Starting your own homestead can be both rewarding and extremely daunting. There is so much to learn, and while a lot of it really is going to be a live-and-learn opportunity, there some things that can be researched ahead of time. Without a doubt the two primary questions that I see new homesteaders asking revolve around what plants to have in a garden, and what animals to raise on your homestead.
Today I want to focus on the animal question, and we’ll get into the gardening question in another post. While there isn’t an easy way to answer which animals will work best for you, there are some questions that all homesteaders should ask in order to start down the trial-and-error path of homesteading livestock.
1. Are there any local laws to consider?
If you live within city limits, you will need to check and see what you can raise in your backyard. Most cities will have restrictions against raising most things, but generally rabbits and even sometimes chickens are okay. For those of you who live in the country, it might behoove you to check and see if there are any laws for larger livestock living conditions and make sure you’re going to be able to meet them.
2. How much space do I have?
Larger farm animals are going to require a lot more space than smaller ones, but you’ll also need to take into account the terrain of your homestead and whether or not you have enough workable space for any kind of farm animals. If you have no shade, that’ll be a challenge for cows, while chickens aren’t going to like a rocky yard as well.
3. What do I like to eat?
This is kind of a duh, but if you don’t like eating something, don’t spend all the time raising it. I don’t like eating duck, for example, so while I think ducks are absolutely adorable, it makes way more sense for me to raise chickens than ducks. Also, this is a good time to consider how you’re going to butcher your animals (if that’s the intention).
4. What will work best with my location?
I already mentioned the amount of space you have, but you also have to consider the local climate and the existing ecosystem and make sure it will work. For example, you won’t want to raise some kinds of cows if you live in the far North as they won’t deal as well with the cold. Generally speaking, you’ll have to work harder with non-native animals, so take that into account.
5. Do you have appropriate infrastructure for animals?
You’ll want to take some time and look at all your fences, outbuildings, stables, and coops and make sure that they’re up to par. And if they aren’t, then you’ll have to build some before you acquire any animals. If you can’t afford that, then you should probably just wait on getting animals for now, as animals always have extra costs.
6. What predators are in the area?
If coyotes are extremely common in your area, then you’re going to have to be extra vigilant for your chickens and find ways to cope. This doesn’t mean you can’t have chickens–just be sure you know what you’re getting into, or else all that money and time is simply going to fill a coyote’s belly instead of yours.
7. How much work and money am I willing to devote to animals?
This is a big one. Some animals require more care than others do. If you have a tight budget or a really busy schedule, then you’ll want to make sure you either get someone else to help you, or get an animal that doesn’t require as much fiddling. It’s also important to look into feed costs and other miscellaneous expenses to make sure you can fit it into your budget.
8. How will I handle challenges of livestock?
From diseases to injuries, butchering costs, storing the meat, and more, there’s a lot that goes into the care of livestock. Find a good vet for your big animals and consult some knowledgable boards and friends on the smaller livestock so that you can be prepared. Believe me, you don’t want to be up at 10 p.m. frantically trying to figure out what’s wrong with your chicken by Googling things. That’s a nightmare. Be prepared for handling the various challenges of animals ahead of time and save yourself some headaches.
What questions did you have before you started your homestead? Do you have any other questions you want to ask? Ask me below, and I’ll do my best to answer! I’m not an expert on everything, but our community may be able to help you out. 🙂 Happy homesteading!