I have always been a firm believer that you can homestead no matter where you are, whether you have 1 acre or 100 hundred.
A smaller homestead may not be able to have all the things, but there are defiantly things you can do to create that sustainable homestead lifestyle. Today I am happy to welcome Heather from The Homesteading Hippy so that she can share her best advice for raising meat on a small homestead.
She is proof and the inspiration that you can homestead in small spaces as she lives on only 1/5 of an acre. Yet she does an amazing job of growing her own food. I’m definitely inspired!
Raising Meat on a Small Homestead
We live on a relatively small homestead… Some may call it a “micro-farm” actually.
Our homestead is smack dab in the middle of our small town and we are about 150 steps from the exact center of downtown. Our fence on the north side of our yard is shared by the bank, as a matter of fact. Yet, we are able to raise between 70-85% of our food each year and I would love to share with you how we raise meat for our family.
Know Your Rules and Regulations
You will need to understand what you are allowed to have where you are. Some animals go against zoning or homeowners association rules. You will want to go to your country or township and find out exactly what the rules are. Also, you may want to consider the impact on your neighbors, so there are no complaints later on.
Our situation may be a bit different than others, as we do not have any zoning laws against farm animals in our town and our neighbors are quite supportive of what we are doing. Because of this, we are able to raise:
- 75-100 meat chickens
- 6 turkeys
- 25 layer hens
- 7 ducks
- Honey Bees
- 5 rabbits
We had to decide if was more important for us to raise our own food and know where it comes from than to have a nice manicured lawn. If you were to look in our backyard, you would NOT see the pretty town lawn at all. Nearly every square inch of our yard serves a purpose and has to be used. This gives you the view of our homestead in the early Spring before everything has been planted and is growing.
If you can’t be a “full-fledged” homesteader, with all the things, please know there ARE ways you can raise quality meat, no matter where you are!
There are things you can do to feed your family. Here are some ideas to get you started, even if you have just a little bit of space.
Options for Raising Meat on Small Homesteads
In many places, you can have quail even when you aren’t allowed to keep chickens. They are a great source of meat for smaller places with the extra bonus of eggs. Their eggs are high in protein and are considered a delicacy so usually bring in more money than chicken eggs. You can even have males in your flock without annoying your neighbors, which is perfect for those of us who live on non-traditional homesteads.
Quail cost less than traditional poultry because they are smaller and use less feed and bedding. They can be housed in wire bottom cages, which means no bedding making them pretty low maintenance. To help offer the cost of having quail you can sell eggs for eating or hatching and birds for laying, meat, or hunting dog training.
There are many reasons that quail are a great fit for the nontraditional homesteader. They are one of the best meat sources for a small homestead. If you are interested in learning more about quail My friend Jess has some great info about raising quail in detail here.
2. Meat Rabbits
Meat rabbits take up very little space and can provide some great compost for your garden, plus they don’t make a ton of noise. There are different breeds of rabbits to choose from when it comes to meat a few are:
- New Zealand,
- Flemish Giant
- California White
- French Angoras (dual-purpose for meat and fiber)
Getting Started Raising Rabbits for Meat
When you are starting out with meat rabbits, you simply need a couple of large pens (about 3×3 feet), one for a buck (male) and one for a doe (female). Each pen will need a few basic supplies:
- Water Bottle
- Feeding Dish
- Rabbit Food
- High-quality hay
We give our rabbits feed that we can get from the local feed mill since it’s a bit cheaper, along with weeds and grass from the yard. From time to time, they get a carrot, celery, or apple as a treat. We also purchase about 2 bales of timothy hay from a local farmer once a year to feed to them as well.
Breeding Rabbits to Raise for Meat
Rabbits can be bred 3-4 times a year, and gestation is only 28-31 days, with a young rabbit being ready for processing at 3 months if desired. A pair of breeding rabbits and their offspring can keep a family of 5 in protein for most of the year.
