Thinking Animals? Beginner Homestead Livestock

beginner homestead livestockOur journey to a sustainable lifestyle began small, in relative terms. In our previous home, we had a small square-foot garden with a flock of six egg-laying hens. In our urban setting we certainly pushed the boundaries on what we could produce but there was always the thought of doing more. 

We started to do some reading, watching popular homestead YouTubers and doing our research. With our limited experience we knew the next step would be to increase our food production and introduce some beginner homestead livestock options into our plan. When we bought our current home, the plan was rolled into action.

Beginner Homestead Livestock

beginner homestead livestock
Perhaps the most useful piece of advice we came across was a caution to not do everything at once. We wanted goats, more chickens, a couple of beehives and perhaps pigs. Thinking back on what that would have been like if we started all at once is terrifying in a sense. 

It would have been a disaster. As homesteaders, each new element we added to our life style took time to not only learn, but to time to observe how it fits into our environment. More chickens meant a larger run and coop. Adding meat chickens into the mix meant learning a new growth cycle and how best to prepare them for the freezer. Goats are social animals, and though we aren't planning on raising them for meat, that means learning how to not only milk them but how to incorporate that milk into our menu.

Our next beginner homestead livestock addition will be honey bees. With our research down, we've purchased two Flow Hives from Australia and come Spring we will put in two colonies. In New England, the cold weather is a concern as the bees' forage is cut drastically. We've decided to add a second super below the queen excluder to let them truly build up a cold-weather reserve before filling up the honey supers we will be drawing from.

Best Farm Animals for Beginners

best farm animals for beginners
Perhaps the best farm animals for beginners is a small flock of chickens for eggs. The initial investment is minimal with great results when they reach laying age. They are intelligent enough not to wander too far from the coop when free-ranging and instinctively return to the coop each night to be shut up for their protection. 

The balance between allowing livestock to free range or remain cooped up is a personal choice for a homesteader, as free-ranging presents the dangers of predators. However, keeping them locked up in a run, no matter the size, is still restricting. For us, free range in forage weather is a must and losing a chicken once in a while to predators is the better ethical choice. We try to let them roam with supervision, but honestly this can't be done successfully. In this debate, the choice is ultimately yours without judgement.

Our initial investment for the chickens included a solid pre-fab coop bought as an end-of-season clearance, a 40x75 foot run and a six foot fence. The fence is folded outward and buried to discourage digging predators, and a draping of bird netting discourages hawks and our local bald eagle pair from grabbing a snack. In total, we spent perhaps $350 on the set up, but we knew the expense we put into the run would be well worth it. Chickens are definitely our choice for the best farm animals for beginners.

Easiest Farm Animals to Raise

easiest farm animals to raise
Perhaps the easiest farm animals to raise beside chickens would have to be pigs. If you choose a heritage breed you could be looking at a couple hundred dollars per certified piglet, but that would be your greatest expense. Like goats, pigs are social animals so you would want to have at least three. 

The fencing doesn't need to be as protective as a chicken run, but if you want to discourage the pigs from pushing down the fence (and they will), a quality electric fence is in order. As a more biologically complex and expensive animal, you will have to keep a closer eye on them for signs of illness. However, left to their own with inoculations, regular feedings and fresh water they will certainly prove to be the easiest farm animal to raise in our opinion. Breeds mature anywhere between four and eight months, so you will want to factor the cost of feed into your budget to be successful.

Best Farm Animals for Self Sufficiency

best farm animals for self sufficiencyFor us, our homestead means being as self sufficient as possible. The chickens are a success, both egg layers and meat birds, and the bees will be producing honey soon enough. At this time, we have a plan to raise a pig or two with a family member who does his own pigs in the summer. Then perhaps incorporate goats onto our own farm the next year. 

However, the best farm animals for self sufficiency are the ones you have the knowledge and experience to raise. Right now for us, that's chickens. By this time next year, we can add bees to that list. The point is, your homestead is a world of your own creation, and doing what you want to do and growing what you can is where the success lies.

If you feel the best farm animals for self sufficiency lean toward the larger herbivores such as cows or kangaroos, then that is what is going to be your best choice. The point, is no matter what opinions we have, it's not going to be exactly what satisfies your plan to become self sufficient. All we can do is make suggestions and show you what worked for us.

Best Farm Animals to Raise to Make a Profit

best farm animals to make a profit
So, with that being said, what are the best farm animals to raise to make a profit? Income with homestead animals relies on a careful balance of how much it costs to raise them and what you can make when you either harvest them or their products, such as wool or honey. 

Again, for us, chickens were a great starter farm animal simply because of their ability to not only forage and scratch all day long to reduce feed costs, but also for the predictable sales of eggs and meat when collected. 

Depending on your area, organic farm fresh eggs could go for between $3 and $12 a dozen, while organic meat can easily go for $5-$7 a pound. Our last harvest of the meat flock averaged over 5 pounds per bird. For three months to grow to slaughter weight and a harvest of 32 birds, that was a nice deposit in our account.

Chickens are easy to keep, requiring fresh water, a safe and comfortable coop and some grain and calcium scratch for strong egg production. They entertain like the dickens and are a great addition to any farm simply because they pull their weight as working animals. Chickens are masters of pest control. 

Anything from ants to mice that cross a scratching hen's path is as good as done for. When it comes to the best farm animals to raise to make a profit, our advice for your beginner homestead livestock is to choose one animal type to start with that you'll enjoy, that you feel ready for and will bring value to your table and bank account.

We love sharing our lives on our off grid homestead, and would love to hear your advice and observations about beginner homestead livestock. Please join the conversation by adding your comments below.