The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Homestead Animals

Discover homestead animals for a sustainable life. This guide offers tips on selecting and caring for livestock, ideal for any homestead size.

beginner's guide to homestead animals

Are you considering animal husbandry and raising your own farm animals? That’s a smart move! Adding livestock marks a significant step towards a more sustainable life. This guide will help you choose and manage different types of livestock, no matter the size of your homestead.

Assessing Your Homestead

Before bringing in homestead animals, it’s wise to look at a few key points about your space. First, how much land do you have? This detail is crucial because it determines which animals you can comfortably support. Then, check out the zoning laws in your area to ensure you can legally raise the animals you’re interested in. Lastly, think about your goals. Are you focused on meat, dairy products, or something else? Clear objectives will help shape your homestead animal strategy, ensuring it aligns with your available resources and desired outcomes. 

Choosing the Best Livestock for Your Homestead

Selecting the best homestead animals depends mainly on your space—whether it’s a small plot of land with less space or something more expansive. Let’s explore some fitting options for various setups.

Small Livestock 


a flock of chickens standing on grass

Benefits: Chickens are an excellent choice, especially for beginners. They offer a steady supply of eggs, meat, and natural pest control. 

Space Requirements: Chickens fit well even in a small backyard. They need 3 to 4 square feet per bird in the coop and 8 to 10 sq. feet per bird in an outdoor run, making them easily manageable with just a little bit of space.

Care Basics: Raising chickens is pretty easy. Regular feeding, clean water, and secure housing keep them happy. Plus, chicken manure is a fantastic fertilizer for gardens.

Check out my list of the Top 10 Chicken Breeds for your Homestead and the Best Quiet Chicken Breeds for your suburban or urban micro-homestead. 

Ducks and Geese

ducks and geese

Benefits: If you’ve got a little extra space or a spot for water, ducks or geese make a fantastic addition to your homestead. Beyond supplying eggs and meat, their down is excellent for insulation, and they naturally keep pests in check.

Space and Water Requirements: Aim for 10 to 15 sq. feet of outdoor space per bird. Anything from a small pond to some kiddie pools will do the trick for water.

Care Basics: Raising ducks and geese is similar to caring for chickens, focusing on ensuring they have access to clean swimming water. Regular feeding and providing a secure place to rest are just as important.

Popular Breeds: (Ducks) Pekin ducks, Khaki Campbell, Muscovy, Indian Runner, (Geese) Embden, Toulouse, Pilgrim, African, Sebastopol


rabbits eating grass on homestead

Benefits: Ideal for small areas, rabbits offer valuable meat production without requiring a lot of room. Plus, rabbit manure is considered a “cold” manure, meaning it can go straight into your garden.

Space Requirements for Hutches: Rabbits need about 12 sq. feet of space in their hutch for ample movement and comfort.

Care Basics: Ensuring their housing is clean and providing a well-balanced diet are vital in maintaining their health.

Popular Rabbit Breeds: New Zealand, Californian, Rex, Dutch, Flemish 

Honey Bees

honey bees flying around a hive

Benefits: Bees are low on space requirements but high on benefits, pollinating plants, producing honey, and creating beeswax.

Space Requirements for Hives: A hive can fit into a small corner of your land, hardly taking up any space.

Care Basics: A healthy hive requires monitoring its health and ensuring it has a variety of flowers to visit.

Medium to Large Livestock


baby Nigerian dwarf goats running outside on homestead

Benefits: Goats offer incredible versatility on small acreage, providing milk, meat, fiber, or assistance with brush clearing. They’re a great choice for adding diversity to a smaller homestead.

Space and Fencing Requirements: Goats require secure fencing and roughly 200 square feet per goat for ample movement and comfort. For grazing, you should plan on 2-10 goats per acre, which varies based on pasture quality.

Choosing Between Dairy, Meat, and Fiber Breeds: Your homestead goals will guide you toward selecting breeds tailored for milk, meat, or fiber production.

Popular Goat Breeds:

  • Dairy Goat Breeds: Nubian, Saanen, Alpine, LaMancha, Nigerian Dwarf
  • Meat Goats: Boer, Kiko, Spanish, Savanna
  • Fiber Goat Breeds: Angora, Cashmere


a flock of sheep outside on pasture

Benefits: Raising sheep enhances a homestead’s productivity by providing wool, meat, and occasionally milk. They’re a valuable addition to any mid-sized farm or homestead and will even mow your lawn!

Grazing Space Requirements: Sheep need sufficient grazing land but are flexible and adapt to various environmental conditions. Typically, you can sustain 4-5 sheep per acre, ensuring they have enough grass to graze on.

Care Basics: Regular shearing and health checks are essential to keep sheep in top condition.

