Wanting to start a Self-Sufficient farm

Discuss lifestyle changes to better survive disasters. This category is for topics pertaining to being self reliant such as DIY, farming, alternative energy, autonomous solutions to water collection and waste removal, etc.

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Post by thorian » Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:25 pm

Ok as far as the cow goes if you are not going to sell it I would suggest an alpine or nubian goat they throw off 2 quarts of milk a day. where as a cow throws 4 gallons. 1 quart for the kid and 1 quart for the family is a good ratio. You can usually get them with kids on the side.

Another issue you need to know about with milk animals is that if you milk them improperly they can develop mastitis (sic?) wich is an inflammation of the udder that really never goes away and has no cure.
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Post by GoldEagle » Fri Dec 28, 2007 1:33 pm

thorian wrote:Ok as far as the cow goes if you are not going to sell it I would suggest an alpine or nubian goat they throw off 2 quarts of milk a day. where as a cow throws 4 gallons. 1 quart for the kid and 1 quart for the family is a good ratio. You can usually get them with kids on the side.
Well I think we would probably sell off any milk we didn't need, or possibly make it into butter/other dairy products. Raw (unpasteurized) Milk is starting to become popular.

Of course, that is if we do get a cow, which I would prefer not to, but my dad pretty much has his heart set on getting one.
thorian wrote:Another issue you need to know about with milk animals is that if you milk them improperly they can develop mastitis (sic?) wich is an inflammation of the udder that really never goes away and has no cure.
My dad was a dairy farmer, so hopefully there won't be a problem with that. I suppose it wouldn't be too hard to learn how (for me).
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Post by derajer » Fri Dec 28, 2007 5:26 pm

On the subject of dual-purpose chickens, I would recommend:

Australorp, Plymouth Rock, Rhoad Island Red, Sussex, or Wyandottes

These breeds all have good egg laying capabilities while also having a decent quality meat yield. They are all very hardy breeds as well.

Check out

http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/poultry/chickens/

and

http://www.mypetchicken.com/chickenBreeds.aspx

I think you will find excellent summaries of the individual breeds at both of these sites, considering your interest is primarily in eggs and not meat then the mypetchicken.com site may have a lot of info more to your liking. The okstate.edu site also has excellent breed lists for many other kinds of livestock.

You may also consider guinea fowl as they offer some excellent benefit as pest controllers in a garden that Chickens do not do quite as well.


OK, now for the milk. If you want to do cows you might want to consider Dexter Cattle, they are a much smaller dual-purpose breed. They are a very old breed from Ireland (most people think anyway) that is very hard and should yield a gallon or so a day while need far less space and eating far less food than other breeds. For goats for milk you may want to check out the Kinder goat, which is a very new nubian/pygmy cross highly praised for its milk quality.

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/sanderson95.html




Now, as for building a house that is going to be as off-grid as possible, I would urge you to consider earth-sheltered housing. It is a subject we have discussed at length in previous threads. Properly constructed, you should be able to eliminate nearly all of you heating and cooling costs and what you do need should be easilly taken care of by either a small furnace or a small wood burning stove or fireplace.

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Post by Lurch » Fri Dec 28, 2007 8:40 pm

One thing to think about for PAW housing is house size. Large houses are more difficult to heat and cool. I noticed on a ski trip, a few years ago, the size of the rooms of some of the older buildings in Colorado. They were pretty darn small by current standards. Small rooms are easier to heat, tall rooms, with high windows, will be cooler in the summer. Consider building a sleeping loft so that you can take advantage of the heat up near the ceiling in winter. Also consider that large porches let you sleep outside in the summer. My grandparents used to put a bed on the porch and sprinkle water on the sheets before going to bed. The evaporation of the water helped cool them down.

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Post by Apollo-11 » Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:01 am

GoldEagle wrote: Quick question, what's the egg production like for an average chicken? Say, how many eggs per x amount of days? Is their production significantly increased if the eggs are fertilized by a rooster?
If the hens are normal and healthy, and "egg laying age" you can expect about 1 egg every day, or maybe every other day, per hen. 1 dozen hens will produce 1 dozen eggs a day. 2 hens will produce a dozen or so eggs a week. Very cheap protein!

If you "hand raise" your hens, feed them well, keep them warm and in out of the rain, allow them to forage for bugs; give them excellent, top notch, 5 star care and feeding, it is possible to get 2 eggs per day. Rare, but possible. They won't keep this up for more than about 2 years. Rhode Island Reds and Arucanas (sp?) are well mannered and suited to this.

You absolutely do not need a rooster at all, unless you intend to raise baby chickens. They tend to pester the heck out of the hens and generally be obnoxious and noisy... kinda like male humans. :lol: The usual ratio is around one rooster to a dozen hens if you intend for them to fertilize eggs. Be aware that they will be territorial and may fight other males. If you have a large amount of chickens, you may want to subdivide it into two smaller flock, each with a rooster. Or keep the roosters away from the hens completely.

We live inside city limits and we are allowed to have 3 hens, no roosters. I am considering this as soon as we can make a pen that raccoons can't get into. Probably be next year before I get to it though.

Collect the droppings and use for fertilizer. [EDIT: I forgot to mention that chicken fertilizer is considered to be "hot" and it may burn your plants. Age it and mix it in with more mild fertilizer to prevent this.]

I also want to do the "fish in a barrel" thing, maybe a pair of rabbits for meat production just in case, and definitely a greenhouse.

I understand that a pair of rabbits will produce the equivalent of half a side of beef a year in good conditions.

