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What Animal Next?

 
Matt McSpadden
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Location: Eddington, Maine
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This didn't seem to fit in any specific animal category, so I'm putting it here.

Question: If chickens are the "gateway drug" for homesteading with animals, what is the next animal you would suggest someone get?

Details: I just had to get rid of my flock of 30 egg laying chickens for the really small possibility that a couple of my kids were reacting to them. I am interested in getting another type of animal to raise for food. Here are some of the restrictions I'm working with.

   No birds for the time being, until I can prove it wasn't the chickens.
   I am just starting to recover from over a decade of struggling with depression/anxiety/fatigue. I'm doing much better, but still growing my strength and confidence, so being successful would be important for myself as well as to prove to others that I can do this.
   My family had chickens when I was a kid, we had a dog and a few cats, and I was around horses for a couple summers. That is the extent of my animal experience.
   I work a full time job and therefor have limited time each day.
   I have a total of 6 acres, but only about an acre and a half is a cleared field. I wouldn't even call it a pasture. Some grass and clover, but a lot of wild flowers, wild strawberries, and moss.
   My wife doesn't want them close to the house, so realistically its closer to 3/4 to an acre to be used for animals
   I would like to clear more land, but have not had the time/animals/machinery to do so yet
   I have nearly no infrastructure. A rusted roll of some kind of fencing in the woods, an old shed, maybe 10x10 and full of junk on the edge of the field.
   And I doubt I could put more than $1500 into the animals and infrastructure, and would prefer as little as possible to get started... then build up over time.
   USDA Zone 5a in Maine.
   We eat a lot of pork and beef, but I am open to other less common options.

Thanks in advance.
 
S Bengi
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They could have reacting to rag weed, and now that it is almost winter it will end. It will be somewhat hard to narrow it down to just chicken, when in winter you would have actually remove so many plants and critters just from it being cold/frozen.

These are the critters that I would recommend
dog
cat
1) chicken
2) duck
3) rabbit
4) pet goat
5) meat sheep
6) dwarf cow
7) dairy/meat goat
 
Matt McSpadden
Posts: 125
Location: Eddington, Maine
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homeschooling kids trees chicken woodworking
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Hi S Bengi,
Thank you for the reply. I was looking for animals for food... so I'm not quite sure I'm adventurous (or hungry) enough to consider a dog or cat :)   <---- Just in case anyone was wondering, this was a joke

Rabbits I hadn't thought of.

Do you think that is enough room for a dwarf cow? I read that they prefer to have company, so in a perfect world it would need to support 2?
 
Trace Oswald
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Matt McSpadden wrote:Hi S Bengi,
Thank you for the reply. I was looking for animals for food... so I'm not quite sure I'm adventurous (or hungry) enough to consider a dog or cat :)

Rabbits I hadn't thought of.

Do you think that is enough room for a dwarf cow? I read that they prefer to have company, so in a perfect world it would need to support 2?



I would never have just one of any livestock animal.  All seem to suffer without companionship.

Not trying to dissuade you in any way, but any animal other than chickens is a pretty substantial jump upward in terms of time, labor, money, and commitment.  
 
Matt McSpadden
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Location: Eddington, Maine
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homeschooling kids trees chicken woodworking
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Not trying to dissuade you in any way, but any animal other than chickens is a pretty substantial jump upward in terms of time, labor, money, and commitment.



Absolutely correct. Which is one reason I am starting here. I watch a lot of youtube and I read a lot of articles and forums. I have some idea of what I am getting in to, but I'm not sure which animal might be the best next choice. Each animal has idiosyncrasies that might make them better or worse for my situation. I'm hoping you all can make some suggestions.

For instance, we eat a lot of pork, but I hear that pigs are escape artists if not fenced exactly right. I don't mind putting in fencing, but if the pig gets out, my wife is not going to put it back in. Which means either it roams for the day or I have to leave work to come take care of it. We have a lot of brush that I would love to get cleared, but goats are also escape artists. My thought went to sheep... but we don't spin, and even with hair sheep, we don't really eat mutton or lamb either. I thought about a couple small cows, but I'm not sure we have the space... and I don't have any way to transport them to a butcher.

So I go round and round, and hoped someone with experience could give some thoughts. I like your comment about multiple animals... that was always my plan to get at least a couple, maybe 4+ depending on the animal.
 
Trace Oswald
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Mind if I ask what problems the children may have been having with the chickens?
 
Matt McSpadden
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It was my 2yo twins. Gassy, weakened immune system, and not sleeping well at night. Since their aunt and grandmother have shown slight allergies to birds (parakeet, lovebird, etc) indoors, my wife assumed that the small amount of manure and feathers that would end up in the house was enough to trigger the twins. I do believe that an intolerance or allergy that is slight, can wear down the immune system and also mess with the gastric system. I also believe she is completely wrong about what they are reacting to... but to keep the peace, I agreed to get rid of them for now.
 
Trace Oswald
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I'm the last person to second guess a mother about her children, but it seems really unlikely to me.  What are her feelings about just having say 6 laying birds?  Maybe she would be willing to try that and see how your little ones react.
 
C Mouse
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Rabbits. They're quiet, easily contained, won't take a lot of space away from other animals in the future, easy to give enrichment to and see results. They'll like eating a lot of your cut weeds and will eat grass hay if you make some.
 
Matt McSpadden
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@Trace - I also think it is unlikely. Unfortunately she believes they need to be completely gone for 6months or a year to get out of their system. So simply having fewer isn't really an option right now. After the winter, the twins will be older and stronger, and we'll see where we are at.

@Mouse - How do you raise rabbits? I know Daniel Salatin uses cages and pasture. I've seen some people swear by cages only, and other swear that pasture all the time is the way to go.
 
Remelle Burton
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With a 6 acre setup, I'd buy some electric fencing and 2 Idaho Pasture Pigs or kunekunes. These don't root up your soil too badly.  Have them clear the woods for you.  Add 2 goats, a milker and a meat one, maybe.  They will eat the taller brush in the woods that the pigs cannot.  Then you can eat the pigs and meat goat and keep milking the milk goat.  I also am a doubter about the chickens/eggs bothering the kids, but those things are touchy in families.  You've got this!  
 
C Mouse
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Matt McSpadden wrote:@Trace - I also think it is unlikely. Unfortunately she believes they need to be completely gone for 6months or a year to get out of their system. So simply having fewer isn't really an option right now. After the winter, the twins will be older and stronger, and we'll see where we are at.

@Mouse - How do you raise rabbits? I know Daniel Salatin uses cages and pasture. I've seen some people swear by cages only, and other swear that pasture all the time is the way to go.



This is REAAAAAAALLY a personal preference question. In my experience every step you take towards enrichment, natural living, etc. is one that's going to be moving away from efficiency.

Personally, I like to think I've struck a nice balance. I have;
Very large wire cages with solid floors and hay bedding
Individual cages except for growing litters, not colony living
Occasional tractoring, but not full time (like a few hours a week as a treat)
Primarily hay based diet supplemented with fresh plant matter and pellets (especially for litters)
Toys toys toys and enrichment whenever possible. This looks like TP tubes (sometimes filled with snacks), brown packing paper tied in knots, cardboard boxes to hide in, bought toys, rabbit safe tree branches, etc.
A medium-low breeding cycle. Each doe gets bred maybe 2-4 times a year as needed.
 
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