat. You will want to give them a good, high protein, non-medicated pig feed at the rate of 1 pound per day for each month of age, stopping at a maximum of six pounds per day. Divide their feed up into two feedings to prevent waste.

How many pigs should I start out with?

Start with two feeder pigs. Raise one for your own freezer and sell the other one at butchering age to cover the cost of feeding both pigs and processing your own for the freezer. Butchering your pigs at around 250 pounds will give you the best feed to meat ratio.

What breed of pig should I get?

You may have to just settle for whatever is available in your area. Purchase from a local farmer, and avoid livestock auctions wherever possible. If you do have options, go for a heritage breed.

My favorite heritage breed is Red Wattle pigs because they are docile, hardy, and good foragers. If you want to raise your own piglets, Red Wattles make excellent mothers. Just keep in mind that an average litter is 10-15 piglets and they can have two or three litters a year. You could become overrun very quickly if you don’t have a good plan for getting rid of your surplus.

If Red Wattles aren’t available in your area, look for Berkshires. They are super friendly and adaptable. Berkshires are coveted for their delicious meat and they also have great mothering skills.

Other great heritage breeds that are friendly and good on the homestead are Gloucestershire Old Spots, Hampshires, and Yorkshires.

Can pigs be trained?

Absolutely! Much like dogs, pigs are very food oriented and intelligent. They can be trained to walk on a leash and come when called, and I’m sure lots of other things, too. Just be careful of forming too strong of a bond with your pigs. That will make it a lot harder at butchering time.

Do pigs get bored?

Yes, they do, and a bored pig can become destructive and possibly even aggressive! Bored pigs will chew on their pen and possibly even each other. It’s best to never keep just one pig by itself. Try to give them plenty of room to root and forage. Even their food can help to keep them entertained. Provide lots of straw for them to root around in and different types of foods like salt licks, kitchen scraps, root vegetables, chemical free grass clippings and whatever else is available. They will even eat acorns! Providing something for them to chew on, like logs or even really tough dog chews, might help to keep them from chewing on their pen.

Raising pigs on the homestead may not be for everyone, but there’s nothing like having a freezer full of homegrown bacon and pork at the start of winter. If you can manage it, they are well worth the trouble, and can be quite entertaining and enjoyable!


Picked For You

  • Four Secrets Of (Frugal) HomesteadingFour Secrets Of (Frugal) Homesteading
    We talked about frugality before, but have really talked about it? There are so many ways we can work to make homesteading even more affordable. When you’re making a living from your land, you want to maximize the value of every egg, tomato, and rabbit. Here are six more ways to keep homesteading easy on …