Homesteading has seen a resurgence in popularity as people find that they are yearning to be closer to nature. If you’re tired of the city life and working towards your homesteading goals, then you might be a little lost on how to proceed.
That’s to be expected. It’s a big change to go from city living and buying all your food at the grocery store to becoming a care taker for living, breathing creatures. If you don’t have much experience, then it’s best to start small and build rather than overwhelm yourself.
In this article, we’ll be giving you some recommendations for animals which are forgiving to the beginning homesteader. Caring for them is routine and fairly simple, and they can be reared on even the smallest parcels of land.
#1 – Chickens
Chickens are typically the first animal that people start out with. They’re inexpensive, fast growing, and they provide a lot of high-quality protein thanks to their meat and eggs. However, there are a lot of different breeds of chickens, and they are all very different.
I’d advise you to spend some time researching these breeds to find one that meets your needs and not to just buy whatever is available at the local tractor supply co! Some chicken breeds lay more eggs than others, some provide good meat but are slow growers, and some lay plenty of eggs but are terrible mothers. This will require you to hatch the chicks yourself in an incubator. Not only does this add a lot more work, but there’s also a lot that can go wrong.
So, do yourself a favor and read up on chicken breeds before pulling the trigger. Though we’d suggest a good dual-purpose meat and eggs breed. We’re partial to the Australian black Australorp and the Jersey Giant, but the latter grows pretty slowly.
#2 – Ducks
If you’re a baker, or an at-home amateur chef, then you’ll definitely want to consider keeping ducks. These little beauties deliver some amazingly rich, tasty, and large eggs, which are every bakers dream. However, if you’ll be processing your ducks for meat, then you can also harvest some delicious duck fat which is fantastic for frying!
Ducks are also great at pest control, and they’ll eat every slug out of your garden. Again, make sure to research your duck breeds carefully to find one that meets your need. Our favorites are the Cayuga and the Khaki Campbell. The latter having the best egg production, but the former growing to a larger size for meat, though both of them are okay as a dual-purpose breed.
As a bonus, it’s standard to harvest ducks for meat earlier than chickens due to it being easier to pluck them before the pin feathers come in. So, you’ll likely be able to enjoy meat ducks within a month or so.
For most modern homesteaders, they have to make due with just a few acres due to the cost of aquiring property in this day and age. That means that cows are pretty much out of the question, because they require a good deal of grazing space.
However, goats are often very do-able, and even some people that are urban homesteading have been able to keep a milk goats on their property! It should be noted though that goats don’t do well alone, and you need to make sure that you have room for at least a couple of them.
Do your research and pick a breed which will do well in your situation, and keep in mind that they are escape artists. So, make sure your pen is up to snuff or you’ll have angry neighbors calling about getting headbutted by a cheeky goat when they went out to get their paper.
#4 – Rabbits
If you’re looking for the easiest and most efficient way to provide meat for yourself on your homestead, then look no further than meat rabbits. While rabbit is not typically on the menu for most Americans, it’s an easy to grow protein source that will quickly be up and running.
Rabbits breed extremely quickly, they’re small and easy to manage, they’ll happily eat your garden scraps, and they require almost no space to flourish. You can also sell the pelts to crafters on sites like Etsy or at trade booths if you’re keen to try your hand at preserving them. If you purchase fancy rabbit breeds, then you can also sell some of them as pets to make some extra money.
#5 – Fish
While most people don’t really think of fish as a farm animal, they are! Many fish you buy at the grocery store are commercially farmed, and if you have a nice size tank, you can grow a ton of food in a very small area.
If you pick the right fish, such as Tilapia, you could have farm-fresh fish ready for your plate in just 4 months time. These fast growing fish are the most popular breed in aquaponics due to their fast grow rate and the fact that they’ll eat any veggie scraps that you’ll throw at them, making them cheap to feed.
However, you can raise tons of other fish in tanks as well like bass, catfish, cod, prawns, shrimp, trout, crappie, bluegill, perch, and even salmon! Each of these species have their own temperature, water quality, and space requirements, and you should make sure that their needs line up with what you are capable of providing for the best results.
#6 – Bees
Bees provide tasty honey for your kitchen and wax that you can use for candles and cosmetics or even sell as is to other crafters! While bee keeping does require a bit of maintenance to make sure that your hives are free from disease, your hives will quickly pay for themselves in value food stuffs and cash for your homestead.
Your hives will also do a great job at helping your gardens and trees to flourish, because nobody ever has too many pollinators. Learning the art of beekeeping is easy to do in this day and age, and you might even be able to get bees for free if you can find a swarm. Youtube is a valuable resource that can tell you everything you need to know, including how to build your own hives to avoid purchasing pricey commercial ones.
#7 – Quail
While not as popular as their larger feathered cousins the chickens and ducks, quail can be a valuable livestock animal for your farm. Plus, they’re super small, so even if you aren’t allowed to have chickens or ducks, you can breed and raise quail indoors in cages without your neighbors being any the wiser.
Quail eggs are also growing in popularity, and even if you don’t want to use them yourself, you can often sell them for a premium! These birds are also easy to raise, and they don’t require much care, but they’ll start providing eggs for you at 6 weeks of age.
#9 – Miniature cows
Got a little more room on your homestead? If you’ve got 5+ acres, then you might consider getting a small herd of miniature cows. These adorable little creatures are about half the size of their big cousins, and that means they require less space, as little as half and acre per cow even!
That puts having real milk and beef production within the realm of possibility for the small homestead. Many breeds are great dual-purpose breeds, providing both just the right amount of milk and beef for a family.
Our favorite is the belted galloway, which produces milk but also incredibly tasted, well-marbled, yet lean beef cuts. However, there are quite a few different miniature cow breeds, and you can learn more about some of them in our article on mini cows!
#10 – Turkeys
Is your homestead having predator problems? Not anymore. Turkeys are surprisingly friendly and loyal animals that will imprint on you and follow you around, but they’re also big mean guard dogs for your whole farm.
Adding a turkey to your flock will make any predators think twice about bothering your chickens and ducks, because the turkey will go after them. Not to mention the fact that turkeys provide delicious meat that you can have for your holiday meals.
Make sure to pick up a heritage breed and avoid the broad-breasted white. This poor turkey has been poorly bred purely for commercial farming. As with most birds bred this way, they have fast growth rates, but they are prone to diseases, they can hardly walk in some cases, and they won’t be able to reproduce.