Thursday, December 29, 2011

But I Don't Want Rabbits

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"

My answer is and always has been "Rabbits"

"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.                 


  1. Good advice from what I can see, though I've never had any of them but rabbits.

  2. Very good post! You just reminded me of a few more things that I need to look in to. Another idea for food/profit is honeybees- fresh honey (not the pasteurized sugary stuff at the store) and beeswax for other projects. This year we are adding worms and rabbits. Maybe next year bees and other stuff.

  3. Gorges - That is a start my friend.

    Oh Coley - I knew I was forgetting something. Yes bees for honey and candle making. Crap and they were on my list to.
    Thank for reminding me.

  4. The only part I'm shaking my head about is where you said, 'Crickets - Can be added for extra food for the chickens and in a crunch can be eaten. Ewwwww...!

    We only have the garden and chickens so far. I could see us adding crickets to supplement food for the chickens ...but ONLY for the chickens! I could see us doing worms to supplement the compost for the garden. But as long as we are both working 10 hours a day away from home, I don't think goats, rabbits or pigs are an option. Not that caring for them is that time consuming, but butchering and processing takes time and we just don't have any to spare with our schedules right now.

  5. We were just talking about adding rabbits to our homestead and doing research.

    Thanks for the wonderful advice. Everything helps. - Genevieve

  6. What a great post! I think you give some sound advice here. Rabbits are SO easy to take care of and the very first thing we started with too.
    This year our goal is for chickens(which are right around the corner) and goats. I've got a lot to learn about caring for the goats but it will be worth it in no time.
    Bees will come eventually but we have so much to do right now it's a little farther down the list.
    I'm glad you mentioned worms on the list... Except now I need to add it to mine! LOL

  7. MDR - this is sound advice and i have seen your list on other sites and blogs and whatnot and they say the same thing!

    right now we are focusing on our garden as we have local sources for our meat, dairy, eggs and manure. but one thing that we do is whenever we find an earthworm (we have tons) we move them to our compost heap - they are multiplying like mad out there!

    the next thing that we want to try is bees - i have always wanted bees!

    thanks for an informative and well-written post!

    your friend,

  8. Why would i go to all the trouble of getting all of this when i can just go to the store and buy everything like we do now? poo, man i am not touching that, its gross.

    just kidding. you know someone stupid will say this. great post sir.

  9. HB - Have you read the book "One Second After" yet? If not then I encourage you to read it and then get back with me on if you would rather eat crickets than what they did.
    And like I said, this system cannot work for some because of other obligations. If I did not have help here at the Mini Farm then my system would be different, I would have more automatic feeders and waters where I only had to feed every three days or so.
    I agree the processing takes it's toll. I have it set up at the local processing plant to just kill and quarter. He charges a very good rate for that and it keeps me from having to buy all the expensive equipment. Once the parts are frozen then I can take some out a little at a time and grind into sausage or cure and smoke. As far as the chickens and rabbits I do all that myself.

    G - If the set up is right, not saying mine is, the the poo can collect into buckets so all you have to do is switch out the buckets. Make sure there are some drain holes in the bottom of the buckets because you do not want the pee to saturate the poo to bad.
    Let me know if you have any questions on the rabbits.

    Sci - The one thing I forgot to mention about the worms is the casting tea. The tea makes for a great organic fertilizer that can be put into a spry bottle and sprayed on the plants.
    Good luck on the bees. Mine flew the coop so to speak.

    Kymber - Your climate up there would throw my through a loop. You might want to add in some dirt warmers to your worms. Even here in Texas I found they can freeze and when they thaw out is is not a pretty sight.

    Rob - Kidding or not you make a great point. Why do all this work when I can just let someone else do it for me? I read 72 blogs a day and half of them are survival blogs and most of the others are homesteading blogs. Very few do both. I feel survival is homesteading and homesteading is survival. You cannot have one without the other. Once my year or so worth of stored food runs out then what? If we do not know how to live like our ancestors did and replace our food supply then we are storing food to prolong the inevitable. No amount of food put in storage will last forever, it has to replaced.

    Thank y'all for all your comments on this matter.

  10. MDR, In your comment above you make a great point and one that very few people make the connection of. Homesteading is a sustainable form of survivalism and very few survivalists will homestead at the same time very few homesteaders want to be labeled as a simple homesteader. It wasn't that long ago in this country when everyone (including city dwellers) had gardens and knew how to process foods for long term storage.

