When you’re on the quest to stop your dependency on the grocery store, you’ll want to consider raising farm animals for self-sufficiency.
Growing vegetables and fruits are just one step to increasing your self-sufficiency, but animals play a bit part in this journey if you eat meat or dairy products. Bringing animals onto your homestead is a BIG decision; I encourage you to make sure you do all of your research when picking the best farm animals for self-sufficiency.
You want to homestead and want to produce as much food as possible on your land, but what does that really look like for your family?
Everyone is on a different homesteading journey. You might have 10 acres and plenty of beautiful pasture, so cows and larger farm animals are a great choice for those with less space.
You might have one acre in the middle of the suburbs and still have the strong desire to be more self-sufficient. Buying farm land is expensive; I know, I’m not there yet either. Your location doesn’t completely eliminate your options. Raising goats, bees, chickens, and ducks are possible, even if you don’t have dozens of acres to use.
So, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these best farm animals for self-sufficiency to help you decide what will make the best addition to your homestead.
10 Best Farm Animals for Self-Sufficiency
Cows aren’t for everyone, but if you want a versatile farm animal, cows are the way to go. The downside is that they need plenty of space, so if you don’t have space, I would skip the cows and move to goats. Cows require 2-3 acres to graze per cow if you want grass-fed cows. If you don’t have that space, they will need cow feed and hay, increasing the cost of raising cows.
Cows are larger livestock, so I don’t suggest that you start with cows if you don’t have experience with other animals. They don’t require a lot of time per day, but if you have a dairy cow, they need to be milked twice per day. Cows also require help during birthing, and they need appropriate shelter, especially when they’re birthing.
Cows are one of the best farm animals for self-sufficiency for these reasons:
- Provides Milk for Your Cows – Cows are the best source of milk for your family, and if you have a milk cow or two, your family will have enough milk without needing the store. Many cows produce up to one gallon per day, so you can make cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and any other dairy product that you want.
- Gives Your Family Meat – Raising cows provides your family with meat as well. Cows produce hundreds of pounds. One cow easily feeds a family for a year!
- Selling Calves – You also can sell the calves for an income source, but you have to be prepared to help assist your cow during a birth. Being knowledgeable is a must.
- Selling Dairy or Meat Products – Check the laws of your state, but selling dairy and meat products is a possible way to increase your homestead income.
Advantages of Raising Cows
- Cows require little daily cow, but you need to make sure you understand their needs and how to take care of them.
- These animals provide you with a lot of meat and dairy products. A small herd of cows is all a family really needs to be self-sufficient when it comes to meat and dairy products.
- They require little daily care aside from feeding and milking if you have a dairy cow.
Disadvantages of Raising Cows
- Cows need plenty of space; you need several acres for grazing or be prepared to pay for hay daily. They can eat around 24 pounds of hay per day!
- You need to provide strong shelter and fencing that keep your cows where they need to stay.
- If you want to breed cows, birthing can be a bit complicated, and you have to be ready to help.
- Cows only birth once per year, so it’s harder to make selling calves an income source.
Final Thoughts: Cows are great if you have plenty of space for grazing, but buying hay is EXPENSIVE. While they’re versatile, I wouldn’t want to shell out the money for hay and feed. If you have the space, adding cows to your homestead is a big HECK YES!
Goats are one of the best farm animals for self-sufficiency, and since they’re utterly adorable, more and more homesteaders are adding these animals to their backyard. These animals provide milk and meat for consumption, and some breeds also make fiber for clothing. While goats love pasture, some breeds of goats thrive in smaller areas.
Goats are often self-sufficient when they have space to forage and eat, but if you have a suburban yard, they are happy so long as you feed them daily. They love weeds, grass, grains, hay, and vegetation.
Goat owners have to be dewormed because they’re vulnerable to different stomach ailments. That means you have to monitor confined goats more.
If you want to be self-sufficient, here are some reasons to raise goats.
- Milk for Your Family – Milking goats is a commitment; they have to be milked daily, but in exchange, you have fresh milk for your family daily. Goat milk can be turned into butter, cheese, yogurt, and soap.
- Goat Meat – Many goats are known for having delicious meat, so if you want a source of more meat than chickens, goat meat is yummy!
- Maintains Pasture and Weeds – Goats love to eat and chew on anything like grass and vegetation. Some people use goats for pasturing clearing, so if you have land that needs to be cleared, goats are for you.
- Fleece – Some goats aren’t ideal for fleece, but others are. If you want fiber for clothing or yarns, goats are an option!
