One of the most common questions I get from emails or in conversations with people is, "What is the first animal I should buy for my farm"
"But I don't want any rabbits right now, all I want are some eggs" is the response most of the time.
"Then buy chickens"
I am not saying I am right, but if you ask me I will say rabbits. Everyone's wants and needs are different. To say one wrench can fix your car is an understatement but bringing the whole tool box full of different size wrenches might just get the job done.
I look at a homestead completely different from a farm. A farm is to make a profit and a homestead is to make a life. Both can co-exist on the same piece of land if managed right.
Like I said, I am not saying I am right and everyone else is wrong because there are plenty of flaws in my design and just as many variables that can sink you just like I sunk last summer. What sometimes works for me may never work for you but I thought I would do a blog post and answer the question here so the next time the question is asked I can give the website.
Here is a list on how I started my farm/homestead two years ago. It worked and was really taking off for a while. My stupidity was what caused it fail, not the system. This system requires little overhead on feed if your gardens turn out.
1. Rabbits - Should be the first animal to start off with. They reproduce quickly and can be sold for quick profit. They also grow quickly and can be harvested for food. While the rabbit business is building you can use the poo to improve your soil for the new gardens you need to be planting. Rabbit poo can directly be placed into the soil or around plants because it is not as hot as other animal poo. The poo can also be food for the next animal to get, worms.
2. Worms -Second on the list to get because this is where the dirt will be made to use for your started plants. Worm castings are the best dirt money can buy. Being full of nutrition, new seedling will have a better chance of survival. They are low maintenance and being fed rabbit poo makes them a no cost composting bin, plus you can sell the extra worm castings for some extra cash. When the population of your worms gets to large, you can start feeding them to the next animal to get, chickens.
3. Chickens - A homestead is not complete without a yard full of chickens. Now you have two sources of meat, Rabbits and Chickens plus fresh eggs. A free rang chicken is low maintenance and can be feed scraps from the kitchen and garden. If you pen up the layers you need to add worms and crickets for protein. Money to be made here is from fresh eggs, hatching eggs, chicks, pullets and grown layers.
If your garden is producing then not much will have to be bought to feed them. The chicks will require a high protein feed so there is some overhead there unless you let the momma hens raise them. The poo can be added with the rabbit poo and egg shells to be composted for next years gardens.
4. Crickets - Can be added for extra food for the chickens and in a crunch can be eaten. They are very low maintenance and reproduce by the hundreds. If you have a pet store close buy the crickets can be sold to them to feed their lizards.
5. Goats - Another source of meat and poo plus the bonus of fresh milk. As long as you have some pasture you won't have to feed them very often. I still feed mine scraps from the gardens and grain once a day. Without a pasture they will require much more grain and hay. Money to be made on the goats are the kids, soaps and cheese. Where I live you cannot sell the milk for human consumption but you can sell it for soap making.
6. Pigs - One more source for meat. You can free range the pigs once they are big enough and feed them the byproduct of the cheese making for the protein. If you feed them gain like in my case, that is stickily overhead because I do not plan to breed pigs to sell. They are there just for meat, but you could have a few head and sell the piglets as feeders to offset your feed costs.
7. Fish - Another source of food for the family and once big enough could be sold as a "catch your own" by the pound and you can add a charge for cleaning the fish. I do not have fish yet but plan to in the near future.
Streams of income -
1. Rabbits - Sold for meat or pets.
2. Garden - Sell extra produce raw, canned or pickled and even a "pick your own" or a CSA.
3. Worms - Sold by the pound and the castings sold the same way.
4. Crickets - Sold to pet stores or Lizard owners.
5. Chickens - Sold as meat, fresh eggs, hatching eggs, chicks, pullets and laying hens.
6. Goats - Sell the kids, withers for meat, home made soaps and milk (but not for human consumption).
7. Pigs - Sell piglets as feeder pigs.
8. Fish - Sold by the live pound.
Many other sources can be added like fruit trees, mushrooms or homemade wood works and crafts.
Here is the flaws.
Getting too big too quick, not saving the profit, a very bad garden year and you are stuck with a huge feed bill, household or family emergencies.
All of these hit me last summer and I was not prepared for any one of them. That right there is what we call living and learning.
Like I said in the beginning, this is what I did, do and am doing. I am sure there are several out there shaking their heads but It worked for me and now with a little more knowledge it will work even better this time around (if I can quit dragging home useless animals).
I hoped this helped at least someone.