Once you set up your homestead and you are already growing crops then it is time to think about what kind of livestock you should add to your homestead. If you are new to homesteading and you just started to grow your own food then my personal recommendation is to wait for one year before adding any kind of livestock. Ideally, you would want to feed your livestock with the crops which you have grown.
The best livestock for small homesteads are chickens, Pekin ducks, honey bees, goats, catfish, pigs, rabbits, sheep, cows, turkeys, and even dogs. You should start with the smaller livestock like chickens, once you are confident enough you should add some other type of poultry, and from then on you could start raising larger livestock like pigs and even cows.
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A lot of people jump into homesteading head first, starting to raise crops and livestock both at the same time. Some can pull it off but it is not the ideal setup. In addition to this if you are new to growing crops then your first crops will probably fail, and this is fairly normal for beginners. On the other hand, once you have successfully grown some crops you can start making some calculations about what kind of livestock you should add.
Some livestock is easier to maintain, they can eat almost anything while others tend to be extremely sensitive. The types of livestock you should add to your homestead will mostly depend on two factors, how much food you can grow for them and the local climate. Ideally, you should start out with poultry, as these tend to produce a lot of eggs and meat as well. You will have no problem raising poultry in most regions but in regions, with cold climates raising poultry will be difficult.
In Alaska, for example, you will have to think about how you are going to keep your livestock warm, as not all livestock are used to such cold climates. You might think of installing a heater, which is a good idea, but if you generate your own power then this probably will not be the best idea as these electric heaters tend to use a lot of power. If you are planning to live off the grid in a tropical environment then check out my recent article Living off the grid in the tropics ( Top 8 Things to Know ).
Best Livestock For Small Homestead
For small homesteads, choosing the right livestock is crucial for sustainable and efficient animal husbandry. Selecting livestock that are well-suited to small-scale operations can maximize the use of limited space while providing valuable resources. Chickens are a popular choice due to their versatility, low space requirements, and ability to provide eggs and meat. They also help control pests and provide nutrient-rich manure for gardens. Rabbits are another excellent option, requiring minimal space and offering a consistent supply of meat and fur.
Their rapid reproduction rate allows for a steady source of food and potential income. Goats are adaptable and efficient grazers, making them ideal for land management and milk production. They are generally easy to handle and require less space than larger livestock. Lastly, bees are valuable additions to small homesteads, providing pollination services and producing delicious honey. They require minimal space and can enhance overall biodiversity.
Most people who are homesteading tend to have at least some chickens, and these are excellent even for beginners. They do not need a lot of space or food, and they produce eggs fairly regularly, in addition to this everybody loves chicken meat. You will most likely make a small chicken coop, and a fence to stop them from running off and to avoid predators getting in. You will also have to think about what kind of predators live in the area, as they will definitely be attracted by the smell of the chickens. If you are looking to move to Main, then check out my recent article Off grid living Maine ( The Pine Tree State ).
2. Pekin Ducks
Even if you are not planning to raise Pekin ducks for their meat it is still a good idea to have a couple of them at your homestead. Pekin ducks produce larger eggs and more meat than chickens, although they do need significantly more food. The fat from the Pekin ducks is considered a delicacy in many countries. When it comes to space they need around the same amount of space as chickens do. The best part about ducks is you can let them roam free in your garden, as they will eat weeds and bugs, and they do not disturb the ground as chickens tend to do.
3. Honey Bees
Bees can be a great source of income if you are homesteading. The price of real organic honey is going higher every year, and a lot of people pay big money to get their hands on natural honey, especially if you can add beeswax to it. If you are new to beekeeping then you will have to learn a couple of new things, but once you got the hang of it, then it will be fairly easy to maintain them. Do note that in bear country having honey bees can be fairly risky. If you want to take a look at which provinces in Canada are the best for off grid living then check out my recent article Best places to live off the grid in Canada ( 1-13 Best to Worst ).
Goats can be excellent for beginners, they do not need a lot of food and they can produce a fair amount of milk some of them also tend to have fairly long wool. Goats can be extremely destructive if you let them loose, they can go through your vegetable garden in a matter of hours. On the other hand, if you want to clear a place from weeds and bushes, then let them loose and you will have the area cleared in no time. You will have to set up a fairly sturdy fence to keep the goats in, as they can get extremely inventive when trying to escape.
Although you could raise a number of different types of fish, but if the space is limited then your best option will be to raise catfish. The best thing about catfish is that they require very little space, some people even grow them in a water barrel, although I do not recommend doing this. Instead, make a small pond, and have enough space for the catfish to move around. Catfish tend to grow extremely fast, and they are not picky eaters.
Most homesteads do also have a couple of pigs, it is fairly rare to see in a homestead only one pig, these are social creatures and need company from other pigs. Pigs are grown for their meat, and if you feed them well they will provide plenty of meat. In addition to this, a sow can give birth to 5-15 piglets, and they tend to have two litters per year. The drawbacks of having pigs are the initial cost when it comes to food, but in a couple of months, they will provide plenty of meat. Just make sure to make a sturdy pig pen as they tend to escape if they find a weakness in the pen.
Rabbits do not need a lot of space to grow, and some of them can grow fairly large. If you have a vegetable garden then you will have no problem feeding them, just do not let them roam around your homestead as they will eat literally anything. Just keep in mind that you can not survive by only eating rabbit meat, they do have a lot of protein but they have extremely low-fat content. Your body needs fat in order to process the protein, and your body will not be able to do it if you only eat rabbit meat.
Depending on the area where you live, sheep can be an excellent addition to your homestead. These are fairly similar to goats when it comes to maintenance, but they tend to need a lot more space. Sheep have plenty of lean meat on them, and the wool is one of the best, some homesteaders only keep sheep for their wool which they sell.
Cows are an excellent source of meat and milk, although raising them is not rocket science but they tend to need a lot of open space. During the summer you can let them graze on grass, and you will need to harvest hay for the wintertime. If you have a large plot of land then raising cows shouldn’t be a big problem, although you will need a large plot of land and also a barn.
Turkeys are fairly easy to raise, they have similar needs as chickens do although they tend to eat a lot more. On the other hand, turkeys also tend to be significantly larger than chickens. There are a lot of homesteaders who raise turkey, not for the meat but for the commercial value. Farm-raised turkeys are a lot more expensive than the ones you can find in the store before thanksgiving people would pick a turkey from the farm and the farmer will process them and deliver the turkey to them.
11. Breeding Dogs
There are some dog breeders who live completely off the grid, however, most homesteaders do not breed a lot of dogs. Although dogs are not actually considered livestock, they can be extremely valuable, especially if you have some kind of working dog breed. Usually, people who have puppies will sell them off, and depending on the breed they also make a significant amount of money by doing it.
- Chickens are a popular choice for small homesteads due to their ease of care, ability to provide eggs, and adaptability to various environments.
- Rabbits are an excellent option for small homesteads as they require little space, have a high feed-to-meat conversion rate, and reproduce quickly.
- Goats are versatile animals that can provide milk, meat, and fiber, making them a valuable addition to a small homestead, although they may require slightly more space and maintenance compared to chickens and rabbits.