Recently we have been having many discussions on what would be the best animals for food production on smaller properties. By that, we mean one acre or less.
The factors that we took in consideration for food production were
- The length of the animal’s gestation period.
- Does the animal product multiple births and how long to maturity.
- Can the animal live off your land?
- Does it compete for resources with you?
- What type of workload does it create for you?
- Can it be butchered easily at home?
- Do you have the resources to preserve the quantity of meat? Remember you are preserving the meat without refrigeration.
- How much land and fence is needed.
After considerable discussion, we decided that the following animals were the best choice for most of us for food production on small lots. The list we ended up with, included chicken, rabbits, guinea fowl, guinea pigs and small goats.
Chickens provide eggs and meat. The eggs take only around 21 days to hatch and they are ready to butcher at 3 months. They can also provide pest control by eating insects. Chickens are easy to care for and don’t take up much space. You can let them free range. The down side to chickens is that everything wants to eat them. They are also quite messy and you frequently have to clean their water troughs since they like to mess in them. One solution to protecting chickens from predators is to build a chicken tractor. A chicken tractor is a movable chicken coop lacking a floor that you move around the yard.
Rabbits would be a good choice for food production. They can be in-bred fairly aggressively, without a lot of issues. A couple of females and one male can provide a small family with enough delicious meat indefinitely. Their manure can be directly placed into your garden without the need to compost it prior. The pelts can be tanned and used for leather.
You can even keep rabbits inside, which makes for easy concealment. They can be trained to use a litter box like a cat. If you want to keep them outdoors, they can share a coop with chickens. Put the chickens on the first floor and the rabbits on the second.
Goats have helped sustain mankind for thousands of years. Goats provide milk, meat, fur and manure. If you have a bit of land, they can feed themselves. Goats need more care than chickens. A good fence is needed to keep track of them. In the old days, they used goat herders. They are prey to coyotes, wild dogs and other predators For small properties, consider pygmy goats. They can provide milk and meat just like their larger cousins.
Guinea fowl; make great watch dogs, they make lots of noise when someone comes around. They also think ticks are the best snack food in the world. However, Guinea fowl do not take well to being caged so they lay their eggs in hidden nests. This makes them vulnerable to predators and it hard for you to find the eggs. But they are good eating.
Guinea pigs are something else you may want to consider. These are very popular in South American countries. Peruvians eat more than 65 million guinea pigs every year. Guinea pigs have more protein and less cholesterol than beef, pork, or chicken They can be kept in indoor cages and are easy to raise, great for operational secrecy. I have never eaten one, but friends from South America say they are very tasty.
Guinea pigs can weigh up to seven pounds. They’re also vegetarians and eat grass. However, in some states like California it is illegal to raise them for food production.
Hope this post helps you decide what animals you want to raise for food production. Let us know what experience you have had with any of these animals.