Episode-765- Useful Small Animals for the Homestead

Okay there is a lot of gloom and doom out there and to be honest some of the crap is really hitting the fan right now.  It will be necessary for me to delve into that world more and more in the coming months/years but I still want to keep some positive and fun stuff coming as well.

Hence today we are going to focus on homesteading and animals that can feed us, protect our property or provide us with other benefits.  The list we will cover today includes some “traditional small livestock”, some wild game and some other stuff people don’t usually think of.

So what happened to chickens?  They get a token mention but as everyone thinks of chickens first we are focusing elsewhere today.

Join me today as we discuss…

  • What makes an animal useful for our homestead
    • Produces food
    • Produces functional by products
    • Produces useful waste
    • Performs a useful function
    • Provides entertainment
    • Supports other systems
  • Some useful and easy to care for livestock
    • Dogs
    • Rabbits
    • Small Swine
    • Squirrels, Raccoons and other small wildlife
    • Bees (mason and conventional)
    • Ducks
    • Fish – tilapia, catfish, trout, crayfish, frogs, etc.
    • Worms and insects
    • Goats and sheep
    • Pigeons and Quail

Additional Resources for Today’s Show

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42 Responses to Episode-765- Useful Small Animals for the Homestead

  1. I always set my coil traps for racoon in the water of the creek bed and never had trouble with any cats. If you cut a small red cedar tree (about 3′ to 4′ tall) use tie wire from your trap chain and fasten it to the cedar tree, and just lay the cedar tree in the creek bed away from the trap there will be very few pullouts (sometimes a problems with racoons). The racoon will always be within 10′ of where the trap was set and be busy demolishing the little cedar tree.

    • Modern Survival

      @Gump you know that is a GREAT POINT, I love water sets. I used drowning sets a lot too. On my land though I have no surface water so I am going to have to stick to box traps. One thing I should do though is build one and show folks how to do it.

  2. Steph in Nova Scotia

    You can spin dog fur and knit it into “cheingora”. Similar to angora. My grandmother made some warm and fuzzy sweaters from their collies. They also are somewhat water resistant. I’m in the process of collecting the fur off 2 Malamutes to learn how to carry on this family tradition.

    • @Steph: I had a friend who’s German wife used the undercoat from huskies to spin into wool. They moved away long ago — but I would have loved to have a sweater!

    • Dog hair is also useful as stuffing for quilts. I have a quilt from my great-grandmother that used collie hair and it is very warm.

  3. I agree a dog is a great addition to the homestead for protection and companion. However, how much does a large dog eat? What do you plan on feeding the dog in a long-time shtf scenario where your scrambling to gather all the food you need to keep you and your family alive? The dog won’t survive for long on a few foodscraps…..

    • Steph in Nova Scotia

      Funny.. that’s what they used to eat before the invention of kibble.

      • Depends of course on how many food your willing to throw to the dog, which in a shtf scenario is as less as possible i guess…

        • Dogs will eat things and body parts human wont
          Boiled and ground bones,Lungs,you can guess
          from there.Also an extra rabbit a week is a
          small investment for what a dog offers. And a
          few scraps will keep a cat around doing its job
          on mice etc.

      • If you are down to the point that you can not come up with enough extra to feed a dog then you have far greater problems than feeding the dog. How do you plan to feed your entire family if the small amount a dog eats is the make or break point for your family? If that is where you are at then you have not prepped properly and you might as well hit the silk.

      • And it depends upon the dog. My livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) weigh 100-150+ pounds and they eat less than my folks Chihuahua and little terrier (those two little 12-pound house rats are funnels!). And there are days when the LGDs do a self-fasting, literally not eating anything. The house rats, on the other hand, act like they’ve been starved to death if they are fed a couple hours later than their normal feeding time.

    • Steph in Nova Scotia

      Guess I’m different. I’d rather be hungry than my dogs. But I’d go find them some squirrels or rabbits or something should it ever come to that. I can eat beans and rice and survive. The dogs – not so much. Then again I use my dogs for more than the average person. They are used for transportation (sledding/scootering/carting), hauling (moving logs), fur for wool, entertainment and they keep the bed warm too.

      • @ Steph in Nova Scotia I have to agree with you. My dog now gets chicken scraps from my table as well as rabbit & squirrel from friends who have extra. He gets this meat 2-3 times per week along with a little rice & snacks of carrots & ginger snap peas. These go a long way to saving me money on dog food & if there is a long term crash he is already acclimated to the foods.

