Many people focus on homesteading in the quest for self-sufficiency and a more sustainable lifestyle. Homesteading is a lifestyle that promotes self-reliance, sustainability, and a closer connection to nature. It involves various activities such as gardening, canning, and, most importantly, raising animals. What animals should you consider raising on your homestead?
The best animals to raise on a homestead are those that suit the size of the land and available resources and animals that bring multiple value aspects to the homestead. These can be in the form of food, saleable resources, land improvement, and even companionship.
We will explore some of the best animals to raise on a homestead and why they are a great choice. From chickens and goats to bees and pigs, we will discuss the advantages of each animal and how they contribute to self-sufficiency and a thriving homestead. Whether you have a large homestead or a small urban plot, you’ll find options to help you take a significant step towards a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle on your homestead.
Best Homestead Animals
Choosing the right animals to raise on a homestead is a critical decision that can significantly impact the success of your homesteading journey. The best animals for homesteading provide multiple benefits, such as meat, eggs, milk, or even companionship, while fitting well into your available space and lifestyle.
Many factors determine the best animals to raise on the homestead, but two of the most crucial are your homestead location and the available space.
The location of your homestead is important because your climate can affect your choice of animals to raise, and local restrictions and by-laws may apply if your homestead is in or near a city.
Space is another deciding factor because each animal has different space requirements. Your available space will dictate which animals you can or can’t keep on your homestead.
Chickens: The Gateway Livestock
Often called gateway livestock, chickens are a popular choice for many homesteaders. Chickens are relatively easy to care for, require minimal space compared to larger livestock, and provide various benefits that make them an excellent choice for novice and experienced homesteaders.
If you are a beginner with homesteading, chickens are a great option to begin keeping livestock on your property, regardless of the size of your homestead.
Why Chickens Are Popular Homestead Animals
Chickens are often the first animal that people consider when starting a homestead and for good reasons.
- Ease of care. Chickens are hardy animals that can adapt to various climates and conditions. They require basic shelter, regular feeding, and protection from predators.
- Space requirements. Chickens don’t require a lot of space, making them suitable for both rural and urban homesteading.
- Fast maturity. Chickens mature quickly, with many breeds starting to lay eggs at between 5 to 6 months of age.
Benefits Of Raising Chickens On The Homestead
Raising chickens on a homestead offers numerous benefits and multiple uses, making them an important choice for self-sufficiency and sustainability on the homestead.
- Egg production. One of the most immediate benefits of raising chickens is the steady supply of fresh eggs. Depending on the breed, a healthy hen can lay anywhere from 150 to 300 eggs per year.
- Meat source. Besides eggs, chickens also provide a source of meat. Dual-purpose breeds, good for egg and meat production, are particularly beneficial for homesteaders.
- Pest control. Chickens are natural foragers. They can help control pests by eating insects, worms, and even small rodents.
- Fertilizer. Chicken manure is a fantastic organic fertilizer that can enrich your garden soil.
Poultry Breeds Suitable For Homesteading
There are numerous chicken breeds, each with its specific characteristics, making them suitable candidates for the homestead.
The following are some breeds popular among homesteaders.
|Breed||Egg Production||Meat Production||Additional Notes|
|Rhode Island Red||High||Good||Hardy and adaptable|
|Plymouth Rock (Barred Rock)||Good||Excellent||Friendly and easy to handle|
|Australorp||Very High||Good||This breed holds the record for most eggs laid in a 12-month period.|
Chickens are an excellent choice for any homestead due to their multiple benefits and ease of care. Whether you’re just starting your homesteading journey or looking to expand, chickens can be a valuable addition to your homestead.
Goats: The Versatile Homestead Animal
Goats are another excellent choice for homesteading. Known for their versatility, goats can provide milk, meat, and even fiber in the case of certain breeds. They are also known for their ability to clear land by eating weeds and brush.
Advantages Of Raising Goats On The Homestead
Goats are another multi-purpose animal on the homestead, and their relatively small size and lower space requirements make them a popular choice for many homesteads.
The following are the main benefits of keeping goats on the homestead.
- Milk production. Goat milk is nutritious and easier to digest than cow’s milk. It can also be used to make cheese, yogurt, and soap.
- Meat production. Goat meat, also known as chevon, is lean and flavorful. It’s a popular choice in many cuisines worldwide and can serve as a protein source on the homestead.
- Land clearing. Goats are natural browsers, preferring to eat leaves, twigs, and vines. They can help clear overgrown areas of your land.
- Companionship. Goats are social and intelligent animals. They can be quite entertaining and make good pets.
Pygmy Goat: A Great Choice for Small Farms
For those with limited space, the Pygmy Goat is an excellent choice. Despite their small size, they are hardy animals that can adapt to various climates.
