Livestock Worries? Easiest Farm Animals to Raise

easiest farm animals to raiseThe best advice we ever came across when researching our move to an off grid homestead came in the form of a caution. Don't rush things, especially where farm animals are concerned. This little tidbit reminded us that we weren't experts at raising an ark of livestock and that we should respect them and ourselves by delving into the process slowly. Raise one type of animal to learn how it behaves and how it interacts with our humble home environment, then incorporate the next. When it comes down to it, the easiest farm animals to raise are the ones we know well. 

Our path with livestock started with a brood of six egg-laying hens in a converted backyard wood shed at our old urban quarter acre home. Before the hens, we just had a grazing garden. But when the ladies moved in, we took our time, watched and learned how the they behaved, fed, and established a pecking order. When we were comfortable in our knowledge, we added a few more and watched as our first hens gently settled into pet status with the their laying years behind them. We have since raised countless chickens, including this year's successful foray into a meat bird flock.

Easiest Farm Animals to Raise

In the simplest of terms, the easiest farm animals to raise are the ones we have the time, energy, space and know-how to raise. Whether for a recurring product like eggs, wool, honey or milk, or a one-time benefit of meat, familiarity with the animal is what makes it easy. However, some animals are easier to learn and manage than others regardless of the level of expertise and in this article we will review these and discuss how to integrate them into a homestead farm.

Easy Animals to Breed for Profit

easy animals to breed for profit
On a scale of simplicity, chickens are in fact easy animals to breed for profit. With the right coop and run with adequate food and water, these little farmyard dandies will produce eggs for years to come with a minimal budget for feed tossed in. Meat birds are just as simple, perhaps even more so because off their non-pet nature though the profit calculations are a little more complex. With egg-layers, it is simply a matter of collecting the eggs, putting them in cartons purchased in bulk and getting them into your sales funnel. With meat birds, they have to be slaughtered and processed, packaged and frozen before going off to market. This is an extra cost, but one that is negligible when added to your sale price per pound.

Meat birds can definitely be easy animals to breed for profit with a careful eye on expenses, and for us, the cost of processing our organic birds doesn't add that much to the price, relatively. At the supermarket, commercially grown whole chickens go for around $1.50 per pound, meaning a 5 pound broiler will run you about $7.50. For us, we sell our processed organic chickens for $5.00 a pound, meaning a customer expects to pay around $25. This may sound excessive, but not only is the meat universally tastier than the commercial birds, they are much meatier as well. On average, we get 4 meals out of a single bird in our farmhouse kitchen. Day 1 we roasted the bird, day 2 is a chicken pot pie, day 3 means lunch sandwiches and day 4 is soup from the stock. We would be paying per meal, for a family of five, just over $6. Try doing that will a breast-heavy, body scarce supermarket bird. That's not even mentioning the quality of life that bird had before being harvested. On our farm and most homesteads in general, meat birds live a relatively pleasant life  in the happy world of free-ranging and comfy coops before their clock runs out.

Best Farm Animals for Pets

best farm animals for pets
As for the best farm animals for pets, aside from working dogs and barn cats, our vote would have to go with goats. These sociable little buggers are curious, entertaining, mostly docile and will bond with you as soon as you put that first bottle of milk to their lips. For milking goats who won't be sent off to harvest, many will become almost as attached to you as a dog would, wanting to be by your side and help as you make your chore rounds of the homestead.

Goats are an anchor farm animal for agricultural clubs like the New Hampshire 4-H Goat Project and are a great way to start your children on the path to connecting with their food and the world around them. As with those animals raised for profit, the best farm animals for pets are the ones you know and have the space and proper equipment for. If you're interested in adding pets to your farm, seek out someone local who does the same thing and ask their advice. Spend some time with their animals and learn what you can before dedicating your time to a new addition to your livestock collective.

Making Money on a Small Farm

making money on a small farmMaking money on a small farm from your livestock can take a few different paths, and diversifying based on the season will help generate a steady income. Our beehives go into the Spring garden soon, so we can look forward to a starter season of honey sales in the Fall. The chickens are resting from egg laying during these winter months, but when longer, warmer days arrive we will see an increase in eggs from our enlarged flock. Those original six have grown into a healthy flock of how many we're not sure. For meat birds this season, we can start earlier and do two smaller flocks or just one large one in the Autumn for sale and our pantry. As for goats, we are still waiting until we are truly ready with a new paddock and barn.

Aside from the direct products from your animals, you can be making money on a small farm by teaching others how to raise their own food. Put an ad in the local paper offering hands-on classes for raising chickens, harvesting honey or milking goats. Trust us, there is an interest out there for people not only thinking of having their own homestead but simply wishing to connect with where their food comes from. Set a reasonable price and a schedule with some planned talks and demonstrations. One bonus of having students on your farm is all of the extra help with the chores!

Small Farm Animals

small farm animals
Small farm animals come in all shapes and sizes. Those that make you money will be the ones you put the most effort in to learn more about in order to increase their value. However, keep in mind that the easiest farm animals to raise are the ones you know the most about and have the time, infrastructure and desire to keep. If they don't fit into your life neatly then they simply aren't worth it, no matter the price.

We love the choices we've made concerning our off grid homestead and the small farm animals we have decided to raise, and we would love to hear from you on your insights to the easiest farm animals to raise. Please join the conversation adding your voice in the comments below.