We are getting very close to moving to the farmhouse now! We plan on starting slow, but our slow is probably different than the normal slow. Our slow includes growing at least one variety of every vegetable we can, starting our own poultry flock for meat and eggs, and seeking out other small livestock to help and feed us on our homesteading venture. Since I already posted a link for the veggies we’ll be growing this year, I figured it might be fun to post a bit about the animals we’d like to start raising this year as well.
First of all, the obvious choice for anyone starting a small farm: chickens. We plan on getting a nice flock of heavy, brown-egg birds like Buff Orpingtons. I’ve had a lot of experience raising Buffs, and they are probably the most friendly birds I have acquainted myself with. They lay fairly well all year long, and are good eating if the need arises. Another good thing about them is the fact that they go broody and are good mothers, which makes buying and maintaining an incubator unnecessary. Since we’d like to propagate our own flock, broodiness and mothering factor high among the traits we are looking for.
Along with Buffs, we’d like to start a small flock of fancy birds. My husband has fallen head over heels for Sumatras, so the Buffs will have some fancy, black buddies in the coop. One of the rules we are going by with every animal we consider is that it has to provide some sort of help or food source for us or we won’t get it. The Sumatras are fancy birds, but they still lay eggs and have good quality meat. As the kids get older, I think they will enjoy raising these gorgeous birds for the fair. I know I had a lot of fun with my Black Australorps when I was younger.
Ducks are also on our list of animals to raise, because we LOVE duck meat. I’ve actually never had a duck egg, but I’m sure those are tasty, too! While I love the look of runner ducks, I’m not sure how they would work out as meat birds, being so thin. So after crossing runners off the list, I thought Khaki Cambells would make a good addition. But… we won’t have a pond until we can get the site cleared and dug out, probably for at least 1-2 years from now. That really narrowed the possibilities of ducks until I heard about Muscovies. Muscovies are tree ducks from Africa that are bred for their flavorful meat. They get a lot larger than the average duck, regularly set their own clutches of eggs, aren’t nearly as noisy as most duck breeds, and are very friendly with both humans and other animals. In the research I have done, they have been said to severely reduce the fly populations on farms because they not only pick up spilled feed from other breeds but actively seek out larvae. I think the Muscovy would be a welcome addition on our little farm, even if my husband thinks they are ugly birds. (I think they’re cute.)
The last animal on our first year list is the pig. We’d like to start off with 2-3 weaner pigs to help us clear the way for future gardens and the overgrown pond site. Hopefully we’ll be able to keep one sow to fallow the following spring. Have you ever researched pig breeds? There are a lot of different pigs! It’s amazing, because the only pigs I have seen are pot-belly breeds or Durocs. On my researching journey through dozens of different breeds that would do well in Michigan, I found Mangalitsa pigs. These fuzzy little pigs are well-known for their hardiness in colder and mountainous climates, and for their ability to convert readily availalable natural foods (like acorns and potatoes) into a finely marbled meat that rivals all others. I think these little piggies would do very well on the homestead.
So that completes our first year in animals: chickens, ducks, and couple pigs. In future years, we’d like to try raising geese, turkeys, rabbits, worms, goats, sheep, or perhaps even a small dairy cow. I guess we’ll see when we get there!
As a final note, we are currently searching for breeders of Muscovy ducks and Mangalitsa pigs. If you know of anyone in our area, please pass on their information! Thanks!