Need a Change? Best Farm Animals for Beginners

best farm animals for beginnersSo we seem to be in an opinion cycle lately with our articles. But with winter surrounding us, there's little being done outside so that leaves us with discussing what comes to mind. Right now, it's our livestock. To be honest, and we always are, the best farm animals for beginners start with what the newbie homesteader feels most comfortable with and which ones they have the most knowledge of. If someone is an expert in guinea pigs, then that's the one for them. If it's alligator, go for it.

For us, our lessons were learned and honed on a little 1/4 acre urban homestead in south-central New Hampshire. We had enough land for a struggling garden, a few animals that the neighbors didn't mind and a whole lot of shade to deal with. It's not that unique of a situation, but it helped teach us the importance of knowing our property and what the best solutions were for it.



Best Farm Animals for Beginners


best farm animals for beginners
So, in our opinion, beyond the general advice of comfort and knowledge, the best farm animals for beginners has to be chickens. The initial investment is slight and the learning curve isn't that steep. Our journey with chickens began a few years ago on the afore-mentioned urban homestead with a flock of six Isa Brown egg hens picked up at our local Tractor Supply. Isa Browns are a hybrid breed designed especially for laying eggs, and are a cross between NH Reds and RI Reds. The girls are gorgeous and plump, and good for roughly an egg a day when laying. The issue is because they lay so much, they have a shorter laying span than other chickens.

This meant we would be faced with a choice once the girls stopped laying. We could move them into the stew pot or we could keep them as pets, where they got to live out their days as matrons and do nothing but cluck, entertain, teach and eat. I suppose you know which choice we went. I think I could have gone either way at this crossroads in our homesteading education, but my wife was adamant. They would be pets and that was all there was to it.


Self Sustaining Farm Layout


self sustaining farm layoutThe move from the city, as you can imagine, was one of exhaustion and expense. Our new homestead is an off the grid oasis our in the country with good neighbors, lakefront settings and plenty of quiet. The property already had the house and solar array set up, so our costs in that department were minimal. As a 2013 construction, everything was in tip top shape. The expense, however, came from setting up a predator-proof chicken run and garden plot, a new tractor and some assorted tools and supplies to turn our property into an active and vibrant homestead. It was not, at this time, a self sustaining farm layout.

Much of the property was overgrown with random wild flowers. The pattern was so erratic that after asking the previous owner what the deal was, we learned of his distaste for lawns and gardening, leading him to buy bags of wildflower seeds and scatter them about the place. This will come back as a benefit for us with the bees coming in this spring, but it took a lot of energy to clear out the spaces for the paddock, coop and garden. I mean A LOT.

The idea was to have the garden close enough to the house to be seen and visited frequently. The chicken run was moved from beside the sheet-metal garage to the garden bed simply for a healthier and safer scratching period in late fall and winter. They will return to the garage-side coop when spring arrives. Below the solar panels, with their fronts facing south and towards some fallow pastures in the woods, the bee hives will be placed. There is little chance of their foraging to cross the paths of neighboring homes, but we will just have to see when the time comes.


Best Farm Animals to Raise to Make a Profit


best farm animals to raise to make a profit
For us, the homestead is designed to provide food for our table with a little residual at this point to share with the neighbors. As an income stream, we would need to expand a bit. Last season we brought in a flock of 40 or so meat birds, of which we harvested 30, keeping back 10 to add to our egg flock. The bees will begin this spring, and that means two hives that need to be built up and learned before any thought of honey can be considered. Those two, if they split nicely, will hopefully go into the following winter as four.

In general, however, the best farm animals to raise to make a profit are the ones with little overhead, minimal care needs and simple to prepare for a market. These generally tend to be small animals like rabbits or chickens, but if you are thinking of running a small pig yard with 3-4 heritage breeds, those could work as well. Just remember, the larger the animal, the larger the investment.

For backyard chickens, because that's what we really know, we are able to eek out $2-3 a pound profit per processed bird. That includes everything from initial purchase to feed to paying a local poultry butcher to dispatch, clean, process and pack. A larger flock means more birds and a decrease in costs, so we will be looking into that this coming season.


Easy Animals to Breed for Money


easy animals to breed for moneyNow, when looking for a balance of simplicity and profitability, you are going to want to investigate easy animals to breed for money. That means choosing livestock that do pretty much all of the work themselves and let you reap the benefits. Breeding doesn't have to mean harvesting, either. Many animals have value in their genetics and demeanor that means people are looking to buy them to add to their own homestead operations.

Let's say you specialize in registered Nigerian Dwarf goats. Your care of these animals means you can market them not only for meat and dairy, but also for 4-H programs, yoga studios (yes, I said Yoga studios) or any other niche where that particular species fits nicely. Rabbits, again make great pets. Chickens do well in new flocks and can be desirable if their genetics are good. Do your research and find the animal that works for your situation and see if there is a local market.


Cheap Farm Animals for Sale


cheap farm animals for sale
Lastly, we'd like to put a bug in your ear about Craigslist ads and similar scenarios. When you see a sign that reads Cheap Farm, Animals for Sale, keep going. There aren't going to be any diamonds in the rough in such an offering. In truth, you will be paying for the animals that farmer no longer can make a profit from such as old hens, dry goats or rabbits with EDS. Remember that the best farm animals for beginners are the ones you know and have the facilities to care for. Do your best and learn as much as possible.

We love sharing our homesteading solutions with all of you, and love hearing your perspective as well. Add to the conversation below with your thoughts on the best farm animals for beginners. What do you raise? What lessons did you learn that made you take a second look at your livestock selection? Let us know in the comments below!

Comments

Unknown said…
So, we're getting alligators now?