Pygmy goats are primarily kept for milk and meat production, but their friendly and playful nature also makes them great pets.
Goat Breeds Suitable For Homesteading
There are numerous goat breeds suitable for needs on the homestead. Here are a few popular ones commonly chosen for homesteading.
|Breed||Milk Production||Meat Production||Additional Notes|
|Nubian||High||Good||Known for high butterfat content in milk|
|Boer||Low||Excellent||Primarily raised for meat|
|Alpine||Very High||Fair||Excellent milk producers|
|Pygmy||Fair||Good||Small size, good for limited space|
Goats are a versatile and beneficial addition to any homestead. Whether you’re interested in milk production, meat, land clearing, or simply want a friendly pet, there’s a goat breed that can meet your needs.
Rabbits: The Small-Space Homestead Animal
When space is at a premium, rabbits are an excellent choice for homesteading. They require very little room and can even be raised in urban environments.
Despite their small size, rabbits can provide a surprising amount of meat and are known for their fast reproduction rate.
Benefits Of Raising Rabbits On The Homestead
Raising rabbits on a homestead offers numerous benefits and advantages, especially for urban homesteads or limited-space homesteads.
- Meat production. Rabbit meat is lean, healthy, and can be used in various recipes. A single doe can produce up to 250 pounds of meat in a year with offspring.
- Efficient feed conversion. Rabbits convert feed into meat more efficiently than most other livestock. This makes them a cost-effective choice for homesteaders.
- Easy to handle. Rabbits are small and generally easy to handle, making them a good choice for homesteaders with children.
- Fertilizer. Like chickens, rabbits produce manure that can be used to enrich your garden soil.
For those living in urban areas, rabbits are an excellent choice. They are quiet, don’t require much space, and can be raised in a backyard or even a garage. This makes them a popular choice for urban homesteading.
Rabbit Breeds Suitable For Homesteading
There are numerous rabbit breeds, each with its own set of characteristics. Here are a few popular ones for homesteading.
|Breed||Size||Meat Production||Additional Notes|
|New Zealand||Large||Excellent||A popular choice for meat|
|Californian||Medium to Large||Excellent||Known for its meat quality|
|Flemish Giant||Very Large||Good||Also kept as pets due to their docile nature|
|Rex||Medium||Good||Known for their plush fur|
Rabbits are an excellent choice for any homesteader, especially those with limited space. They are easy to care for, efficient, and can provide a steady meat supply.
Bees: The Easiest Homestead Animal
While they may not be the first animal that comes to mind when you think of homesteading, bees are an excellent addition to any homestead.
They require relatively little maintenance, provide valuable products, and significantly benefit your garden and local ecosystem.
Importance Of Bees In A Homestead
Bees are one of my favorite homestead animals, mostly because they provide multiple products for the homestead but also offer pollination services that benefit other sustainability projects on the homestead, such as growing your own food.
Bees play a crucial role in a homestead for several reasons.
- Pollination. Bees are excellent pollinators. They help to increase the yield of your garden by pollinating flowers, which leads to fruit and vegetable production.
- Honey production. One of the most obvious benefits of keeping bees is the production of honey. A single hive can produce anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds of honey per year, depending on various factors such as the bees’ health and local forage conditions.
- Wax production. Bees also produce beeswax, which can be used to make candles, lip balm, and other products.
- Biodiversity. Keeping bees contributes to local biodiversity, which benefits the environment.
Despite what you might think, bees are relatively easy to care for. They do most of the work themselves, and your main tasks are to provide them with a suitable hive and to monitor their health and honey production.
Getting Started With Beekeeping
If you’re interested in beekeeping, here are a few steps to get you started:
- Education. Educate yourself as much as you can about bees and beekeeping before you start. Many educational resources are available, including books, online courses, and local beekeeping associations.
- Equipment. You’ll need a hive, a bee suit, a smoker, and a hive tool at a minimum. You can purchase these items new, used, or even make your own hive.
- Bees. You can purchase bees locally, trap wild swarms, or order them online. They usually come in a package with a queen and several thousand worker bees.
Bees are a valuable addition to any homestead. They require relatively little work for the benefits they provide, making them one of the easiest animals to keep on a homestead.
Pigs: The Most Efficient Homestead Animal
Pigs are often overlooked in homesteading discussions but can be valuable in many homestead circumstances.
Known for their efficiency in converting feed into meat, pigs can provide substantial food for your family or for sale.
Why Pigs Are Profitable Animals For A Homestead
Pigs offer several benefits for homesteaders:
- Cost-effective. Pigs are known for their ability to convert feed into meat efficiently. This makes them a cost-effective choice for meat production.
- A large amount of meat. A single pig can provide several hundred pounds of meat, including pork chops, bacon, ham, and sausage.
- Waste management. Pigs can eat kitchen scraps and waste from your garden, helping to reduce waste and save on feed costs.
