Recently, many people seem to have taken an interest in homesteading or living more sustainably. In doing so, many want to raise animals. It can be a tough decision deciding what animal(s) you can fit into your lives, so I’m creating this little guide to help with the process. 🙂
First, we will go over a list of common “farm” animals, aka livestock & fowl. I’ve included short descriptions and the need requirements for each.
Cattle – require a decent amount of space, especially if you’re going for “grass fed” beef; milk cows need to be milked, generally, twice daily while they are in milk; can be difficult to handle if they were not raised around people; low to medium amount of maintenance required (deworming, vaccinations, etc.)
Sheep – require less space than cows; need to be on decent quality pasture (they aren’t bush hogs); generally very flighty, less so if they have been raised closely with humans; wool sheep require consistent shearing, and are therefore slightly higher maintenance; dairy sheep require twice daily milking when in milk
Goats – require less space than cows, but can overgraze an area quickly; can be on rough pasture, kept in wooded areas, etc (they will eat most anything); escape artists, require good fencing; milk goats should be milked 1/2x daily when in milk; low to medium maintenance (deworming, hoof trims, etc.)
Pigs – can be kept in smaller spaces, however are cleaner and less odoriferous when kept in larger areas so that their manure can be spread around; most breeds root which means they will tear up pasture and need a steady system of rotation; omnivorous, so they can and will eat anything; can be prolific breeders if kept in the right conditions; should have access to a wallowing area to keep themselves cool in the summer and free of bugs; lower maintenance animals
Rabbits – can be kept in cages, colony, or tractor settings, and require very little space; generally low odor if a proper manure management system is maintained – good animals to keep in neighborhoods, etc.; can be fed off good quality hay and either pellets or sprouted/foraged foods; prolific breeders at fast grow-out rates allows for a quick birth to butcher turn around time; with proper access to food water and shelter, these animals are very low maintenance
Chickens – can be kept in a coop or allowed to free range, but should have enough space per chicken that they are not fighting/pecking each other constantly; meat birds have fast growth rates from hatching to butcher; laying hens usually begin to lay around 4-6 months depending on the breed, and can lay anywhere from 100-300+ eggs per year; can be hard to introduce new animals into an already established flock; generally, free ranging chickens require very little maintenance besides keeping them safe from predators
Ducks – require a water source (they don’t have salivary glands, so they need water to consume their food); most ducks should be afforded the opportunity to swim and live in/around some semblance of a pond (ie. kiddy pool, water trough, creek, etc.); some breeds are more prolific layers than chickens; produce tasty meat and eggs; low maintenance in the right conditions
Quail – smallest space requirement of all animals mentioned above; four to six quail (farm breeds like Coturnix) can be raised in a small dog kennel comfortably; they will not hatch their own eggs unless provided correct, natural conditions, and even then it is not guaranteed; good source of meat and eggs, but grow times are generally longer; often very flighty and should be kept in small groups; known to cannibalize one another; “noisy” birds; lower maintenance the more natural of a habitat they are kept in
These are only a FEW of the types of animals that are commonly kept on homesteads. I have listed some living situations below and the animals that may conform to those situations (and remember to ALWAYS check your zoning laws regarding what livestock/poultry/fowl you can or can not keep on your property).
Large Acreage, Many Predators – In situations like these, it is not so much what animals can you have, but what kind of predator protection can you provide? First and foremost, make sure that you have excellent fencing. Look into predator deterrent fencing such as no-climb or fencing that is slightly buried so they can’t dig under. Electric fencing is often also a good deterrent. Also, a guardian dog (or two) is an excellent idea. This way, you have constantly roaming, working predator protection 365 days a year.
3 to 5 acres “in the country,” but near town – In this situation, take into consideration the proximity of your neighbors. If your neighbors are fairly close, it’s probably best NOT to keep a rooster, unless of course you talk with them about it first. If you want to keep a pig or two, try to keep it towards the center of the property rather than around the edges where there is more of a chance of their smells, or possibly the pigs themselves, meandering over towards your neighbors. While it is your property, I promise that life will be easier if your neighbors don’t hate you.
An acre in a neighborhood – Again, neighbors. It may very well be okay to have chickens in your area, however you probably don’t want a rooster, and you should probably keep the number of chooks to four or less. This is an ideal situation to keep rabbits, they are low odor, low space options that are good for tight areas. Quail are also an option, however they do make noise so should probably be kept to a lower number of animals also. As for larger livestock, if you are allowed, one goat or one sheep may be alright, but any more than that and you risk overgrazing and having manure issues.
An apartment with a balcony – Yes, you can homestead even if you live in an apartment. If you keep them clean and tidy, you can certainly keep a breeding pair of rabbits indoors. You could also keep a trio of quail on the balcony for eggs. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Also look into growing veggies and fruit where you can, in windowsills or on the balcony, to supplement the diets of your animals! 🙂