The Grow System
So, I have a garden, chickens, compost. I'm wondering what I should do next. I feel ready for more, specifically in the realm of animals, but I'm not sure where (or if) to go. Any advice?
I checked in the "Back 40" discussions to see which were the most popular. Next to Birds at 84 discussions is beekeeping at 23. It seems like there might be a lot of beekeepers here that could offer advice.
They will give you honey for food & medicine as well as pollinate your garden and orchard. They aren't as much work as some livestock in that you can leave them for extended periods and usually only have a few days work a few times a year. There is the initial investment for the hives, bees, equipment and PPE but after that it should become fairly inexpensive.
I love bees. I'm considering Mason bees for this spring.
How about worms? You are already composting. Worm castings are a valuable soil additive. If you have extra you can sell it. If you are in an area that is known for fishing, supplying bait can be quite lucrative during fishing season. Would give you added protein for your chickens.
You might think about goats. They are great for milk, cheese, yogurt, meat...
@COWLOVINGIRL Quail, Ducks, Bees or rabbits.
Goats are fun and wonderful but you really need to have good fencing and goats that will come to you if they get out.
I would look at how much work an animal is, what costs are involved and what woudl add the most value to your home. I love the rabbits for compost and meat ( I have meat and specialty rabbits. ) theyr compost os fantastic and makes a great grrenhouse compost soil or plant dividng soil. Quail take little work and I love the little eggs. Thye are not good at hatching eggs out so I use a silkie banty for that.
I love my muscovy for meat and they are fun. Some people do not like them because of ther red marks on theior face but I think it makes them special. Thye also have claws on their webbed feet. But tehr meat is not greasy and tastes more like beef. I have not settled on another duck brred. I have a few kacky and pekins but I would like to find another breed.
Bees are fantastic and I would like to add them.
Love my goats they keep by wooldland down and love poison ivy and multifloral roses - an issue here
I would never have sheep again!
If you can keep smaller livestock, maybe check out the very short (3'-4' tall, but heavy) & very docile highland cattle. You can milk them (very rich at 10% mf, and up to 2 gal/day), eat them (top quality lean meat), & they can survive on poor feed/pasture...& so actually improve it! I read that poison ivy is no problem for them either.
They are heritage, can withstand cold, are generally easy calvers.
We have been looking at these to get our Luing bred to as she has taken more after that side of her heritage. Did you know that they come in various colors? Red (orange-y), dun, white, black & brindle are all options! We would cross our red with black if we can and see what comes out!
As for smaller stuff, bees would be fascinating & you can run a small business selling bits of honey once you build your hives. You could do a few types. I think top bar hives are cool.
I have been looking at indoor observation hives (attached to your inner wall, entrance to the outside). There may not be honey for me in them, but they sound fascinating!
Quail are supposed to be easy. Once they lay, the do so until they die. There is a high turnover of birds, however, as they mature early & don't live long. You could sell the eggs too. They are known as the most sterile egg. Nothing gets through those shells. Since my serama has proven that she will go broody, she will be used at some point to hatch quail. She is certainly small enough not to squish the babies. I am surprised, @Denise Grant that you can use silkies. A friend, who raises both, told me that they might just be a bit too big & might accidentally squish them. She was pretty convinced.
I'm wary of goats since I have heard so many escapee stories. My husband would consider them, but not sheep. So...
Red Wrigglers are easy, but not super interactive. But, you could do these AND something else!
@Denise Grant Those red things are called carunckles...a very cool sounding term. Turkeys have them too.
You could try Indian runners as a different duck. They are a lot of fun to watch and lay colored eggs. You can get all sorts of colors & combine them for more colors. The best will go broody, but of course, then you will have less eggs. If all you want is eggs, hatchery stock is better. If you want the possibility of broodies, a breeder is more likely to have those.
They're not quite as personable as the muscovy, though! I love having ducks too. Sigh.
If you want black to charcoal grey eggs, you can get a good quality Cayuga or an East Indies duck.
There is just no hope for me. It is all just too fascinating!
@LaurieLovesLearning I use the small silkies. I have some that are 6 to 8 inches tall. I have never had a issue.
I need a new incubator to do eggs in and I am a bit too frugal (or is it broke?) to go for the better brand
I could see the term for the red dancing in my head but today is a very bad brain fog day.
Yes, I would like to try Indian runner and the Cayuga sound interesting.
Swans eat slugs
Maybe consider raising goats? I have wanted to have goats for a long time. I love goat milk and cheese. Yum!
Overall my goats have been great. My fencing seems to be pretty good now and electric fencing works well for rotating goats.
My goats tend to get out of their housing more. They stay on the land and have not damaged anything but a small chicken coop. But when the goats do get out they hang out with my ducks or chickens.
I watched the classifieds, and searched nation-wide classifieds & poultry forums for a deal on what I was wanting. My little incubator was the most expensive and my largest (redwood) incubator was least expensive strangely enough.
My silkies are that size. Some are a bit smaller. That is good to know that they could work, although I'm most likely to just use my serama hen or little incubator now.
We found it easy to combine laying hens and meat rabbits. They are housed in a barn that has the rabbits cages hung above the chickens. Lots of compost and a great use of space. Our situation doesn't work to have the rabbits on grass but in the summer the chickens are moved out to the great outdoors. Where we live we get cold long winters.
This link will help you understand the system. combine-rabbits-chickens-homestead-raken-house
@soeasytocraft I live in a cold area too but not as cold or long as yours. Hopefully soon I will move both rabbits and some of the chickens in to a greenhouse to help warm it in the cold months ahead while I am starting seeds. Nice link! Its alwasy nice to see other peoples set ups and ideas
Thank you everyone for the ideas! @soeasytocraft thank you for the link.
@COWLOVINGIRL I would definitely go for bees but would recommend to get a mentor in your area and maybe a good beekeeping course as it is easier this way. My recommendation would be to start with two nucleus colonies (small hives that won't produce honey the first year) as you can learn handling the bees but do not have a full grown colony. 50000 bees around you can be intimidating 😉.
@Denise Grant The greenhouse trick is pretty nice. The first winter we had a small flock of hens we put our movable coop up to the door of our tiny greenhouse so they could spend the day in there. Even in our cold winters it worked well since they could snuggle up in their cozy coop at night. The next summer we got the "barn" built so didn't need to do it again.
@COWLOVINGIRL Jens recommendation to find a mentor or take a beekeeping course if bees are on your list. They are a learning curve for sure! My hubby met at a beekeepers yard every Saturday for training for the year to learn spring to winter care. With aa proper bee suit no need to be afraid of the bees. The bonus for us was the pollination! Trees that didn't produce well before out did themselves with the help of the bees. Fascinating creatures. And honey has many benefits for our health!
Bees are so cool! I definitely want to try them at some point!
Good luck! You are far braver than I! ;-)
All good suggestions. I would have some kind of animal if we didn't have to travel to see family and like the idea of having bees.