- Sell the Kids – Depending on the variety of goats that you raise, some of the kids fetch up to $500 each, especially if they have papers to show their bloodlines. If you want to make extra money, selling goat kids is a great idea.
Advantages of Raising Goats
- Many people who cannot digest cow’s milk handle goat milk fine, and it can be made into cheese and ice cream.
- Goat meat is delicious, even though it’s not popular in the US. It’s more common in other areas of the world.
- You can raise goats on a large farm or in a small backyard.
- There are many different breeds of goats, so decide if you want a meat goat or a dairy goat.
- Goat kids fetch a great price when sold.
Disadvantages of Raising Goats
- Goats often require more care than chickens or other small farm animals.
- These animals require a secure shelter, and since they have the reputation of being escape artists, their shelter needs to be good.
Final Thoughts: Goats are like a larger gateway livestock. If you don’t have space for cows, goats might be a possibility, and they provide your family with dairy! Some breeds, like the Nigerian Dwarfs, are smaller than many dogs. These are great for small homesteads.
Chickens tend to be the gateway animal for homesteaders, and it’s possible to raise chickens in small spaces and backyards. So, if you live in the city, chickens are one of the best farm animals for self-sufficiency because they’re so easy to keep.
Chickens don’t require a lot of space, and as long as they have shelter, protection, and food, they’ll be happy. Best of all, raising chickens provides you a way to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.
A few ways to use chickens include:
- Eggs for Eating – The most obvious way to use chickens is to eat the eggs that they produce for food. Once you have chickens, you’ll have an endless supply of eggs.
- Eggs for Selling or Hatching – You also can sell fertile hatching eggs to other people who want to learn how to hatch eggs at home. If you don’t have fertile eggs, you also can sell eggs for eating, a great way to make money on a homestead.
- Meat Birds – All chickens can be eaten for meat, but if you want to raise chickens with the purpose of filling your freezer, pick one of the best meat bird varieties. Home-raised meat is delicious and cuts out your need for the grocery store.
- Selling Chicks – If you want to make an income, consider hatching eggs yourself in an incubator and selling the chicks. It’s a great side hustle for homesteaders.
- Feathers – Believe it or not, you can use the feathers from your chickens as well. They provide stuffing, insulation, or craft supplies.
- Garden Fertilizer – Chicken manure is a great fertilizer for your garden, but it has to be composted before you apply it to your garden. It’s a great natural source of nitrogen, but fresh manure burns plants.
- Controls Bugs & Weeds – Chickens love to free-range, and when they do, they help you control the bug population in your backyard. They eat ticks! Also, they’re excellent foragers, so they help to control the weeds, capable of clearing areas when penned in one area.
Advantages of Raising Chickens
- Chickens can be raised in many areas, even in small backyards and homesteaders.
- If you want to raise chickens for eggs, some varieties of chickens lay eggs nearly daily, providing a source of food for your family.
- Chickens are generally a low-cost farm animal; the feed is cheap, and they love to eat all of your scraps.
- It only takes a few minutes per day to take care of chickens. You have to feed and water them, and you will need to make sure they’re protected at night.
Disadvantages of Raising Chickens
- Chickens are loud. Everyone knows that roosters are loud, but hens can be noisy as well.
- It takes up to 24 weeks for some chickens to lay eggs, so you have to be patient and wait for the eggs to come.
- Chickens are prey animals, so you have to provide plenty of protection for your flock.
Final Thoughts: So long as your area doesn’t have ordinances against raising chickens, I suggest everyone starts with a small flock. They’re versatile and help you get used to raising livestock, plus they’re so fun to have.
Rabbits make the list as one of the best farm animals for self-sufficiency for several reasons.
First, they are permitted in most locations. It’s hard to find a county or city that bans the ownership of rabbits because they’re a popular pet. So, if you’re homesteading in the city, rabbits are an option.
Second, they require little space and cost to raise. Rabbits live happily in cages, and if you have space for them to range, rabbits are fairly self-sufficient.
Also, they are prolific and breed like crazy. Everyone has heard the saying – breeding like rabbits – but it is actually true. It takes 10-12 weeks from birth until a rabbit is ready to butcher. Rabbits also have a short gestational period, typically 25 to 28 days, so they can have several litters each year.
Rabbits are a versatile farm animal to increase self-sufficiency. A few ways to use rabbits include:
- Butchering for meat – one buck and three does can provide plenty of meat each year. It’s estimated that one doe’s litters each year will provide 80 pounds of meat per year.
- Manure for your garden – unlike other manures, rabbit manure doesn’t need to be composted. So, spread it over your garden whenever you want.
