Choosing what type of homestead meats to produce can be difficult. You might not know what will be the easiest or most ideal to raise on your property.
This will depend on your climate, land, and proximity to other animals. There are many different kinds of animals you can raise on a homestead, but these five will give you the best meat production based on the cost and effort of raising them.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
A great homestead animal to raise for beginners, chickens provide many benefits other than just meat and eggs.
Their manure contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, making it an ideal fertilizer for your homestead garden. We started raising chickens last year. And backyard chickens were the perfect gateway homestead animal for us.
We have a mix of meat chickens and layers to give our family a steady supply of meat and fresh eggs. Currently, we have a mixed flock. It includes Barred Rock, White Lohman, Buff Orpingtons, and Western Rustic chickens plus one Silkie.
Barred Rock and Western Rustic are both dual-purpose chickens, meant to lay eggs and be used for meat.
For our use, we keep the White Lohmans specifically as layers, raising the Western Rustics for meat and the Barred Rocks for both. They are all great cold-hardy backyard chicken breeds.
With this amount of layers, we average about six-to-seven eggs per day, just enough for us. Depending on your needs, adjust your flock numbers accordingly.
You can expect chickens to start laying eggs around 18 - 20 weeks of age, depending on the breed. However, chickens can be very sensitive to loud noises, changes in their environment, and nutrient deficiencies that will cause them to stop laying eggs.
They need about 16 hours of daylight per day to lay an egg, so you will need a heat lamp/lighting solution for your chicken coop if you plan to keep them through the winter.
Learn how to butcher a chicken at home and more about how to get started with this guest post from our friend Rochelle Robinson.
A very cost-effective homestead meat option, rabbits require a relatively low amount of daily work to sustain a healthy colony. Plus, a single breeding doe will birth between four-to-five litters per year, giving you a steady supply of meat for your family.
Some of the most common breeds to raise for meat on a homestead include New Zealand, American, Californian, and Champagne D’Argent. If you’re new to raising rabbits for meat, start with the New Zealand breed.
They have a high feed-to-meat ratio which will save you money in the long run. They will be ready for slaughter at about 10 - 12 weeks of age. Learn how to butcher rabbits here.
Because New Zealand breeds have become so common for meat production, breeding does sell for between $35-$50 USD.
Once you’ve found a place to buy your starting rabbits from, you’ll need to get started building a rabbit hutch. You should also begin thinking of a breeding program for your rabbits, and how you will keep the newborns healthy and safe.
To learn more about how to build a hutch and what it takes to raise rabbits, check out our series on How to Raise Rabbits For Meat.
If you’ve tried raising chickens before, turkeys have many similar needs. However, they have an incredibly high dressed weight of about 75% of body weight, which means more meat and less waste.
Many different breeds of turkeys exist, but they’re mainly broken up into the categories of commercial and heritage breeds. Each of these has multiple subbreeds that have been developed over time for different traits and characteristics.
For example, commercial breeds have been developed to grow extremely large breasts very quickly. This unnatural shape of the commercial turkeys leads to issues with them being able to naturally reproduce.
For your homestead, you want to stick with heritage breeds like the Bourbon Red, Royal Palm, or Black Spanish. These breeds can range between 15 - 25 pounds once fully grown, and have a rich, delicious taste that will make you realize just how tasteless commercially grown turkeys have become.
Just like chickens, turkeys need a coop for shelter from the elements and protection from predators. You can use old chicken equipment if you have any, but make sure you clean and disinfect it first; chickens manure can carry blackhead disease that will infect your turkeys.
To learn more about turkeys and what you need to get started, check out our new series on How to Raise Turkeys.
While pigs are an ideal and traditional animal to raise on homesteads, they shouldn’t be your first homestead animal.
They can be a little more difficult to control than other smaller homestead livestock, and require much more feed. But, if you’re prepared for pigs and have enough space, they provide lots of meat and will eat just about anything you feed them.
Despite needing a lot of food, if you get resourceful you can keep the feed costs for pigs relatively low. Collect any kitchen or food scraps you generate from around the homestead, including stale bread, leftover byproducts from cheese or butter making, potato skins, and anything else you can think of.
Be careful not to feed them meat scraps though, as this can introduce a variety of dangerous diseases to your pigs.
As long as it doesn’t have mold or meat on it, it can be added to pigs’ feed. If you’re not sure of what you should and shouldn’t feed pigs, check out this list from the Australian Government.
If you plan on raising pigs, you will need a strong enclosure to keep them contained.
They’re very smart and strong animals and will find ways to escape their enclosure if they have the opportunity. Keep this in mind when deciding what type of pen to construct.
Lastly, keep in mind raising pigs as one of your homestead meats will take longer from birth to slaughter than every other animal mentioned so far, about 9 - 10 months. To learn more about how to get started raising pigs, take a look at Pennsylvania State’s extension resources
One of the most versatile homestead meats you could raise, goats provide milk, cheese, meat, and free landscaping.
Just like other homestead animals, goats come in a wide range of breeds and subbreeds for different uses, including hair goats, meat goats, and milk goats. They all produce meat and milk, but most homesteaders stick with the dairy goats.
Goats will eat shrubs, weeds, and trees, effectively clearing brush from the land for you as they eat. They’ll even eat poison ivy.
Since goats are herd animals, don’t plan on having just one, they will need some company. You’ll also want to make sure you have good fences to keep them all contained, as goats are notorious for getting loose.
To get an idea of what to expect, a single doe goat will produce about 22 gallons of milk every month for 10 months of the year. If you have bucks to raise for meat, they will produce between 25 - 40 pounds of meat per animal.
For homesteaders that want to find ways to make money off the grid, raising goats provides many opportunities. Many people who raise goats also make cheese, soap, or other products to sell for extra sources of income.
Start Raising Homestead Meats Today
Right now it’s more important than ever to secure your family’s food supply and make yourself as self-sufficient as possible. Learning how to raise your own homestead meats will provide you with a healthy protein supply that you can take pride in knowing where it comes from and how it was raised.
It might seem like an overwhelming task to start raising small livestock, but the reward and peace of mind of food security definitely outweigh the work.
I never considered owning meat animals until recently because of where I live. I have started visiting "local" farms and I realized it's totally doable once I move. I want to learn more so I am prepared with book knowledge to start my journey.
I don't know that much about raising chickens, but I'm very interested!
RHONDA K FLEMING
Homesteading is my dream, but knowing how to get started is an obstacle to overcome. Winning your book would make a big difference and help me get closer to me dream.
Would love to learn more about chickens and rabbits to ad to our meat table.
I am considering several of these animals to add to my homestead and in my quest to become more self reliant. I would probably start with either chickens or rabbits and this recourse would be fabulous to get my hands on.
Cherelle | The Inspired Prairie
We are raising our first meat animals and we went with pigs. I guess I had the go big, or go home mentality haha. I would def like to do some meat chickens also; maybe next year! Thanks for sharing with us on the Homestead Blog Hop!
Thanks for sharing! We're raised almost all of these animals before, except pigs due to the issues you noted and rabbits. Only the turkeys were intentionally raised for meat...the hens are layers and the goats were brush clearers. I would really like to raise my own meat birds one day when we live on some land again! I think chickens really are the best animal for beginners and we know that's really where we are . 🙂
Great article Blake!