by Jeremey Weeks
The last article (Shopping for a Homestead: Part 1) was about goals and making sure you have enough land to succeed. Trying to homestead less than 5 acres can be self-defeating. Also, working 5 or more acres alone can be very difficult, especially if you already have a day job. Let’s break down what you can reasonably do by acreage.
I’m going to assume that you have water and electricity. If you are looking at land without either, there’s more calculating to do. Also, your house will be on this land and you will keep your animals away from your house, your well and off of your septic system in the case of large animals. I am also going to assume that you can’t use 100% of your land efficiently due to terrain features (steep hill), easements and the like.
1 to 4 acres: A large truck garden is great. Rabbits and poultry are very doable. If you free range your poultry, they will probably stray on a neighbor’s land though. A very small number of pigs can be raised but breeding is not recommended. This is because you’ll need to use up land to separate your pigs when you don’t want them to breed. You can have a cow or two, but their area will be small and the ground will be a wreck, so I don’t recommend it.
Sheep or goats are a possibility, but probably not sheep and goats and pigs.
It’s very important to maintain your fences because you will anger neighbors if your animals trespass. Accidents happen but it is disrespectful to your neighbors.
You’re going to need access to a stock trailer (and a way to pull it) if you choose to go with pigs.
1 person will be challenged to handle everything if they have a day job.
5 to 9 acres: You can garden, have rabbits, poultry, goats, sheep and pigs. Things will be crowded if you do all this. You might even consider a cow or two. You might try breeding pigs.
Infrastructure will be an issue. You’re going to need to store feed and hay. You’ll risk losses if you don’t have outbuildings to shelter your feed. You’re going to acquire tools and possibly a tractor. Factor in the cost of a building or two besides the house. Also include money for a tractor or ATV.
You may need to trench and lay water lines to reach troughs that are several hundred feet from your well. The same goes for electricity (which will drop off the farther you try to push it).
1 person is going to need help if they have a day job.
10 acres and up: You can have rabbits, poultry, sheep, goats, pigs, cows and whatever else.
You may need to pay to have roads made.
Make plans for moving snow if you’re in the snow belt.
Getting water and electricity to all corners of your property is a challenge.
The basic tractor such as a Ford 9N may not get the job done. You might want to think about getting a feed or grain silo and augers. Is it time to think about cutting your own hay? You’ll need to buy implements. Keeping equipment maintained becomes a significant expense.
Rabbit requirements: A hutch. The hutch needs to be out of the weather. You’ll want enough room around the hutch to be able to collect and remove droppings as well as water and feed. You may need heat of some kind (heat lamp, etc) if you choose a cold climate.
Egg Poultry requirements: A coop or an eggmobile. Either will need room for nesting boxes and roosting. If you use an eggmobile, you’ll probably still need a coop in the winter. Heat lamps may be required. If you choose to raise chicks, you’ll need shelter and brooder boxes.
Meat Poultry requirements: A coop or a chicken tractor. Either will need room for nesting boxes and roosting. If you choose to raise meat birds through the winter, you’ll need a coop of some kind. Heat lamps may be required. If you choose to raise chicks, you’ll need shelter and brooder boxes.
Sheep requirements: Many will argue that sheep don’t need shelter. At a minimum, I’d recommend a windbreak for when it’s cold (below freezing) and windy or cold,wet and windy. If you want to build a shelter 5 square feet per animal is a good estimate.
Dairy Goat requirements: Some dairy goats will put up with wet weather but many will not. Build a small rain shelter at a minimum. Don’t be surprised if your goats cry and expect you to bring them their food on rainy days.
Meat Goat requirements: Your meat production will be better if there is rain/snow shelter for your meat goats. 5 square feet per animal.
Pig requirements: If your temps hit 70 degrees or warmer, your pigs are going to be hot. They’re going to need shade shelters. Cold, windy rain and snow also makes shelter a requirement. Breeding areas and piglet creeps mean more shelter requirements, possibly with heat lamps. Think 10×10 for farrowing area and more for piglets and heat.
Beef or Dairy Cow requirements: A windbreak is all that is required for year olds and older.