I think raising animals is one of the most rewarding things to do as a homesteader. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from knowing exactly where your food comes from and knowing that you gave that animal an honorable life. Lots of different people start in different places, but there is one thing for sure, there is definitely one animal that a lot of homesteaders see as a gateway to an amazing addiction.
More often than not I’ve found that most homesteaders start with chickens as their first animals, the lure of golden yolks and free ranging birds is often too much to say no to. I must admit that they are calling my name, but that’s not where we started….. I like to do things backwards 😉 … but more on that later.
Chickens are a great start, but in my personal opinion are one of the easiest animals to care for as far as homestead animals. They can live in confinement. Only take up about 5 sqaure feet per bird of coop space, meaning that 12 birds easily fit in an 8’x8′ coop and you can choose whether to let them free range or have an attached run to your coop. Chickens are a great start and a staple to any homestead with animals and I’m not knocking them by any means. But if you want to open the flood gates and start down the path of an animal addiction…. keep reading.
Our first BIG step into raising our own homestead animals ( I don’t count our horse since she doesn’t do much but eat hay and give pony rides these days) was a couple of dairy goats. I wanted our own source of milk and the ability to have it RAW, you wouldn’t believe all the wonderful things that you loose when you pasteurize milk. Why goats? You ask. Well because who really doesn’t love a cute little baby goat?!? I’ve always loved goat antics, like when they climb the highest thing they can find and play king of the mountain, but not my car…that’s not even remotely funny. Or when they stand on their back legs trying to look all big and tough…. unless its at me and then I’ll always win…. I have the bigger squirt bottle.
But seriously, depending on the breed of goat, they can be small, entertaining, and provide both milk (and milk products) and meat to a homestead. They require less space than a full sized dairy cow, and eat far less feed. You can make extra money for your homestead with sales of kid goats, goat milk soap, and if your local laws allow you can even sell goat milk and milk products. They are the perfect first trial run before getting bigger animals to fill your homestead with the joyous chorus of animal noises at feeding time.
The problem with goats… and not the obvious ones like they like to find holes in your fence and they like to climb things….like your car; is that they’re a gateway animal. Wait, what?!? what the heck is a gateway animal? Gateway animals are an animal that gives you the knowledge and confidence to try harder and more difficult animal husbandry. I mean really… once you master the art of keeping a noodle, I mean goat, in a fence and helping give birth to live baby animals and restrain yourself from cuddling them to death…. I’m joking…kind of, the sky is really the limit. Cows are like over sized goats, alpacas and llamas just need sheared, and pigs need to eat all your scraps.
Obviously each of these needs different animals have their own needs for housing and nutrition needed to grow and thrive, but basically they’re needs start with the same building blocks. Goats are just a small stepping stone to a full barnyard and a happy homestead.
What about you what animal(s) did you start with? And what animals would you LOVE to add to your homestead? Leave me note in the comments and maybe your favorite animal will be our next addition to our homestead.
Until next time,