Keeping animals in an off grid farm is mandatory. They are a great source of protein and extra calories needed to supplement what you grow on your garden. If you’ve gone through our gardening 101 guide, you’ll have noticed how much we insisted on getting some livestock going as soon as possible.
If it is your first time trying out animal husbandry, your chances of succeeding are higher if you start with the easiest farm animals to keep. At this point, you should focus on getting the basics right before you start looking into the most profitable farm animals.
I will feature small animals that are manageable and borderline adorable. They will definitely spruce up your off grid homestead.
1. Poultry – Especially Chicken and Ducks
Poultry is the easiest to set up and get going on a new farm. They are small and can adapt to smaller farms faster too. All you need is some space, a coop, some food and you are good to go.
My favorite are chickens. They are inexpensive and easy to maintain as long as you keep them hydrated, provide food (pellets, grain and food scraps) and let them run around.
Chicken will provide you with:
Chicken do get sick if their coop is dirty and unhygienic or if you don’t immunize them against common ailments on time. You can go through our guide to keeping chicken to find out what you need to get it right.
Ducks, on the other hand, are hardier and rarely get sick. They forage for most of their food and will graze on grass and other plants. This means they don’t need as much pellet food like chicken. You will still get eggs (very big eggs), meat, and manure from them.
Other poultry you can keep on your off grid farm include:
Chicken are the most common as the modern world is used to its flavor and chances are you already have a couple of recipes in mind for chicken products. They are also smaller than turkey, geese and ducks making them less intimidating to a beginner.
All rabbits need is a relatively small barn or custom made hutch with some dirt floor, feeders and pens. You can feed them off scrap vegetables and other weeds you pull off the garden or around the farm. They are so easy to feed and take care of in most cases they are a duty delegated to kids in some areas who see it as a hobby or a means to run their own small venture.
With a gestation period of a month, you can grow their numbers very fast. They produce around 6 per litter and the babies can be harvested for fur or meat within 8 weeks.
If you have the space, you can let them free range in an enclosed are but be on the lookout for predators. However, zero grazing is a great way to convert loose scraps and otherwise unusable vegetables or weed into manure while still providing you with meat.
Sheep is an upgrade in size from the small poultry and rabbits featured in the list so far. You should only try them if you have sizeable grazing land and can grow enough fodder to push them through winter.
Other than this, they are more docile and easier to heard making them a good starting point. Start with at least too sheep. They bleat less if they can keep each other company.
Even though there meat and milk isn’t very common across the world, you can still enjoy the mutton and the milk as you please. The milk is even better than cow and goat milk especially if you will be making your own cheese.
You can also go for wool breeds and shear the wool every now and then for your DIY crafts or to sell for some complimentary income.
Goats are an absolute delight. They are a curious lot that is always jumping around, exploring and nibbling on things. They will definitely make your life fun, or miserable, when young.
As they age, they get more ‘mature’ but are still active and enterprising than sheep. They are intelligent and know how to scavenge for their own food from bushes and thickets.
They are an interesting social butch that love treats, will come close for head scratches and will even hang out with you when they are not eating. They love hay, shrubbery, vegetables and wood bark.
Their intelligence makes them great at sneaking out of their pens or into confined areas to explore. Be sure to invest in some nice fences to keep them in check
You can sell them, or slaughter them for an ample supply of delicious meat.
5. Honey Bees
Yes, I get it. Bees are insects. Not animals. Nonetheless, they are a valuable low maintenance addition to your garden and farm.
Even though the main product from the bees will be their delicious honey that you can use as a sweetener, spread, and in other home remedies, they still play a bigger role in the farm.
They are one of the most prolific pollinators in the world. This makes them crucial in your seed bearing plants and in scenarios where you want to produce your own viable planting seeds.
Setting them up is as easy as getting their house right and helping them set up a colony. After this, everything will be on auto pilot as long as you have flowering plants on your garden or in the neighborhood for the better part of the year.
Just remember to set their hive a good distance from the homestead’s daily activity. They are highly protective of the hive and can attack, or even move, if you keep bothering them.
Pigs are arguably one of the easiest animals to look after. They eat almost anything human eat meaning that kitchen waste and leftovers will never go to waste with a couple of pigs in your farm. You can even decide to free range your pigs if you have the space. They will forage and supplement their diet easily grazing out in the open.
You will have to build a decent sty for them before getting started. This won’t be a problem if you want to start with one or two pigs.
Other than this, you will have to spend some time cleaning them and socializing with them to make them happier. With good handling, they can be tame to the extent of being friendly.
Pigs produce pork. Their meat can be prepared into different products that are perfect for any meal from breakfast to dinner. They will definitely add more flavor to your table. Just remember to get a freezer or consider other smoking or drying preservation tricks since you can’t consume one pig in a sitting.
How Do You Take Care of Farm Animals?
Rearing animals differs across the board. Each of the animals I have featured above needs different things to flourish. That is why I will link to individual beginner guides for each of the featured animal to walk through the entire animal husbandry process from creating the right housing to feeding, treating and harvesting.
Nonetheless, some basics that hold true across the board. These include:
- Keep the dwellings and feeding areas as clean as possible. Clean once or more times a day
- Provide the animals with clean water that is preferably at room temperature
- Ensure that the animals have sufficient food blended to cater for their nutritional needs
- Groom them as required
- Ensure that your animals exercise
- Avoid raising social heard animals in solitude. This makes them distressed
- Interact with your animals often to create a friendly bond that makes them more comfortable (the interaction is also therapeutic to you)
- Don’t keep more than your land and resources can provide for
Rearing animals for the first time can seem like quite the responsibility. However, if you go for these easy to maintain farm animals and start in small numbers, you will soon have the confidence and skill needed to take on more.
Animals are a good way to provide for your family and also give easy to sell resources that you can use to purchase or batter for what you cannot produce in-house.