My friend always told her husband that she would rather spend money on having a child than on a pet. Granted, children cost more, but if you’re going to spend money on a small creature that will bring you delight and loyalty, wouldn’t you rather have the creature grow up to take care of you in old age? This is how she saw things anyway. That got me thinking, the animals on mine and many other homesteads are pets (mine are to me anyway), and if you look after them well, they will also look after you.
Chickens are pets which provide eggs and often meat. Those two gifts are obvious. What is not as obvious to some is that chickens also give gifts in the form of their feces. Chicken poo is full of nutrients and can help fertilize the ground they walk on. Unfortunately, most people with chickens have their coops in one area, unmoving. This makes the land beneath the chicken coop somewhat barren as other means cannot help the decomposition cycle along. No sunlight or plant life can get to the area and it is also trampled by the chickens, making the soil compact. How to fix this is to move the chicken coop around the yard in order to get the fertilizer more spread out. This allows for less compacted earth and also for plants being eaten more evenly spaced. Chickens provide a lot for edible gardens, backyards, and for farms.
Cows can also provide the obvious: milk. Milk is getting more and more expensive. Many cows have had growth hormones which allow the cow to produce more milk. Some people believe these growth hormones are transferred to the milk and may be harmful to humans. Many such people go to organic farms to buy milk (even more expensive than the grocery store) so that the milk is not homogenized or pasteurized and does not contain any growth hormones. Granted, the typical backyard gardener cannot have a cow, but a farmer or acreage owner can. In “Ten Acres is Enough” the author describes how he bought and raised a cow. He benefited greatly from the heifer and his wife absolutely loved having fresh milk for everything. With a cow, grains or grass can be converted to milk, butter, and cheese and then finally fertilizer.
Goats provide similar produce as a cow, but might be able to live in large backyards (if the city code allows it). Goats eat nearly anything. They can live in a smaller building than a cow and make a little less noise. However, if the goat gets out of its pen, it can destroy your garden/backyard. So, buyers beware.
Speaking about rabbits slightly makes me sad. There are only two reasons to keep rabbits as “productive pets” and that would be to harvest their skin or their meat. I knew a family who hadn’t much money and that’s what they ate as meat. Sad, but the Lithuanian restaurant downtown sells Hasenpfeffer for $20.00 a plate, so rabbit meat is worth some money. The fur of a rabbit can also be useful. When I was younger, I had a beautiful fur coat with patches of all different colors. It was a rabbit coat and I loved it. Unfortunately, I was allergic to the thing and my eyes would puff up and my asthma would kick in every time I donned the furry apparel. Rabbit pellets are also useful for fertilization.
When looking after our homestead livestock perhaps there are ways we can look after them more naturally. In my own life I have been using less and less chemicals, processed food and more herbal and other natural alternatives – why shouldn’t we do the same for our animals? If it is better for us then it is pretty likely to be better for them as well.
So thinking along those lines I found a new ebook called The Natural Homestead it is by Jill Winger and is a collection of great tips, suggestions, and discussions of just about everything you’d need to know to try your hand at homesteading, even if (or especially if) it’s on a small scale. And full of practical advice and 40+ natural alternatives for taking good care of your animals and homestead in a more natural way. It is normally priced at $24.99 on it’s own but for one week in September it will be included in a bundle as one of the 60 + resources that you can get for $29.97. I didn’t think you could do better than that 🙂 but I have found a site that will give you another bonus product (your choice from their catalogue) on top of the bundle itself here : healthy living bundle so if you are interested in using more natural products around your animals then now is probably a good time to take a look through one of the links above (i.e. the natural homestead book on its own or as part of the bundle). The first is my ejunkie one so if you purchase the book individually through that I will receive a commission (thanks for your support).