- Breed and sell the kits – rabbits multiple quickly and have tons of babies. If you have a breed or two that people want, you can sell the baby rabbits!
Advantages to Raising Rabbits
- They’re versatile, and you have plenty of ways to use rabbits on a homestead.
- Rabbits multiply quickly, so breeding them for selling kits or meat is easy.
- They start to reproduce soon, typically within six months.
- It doesn’t cost much to maintain rabbits because their food costs little.
Disadvantages of Raising Rabbits
- Rabbits are prey for many animals, so you have to make sure they have strong shelter.
- You have to clean out their cages or hutches regularly.
- Selling rabbit meat is difficult because rabbits are so cheap, and most people don’t eat rabbit meat.
- If you have a large family, rabbits won’t provide a lot of meat. You’ll need to have a large breeding program.
Final Thoughts: Rabbits are AWESOME if your city has too many laws against livestock. They live in pens and breed quickly; you can easily produce meat for your family without needing much space. Rabbits are a great farm animal for city-dwelling homesteaders.
Pigs have a bad reputation; people think they’re nasty and vicious, but that’s far from the truth. They need more care and space than other farm animals, but if you love pork, raising pigs is a great ideal for self-sufficiency. So long as you have space, it’s possible to raise hundreds of pounds of meat and never have to buy meat from the store again.
Despite what people think, pigs are actually clean animals, but that’s only true if they have the space. They are highly intelligent, and they understand that they need to keep their living quarters and waste separate. You have to provide shelter from the weather and a strong fence because pigs love to wander around.
Some varieties of pigs are quite large, while others, like the kunekune pigs, are better for small spaces. You have to make sure you have the knowledge to care for them, and all of the materials needed to take care of them.
Here’s what you can get out of raising pigs for self-sufficiency.
- Pork for Your Family – The most obvious reason you would raise pigs for your family is that you produce food for your family. Depending on what breed you raise, pigs produce a few hundred pounds of pork.
- Selling Piglets – If you’re looking for a way to increase your homestead income, selling piglets is a great idea. Pigs are ready to breed when they’re around six months old, and each pig has 5-25 piglets in a litter.
- Selling Pork – Make sure you check the laws of your state before doing this, but selling pork is a way to increase your income on your homestead. Make sure you have enough pork for your family before you sell any meat.
Advantages of Raising Pigs
- Pigs eat anything, so feeding them is fairly easy. They need a lot of food, but if you have food that is going to spoil or table scraps, they all can be given to your pigs.
- Pigs produce a lot of meat for your family. If you love pork, a few pigs can feed a family for an entire year.
- They breed quickly and produce up to 25 piglets per litter, so if you want to sell piglets, you don’t have to wait too long.
Disadvantages of Raising Pigs
- Pigs reach a large size and are harder to raise than other animals.
- It takes a lot of food to feed pigs. Expect to feed them 6-8 pounds of food per day.
- Pigs can be escape artists, so you need to make sure you have proper shelter and a strong fence.
Final Thoughts: You need to have proper space for pigs for them to live their best lives. If you don’t and still want pigs, look into the KuneKune pigs. These farm animals produce tons of meat, but they require a lot of food. That meat won’t be cheap!
I have to be honest; since I started raising ducks last year, I think I like them more than I like chickens! If you’re looking for farm animals for self-sufficiency, ducks are a great addition to your homestead. Raising ducks with chickens is a great idea; if you have space for chickens, consider adding a few ducks.
Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, and while ducks don’t lay as many eggs as chickens, their eggs are considered more of a delicacy. They sell for a higher price than chicken eggs, and they also give you a source of meat. Ducks forage for bugs and worms on your property, while being less prone to diseases.
You do have to provide access to water; ducks are waterfowl after all. If you don’t have a pond on your property, raising ducks is still possible.
Here’s a few ways you can use ducks on your self-sufficient homestead.
- Eating Eggs – If you have a small flock of ducks, they’ll lay eggs for your family to enjoy. They’re rich and delicious.
- Hatching Eggs – If you have a drake, then your duck eggs are fertile, and you can sell duck hatching eggs. Depending on the duck variety that you raise, some duck hatching eggs fetch a high price tag.
- Selling Ducklings – Instead of selling hatching eggs, you also can hatch the eggs at home, and sell the ducklings for a higher price. Ducklings are adorable and easy to sell.
- Eats Bugs – Ducks are amazing foragers for bugs and worms, and when compared to chickens, they’re less likely to tear up your plants. They focus on eating pests.
- Garden Manure – You also can use the pellets that ducks produce in your garden for manure.