The Berkshire pig is a popular breed for homesteading. Known for its excellent meat quality, the Berkshire pig is a hardy breed that does well in various climates. They are also known for their good temperament, making them easier to raise than some other breeds.
Pig Breeds Suitable For Homesteading
There are numerous pig breeds, each with its own set of characteristics. Here are a few popular ones for homesteading.
|Breed||Size||Meat Quality||Additional Notes|
|Berkshire||Medium to Large||Excellent||Known for its marbled meat|
|Yorkshire||Very Large||Good||Known as the “mother breed.”|
|Gloucestershire Old Spot||Medium||Good||Good for beginners|
Pigs are an efficient and profitable addition you should consider for your homestead. They provide a large amount of meat and can help manage waste, making them a valuable part of a sustainable homesteading system.
Ducks: The Entertaining Homestead Animal
Ducks are a delightful addition to the homestead. Not only do they provide meat and eggs, but their charming and entertaining personalities can bring joy and amusement to your daily routine.
Advantages Of Raising Ducks On The Homestead
Raising ducks on a homestead offers numerous benefits.
- Egg production. Duck eggs are bigger than chicken eggs and are often considered more flavorful. They are excellent for baking due to their high fat and protein content.
- Meat production. Duck meat is rich and flavorful. It’s considered a delicacy in many cuisines.
- Pest control. Ducks are excellent foragers and will eat slugs, snails, and other pests in your garden.
- Hardiness. Ducks are generally hardy and resistant to many diseases that can affect chickens.
Pekin Ducks Vs. Muscovy Ducks: Which is Better?
When it comes to choosing a breed, both Pekin and Muscovy ducks are popular choices for homesteaders.
- Pekin ducks. Known for their fast growth and large size, Pekin ducks are excellent for meat production. They are also good layers, producing about 200 eggs per year.
- Muscovy ducks. Muscovy ducks are unique in that they are more akin to geese than to other ducks. They are excellent foragers and are known for their tender, flavorful meat.
Duck Breeds Suitable For Homesteading
There are numerous duck breeds, each with traits that make them suitable for various homesteading needs. Here are a few popular ones for homesteading.
|Breed||Egg Production||Meat Production||Additional Notes|
|Pekin||High||Excellent||Fast growth, large size|
|Khaki Campbell||Very High||Fair||Known for their egg laying|
|Indian Runner||High||Fair||Upright stance, good foragers|
Ducks are a valuable and entertaining addition to a homestead. They provide meat and eggs, help control pests, and can bring a lot of joy with their amusing antics.
Cattle On The Homestead
Cattle can be a valuable addition to larger homesteads. They require more space and resources than smaller livestock but can provide substantial meat and milk. The beef production market is also significant, offering the potential for income generation.
Cattle can be a valuable addition to a homestead, especially for those with more land and resources. They provide meat and milk and can help with land management. However, raising cattle also comes with its own set of challenges.
Pros Of Keeping Cattle On The Homestead
- Meat. One of the main reasons people keep cattle is for meat. Beef is a staple in many diets, and raising your own cattle gives you control over what the animals eat and how they are treated.
- Milk. Dairy cows can provide a steady supply of milk, which can be used for drinking, cooking, and making dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
- Land management. Cattle can help manage land by grazing on grass and other vegetation. This can be particularly useful for large properties.
- Manure production. Cow manure is a great natural fertilizer that can enrich your soil and help your garden grow.
Cons Of Keeping Cattle On The Homestead
- Resource intensive. Cattle require a lot of resources. They need plenty of space to graze, a constant water supply, and a significant amount of feed, especially in the winter months when grass is scarce.
- Costly. The costs of raising cattle can be high. Expenses can include the cost of the cattle themselves, feed, fencing, veterinary care, and more.
- Labor Intensive. Cattle require a lot of hands-on care. They must be fed and watered daily, their health needs monitored, and their living area needs to be maintained.
- Long-term commitment. Raising cattle is a long-term commitment. Raising a cow for beef can take two or more years, and dairy cows must be milked daily.
While keeping cattle on the homestead can provide numerous benefits, it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. It requires a significant investment of time, money, and resources.
However, for those willing and able to commit, raising cattle can be a rewarding and productive part of a homesteading lifestyle.
Keeping Sheep On The Homestead
Sheep are another excellent choice for homesteading. They provide meat, milk, and wool, making them a versatile choice for homesteading. Babydoll sheep, in particular, are a popular choice due to their small size and friendly nature.
Sheep are comparatively easy to care for, and they provide wool, meat, and even milk in some cases. However, like all livestock, they also come with their own unique challenges.
Pros Of Keeping Sheep On The Homestead
- Wool. One of the top benefits of raising sheep is wool production. Wool can be used for knitting, weaving, and felting.
