Grit Blogs > Another Kind of Drew

Planning for Animals on the Homestead

MeatChickensAs we move from Odom's Idle Acres in Barnesville, Georgia to Pink Hill, North Carolina and our own little plot of dirt, the one thing that we intend on intensifying (even while downsizing) is our goal of self-sufficiency. We're not vegans or even vegetarians so we have to think about our source for milk, eggs, and meat. Even if we were vegan though, keeping animals on our homestead would allow us natural fibers or wool to sell. Basic animal husbandry would also allow us the peace of knowing our animals were raised humanely and treated with care and and every day.

Goats 

From what I gather goats are among the most practical and versatile animals we could raise. They are small and relatively easy to handle. In fact, a single goat can produce two to four quarts of milk each day, which can simply be drunk or used to make cheese, butter, and soap. Angora goats and other long-hairs can be bred for mohair and fiber which can easily be sold or used for crafts. Did I mention goats can be raised for meat? It may sound odd if you've never tried "cabrito" or goat meat but it really is as healthy as a chicken breast with a taste like that of veal.

One thing we have to read up on is what breed is best for what use. I am not aware of a breed that produces fiber, milk, and meat. For milk we will probably look to Nubian, Saanen, or LaMancha goats while if we decided to cultivate fiber we will want to look in the Angora direction.  And while any goat can produce meat, Boer and Myotonic ("fainting") goats are the best suited for this purpose.

Poultry 

We're pretty versed in poultry since we currently raise 4 layers of chickens; hatchlings/broilers/layers/meat. And like for many neo-homesteaders, chickens are an obvious choice for us because they don't require much space and provide us with eggs and fresh meat. Once a hen's egg production has declined, she can be a great addition to the stew pot. Believe it or not (which I am sure you will if you are reading this blog), mature chickens are far more flavorful than the rapidly-fattened youngsters sold in supermarkets. Chickens aren't hard to care for, and young chicks or fertilized eggs are very inexpensive to buy.

Other poultry are also worth considering. Guineas, ducks, and geese are also great sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Although they cost more than chickens, the meat is richer and many people love fresh duck and goose eggs. Guineas have the added advantage of being an effective pest control measure; they will happily snap up wasps, hornets, ticks, ants, and even mice.

Small Animals 

Another option for homesteaders who have very little room to spare is small animals. And the reason for this post really is because lately Pan and I have been talking about raising rabbits; the pros and cons. They can be raised in hutches in your backyard, and true to their reputation, reproduce frequently. As with many other animals, you'll need to decide what you want to use the rabbits for before you choose a breed. Angora rabbits are a great source of natural fiber. New Zealand, Florida White, and Californian rabbits are good choices for meat. And I am supposing that if we preserve the fur we can use it for insulation on a number of things. And let we forget rabbit poop. It makes great fertilizer - higher in nitrogen than some poultry manures and it also contains a large amount of phosphorus--important for flower and fruit formation.

Did I forget anything? What do you think is important for us to consider in terms of raising animals on our small homestead? What do you raise? Was it a good choice for you? Why? Why not? 

anotherkindofdrew
1/7/2011 12:23:08 PM

@Paula - I don't name any of the animals unless I intend to keep them for the duration of their lives. I am pretty sure all of my chickens like being called "Chicky." hahahahahaha


paula maloney
1/7/2011 12:08:56 PM

Don't name the food, but naming the "keepers," the production moms or dads worked well for us as kids when Dad raised rabbits for food. Same for chickens, name only the ones not destined to be table food. Or just get real hard-nosed in the first place, as our ancestors did. Remember, both a goat or cow requires daily milking, and that can be a LOT of milk, even for just a goat. Can't skip even once, poor beast is uncomfortable otherwise, and production will start to drop off. I had a goat I milked for a couple of years, only break was right at kidding time, she was great. A lot of the excess became pig and chicken food (both of which will eat almost anything even spoiled to the max:)! My hands gave up before she did, tho.


pauline chambers
1/7/2011 10:23:53 AM

If you haven't already heard this, Nubian Boer crosses have hybrid vigor and a nice meat carcass. Get some Nubian milkers and breed them Boer. You will be surprised at how meaty they are. There are lots of Boer breeders that will let you breed your Nubians to their buck and you won't have to have a buck around.


pauline chambers
1/7/2011 10:18:31 AM

If you haven't already heard this, Nubian Boer crosses have hybrid vigor and a nice meat carcass. Get some Nubian milkers and breed them Boer. You will be surprised at how meaty they are. There are lots of Boer breeders that will let you breed your Nubians to their buck and you won't have to have a buck around.


