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Homesteading looks beautiful and fun, but much work goes into maintaining a farm. To be self-sufficient, you need to know which homestead animals will work best on your property. Each animal has a different purpose, even down to having different breeds dedicated to different things. Whether you’re a newbie or a veteran homesteader, you should determine which animals are suitable for your homestead.
What Is Homesteading?
Homesteading is living or moving toward living completely sustainably and self-sufficiently, without relying on outside stores and sources to supplement your needs. It’s a lot of work, but it can help your household save money and give you a feeling of confidence that you know how to survive on your own. Many people choose to raise their own food, both crops and meat, while still relying on stores for items like clothing.
Typical homesteading relies on the community to fill any gaps you may have missed. Still, modern-day homesteading urges you to become self-sufficient at your own pace, thanks to the conveniences of the current day. You may not have homesteading neighbors nearby, and you can’t juggle every task. Thus, as long as you push toward being self-sufficient somehow, you’ll be thriving on your homestead.
There are a few significant components of homesteading anyone aspiring toward the lifestyle should consider.
- Food: You must be self-sufficient by raising your own food in gardens and orchards.
- Workspace: If you want to go the extra mile and make your own clothes and shoes, you’ll need a space to work.
- Animals: Homesteading animals differ depending on the size and type of the homestead, but almost any farm animal is a good addition.
The Best Homesteading Animals for Raising
Choosing your homesteading animals is as simple as knowing what you want from each one. Are you leaning more toward using them for meat or their by-products, like milk or eggs? Prioritize your household’s needs before your thoughts on the animal. Then, once you’ve chosen the homesteading animals you want, you must consider which breed will best fit your needs.
You’ll find that fowl are the easiest animals to raise on your homestead. Whether you raise them for eggs, meat or both, they’re great animals to start with as you get your feet wet in the homesteading realm. Chickens and ducks are some of the most popular animals, as they’re easy to take care of and don’t take up a lot of space.
Chickens are great starter animals for any homestead. You’re likely used to eating chicken eggs, so your household won’t have to try anything new out of their comfort zone. The issue you may run into with chickens is plucking them, so they’re ready to eat. While machines can do this for you, you may consider getting your meat source elsewhere and keeping chickens just for their eggs if you don’t want to go through the difficult plucking process.
The breed of your chickens matters when you choose what to use them for. The Barred Rock and Delaware breeds are suitable for both meat and egg-laying, making them excellent investments. If egg production is your main concern, a breed like the Leghorn would be best. One of the best breeds for meat is the Red Ranger chicken.
As for ducks, as long as you give them a small pool and keep it filled with water, they’ll be happy. You’ll need to have a fence to keep them in like chickens. Ducks lay eggs, too, and these eggs are great to bake with, as they give your food a richer flavor and have a much larger yolk. Khaki Campbells will lay almost one egg per day for the year. You can also raise the Pekin breed for meat if you enjoy duck dishes.
If you have enough land, you may want to get cows for your homestead. Some people use cattle for beef, while others only get dairy cows so their families can have milk and cheese. Holstein cows are great at producing milk, while Angus cows are some of the best at making meat. If you don’t have a lot of space for your cows, consider Jersey cows, which are smaller and easier to handle.
However, if you’re more environmentally conscious, you may not want to raise cattle due to the detrimental effects they have on the atmosphere via greenhouse gases. Living in a rural area means finding farmer’s markets that can provide you with beef if you want to use it for recipes. Whatever the case, you’ll be able to manage it.
3. Herd Animals
If you have the space for them, your homestead might feel more complete with herd animals. These animals can provide meat and milk, especially for those allergic to dairy milk or who can’t have beef. There are some circumstances where one kind is better than the other, but it essentially boils down to preference and what you want from your herd animals.
Goats are an excellent investment for your homestead. If you plan to use your goats for meat, you should get a dual-purpose breed that allows you to obtain both meat and dairy products from them. Pygmy goats are great for both milk and meat, and they’re small enough to thrive on a homestead without a lot of land for larger breeds of goat. They provide as much milk as their larger counterparts, so they’re great for dairy animals.
Sheep are great because they can be used for meat, dairy or wool. Sheep are more affectionate and have less chance of falling ill than goats. They’re also easier to keep than goats, as goats may go out of their way to damage the fence that keeps them corralled. Your ideal breed of sheep depends on whether you want them for wool or meat, mostly — you don’t want woolly sheep if you plan to use them for meat.
Hogs are great to have on your homestead thanks to their willingness to eat anything you’ve left behind. Pigs enjoy a wide range of food, so you never have to worry about them being picky. You’ll want to raise hogs for their meat. Feeder pigs are hogs that you feed and keep for around a year, then eat them once they’ve gained enough weight. You must pay attention to the diversity of food you give them, as it’s the richness in their diet that determines how they’ll taste.
5. Cats and Dogs
Any good homestead needs a few household animals, too. Cats and dogs are often overlooked as necessary farm or homestead animals, but they play critical roles in the miniature ecosystem you’ve created. You may have to put in some training to get these animals to do what you need them to, but they’re truly some of the cornerstones that can keep your homestead running smoothly.
If you have a barn where you store feed and grain, mice are bound to come. You need a barn cat to help control the population of mice so they don’t ruin your storage. These cats typically live outside in the barn and hunt mice of their own volition, but you should supplement with cat food to keep your barn cat happy and healthy, ready to chase mice whenever they appear.
Your homestead dog should be one of the Herding breeds if you want them to function beyond a companion. Many herding dogs have an innate knowledge of how to herd livestock, which makes them exceptionally valuable if you have multiple herd animals that you don’t think you can control on your own.
Dogs like Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are easy to train and love to please their owners. You can also think about shepherds, such as the German Shepherd Dog or Anatolian Shepherd, who can stand guard over your flock and chase away any predatory animals.
Choosing the Right Homesteading Animals for You
Trial and error go hand in hand with homesteading. Over time, you’ll find out which homestead animals work best for your lifestyle and which are too difficult to manage. Luckily, you should have some sort of community backing you up. Coupled with the stores around, they can help you supplement any areas of your homestead you haven’t fully fleshed out yet. Take your time and see what works for you. Soon, your homestead will flourish.
Jack Shaw is a senior writer at Modded. Jack is an avid enthusiast for keeping up with personal health and enjoying nature. He has over five years of experience writing in the men's lifestyle niche, and has written extensively on topics of fitness, exploring the outdoors and men's interests. His writings have been featured in SportsEd TV, Love Inc., and Offroad Xtreme among many more publications.