  4. Here’s an interesting benefit to keeping a goat to guard the chickens!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dwx4WM_fhf4

  5. There’s a Peruvian family that lives down the street who raise and cook Guinea Pigs. I had dish with rice, sweet potato and the guinea and it was punch in the face good. I think I’ll ask them about buying a few and see if I could raise them myself.

    • Modern Survival

      @Chris Fox, I would love to know more. Guineas seem like an easy thing to breed and eat but they don’t seem like they have much meat. It makes me wonder are there “meat breeds” that get a bit larger or what. I was just at Petco looking at them the other day and thinking, “people breed them for food, I bet they taste good but aren’t much bigger than a rat, probably half the meat of a squirrel”.

    • @ Chris Fox I would like to know more about it as well. If you get more information & a recipe please post it so I can get a copy.

  6. I used to have a small “herd” of French Angora rabbits. Their fleece, which is very easy to harvest (and painless to them) is about 7x warmer than wool. Okay so everyone can’t or won’t learn to spin and knit — you and your kids can felt it for boot liners or slippers, AND it is considered a premium fiber by spinners, so it has some cash value if handled correctly. On the downside, they ate my basement. Free range house rabbits, not such a hot idea : ) Sweet animals though. For beginners I’d strongly suggest French vs. German angoras. They are in my view, the best entry level livestock. Oh, and rabbit poo — wonderful stuff for the garden.

  7. I love having chickens! There is nothing like sending the kids out to go collect breakfast. They eat much of the table scraps so my garbage doesn’t fill up as fast. Hens can be loud though, so if you needed to be stealth about your animals in order to keep a meat supply around, I wonder if rabbits wouldn’t be a quieter way to go. Just my 2 bits. 🙂

  8. Jack there is a newer style coon trap called the dog proof, it is a great trap. An animal has to grab the trigger and pull to get caught which is something a dog can not do. A cat can do it but if you use a sweet smelling bait. Here is a link so you can see what it looks like.
    http://www.fntpost.com/Products/Dog+Proof+Coon+Traps/Duke+DP+Coon+Trap

  9. Goats like to eat lots of brush, so don’t clear out too much or they will go hungry. Joel Salatin said the biggest problem they had with goats was they eat themselves out of habitat as the brush converts to grass. They do train well to an electric fence but a guard dog would be advised. Parasites are largely mitigated if rotated and pick the right breed (maybe a Kiko or LaMancha).

    As a second thought, if you want to clean up brush, you may want to rent some goats for cleanup and save your time and effort.

    • An added benefit to goats is fire prevention. I use them to keep the grass trimmed and brush cleared from around structures. They do a far better job than I could do mowing, saving me time and fuel.

  10. Great episode Jack, interesting points on a lot of familiar livestock.
    Totally agree with you on worms: We have a bathtub worm farm but our annual garden beds seem to be better worm farms than our worm farm. I probably wouldn’t do another one unless I was in a tight urban space or I was feeding the worms to chickens/fish/etc.

  11. Loved your show about annals. One problem with rabbits is that they have no fat. Which you know we need. But if I only eat one a week it could work.

    • Modern Survival

      @Brett, that is bullshit I am bored with this fricken myth. It is a MYTH, plain and simple. It is based on starving people, eating starving rabbits in the mountains, it has NOTHING to do with livestock rabbits.

    • How did I know this would come up again. To differ from Jack, this isn’t BS. BS has a use. This myth doesn’t. If you end up in a situation where this myth takes on the tinge of truth it has, you are screwed no matter what you do.

      I’m not a blogger, but I couldn’t find a single decent page on the topic so here you go:
      http://inbox485.blogspot.com/2011/10/rabbit-starvation-is-myth.html

  12. Our pet rescue bunnies are worth their weight in gold for the entertainment and serenity they offer. I also use their manure for direct additions to the garden and for making compost tea, as well as the other hay remnants from their litter box for compost and mulch. Couldn’t eat the lil fellers or their cousins, just too adorable for us. But I understand their total place in the scheme of things.

  13. Don’t let pot belly pigs get too big. We butcher one that had a lame foot and it was 140#+. I would say this was a lard pig and not a meat pig at this weight. It had 4-6 inches of fat that I could have used for oil or soap. So harvest them before they get too big.

