Andy Fleming writing on homestead animals…
You can greatly enhance your self-sufficient lifestyle by raising livestock in your backyard. Even city dwellers with a small backyard can raise small stock like chickens, rabbits, and goats.
When choosing animals to raise in your homestead you consider all aspects of their consumption, production, and how they interact with the other parts of your property. Which animals help crops and which might hurt them? Can you use their manure to increase yield? Will they require extra maintenance in the winter? How easy are they to breed?
A smart homestead utilizes elements that work to support each other, and livestock has great potential for this kind of synergy. Here are some of the most popular options, as well as some alternative livestock animals you may not have considered before.
Everyone talks about chickens, but very few homeowners consider raising ducks. Peking ducks are the easiest to raise. They lay large eggs and require relatively little upkeep. They do eat more than chickens, but they don’t “scratch” the dirt like hens do. They also love water, and will thrive even in hole-riddled coops too “dilapidated” for chickens. The main concern with raising ducks is predatory birds and scavengers like coyotes or wolves, but a good fence is all you need to keep them safe. You can build a duckhouse from junk pallets.
A goat needs very little room to thrive and even dwarf goats can produce up to a gallon of milk per day. They also eat shrubbery and wood, and can be helpful in keeping control of weeds on your property. Goat milk is actually far easier to digest than cow milk, so owning one is an immediate health benefit. The biggest drawback to owning a goat is that they tend to fall prey to illness. You need to worm them with store-bought medication a few times a year. There are natural alternatives you can brew at home, but they tend to be less effective and won’t really be sufficient in warmer climates.
A rabbit hutch is easy to build from scrap wood and chicken wire and, true to popular belief, they’re quick to reproduce. Californian, Florida White, and New Zealand rabbits are all good sources of meat and their fur can be used to line boots and gloves. Even if you consider rabbits too cute to eat, they can be a great source of extra income if sold as pets, and their droppings make for good fertilizer. Build a simple rabbit hutch to keep them in and you can get started.
Quail are often overlooked as a homesteading farm animal, even though they make great livestock to raise with limited space. Quail are comfortable in small cages and they breed often. Although their eggs are small, they can be sold as a gourmet treat in farmer’s markets. Quail meat is also quite tasty and certain breeds, like the Japanese Coturnix, have very attractive feathers that can be sold or used in decorative crafts.
If you have access to a pond, you’d be smart to consider farming fish. Catfish are a particularly good choice as they’re quick to grow in size and can be raised in barrels if need be. You’ll need to feed barrel fish daily, but they’re easy to catch and they keep insect numbers down. Catfish breed so frequently that some guides to raising catfish recommend you don’t let them reproduce in a pond or you’ll end up feeding too many. You can find a helpful video with some handy tips and tricks for raising Catfish on YouTube and you can take a look at some delicious catfish recipes here.
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Image: ©iStock.com/Borut Trdina
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