3. Raising Chickens for Meat
Chickens are probably the most common choice people think of when it comes to small meat animals. They are perfect for raising in small spaces and depending on the breed you choose they are only there for a handful of months.
Meat Chicken Breeds
When it comes to raising chickens for meat there are a few options. If you are looking for grocery store-size chickens then the Cornish cross is your bird. They are bred specifically to be used for meat, they are fast growing and can get quite large. Another common meat breed is the Freedom Rangers they grow slightly slower than the Cornish cross but only by a few weeks. You can go the heritage route which means slower-growing, dual-purpose breeds like the Barred Rock.
As I mentioned before you will want to check the rules, you may be limited to the number of chickens you can have on your property.
4. Raising Meat Turkeys
Turkeys are a great option for raising meat on a small homestead, they are larger and produce more meat than other forms of poultry. Like chickens, there have been specific meat breeds developed these are called broad-breasted turkeys. These turkeys can reach butcher weight at about 16 weeks of age. The downside is these turkeys get very large quickly and are not known for being the best foragers, so they will require a good amount of feed.
If you are looking for a slower-growing breed that can supplement feed costs with foraging you will want a standard or heritage breed of turkey.
5. Raising Ducks for Meat
A smaller option that is another chicken alternative is raising ducks for meat. All ducks even the Pekin (large white meat ducks) can be raised for both meat and eggs. Most breeds of ducks are excellent foragers and will rid your yard of slugs and other insects helping reduce feed costs. There are a few larger breeds that are more suitable for meat production like the Pekin, Rouen, and Muscovy.
Raising geese for meat is another option for small homesteads, these birds can be quite large with an average of 19lbs when they are ready to butcher. Geese enjoy grazing on grass and certain weeds as a part of their diet, but they will require feed from you to reach a healthy weight. Two common breeds used to produce meat are Toulouse and Embden Geese. A goose can provide a lot of meat, but there are some downsides to having geese.
- They can be aggressive
- Goslings cost more than other poultry
- They only lay eggs at a certain time of year
Sheep can be a good option for a small homestead looking for a non-poultry source of meat. They are on the smaller side and don’t need a ton of room. You can keep one or two and raise them on grass, weeds, and brush they really aren’t picky. You will need to provide them with water, minerals, and some feed to help them grow to the ideal butcher weight.
You keep your lamb for about 6 – 8 months or until it reaches the ideal weight of 100-140 lbs. The most common breed used for meat is the Suffolk, this is the one that you see with legs, a black head, and white wool.
8. Meat Goats
There are two different types of goats, there are dairy goats and there are meat goats. Meat goat breeds like the Boer Goat and Pygmy are specifically used for meat production. Contrary to what people think goats don’t actually eat everything, they are somewhat picky eaters. They don’t actually eat every plant found when they are grazing and require hay, grain, and minerals to be healthy.
Goats are relatively easy keepers, but they can be noisy and attempt to escape from time to time. An adequate fence and shelter should be put in place to prevent runaways. Goats are usually ready to butcher at 8-10 months when they have developed good muscling and body weight.
Note: Sheep and meat goats are good for smaller homesteads in small quantities and if they are allowed in your area. Small farm animals are not always accepted in towns or suburban areas. Check your rules and regulations.
Are You Ready to Raise Meat on Your Homestead?
There are a lot of options for those that don’t have much space. Quality protein is available for just about anyone, anywhere if you are willing to think outside the box. Before you buy your meat animals look into what you are allowed to have where you are.
Do you raise meat on a small homestead?
Heather and her family live in Northern Indiana, where they strive each year to become more self-sufficient and raise at least 80% of their own food. Join them in their journey, complete with successes and lots of failures at The Homesteading Hippy.
More About Homesteading and Animals:
- How to Pick the Best Livestock for Your Homestead
- How to Build a Chicken Run
- Raising Meat Chickens: Our First Year
- How to Create a Small-Space Homestead