Advantages of Raising Ducks
- Ducks lay eggs that are larger than chickens, and they taste great.
- Some duck breeds are ideal for meat, and duck meat is delicious. It’s richer and considered a delicacy.
- When compared to chickens, ducks are less prone to diseases, and it’s less likely that ducklings will die when raising them.
- Feeding ducks is easy and affordable.
Disadvantages of Raising Ducks
- It takes six to seven months for ducks to start to lay eggs, and they don’t lay daily. So, you won’t receive as many eggs as you would with chickens.
- They need to be locked up at night typically because they’ll swim throughout the night and become a goal for predators.
- Ducks are messy and noisy!
Final Thoughts: Ducks might be messy, but I think I like them almost as much as I like chickens. They are great for backyards if you provide a pool, and they’re versatile in their uses.
Most people have no idea that honeybees are considered livestock; they produce food for human consumption. In recent years, more people focus on raising bees as their population decreases; we are learning the value of bees when it comes to food production.
One of the great things about raising honey bees is that they can be raised almost anywhere. Some even have bee hives on the top of apartment buildings in the middle of the city. No matter where you live, bees are a farm animal that you can raise for self-sufficiency.
Honey is one of the oldest foods that humans consumed from animals. We know that the oldest honey we’ve found date back over 3,000 years, and it was still edible – wild! It’s not sugar but a sugar substitute; growing sugar cane or sugar beets isn’t practical for most people. So, instead, you can raise bees for honey.
Why would you want to raise bees on your homestead? Here are a few options.
- Honey – The most obvious reason to raise bees is that you can eat the honey that they produce. Honey has a long shelf life, so even if you don’t use all of the honey that you harvest that year, it saves well until the following year.
- Selling Honey and Products – If you want another way to make money at home, selling honey or beeswax products is a great idea. They sell well at most farmer’s markets.
- Selling Bees – Some people sell bees and full hives to people in their area. This is a larger production, but if you love bees, it’s a consideration.
- Pollinate Plants – While you might not think of it as a big deal, bees pollinate plants, and if you have a vegetable garden, then having bees will help increase your production of fruits and vegetables.
Advantages of Raising Bees
- Bees require little time from you; they regulate their own hive and food supply.
- Hives produce a lot of honey, so you can replace some or all of the sugar that your family produces.
- Bees also produce beeswax that you can use to produce salves, ointments, and candles.
Disadvantages of Raising Bees
- Some people are allergic to bees, so if you or anyone that you love has a bee allergy, this is a no-go.
- Bees have an expensive starting price, but after you start the hive, the upkeep is cheap.
Final Thoughts: Despite the steep upstarting cost, I think that everyone should have bees. You can keep them even if you live in the city, and they provide you with a delicious sugar substitute.
Quail are quickly becoming one of the most frequent animals found on homesteads for several reasons. They’re smaller than chickens and require even less room, and since they’re so quiet, quail may be raised anywhere. Most town policies never mention quail, so if you live somewhere that forbids chickens, quail is often a loophole.
Quail are a wild game animal, but some varieties are domesticated for eggs and meat. They cannot be allowed to free-range; they fly, and unlike chickens or ducks, quail won’t return. So, you have to make sure you provide adequate protection and a large enough enclosure.
A few ways you can use quail on your homestead for self-sufficiency include:
- Eating the Eggs – Quail produces eggs as soon as two months after hatching, so if you want an animal that produces a lot of eggs, quail is the way to go. The eggs are smaller but tasty.
- Raising Quail for Meat – Quail are tasty when it comes to meat. Now, if you have a large family, one quail won’t provide a lot of meat for your family, but if you butcher a few at one time, then you’ll be able to make some delicious meals.
- Selling Quail Eggs – In some areas, quail eggs are a delicacy, and despite their size, they fetch a fair price. If you live somewhere that lets you sell eggs to restaurants, some chef-owned restaurants are happy to source locally-raised quail eggs for their meals.
Advantages of Raising Quail
- Quail are small, and they can be kept in cages or small areas. Some even raise their quail in a barn or garage.
- Their eggs are delicious!
- These birds are quiet, so it’s easy to raise a flock in a neighborhood. They sound like birds in a tree.
- It costs little to raise quail; they need shelter and feed.
Disadvantages of Raising Quail
- A single quail won’t provide much meat, so you have to raise a large number of birds if you want this to be a significant meat source for your family.
- Quail are prey animals, so you have to provide adequate shelter.
- If you don’t take care of their cages or rotate them, your birds can easily get sick.
