Monday, 21 October 2019

How to Choose the Best Animals for Your Homestead

Whether you own a hobby farm or a backyard homestead, choosing the right animals is important.  

You may need to choose the most profitable farm animals, the quietest animals for an urban homestead or the best animals for a non-meat farm (hint hint... you will be able to tell that I don't like animals being killed.  But I guess that's up to you 😶).  


Chickens -  

Chickens are great for their eggs (and meat if you're into that, I'm not).  They can lay up to 300 egg per year (in their first year).  The best breed to get for this amount of eggs is the hybrid, golden comet.  These are the chickens that are constantly mistreated for egg production so, rescuing is the best option.  

They do best (and should be) free ranged but don't need a huge amount of land.  I currently have over 20 chickens (along with 18 ducks) on 3/4 of an acre and it's roomy.  

Laying chickens should be fed around 1/4lb of layers pellets per day (although you should just allow unlimited access) and fresh fruit, veg and herbs as a treat each day.  They will also forage for bugs all day long so can be co-grazed with other animals.  

You do need to worm them every 3 months to keep them healthy.  They will also need vaccines so they don't catch any diseases as chickens tend to get ill quite easily.  

I'd stray away from raising chickens.  There are so many out there needing homes, there's no need for anymore.  Also, if you are like me (refusing to kill any animal) then you will be overrun with cockerels.  
Orange colours hen with 6 yellow chicks drinking from a DIY poultry drinker

Ducks -

 Similar to chickens, ducks are great for eggs, bug control and much more.  They eat more than chickens, about 1/2lb per day although meat ducks eat waaaaaay more.  If you aren't using ducks for meat, learn from my experience and don't get 'meat' ducks.  Again, they need to be wormed every 3 months and should be given fresh fruit + veg, herbs, mixed corn and more to get a full diet.

Ducks STINK.  I cannot even describe the smell but unless you don't mind a terrible smell (and cleaning their coop out very often), I wouldn't choose ducks.  They also make a muddy mess where ever there is water so keeping them free-range in a field will cut down on the mud.  

Ducks are my favourite type of poultry due to them being SO hardy and never really get ill (and don't get most of chicken type illnesses).    Ducks are just the best poultry type.  

Geese/Swans - 

These are huge types of poultry who don't lay very much.  Swans are basically just nice pets and geese can be used as fancy lawnmowers.  

They obviously eat A LOT and can be very aggressive if you don't bring them up from chicks.  Geese are often used for meat but you can also sell both swan and geese eggs for eating or hatching.  

A large white goose standing on the edge of a huge pond in a homestead


Turkeys are obviously used for meat but they make great pets, good broody hens,  for selling their eggs to hatch AND guarding other poultry.  

Peacocks are only bought as expensive pets but you can easily get your money back quickly by selling their eggs for hatching.  Peacocks don't lay very much (less than 50 a year IF they don't get broody) and hens don't start laying until they are 2 years old. 

Be very careful if you hatch or buy peachicks as they are fragile to rain and cold weather.  

Guinea Fowl

I would say there are only two reasons you should keep guinea fowl, for eggs or as a guard.  You will not get the same amount of eggs as you would with a chicken but they will lay a decent amount BUT you will need to find them first.  Guinea fowl are very known for laid eggs all over the place.  

Many chicken owners will own guinea fowl as a guard or 'alarm'.  They will start calling or 'shouting' if a predator is nearby, so you can go outside to check.  


If other poultry is too much work for you OR you don't have much space, have a look at quail.  Quail lay a lot for their tiny size and start laying very early.  

They can be kept in smaller areas although they should still have a nice coop and run (please don't keep them in those tiny laying cages).  Quails don't have the same perching instinct that chickens do so it's best to put them into the coop every night by hand.  

Two quails in their coop standing on a quail tough feeder



These days, sheep are really only used for meat but they make great pets if you have the land!  Unless you have hundreds of sheep or very rare breeds, their wool is worth almost nothing in Scotland these days.  You can use sheep to milk as I have heard that sheep milk is a better substitute for cows milk than goats is.  


I don't have much experience with cows (yet 😉 got my heart set on a few pet highland cows) but they are great for milk.  Keep in mind that one cow will eat as much grass as 3-4 sheep so you will need enough land.  

If you are into the whole meat thang, cows are probably the most profitable livestock.  

A ginger highland cow lying down in a hilly pasture.


Again, goats are usually used for milk or just pets.  They will pick at grass but definitely aren't lawnmowers.  Goats need constant access to hay and love to eat weeds, trees and bushes.  This means they could be used to clear land.  

You can also raise goats (they need to be bred to give milk) and sell them for profit too.  Goats don't need a lot of land which makes them great for a small or urban homestead.  

Three different coloured goats with their front hooves on the top of a stable door

Other Homestead Animals


If you are looking for a great protector for your homestead, look no further.  Donkeys are well known for attacking predators on your land.  Their calls are so weird that may animals are actually scared of them.  They have even been kept with bulls as their call stops the bulls fighting.  

Donkeys are great at keeping the grass down and are overall easy to keep.  They will need yearly vaccines and farrier appointments every 2 months (like horses).  They will also need yearly dentist appointments and wormed every 3 months.  

As long as you can keep up with these simple health steps, your donkey will be happy and healthy.  

Three donkeys standing at a wooden gate in the pasture.


Fresh honey sounds good to me.  You can start bee-farming on a small scale and build up from there.  Depending on how much honey your bees produce, you can also sell the honey to make some extra money.  


Obviously, most people would keep pigs to butcher them.  I personally think that pigs make great pets on a homestead.  They will eat every bit of your leftovers and some breeds (like the Kune Kune) even eat grass.  Pigs overall make great pets or are great for breeding.  
A black kune kune pig in a grass pasture facing the camera.

Overall, every animal on this list can be incredibly helpful for any homestead.  You must pick the animals that are most suited to your homestead.  

You couldn't buy a cow with only 1 acre of land.  You wouldn't buy sheep unless you wanted a pet or meat.  

Also, remember that each animal has care needs that must be met.  These can be expensive, so choose wisely.  

Which animals on this list are your favourites?  Mine would have to be ducks, peacocks and sheep at the moment but I love them all 😂


I am not any type of animal expert but instead only an animal lover who wants to share her tips.  Please consult relevant animal specialists and do not only take my advice.

 The Rider's Pets


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