HOMEGROWN

Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Meat Chickens - week 3As we move from Odom's Idle Acres in Barnesville, Georgia to Pink Hill, North Carolina and our own little plot of dirt, the one thing that we intend on intensifying (even while downsizing) is our goal of self-sufficiency. We're not vegans or even vegetarians so we have to think about our source for milk, eggs, and meat. Even if we were vegan though, keeping animals on our homestead would allow us natural fibers or wool to sell. Basic animal husbandry would also allow us the peace of knowing our animals were raised humanely and treated with care and and every day.

Goats

From what I gather goats are among the most practical and versatile animals we could raise. They are small and relatively easy to handle. In fact, a single goat can produce two to four quarts of milk each day, which can simply be drunk or used to make cheese, butter, and soap. Angora goats and other long-hairs can be bred for mohair and fiber which can easily be sold or used for crafts. Did I mention goats can be raised for meat? It may sound odd if you've never tried "cabrito" or goat meat but it really is as healthy as a chicken breast with a taste like that of veal.

One thing we have to read up on is what breed is best for what use. I am not aware of a breed that produces fiber, milk, and meat. For milk we will probably look to Nubian, Saanen, or LaMancha goats while if we decided to cultivate fiber we will want to look in the Angora direction. And while any goat can produce meat, Boer and Myotonic ("fainting") goats are the best suited for this purpose.

Poultry

We're pretty versed in poultry since we currently raise 4 layers of chickens; hatchlings/broilers/layers/meat. And like for many neo-homesteaders, chickens are an obvious choice for us because they don't require much space and provide us with eggs and fresh meat. Once a hen's egg production has declined, she can be a great addition to the stew pot. Believe it or not (which I am sure you will if you are reading this blog), mature chickens are far more flavorful than the rapidly-fattened youngsters sold in supermarkets. Chickens aren't hard to care for, and young chicks or fertilized eggs are very inexpensive to buy.

Other poultry are also worth considering. Guineas, ducks, and geese are also great sources of eggs, meat, and feathers. Although they cost more than chickens, the meat is richer and many people love fresh duck and goose eggs. Guineas have the added advantage of being an effective pest control measure; they will happily snap up wasps, hornets, ticks, ants, and even mice.

Small Animals

Another option for homesteaders who have very little room to spare is small animals. And the reason for this post really is because lately Pan and I have been talking about raising rabbits; the pros and cons. They can be raised in hutches in your backyard, and true to their reputation, reproduce frequently. As with many other animals, you'll need to decide what you want to use the rabbits for before you choose a breed. Angora rabbits are a great source of natural fiber. New Zealand, Florida White, and Californian rabbits are good choices for meat. And I am supposing that if we preserve the fur we can use it for insulation on a number of things. And let we forget rabbit poop. It makes great fertilizer - higher in nitrogen than some poultry manures and it also contains a large amount of phosphorus--important for flower and fruit formation.

Did I forget anything? What do you think is important for us to consider in terms of raising animals on our small homestead? What do you raise? Was it a good choice for you? Why? Why not?

Views: 341

Comment by Allen Frost on November 22, 2010 at 9:48am
I am right with you, planning on starting with chickens in the Spring and then later adding goats and rabbits. Maybe a few ducks too. I am thinking of starting with 25 chicks, some for eggs, some for meat. If all goes well, add more later. I am still trying to figure out if I want the egg mobile, the chicken tractor or a more conventional stationary coop. Keep me posted on what you are learning about all of this.
Comment by Andrew Odom on November 22, 2010 at 10:16am
I have a more stationary coop that has made the move from GA with us. (Set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewodom/sets/72157615818732774/) as well as a smaller coop that I use for the hatchlings. (Set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewodom/sets/72157624144401568/)

I am not fond of ducks as I don't particularly like duck eggs and they are far too messy and require a water feature/pond which I honestly don't want to mess with. I will keep you posted though as we start with the goats!
Comment by Michelle Haugdahl on November 22, 2010 at 11:37am
I would not suggest rabbits unless you make sure they are all very secure in their pens (no access to the ground). If there is any way at all they can get out, they will and they will of course do what bunnies do. Unless you plan on a very regular slaughter schedule , a lot of room to keep them new arrivals, and have some way to store the meat or sell it, you will end up with too many bunnies. We have had an angora bunny in the house for many years. I found it better to keep her inside since they require daily grooming. They were bred to allow you to put them on your lap and literally spin the hair right from them. She was pretty well trained but there were still little presents to be found here and there. She was very good about only staying in one room of the house. You must however take precautions to "rabbit proof" everything. They love electrical cords and of course will chew on just about anything.
Comment by Andrew Odom on November 22, 2010 at 11:44am
@Michelle - Great point. My rabbit pen will be nearly 4'2" off the ground so that caring for the rabbit and pen maintenance will be comfortable to my height. I do have ample freezer room for meat and plenty of time for a processing (read: slaughtering) schedule. I am not going to get more then 1 or 2 bunnies to begin with as I want to make sure I feel comfortable caring for them, etc. Thank you for the insight though!

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