Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Homestead: Adding Animals

 This post is part of the series: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Homestead.  If you missed the other posts in this series, you can get caught up here. If you're looking for some great resources for planning your homestead, check out some of the books here

So you are thinking of homesteading, and want more than a garden plot. Adding animals to your homestead can quickly increase your enjoyment and supplement the food coming from your garden. In addition to meat, eggs, and milk, animals can also contribute to the homestead by creating manure, consuming bugs and weeds, and making fiber and feathers. Raising animals humanely means you know exactly where your food comes from and how it was treated.  Before you jump right in, remember that raising animals also requires time, space, and planning.  With the right plans, many animals can fit holistically into a homestead contributing to the function in multiple ways.

If you don’t think you have space for animals, think again. Even small homesteads can support carefully selected animals, and larger homesteads can benefit from a large variety of livestock and fowl. In addition to the homesteading benefits of the animals, poultry and livestock are entertaining, and provide a wonderful education for children and families.  For more information on each animal, explore some of the resource suggestions at the end of each section.

As you select animals for your homestead, think specifically of their different needs and your expectations.  Some animals (such as chickens) are more adaptable to a smaller homestead, while other animals (such as a cow) clearly need more space.  No matter what animal you're considering, ask yourself these questions:

  • How will you house the animal?
  • What fencing is required?
  • Are you zoned for this type of animal?
  • What will you feed it? How much does feed cost?
  • How will you keep it watered?
  • Is the animal appropriate for your climate?
  • How will the animal be cared for when you're away?  How many times a day does the animal need care?
  • Does the animal need a companion?
  • How noisy, stinky, etc is the animal? What will your neighbors think?
  • Will this animal contribute to your homestead in more than one way?
  • What will you do if the animal needs medical treatment?  
  • Do you know other people with this animal?
  • Why are you getting this animal? (be as clear as you can so you can look at the situation realistically - you are taking on the responsibility of caring for another life)
For some more information about choosing an animal, check out this article at Mother Earth News.  To find information on specific animals, visit the animal pages of the blog.

In the next several posts, we'll look specifically at a number of common homestead animals and talk about their pros and cons and share some specific information about raising them on a small homestead.

Resources we've Used

The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals: Choose the Best Breeds for Small-Space Farming, Produce Your Own Grass-Fed Meat, Gather Fresh ... Rabbits, Goats, Sheep, Pigs, Cattle, & Bees

How TO LIVE ON ALMOST NOTHING AND HAVE PLENTY: A Practical Introduction to Small-Scale Sufficient Country Living

More Animal Resources

Over the next few months, I will be exploring the opportunities available to the homesteader and offering thoughts on how to set goals and gain a focus on what you want on your homestead.  Many of these thoughts are already available in my ebook: The Modern Homestead, but I invite you to follow along here and on my Facebook page for a deeper look into ideas and thoughts on creating your dream homestead.You can also find a wealth of information at the tabs at the top of the blog about gardening, raising animals, and learning new homesteading skills.  If you're looking for experience and examples, check out the Homestead Highlight series for first hand accounts from homesteaders. 

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