Animals On Your Homestead / Hobby Farm
If you have or are planning to have a small homestead or hobby farm, no doubt you will want to have some animals on your farm. Deciding which animals to have can be frustrating, so this article is meant to help you with that. First, let me say that I know there will be differing opinions on this subject, and that’s fine. Our suggestions here will work for just about anyone but there will be those who disagree. If you have something to offer in addition to this article, please let me know in the comments. Now, on to the list of animals you should have on your homestead!
Chickens should always be your first choice. Some breeds of chickens can lay an egg daily for a span of one to three years. Once the chicken has stopped laying, you can either keep it as a pet or you can eat it. Here’s a tip for you… if you name your chickens, you are much less likely to eat them. You’ll need about three or four square feet of space per chicken and some kind of shelter for them, including nesting boxes. For a family of four, ten hens can provide plenty of eggs for everyone. Adding at least one rooster is recommended if you want to increase your stock, but roosters are not necessary in order for the hens to lay eggs. Hens are cheap, with each chick costing a couple of bucks, depending on the breed and their age when you buy them. Chickens are also great for pest control as they gobble up insects, bugs, ticks, hornets, etc. Article continues below…
When it comes to milk, most people choose cow’s milk. But for many, goats are a better option. Compared to cows, goats are a lot cheaper, require less space and less food. A goat can provide you a two year’s supply of milk and can give birth to two or three kids at a time. Goat milk is easily digested and can be given to almost anyone, even those who are allergic to cow’s milk. A single goat can produce 2-4 quarts of milk every day. You can also turn that milk into cheese, butter and soap. When the milk runs out, you can either keep the goat as a pet or you can eat it. There are a lot of breeds to choose from, depending on your needs. If you want goat’s milk, some good examples would be Nubian, Saanen or Lamancha goats. When it comes to meat, you might want to consider Boer goats. If you are after fibers, Angora goats can supply you with enough mohair to make gloves, hats, and scarves for winter. If you just want pet goats, we suggest Pygmy goats.
If your city or town doesn’t allow chickens, consider raising quail. The eggs are delicious and so is the meat. The Coturnix quail are quiet, pleasant birds that are in some ways easier to keep than chickens. They require much less feed and space. Learning how to start quail farming is very easy since quail can eat game bird feed, and they eat and drink out of the same type of feeders and waterers as chickens. You will need about 1 square foot of space per bird, meaning a small 2ft by 5ft enclosure could house 9 or 10 birds. Another big plus is that quail roosters don’t crow, so you won’t be disturbing your neighbors at 4AM each day. Quails fly much more than chickens so you can’t let them free range. They’ll simply fly away and you’ll be out your investment. Quails hens can start laying as early as 6 weeks, so you’ll know if you have a hen or a rooster sooner rather than later. Quail eggs are small than chicken eggs so you’ll probably use 3 quail eggs instead of 1 chicken egg. The average person doesn’t consider quails as pets so eating them won’t make you feel bad… unless you named them.
Rabbits are great additions to any homestead or hobby farm. They are a great meat source, they cost very little to feed, and they take up very little space. Rabbits’ gestation period is about one month and they often have 6 or more in a litter. Their babies can be culled at 8 weeks so they are a fast meat supply. They can be fed store bought feed, extra veggies from the garden, weeds and grass clippings, as well as hay. Rabbits are also great for your garden because they produce some of the best fertilizer. Rabbits do usually require hutches to live in and they can be built for very little cost… or you can buy them at your local farm store. Some folks let their rabbits free range in a bunny tractor for protection. Their housing has many options that can cost as little or as much as you are willing to spend. And remember, don’t name them.
Bees are fun, easy to care for, and you get delicious honey. There are some things you need to know before you get going as a beekeeper, however. Understanding what you are getting into before you see visions of golden honey dreams will keep you from getting frustrated. Here’s some of what you need to know before you start raising bees.
Plant A Lot Of Flowers & Prepare Your Hive
The average bee can fly up to six miles away from their hive for pollen, and that can get exhausting. If you have lots of flowers and flowering plants, your bees will be able to make quicker work of collecting the pollen and turning it into honey. We love to plant bee balm, buckwheat, and lavender for the bees. And, leave some dandelions for them. That is often a first food for the winter weary bees. Make sure your hive is properly prepared. There are numerous articles on how to do this online, so check them out. Chickens and bees get along well so you can put your hive near the chicken coop. Make sure the location has some shade and is out of direct winter wind. If you have a garden, you can place the hive near that so the bees will have easy access to all the flowering plants. You want them far enough away from your family and neighbors for all to be safe, yet easily accessible to check on the bees regularly.
Get The Right Gear & Is Anyone Allergic To Bee Stings?
At a minimum, you need a netted hat with shoulder length fabric to tuck into your shirt. A smoker will also help to calm the bees. In our experience, most bees are pretty docile, but the risk of getting stung isn’t worth leaving yourself wide open. Once you get stung, it’s natural to begin to swat at them, dance around, or get all excited. That can lead to more stings as the hive goes into protective mode. And what if someone is allergic to them? This won’t necessarily mean that you can’t keep bees, but if someone in your family is allergic to bee stings, you will want to keep them away when you are working with the bees.