anotherkindofdrew
1/4/2011 4:33:22 PM

Hey there Hannah! Thank you so much for your recommendations. We currently have 1 square acre so a cow is not something we can really accomodate. We have that on our plan for our next 3 acres (which we are negotiating to buy adjacent to our current spot). My wife and I both need more practical experience with a heifer and while artisenal cheeses are amazing, we will have to continue purchasing beef and cow milk cheese from local farmers/ranchers.


hannah
1/4/2011 4:27:03 PM

Hi Drew, We just moved onto 5 acres in Western Ma and I am looking forward to taking great strides in the self-sufficiency direction as well! Why not a small milk-cow such as a Jersey or Guernsey? One small female could get you going with artisanal cheeses - highly sought after at Farmer's Markets! Another option are the miniature version of the Jersey (already small), it has been bred to be even smaller - here's an article from Mother Earth News from a while back < http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Small-Breed-Milk-Cows.aspx > They might still be too big to suit your purposes but thought I'd mention it anyway! good luck, Hannah


hannah
1/4/2011 4:22:53 PM

Hi Drew, We just moved onto 5 acres in Western Ma and I am looking forward to taking great strides in the self-sufficiency direction as well! Why not a small milk-cow such as a Jersey or Guernsey? One small female could get you going with artisanal cheeses - highly sought after at Farmer's Markets! Another option are the miniature version of the Jersey (already small), it has been bred to be even smaller - here's an article from Mother Earth News from a while back < http://www.motherearthnews.com/Sustainable-Farming/Small-Breed-Milk-Cows.aspx > They might still be too big to suit your purposes but thought I'd mention it anyway! good luck, Hannah


mountain woman
1/4/2011 9:23:44 AM

Just visited your tiny house blog and it's fabulous. I came back to make one other suggestion. When I was deciding what animals to add for next year, I decided to look into heritage breeds and see what animals thrived in Vermont on farms in decades past. I got wonderful ideas and learned quite a bit along the way and why certain animals were bred for certain areas of the country. Here's the link if you want to learn more. http://albc-usa.org/ Also doing the same thing with heritage seeds for next season. Can't wait to read more on both your blogs.


anotherkindofdrew
1/4/2011 9:01:34 AM

Thank you Mountain Woman for all the kind words and the advice. If you want to know more about our Tiny House you can always visit our blog www.tinyrevolution.us Hope to see you there!


mountain woman
1/4/2011 8:57:48 AM

Hi Drew, Congratulations on your move. We got guineas this year and they are NOISY and they need to free range to do their job of eating bugs. Not a bird you want to have if you have neighbors who still have their hearing. Our nearest neighbors are over half a mile away and they can still hear the guineas. You might consider turkeys. They need less space and are quiet (compared to guineas) and for the most part gentle. I'm intrigued by your living space. I would LOVE to downsize to a small, small house. Each year, we rip off more and more of our existing house.


anotherkindofdrew
1/3/2011 6:54:10 PM

Hey there Dave. You are so right. I have friends who have allowed their children to name animals (including pricey livestock) which rendered them useless for eating purposes! Not me. I don't need any pets, my friend. hahahahaha. You have been following me around and I, in fact, just sent you a friend request on FB. Not sure why we never met up there. You are right. anotherkindofdrew.com has become a jumping off point for a lot of other things including the Tiny r(E)volution. Crystal and I will be living in 242 sq. ft. indefinitely. It is our "indoor" space. Honestly, we just aren't indoors enough to care that much. During warm months we are outside from sun up until sun down (including some amazing hammock naps). During the winter we like to go to the bookstore, see a movie or two, visit with family, go out to eat, etc. so Tiny House will be our indoor space at the end of days. Ideal though it will be one of 3 "living" structures on the land. Another will be a shanty shack that will house a washer/dryer along with a nice, 2-person tub complete with river rock and plants. The 3rd structure will be an artists studio for Crystal to turn wood, etc. and maybe me to do some writing. Not sure yet as that is a long term goal.


nebraska dave
1/3/2011 6:24:30 PM

@Drew, since you don’t have small children it will be easier to raise the animals but I’m telling you from experience if a child puts a name on the animal they will never eat it. Long ago I bought two rabbits with the intention of having hossenfeffer (German rabbit dish) but my wife, son, and daughter put names on them and they died of old age in cages without nary one bite of wrabbit. (Elmer Fudd’s pronunciation) I have given up with the animals and get my meat from the local deli day after discount bin. It’s a little tough, dried out and chewy but if heated up right it goes down pretty good. I’m learning to cook with meat more as a seasoning in other dishes than just straight up chunks of meat. Well, that’s at home. If I eat at the steak house with a friend then give me a chunk of beef. I’ve been reading about your move in your personal blog. It sounds quite exciting and I don’t know how you can live in such a small house. Will this be the permanent dwelling or is it just the first step to get moved onto the new property? Have a great North Carolina Day.