If you're thinking that you might want to add animals to your homestead, here are three things to consider before you jump in!
Are you considering adding animals to your homestead? Do you long for farm-fresh eggs, a freezer full of bacon or a herd of goats to clear that brush by the woodshed?
Adding animals to your homestead can be an exciting and rewarding experience. However, like any farm investment, it requires thoughtful deliberation.
Before placing an order for baby chicks or showing up in the back yard with a dairy cow, you'll want to take a moment to think about your motivation for adding animals to your homestead.
Things to Consider Before Adding Animals to Your Homestead
You know how I feel about chickens - there are a lot of pros and cons to consider before adding them to your own homestead.
Likewise, we have been wanting a milk cow for a few years, and weren't ready until recently!
While animals make an amazing addition to your homestead, it's very important to consider all the factors before jumping in!
Whether you're looking at a few laying hens or investing in a family pig, adding animals to your homestead requires a significant time investment. When making a decision about which animals will be most suitable for your situation, be sure to consider:
- What is your daily schedule?
- Do you work from home or commute?
- What extracurricular commitments does your family have?
- What time do you leave in the morning and return in the evening?
Your time commitment will vary depending on the type and number of animals you add to your homestead. For example, chickens can be relatively self-sufficient and will most likely be okay for eight hours a day if they have access to food, clean water and reasonable shelter.
A herd of sheep, on the other hand, will require more substantial planning and attention. If you're looking for an easy place to start, New Zealand rabbits are an incredibly productive source of meat and tend to require little care.
Access to and the suitability of land is integral to your success in raising animals. Be sure to ask yourself:
- How much suitable land do you have?
- Do you have neighbors, and, if so, what is their proximity?
- Do you have the necessary skills, or do you need to find help?
- What infrastructure do you have in place, and what will you need to construct?
Land and infrastructure are essential to your success and the well-being of your animals. It's easy to build a chicken coop or find a pre-built one online. If you need to make a small barn for a couple of cows or a shade structure for your sheep, however, you may be looking at a more serious investment in terms of time and money.
It's also essential to think about your community and leverage the relationships you have locally. For example, while picking up feed at the grain mill, you may discover that one of the millwrights has experience setting up a portable electric fence for your sheep.
You never know who may able to lend a hand, and when it comes to raising animals, you'll be grateful for as much help as you can find!
When estimating the finances of adding animals, think about upfront costs as well as continued investments. Consider questions such as:
- What are the feeding costs?
- How much money can you invest?
- Are there any preventative healthcare costs?
- How much will you save by producing your food?
Depending on the types of animals you are looking to add, your monetary investment can vary substantially. For example, consider the cost of meat rabbits compared to cows.
Chickens and other poultry rarely need any medical attention, while a dairy cow or herd of sheep may require vaccinations, supplements or artificial insemination — a process that requires the help of a vet or AI tech.
If you are hoping that animals will save money on your grocery bill, calculate how much they cost to raise versus how much money you may save by producing your own food.
Are You Ready to Add Animals to Your Homestead?
If you're making the leap to including large livestock on your farm, pay close attention to your lifestyle. Depending on your commitment level, adding animals can keep you close to home more than you want or require a shorter vacation at the beach.
While it's possible to take time away from the farm, make sure you have a support system in place to help out when you're gone.
Adding livestock to your homestead requires hard physical labor, even if you don't feel like going outside during a blizzard or a sweaty July afternoon.
Another important consideration is your comfort level around sick and dying animals. Death is a reality of taking care of any living thing.
If you feel squeamish about a fox potentially getting in the chicken coop or another natural predator wreaking havoc, make sure you have people who can help when things get complicated.
Animals on your homestead can be incredibly rewarding and inspiring. Be sure you're ready by calculating the time, resources and cost involved before you get started.
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About the Author:
Emily is a sustainability writer interested in helping others live a greener lifestyle and reduce their waste. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.