Popular Sheep Breeds

  • Wool Breeds: Merino, Romney, Lincoln
  • Meat Breeds: Suffolk, Dorset, Dorper, Hampshire
  • Milk Breeds: East Friesian, Lacaune, Awassi


two pigs with their heads resting on a fence

Benefits: Pigs are great for converting scraps into quality meat, aiding in composting, and enhancing soil turnover. They’re a productive part of any homestead.

Space and Mud Bath Requirements: Pigs relish exploration and require a mud bath to cool off and care for their skin. Each pig needs about 50 sq. feet of pen space for proper movement and comfort.

Care Basics: Ensuring pigs have access to plenty of food, clean water, and a sheltered area is vital for their well-being.

Popular Pig Breeds: Yorkshire, Duroc, Berkshire, Hampshire, Tamworth, Gloucestershire Old Spot, Kunekune


a herd of cows walking in a pasture

Benefits: Cows are ideal for larger homesteads, offering substantial milk or beef production to support your self-sufficiency goals.

Space Requirements for Grazing: Freely grazing cows need ample pasture, with a general guideline being 1 to 2 acres per cow to ensure enough grass for healthy growth and milk production.

Choosing Between Dairy and Beef Breeds: Your interest in milk or beef will guide your choice of breed, each with its own advantages.

Popular Cow Breeds: 

  • Dairy Breeds: Holstein, Jersey, Guernsey, Ayrshire
  • Beef Breeds: Angus, Hereford, Charolais, Simmental

Basic Needs of Homestead Animals

Ensuring your homestead animals are healthy and happy boils down to getting their basic needs right. Whether talking about a cozy shelter or looking after their health, every bit of it is essential for their overall well-being. It all comes down to giving them the proper care they need.

Shelter and Housing

Every animal needs a safe place to call home, whether it’s a chicken coop for your couple of chickens, a sturdy fence for your goats, or a warm barn for dairy cows and beef cattle. The right shelter protects them from weather and predators, providing a comfortable environment for rest and growth.

Feeding and Nutrition

Proper nutrition is crucial to your animals’ health and productivity. Whether it’s high-quality feed for your meat birds and rabbits or lush pasture for your sheep and cows, ensuring access to the right kind of food in the right amounts is crucial. Remember, the nutritional needs vary significantly across different animals and their life stages.

Health Care and Wellness

Regular check-ups and prompt treatment of illnesses are all part of keeping your homestead animals healthy. From deworming your goats to managing the care requirements of larger livestock, staying on top of health care prevents bigger issues down the line.

Breeding and Population Management

Whether you’re planning to expand your flock of chickens or manage the breeding of your dairy goats, understanding the basics of animal breeding and population management is essential. This includes knowing when to breed, recognizing signs of pregnancy, and caring for newborns.

Getting Started with Homestead Animals

Introducing animals to your homestead marks an exciting chapter. Here’s the best way to ensure a smooth transition for you and your new companions.

Finding Your Animals

When you’re ready to add new animals to your homestead, look for reputable breeders or trusted hatcheries, locally or online. A good breeder typically has registered animals and provides comprehensive health records. Steer clear of random online sellers lacking health documentation or basic animal care knowledge. Essentially, doing a bit of homework to verify the breeder’s credibility can make all the difference.

Essential Equipment and Initial Setup

Before your animals arrive, make sure their living spaces are prepared. This ranges from securing fencing for goats to setting up a chicken coop for your flock. Essential items include waterers, feeders, and comfortable bedding. For larger animals, such as cows or pigs, ensure there’s adequate shelter and plenty of room for them to roam.

Building a Routine

Creating a daily routine is vital for the health and happiness of your animals. Consistent feeding, maintaining clean living spaces, and regular health checks can head off many problems. 

Common Challenges and Solutions

woman struggling to halter break a dairy cow

Homesteading with animals brings its own set of challenges. Here’s how to tackle some of the most common ones effectively.

Predator Management

Keeping your animals safe from predators is paramount. Measures like secure housing, robust fencing, and livestock guardian animals like dogs or donkeys can help protect your flock or herd. Regularly inspecting and maintaining your enclosures can keep potential threats at bay.

Disease Prevention and Treatment

A proactive approach to health care can prevent many illnesses through supplements, balanced nutrition, and clean habitats. Should an animal fall sick, having a relationship with a local veterinarian experienced in farm animals is invaluable. Prompt detection and treatment are crucial.


Bringing animals into your homestead does more than fill the barn; it connects you deeper with your land and edges you closer to self-sufficiency. Starting small and picking the right breed for your setup is a smart way to grow your skills and homestead together. Every chicken, goat, or cow you add isn’t just another mouth to feed; they’re key players in your journey toward a sustainable lifestyle.

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