- Meat. Sheep meat, also known as mutton or lamb, is a popular choice in many cuisines worldwide.
- Milk Production: Some breeds of sheep produce milk that can be used to make cheese and yogurt.
- Land management. Sheep are excellent grazers and can help manage land by eating grass and other vegetation.
Cons Of Keeping Sheep On The Homestead
- Shearing. Sheep require regular shearing, which can be a difficult and time-consuming task.
- Predators. Sheep can be vulnerable to predators, requiring secure fencing and possibly guardian animals for protection.
- Health care. Sheep can be prone to certain health issues, such as foot rot and internal parasites, and require regular health checks and preventative care.
Babydoll sheep, also known as Southdown sheep, are popular for homesteading due to their small size and friendly nature. They are excellent grazers and can help control weeds and grass in orchards and vineyards without damaging the trees or vines.
Babydoll sheep also produce a medium-wool fleece that is prized by hand spinners. While they are not the best breed for meat production due to their small stature, they are often kept for their wool, ability to improve pastures, and appeal as pet or companion animals.
Best Sheep Breeds For A Homestead
There are many breeds of sheep, each with its own advantages and disadvantages for different homesteading circumstances. Here are a few that are well-suited to a homestead.
|Breed||Wool Quality||Meat Quality||Milk Production||Additional Notes|
|Merino||Excellent||Good||Low||Known for their high-quality wool|
|Suffolk||Fair||Excellent||Low||Known for their meat production|
|East Friesian||Poor||Fair||Excellent||Known for their high milk production|
|Shetland||Good||Fair||Low||Small size, good for smaller homesteads|
|Dorset||Good||Good||Good||Good all-around breed for wool, meat, and milk|
|Babydoll||Good||Fair||Low||Small size, good for pasture management and as pets|
While keeping sheep on the homestead can provide numerous benefits, it’s also important to consider the challenges. With the right care and management, sheep can be a rewarding and productive part of a homesteading lifestyle.
Dogs As Homestead Animals
While not typically considered livestock, dogs can play a valuable role on a homestead. They can provide security, help herding other animals, and offer companionship.
We will briefly explore the benefits of keeping dogs on the homestead and look at some of the best dog breeds for a homestead.
The following are the main benefits of keeping dogs on the homestead.
- Protection. Dogs can protect your family and your livestock. They can deter predators and alert you to any potential threats.
- Herding. Certain breeds of dogs are excellent herders and can help manage livestock.
- Hunting. Some dogs can assist with hunting, helping to provide food for the homestead.
- Companionship. Dogs are known for their loyalty and companionship. They can provide comfort and joy, making your homestead feel like a home.
Best Dog Breeds For A Homestead
There are many breeds of dogs, and while personal preference plays a role in your dog choice, certain breeds are more suited to homestead life than others. Here are a few breeds we can recommend as great homestead dogs.
|Border Collie||Fair||Excellent||Fair||Excellent||Known for their intelligence and herding skills|
|German Shepherd||Excellent||Good||Good||Excellent||A versatile breed, good for protection and herding|
|Australian Cattle Dog||Good||Excellent||Fair||Good||Excellent herding dogs, very energetic|
|Labrador Retriever||Good||Fair||Excellent||Excellent||Known for their hunting skills and friendly nature|
|Great Pyrenees||Excellent||Fair||Fair||Good||Known for their protective nature, they are often used as livestock guardian dogs.|
Dogs can be valuable to any homestead, but the best breed depends on your specific needs and circumstances.
Other Noteworthy Homestead Animals
While chickens, goats, rabbits, bees, pigs, and ducks are excellent choices for a homestead, several other animals can also provide significant benefits.
For those interested in something a little different, several unusual animals can be raised on a homestead. Quail and pigeons can provide meat and eggs, worms can help with composting, and fish can be raised in a backyard pond or aquaponics system.
Here’s a quick comparison of these other noteworthy homestead animals.
|Quail||Meat, Eggs||Small size, quick maturity|
|Pigeons||Meat, Eggs||Easy to breed|
|Worms||Composting||Help in waste management|
|Fish||Meat||Can be raised in a pond or aquaponics system|
Many animals can be raised on a homestead, bringing benefits and new dimensions of sustainability and self-sufficiency to your lifestyle. The best choice depends on your circumstances, including land size, resources, and personal preferences.
Homesteading is a journey towards self-sufficiency, sustainability, and a closer connection with the natural world. The animals you choose to raise on your homestead can significantly impact your experience and success. Each animal brings unique benefits and challenges, from chickens and goats to bees and pigs.
Ultimately, the best animals to raise on a homestead are those that align with your goals, resources, and lifestyle. Remember, homesteading is not just about self-sufficiency; it’s about creating a lifestyle that brings you joy, satisfaction, and a deeper connection with the world around you.