Top 10 Animals for Your Self-Sufficient Homestead

Whether you have a tiny homestead or a big one, if you want livestock, the choice of what species is right for you has lots of factors to consider.

homestead animals collage

First and foremost what your preferences are, but also how much room you have, how much work you want to do, and a lot more…

The good news is that, no matter what sort of goals you have for your homestead, there’s bound to be at least one species of livestock that will work just fine no matter how much room you have to work with and where you live.

Below I’ll tell you all about 10 of the best animal species for your homestead…

1. Chickens

Chickens are among the very most popular livestock kept around the world, and it’s not hard to see why. Chickens are small, inexpensive, generally easy to care for, and multi-purpose.

Best of all for some homesteaders, they don’t take up nearly as much room as any other species on this list.

chickens eating moss

There’s a reason why the so-called backyard flock has become such a popular concept again in recent years.

Chickens can supply you with eggs, of course, which is the number one reason they are farmed and a reason enough for many of us, but they can also supply you with delicious meat that you can easily slaughter and process yourself.

Beyond this, chickens are also good sources of fertilizer thanks to their droppings, while their feathers can be valuable for certain specialty products.

It’s easy to grow the size of your flock naturally with chickens, and you might make even more money on the side raising and selling chicks or adult chickens to discerning clients who want their own flocks.

With all kinds of breeds that are adapted for meat production, egg laying or both, and able to live in nearly any climate, chickens are the ultimate choice for some homesteaders.

two Pekin ducks leaving the pond
two Pekin ducks leaving the pond

2. Ducks

Ducks are another poultry species that is quite popular, though not nearly as much so as chickens in the United States. That being said, they are kept for all of the same reasons.

Duck eggs and duck meat are both delicious and generally in constant demand, although you have to work a little bit harder to find buyers compared to chicken products.

But compared to chickens, ducks tend to be a little bit hardier most of the time though their care is a little bit more specialized because they must have access to water when eating and also for swimming.

That being said, ducks are incredibly resistant to both moisture and cold, as you would imagine. Most ducks also tend to grow larger than typical chickens, and they can produce somewhat more meat and also slightly larger eggs.

If you’re just tired of chickens or you want to try some new feathered friends, ducks might be just right for your homestead.

girl petting turkeys

3. Turkeys

The largest birds that most people would consider keeping for any reason, turkeys can be a surprisingly inspired choice for your homestead.

These big, impressive birds are famous for their meat which is a ubiquitous fixture on every Thanksgiving table in the land, and for many other meals throughout the year besides.

Turkeys also lay large and delicious eggs that, while they aren’t as economically feasible at the large scale compared to chicken eggs, they might nonetheless prove to be extremely popular in some places.

But as you would probably guess, turkeys, being so much bigger than ducks and chickens, need lots of extra room.

They’ll need more room in the run or yard, more space to themselves in a coop which is more properly called a small barn and plenty of space to socialize with and get away from other members of the flock.

But the reward is lots and lots of high-quality meat for your family and for customers, along with those delicious eggs.

Turkey feathers are also popular for making various crafts and decorations, and turkeys can pull double duty as peacekeepers and even protectors of smaller birds like ducks and chickens.


4. Ostriches

Without question the largest birds you can possibly keep, and that’s because they are the largest birds there are alive today!

Ostriches are a true exotic animal, but they aren’t just a novelty. Ostrich meat, feathers, those massive eggs they lay and even live animals are all highly valuable.

Ostrich farms, more than most other kinds, also seem to have merit as a tourist attraction giving you additional ways to monetize if you don’t mind lots of visitors.

But ostriches, compared to every other avian on this list, have unique care requirements, need tons of room to run, can be positively hostile during mating season, and can be quite dangerous, as dangerous as other larger animals like horses and cows.

That being said, these birds are typically quite healthy and easy to care for otherwise, and they’re so unique and charming many keepers fall completely in love with them.

They do, however, have a relatively narrow climate band in which they can live and thrive, so if you live in a colder northern region ostriches probably just are not for you.

brown Swiss cow with calf
brown Swiss cow with calf

5. Cows

One of the most iconic livestock species there is. Cattle need no introduction, and everyone knows where our beef and milk comes from.

Cows have lots of advantages as far as livestock are concerned, but they come with some significantly large drawbacks you must be prepared for.

First, you will rarely if ever have difficulty finding a market for cattle products. Beef can be highly lucrative and relatively easy to get into with a comparatively small investment.

And, if you aren’t worried about business even a single cow can provide you and your family with hundreds and hundreds of pounds of meat.

Milk is truly the gift that keeps on giving if you have even a handful of dairy cows, though you must invest in significantly more infrastructure in order to collect it, store it and keep it fresh until it gets to market.

The downside is that cows themselves are quite expensive, need lots of room, are big and dangerous, and a pretty expensive to feed, especially dairy cows which need a specially selected diet for maximum production.