  14. Buddy of mine is highly allergic to dogs. His solution for a watchdog? A Goose! I kid you not. That bird start honking long before a car coming down his dirt road comes within earshot. By the time the car is there, the goose is going bananas and will NOT let you out of the vehicle unmolested until my buddy comes and shoos him off.

  15. Don’t overestimate the value or ease of raising rabbits. We raised hundreds over the years, mostly Californians and New Zealands, but quit and started in with chickens instead. Rabbit meat is good, but the yield per fryer is low. Most of the meat is in the loins and rear legs – the rest of the carcass of a small rabbit is difficult to eat because it’s so small. Although skinning rabbits is easier than plucking chickens, we had trouble keeping fur off the meat at butchering.
    Rabbit tractors are a good theory, but difficult in execution. You have to move the tractor every day so the rabbits don’t get sick from being on the same ground too long. Plus, it seems like no matter what you do, they WILL find a way out of the tractor. And keeping them outside invites predators of every variety. Rabbits seem to have the words EASY PREY tattooed on their foreheads.
    In the end, we found rabbits too high maintenance and too fiddly. We’ve also raised cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, and chickens. For our purposes, the chickens and sheep are keepers, and we’ve discontinued the other species.
    On the plus side for rabbits, as you said, the manure is the best there is, they are quiet, and if caged, need minimal space. And they do reproduce profusely…

  16. Great topic of discussion! I wish I lived in a more rural area where I could actually raise some animals / insects for consumption. Anyway, I really enjoyed the show and hope to hear more on the subject.

  17. I have been trying to transition my purebred East German Shepherd to the aptly named Bones and Raw Food Diet (Barf Diet) for the same reasons we are doing Paleo. Unfortunately, the remains and offal of homestead chickens did not sit well with her and the results were most unpleasant. What do you recommend feeding dogs and how do you recommend I implement the diet? Should I be concerned about the raw bones and fragments of small animals getting lodged in or damaging the digestive tract? I am convinced that commercial dog food (including grains and 4D carcases) is the cause of many woes and is responsible for the increase in health problems in pets. If humans should not eat so many grains and processed foods, then certainly neither shall pets. What are the best long-term storage foods for dogs? I think that, as an emergency measure, at least a couple months of common, commercial dog food, as bad as it is, but what are better options beyond that? I think that this kibble would go stale soon beyond its shelf life and require expensive treatment and packaging.

    I also need to figure out how to feed my dog in a long-term SHTF situation. I purchased a 950 fps .22 cal pellet gun and lead-free pellets to silently dispatch the numerous chipmunks and squirrels that inhabit my property. Would this be good fodder for my canine companion on a regular basis? This would simultaneously reduce the pest population, feed my dog and improve my marksmanship skills.

    I credit your podcast on dogs over two years ago for my wife and my decision to acquire our excellent dog. Since neither of us had a dog since we were children, we took your advice and boned up (pardon the pun) on training, through advanced and e-collar and that made all the difference! (Everyone, please, please train your dog! It is so worth it! Don’t be afraid of discipline!) Also, do your homework and avoid designer dogs. (Unless you know what you are getting into.) I saw a shocking documentary on the extreme methods used to breed dogs to a “standard”; exaggerating features at the cost of the poor pooch’s health. Function over form!

    I have lots of GSD fur- I am trying to get my mother to spin & knit it into a sweater. RootSimple even discussed milking dogs and making cheese! http://www.rootsimple.com/2007/04/dog-cheese.html

    • Hi Agorculture. While I don’t think I am qualified to answer any of your very good questions I’d like to say that we are on the same page as you (we realised that Paleo was sensible for our dog before we realised that it was sensible for us, actually) and we have gotten a lot out of the books written by Pat Coleby on pet and livestock care/nutrition.
      If you look her up on Amazon or similar you will be able to find her book on pet care. The books are in a lot of libraries in Australia, but not sure about your area. Basically the end result of reading several of her books is a specific mineral regime for our dog, most of which is bought very inexpensively at the farm supply shop and stores very well. A lot of it infinitely.
      While our animal’s diets may not be perfect in a SHTF, this is our animal version of storing a mega multi vitamin alongside the less-than-perfect food preps. Not that we are into taking multivitamins 😉

    • Steph in Nova Scotia

      Please look into whats called the “whole prey” diet. It’s very similar to BARF (minus veggies). Switching from kibble to meat can be tricky. If you feed both at the same time bad things happen. If you are on facebook, there is an excellent group called “Raw Feeding (RF)”. They have a document on how best to switch your dogs (and cats etc) and how to find inexpensive sources of meat.