    That's what my family and I are working toward, the garden, the goats, the chickens all for food production over long term. We're adding rabbits in the future as well.

    Good post sir!!

  11. Errr... in my second sentence I made a mistake... I should have said "Homesteading is a sustainable form of survivalism and very few survivalist will homestead while at the same time few homesteaders want to be labeled as survivalists."

  12. I agree Desert Rat, Take my neighbors down the road for instance. They do everything I do but to call them a prepper or a survivalist would be insulting them. The way they put it they are "Homesteaders just living". Heck, they are better prepared than I am but don't want to admit it.
    Good luck on the rabbits.

  13. Good List. This year I am adding plants that draw certain kinds of insects to help. It is a learning curve as the farm is where we are slowly implimenting our ideas.


  14. I sure am learning a lot following along with you as you go!

    I really like this post, my friend! Makes good sense to me!

  15. HW - I am sure you have found out that there is know one right way to do any of it. Through experimentation is the only way I can learn. A person can tell me how to do something word for word and I will change it so I can call it mine. Only after failure will I try it their way. Take my powdered eggs for instance.
    Thank you for the comment.

    HJ - If you don't get anything else from MDR, please take away how I screwed it up and don't repeat.
    That's funny right there.
    Thanks following along.

  16. I'm making notes...thank you, my friend.

  17. I was talking with a guy the other day who's family raised rabbits when he was a boy. He says rabbits eat their first poo. Is this correct? - G

  18. Well redneck. Here is something for you to look into. I use to have goats. I use to milk them. Of course they had babies or I wouldn't have been milking. The babies if they are bucks (or weathers) make a good source of meat for sale "on the hoof". If you want to sell milk sell it as "pet milk". What people do with it after they get it is something you can't control and they already know the drill.

  19. G - I am sorry, I don't understand.

    sista - I agree with the pet milk. As long as you say it is not for human consumption the law is okay with it here.
    Good to see you back.

  20. Thanks. It's good to be back and feels like its been a long road.

  21. sista - For some reason I cannot leave comments on your blog, maybe I am not doing something right I don't know.

  22. Friend Crickets are tasty.

    I am different as I don't recommend rabbits for the first. Butchering them seems to be emotionally trying on many people (blame thumper?) But the advice is sound.

  23. @ MDR - I sent a link on FB. They do! Who would have thought it. Harriet says when you think they are bent over cleaning they are actually munching down. - Genevieve

  24. Phelan - I understand about that. We did not butcher them at first not because we did not want too it was because we bred them and sold their babies. It was a quick start to quick revenue for the new homestead. Later on after some got to old to breed is when they became stew.

    G - Well I don't like them anymore if they do that. I never knew it. Learn something every day.

  25. Your right! My do-hicky seems to have disappeared. I will try to fix that.

  26. Fixed it! I think. Now gotta go make some black eyed peas and ham. Happy New Year to you and yours. Say Hi to blue eyed baby. Got mine at home too and it is nice to have them all home.

  27. Sista - I will try it out thanks.
    Yes it is nice her being home. We were just outside building some stuff and she got a kick out of it, so did I.
    I hope you are having a great time as well.

  28. No cows? I'm surprised no one on all these comments has mentioned cows. I realize they need alot more space than the animals you recommend, but if you eat much beef, having a couple of cows can cut the grocery bill significantly and it's far more healthy than the hormone-injected, grain-filled meat you can buy.

  29. Tony - You are right. We feed up one cow a year for the beef but not here on the Mini Farm because of the room.
    The reason I did not mention cows is because of the initial cost that comes with one and the feed it takes to feed out if you do not have the pasture.
    What this was about was to get started on a new small homestead with a low start up cost and to start turning money as quick as possible and rabbits are one of the quickest and cheapest ways to get started.
    If a person had the money to buy a ranch so to speak, then they would not need to worry about a quick way to start gaining small funds like this post was designed for.
    For the people that have the money and the space then yes, a feeder cow and maybe some bottle calves would be one way to go for a source of meat. If you get a bred dairy heifer then you can have fresh milk as well and feed up the calf.
    Thanks for bringing it up.