But, if you have all of the prerequisites, you will rarely go wrong with cows.

a couple of pigs eating grass
a couple of pigs eating grass

6. Pigs

Pigs are another ubiquitous livestock species worth your time and consideration. Unlike cows, pigs only produce a single product: pork, but what a product it is.

Among the most popular meats eaten around the world and especially throughout the United States, you will rarely if ever struggle to find a market for your products, and bacon in particular!

But pigs have their own challenges. Pigs are cheaper than cows but can still be quite expensive. They need lots of land, though again they don’t need as much as cows.

Also, pigs tend to be dirty, noisy and extremely smelly, three things that don’t endear them to people that are forced to live near them.

Breeding and selling pigs can prove to be fairly popular and profitable, as can the raising of a specialty pig breeds for the pet market, like teacup and potbelly pigs.

But, so long as they are socialized properly and well taken care of pigs tend to be happy and charming animals despite the drawbacks and many homesteaders find them a great addition to their homestead and lifestyle.

woman walking a horse to stable

7. Horses

There’s hardly any animal alive that is more magnificent than the horse. Few have done as much to change the trajectories of human civilizations, and almost none have so captivated imaginations for millennia. The speed, strength and grace of horses is borderline mythological.

Horses can play a very important practical role on your homestead, and they can take the place of vehicles and other machines for transportation and for doing work.

Horses can also be a great way to make money if you offer boarding, breeding, offer riding lessons, and other related products and services.

But the single biggest problem associated with horses is that they need tons and tons of room in order to live their best lives and thrive.

Horses are also phenomenally expensive, both in upfront costs, feed costs, medical care and more. Nonetheless, for many of us, they are the only choice!

a sheep next to its lamb
a sheep next to its lamb

8. Sheep

Another domesticated animal that has been with humanity for millennia, sheep offer a product that is unmatched by nearly any other animal.

I’m talking of course about their wool. Wool has played a pivotal part in textiles and other crafts pretty much forever, and nothing has changed on that front today.

Considering the sheep themselves, most people find them generally agreeable and easy to care for, though they only thrive when they have larger acreages to graze on throughout their days.

That being said, if you aren’t in love with the idea of having to slaughter your animals in order to get a return on investment, sheep might be the perfect way to go.

Done properly, shearing your sheep of their wool coats not only will not hurt them, but it’s actually necessary to keep them from getting woolbound!

Sheep demand a lot from their owners in terms of ongoing inspection and healthcare, land management and strict attention paid to what goes into their diet…

As ruminant animals, eating the wrong things, or eating the right things at the wrong time or just too much of them might have fatal consequences.

four goats on the homestead
four goats on the homestead

9. Goats

Goats are another type of livestock that has been with humanity since prehistory, and one that is slowly but surely becoming more and more popular today.

Unlike sheep, goats can also offer a variety of products, including their hair in some cases, their milk, and their meat.

Though none of these items are as popular as equivalent offerings from other livestock species, the versatility of goats along with their relatively small space requirements for animals of their size and their low upfront costs makes them a great choice for some people.

But like every other animal on this list, goats have their downsides. They can be highly temperamental, and any goat of a decent size with intact horns can really pack a punch when they charge you.

They’re notorious escape artists and also infamous for climbing all over everything that you’d rather them not, like your car. Say goodbye to that nice paint job!

Goats also tend to be fairly fussy concerning their health. Although they have a popular reputation of being able to eat absolutely anything, including truly inedible things, this is absolutely untrue: goats are also prominent animals and have highly sensitive digestive systems.

Goats are also particularly vulnerable to internal parasites and climate conditions, so choosing a breed that is perfectly adapted to your area is critical if you want to succeed with them without losing your mind.

a couple of alpacas
A couple of alpacas. Photo by J. Beales.

10. Alpacas

Alpacas are another exotic livestock breed, but ones that might not be considered exotic in North America for too much longer. Their popularity is off the charts, lately!

Alpacas are related to, but distinct, from llamas, and llamas have their own advantages as farm animals, and have been used since time immemorial as draft and work animals.

Think of alpacas as kind of like their prissy, well-off cousins: alpacas are generally raised only for their soft, strong and utterly luxurious hair which is shorn from them, and then processed into equally luxurious cloth.

In terms of keeping them, alpacas give me treated pretty much like larger sheep. They are highly social, they need plenty of room to move about and graze, and they are generally gentle and calm, things that will endear them to other animals and two people alike.

Male alpacas, unlike rams, also tend to be friendly and forgiving of humans so long as they have been raised by them.

But as popular as alpacas are becoming they aren’t for everyone living everywhere. They generally do best in temperate environments that are significantly above sea level, but if that describes your property and you don’t want to keep any animal that you might have to slaughter alpacas could be right for you.

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