      The basics for switching:
      – cold turkey – give your kibble to a shelter
      – start with one meat source. You want something with a decent amount of digestible bone which keeps the stool more solid during the adjustment period. Most people choose bone-in breast/half chickens.
      – add offal GRADUALLY.

      There is way more to it. In my option it is worth the extra effort. My dogs are amazingly healthy.

      Any wild food, freeze for a few weeks to be sure any parasites are dead.

      Most bones as long as they are fed RAW are actually somewhat soft – especially in something that size. I’d be sure to feed the whole small critter at once. A dog that size needs a decent size chunk of meat in one sitting. It is smaller bits that a dog might try to swallow whole and then cause problems. Chicken drumsticks are bad for a dog that big for instance.

    • Take a look at the post I put up under Steph in Nova Scotia post. I do cook the meat before I give it to my dog and take it off the bone for him. I do not give him the bones. I have a 13 y/o Min Pin that I have fed like this for 4 years and the vet says that he is healthier now than he was before he started on this diet.

  18. How about adding a few bat houses and getting insect control and guano? Seems to me it would be a great roi on the initial investment.

  19. Jack, you mentioned purple martins in the show, but not in the context of inviting them onto your property. Like the bats that bartsdad mentioned, they are excellent for pest control. And definitely entertaining to watch.

  20. Great podcast! I just wanted to mention Catahoula’s as a good all around dog. Don Abney, in Louisiana, is a good place to start. We love our dog that we bought from him and she really does a good job on the entertainment factor. Also, Guinea fowl make good watchdogs.

  21. You mentioned the shift towards more of the population being at least a part-time farmer/producer. I think you might find a lot of interesting ideas in A Nation of Farmers: Defeating the Food Crisis on American Soil – http://tspc.co/okOIJI

  22. Great show. We have a 1.5 acre urbanish homestead where we have miniature Jersey milk cows, American guinea hogs (AGH), and Nigerian dwarf goats as well as chickens, turkeys, honey bees, and a garden. We do rotational grazing on our land and supplement with hay (obviously 1.5 acres won’t support that many animals). We supply all of our meat, dairy, and most of our vegetable needs. I sprout grains for the chickens and hogs.

    The AGH are well known for not tearing up pasture, and are very docile and get to a max of 350 pounds. We butcher at about 10 months, where they are 150-175 pounds, which makes it easy for a single person to handle the butchering (if necessary).

    I’ve been doing this for about 5 years. I don’t want to sound presumptuous, but if you would ever want to have me talk more about my experiences keeping small/large livestock in the back yard and the sustainability of that in terms of providing for ourselves as well as other families, I’d be happy to do so.

    • I would LOVE to hear more about your experiences, particularly with the mini Jersey cows. I have 2 acres, have had sheep/goats/hens, and I’d love to have a small cow.

  23. Thank you Anji, Steph and Darksky. This is great information! Thank you!!!
    Great idea about the livestock supplements. I give my dog vitamin C made for humans.

    This person feeds her chickens clabbered milk- which is fresh, raw and still warm milk that is left to ferment on its own: http://gnowfglins.com/2011/09/06/free-video-soy-free-chicken-feed/

    BTW, Soy is extremely damaging and can cause all sorts of developmental, health and reproductive problems, so I need to eliminate that. Wheat also has nasty effects on the body. Underground Wellness recently covered both of these deleterious dietary staples.

    I came across this resource that gives an overview of smallstock and their needs, including nutrition. Guinea pigs are included: http://www.smallstock.info/

    Shalali, I am most interested in your experiences!!! I have around the same amount, a challenging location, on the north side of a hill and am considering moving to a larger parcel of land (I would lose all equity, though). I am very curious on how to raise pork and there is an AGH breeder close by.

    Decades ago, swine were fed with chestnuts that are, sadly, almost extinct. Back in the day, American hams were said to be the best in the world for that reason. Now Spanish hams have that status as Spanish pigs forage on acorn mast.

    Guinea Fowl are delicious and the best tick control. I have had difficulty keeping them as they tend to run away and/or get eaten by predators. Since then, I recommend keeping the young chicks in a partition (from all other birds and older Guineas) for at least a month or more and they then think they are chickens and hang with the flock.