Final Thoughts: If you face opposition to raising chickens, quail are a great choice. They can be raised in cages in your garage! While I don’t think raising quail as a sole meat source is a good idea, it adds versatility to your diet and increases your self-sufficiency.
9. Fish – Catfish, Tilapia, Etc
If you have a pond or a natural pool, then you can raise fish in your backyard as a different source of meat. Most people never consider raising fish as a source of homegrown meat.
It’s possible to raise fish indoors, but if you live in an apartment, you would limit the number of fish that you can raise. However, raising any fish increase your goal of self-sufficiency.
The type of fish that you can raise will depend on whether you live in a cold or warm climate. If you live in an area that is a warm climate, you can try tilapia and catfish. They keep well year-round with little maintenance, and they can be raised in an aquaponics system as long as it hates clean water.
These fish also can be raised in colder climates, but they won’t survive in temperatures below freezing. So, if you keep them outside, you need a heater or cold-water fish. For example, rainbow trout are delicious, coldwater fish that survive in freezing temperatures.
Raising fish on your homestead offer a few benefits like:
- Fish Meat – The most obvious reason to raise fish for self-sufficiency is that you can eat the meat produced by whatever you raise.
- Resell the Fish – Another option is to resell the fish or the spawn that come from the fish that you raise.
- Fertilized Water for the Garden – If you use an aquaponics system, you would be able to use the water that includes fish waste to water your garden.
Advantages of Raising Fish
- You don’t have to know too much about raising fish to get started. They’re easier than other animals.
- You don’t have to have a big setup to raise fish.
- Fish don’t require a lot of maintenance. You need to feed and provide clean water, but that’s about it.
Disadvantages of Raising Fish
- If you raise fish and live in a colder climate, you will need to provide more care to the fish.
- It takes time for the fish to grow. Tilapia take around 34 weeks to reach a harvestable size, and catfish take 1-2 years to reach one pound.
- It costs more if you want to set up an aquaponics system.
Final Thoughts: If you want a large-scale fish raising operation, you’ll need space. It’s possible to raise them inside, but even aquaponic systems need space. It’s not practical as your sole food source, but raising fish is a great way to diversify your protein sources.
Sheep are adorable, docile animals that are versatile for a homesteader that wants farm animals for self-sufficiency. It’s an animal that I’ve considered because I’m a crocheter who loves working with wool yarn.
Sheep are happy grazers and, so long as they have shelter from bad weather, they are fun to add to your farm. You should know that sheep require more work than goats. They need more room than goats, and they have different needs to ensure proper health. Sheep must be sheared in the spring, or they won’t be comfortable.
Some possible uses for sheep on a homestead include:
- Try Sheep Meat – Sheep meat is a popular choice; lamb is a delicacy. It’s more expensive than many other types of meat, and if you can time your production for breeding, spring is a great time to sell lamb meat.
- Shear for Wool – Sheep provide wool that can be spun into yarn. How cool would it be to crochet or knit sweaters or mittens for your family from yarn that comes from the sheep you raise?
- Milk Your Sheep – Believe it or not, sheep can be milked. While sheep milk seems like a strange idea, it’s more frequently drank in other areas of the world.
- Graze Pastures – If you have a pasture that needs to be cleared out, sheep are happy to eat all kinds of vegetation.
- Sell Lambs – Another option is to sell lambs that are born on your property.
Advantages of Raising Sheep
- Sheep are gentle animals that are docile and not as stubborn as goats.
- These animals reproduce at least once per year, and they can reproduce as early as eight months old.
- These are versatile animals that provide your family with meat, lambs, wool, milk, and many sources of income.
- Lamb meat is pricey and can be sold at a premium price.
Disadvantages of Raising Sheep
- Sheep require better shelter than other farm animals from bad weather.
- These aren’t good farm animals for a small area; they need plenty of space to graze and move around.
- Sheep are prey animals, so you have to provide protection against predators.
- They have to be sheared every year.
- It’s more expensive to raise sheep than other farm animals.
Final Thoughts: Sheep need space, so I wouldn’t suggest raising them unless you have the pasture they enjoy. Otherwise, these animals produce some of the priciest meat, making them a great income source, and they provide you with many products to use for your family or income.
Increasing Your Self-Sufficiency With Animals
When you decide that it’s time to diversify your self-sufficiency with animals, make sure you do all the research needed before bringing animals onto your homestead. You want to provide the best home possible, so I enjoy you to research and talk to people who raise these animals to truly understand their needs. Then, start with one of the best farm animals for self-sufficiency and slowly add more to your homestead.