Side note:
If you have chickens for egg production, you can breed for that trait. Keep track of who is a good egg layer, and allow her to have babies. The poor egg layers go into the soup pot. You can improve the genetics of your flock that way, over time. You can also separate the flock in half - this half for egg production, this half for fast meat growth for eating. The ones in the second flock who grow fast and grow big, allow them to breed and don't eat them. If you do this for a couple of years you will have superchickens!
Last edited by Apollo-11 on Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Lurch » Sun Dec 30, 2007 3:15 am

My grandfather always put out crushed oyster shells for his chickens, as a supply of calcium for the egg shells. Is this common practice, and how do chickens get enough calcium in the wild?

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Post by Ad'lan » Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:02 am

Eating Snails?

Wild chiockens don't lay eggs half as much as modern breeds do, thats why we need to supplement their feeds.

Yeah, Oyster or mussle shell in our feed, along with some grit.
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Post by RogerK » Sun Dec 30, 2007 7:42 am

As for chickens +1 on Rhode Island Reds we have two hens and get almost 2 eggs per day (about a dozen per week).

The oyster shell is needed to help for shell formatin. We recycle the eggshells (after rinsing them and crushing them).

If you go the duck route, I would suggest khaki campbells, they lay more eggs than RIRs but I have not been able able to find a local supplier for them.

If you want a cow (sinces cows and goats are social, you'll need more than one or they get into mischief), look at Dexters. They are smaller and longer lived. With the smaller size there is less milk tho. And Dexters are better for non-traditional pasture.

Remember that you can get milk from sheep also (and I prefer mutton to goat meat ) and you get the added benefit of wool.

YMMV
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Post by Ad'lan » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:39 am

RogerK wrote: If you want a cow (sinces cows and goats are social, you'll need more than one or they get into mischief), look at Dexters. They are smaller and longer lived. With the smaller size there is less milk tho. And Dexters are better for non-traditional pasture.
I do not recommend Dexters at all. They have (in my experiance) a vicious and mean temperment, common with small breeds. And you get hardly any meat on them.

I recommend Red Pole (but then I would) as good temperd, hardy, duel purpose, and good parents. However, I'd also recommend looking at what other small holders in your area have.

In fact, I really recommend joining any and all groups in your area for small holders, as the barter networks and help you get can be invaluble.
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Post by GoldEagle » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:45 am

Thanks a lot for all the help! I think we're good on livestock, I'm hoping not to get a cow. MAYBE chickens.

Anyone know anything about bees? How hard is it to become a beekeeper or just have a small group?
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Post by Ad'lan » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:55 am

According to my grandfather, it's a Knack. He used to keep bees.

He recommends doing a course on it, if you can find one, or even better to get an old hand near you to teach you. Maybe buy stuff off him to get your started, even if you can get it cheaper it's worth it for the assistance.

He says bees are useful if you go for crops, because then you control the pollinators. If you have an orchard especially, you need pollinators, and having your own means you know your trees will get pollinated (picked that up from Gardeners question times)
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Post by Cymro » Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:13 am

Go to your local farmer's market and start asking around. Folks there are professionals and generally happy to share their advice and experiance.
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Post by RogerK » Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:58 am

Ad'lan wrote:
RogerK wrote: If you want a cow (sinces cows and goats are social, you'll need more than one or they get into mischief), look at Dexters. They are smaller and longer lived. With the smaller size there is less milk tho. And Dexters are better for non-traditional pasture.
I do not recommend Dexters at all. They have (in my experiance) a vicious and mean temperment, common with small breeds. And you get hardly any meat on them.

I recommend Red Pole (but then I would) as good temperd, hardy, duel purpose, and good parents. However, I'd also recommend looking at what other small holders in your area have.

In fact, I really recommend joining any and all groups in your area for small holders, as the barter networks and help you get can be invaluble.
NP I have heard that American lines of Dexters are failry social, but I have no first hand info on this.

If you keep bee, keep more than one hive, as that way you have a way to compare hives.

I'd still go with Khaki Campbell ducks and sheep, but then again, I'm a bit odd :wink:
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2) you are likely to bleed if you base your actions upon 'hope'...

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Post by RogerK » Sun Dec 30, 2007 12:30 pm

Ad'lan wrote:I recommend Red Pole (but then I would) as good temperd, hardy, duel purpose, and good parents. However, I'd also recommend looking at what other small holders in your area have.
Checked out the red poll association in Michigan, and oddly enough, I personally know 3 of the members, but oddly enough as long as I have known them, I never knew they had red polls.....

I'll give them a call :wink:
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Post by gart43 » Sun Dec 30, 2007 4:57 pm

GoldEagle wrote:Thanks a lot for all the help! I think we're good on livestock, I'm hoping not to get a cow. MAYBE chickens.

Anyone know anything about bees? How hard is it to become a beekeeper or just have a small group?
I'm from MN too! What part is your dad from?

I also own an Allis Chalmers, a DC12 to be exact, gotta love that orange!

Just wanted to start by being friendly.

IMHO and from experience, Khaki Campbells are the best ducks to keep, they lay almost as many eggs as most laying breeds of chickens!

Raising a hive isn't hard, it will take a little time and a little effort to get it off the ground, (I don't raise them but my grandpa did before he retired) from what I hear you'll need around 3-5 hives to make any money from it. But the good thing is that honey can subsitute sugar in many recipes, AND a LOT of homemakers like to buy genuine honey. Kansas has some good places as far as soil is concerned, however water may end up being a concern, and don't count on having an exorbitant number of cattle.

It may be a good idea to get geese, they're mean, but that has an upside, they honk at intruders or other creatures of undesirablenessicity (sorry couldn't think of a good word to describe it) and they help keep the rat population down so that they can't kill the chickens or other livestock.
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Post by Ad'lan » Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:09 pm

gart43 wrote:It may be a good idea to get geese, they're mean, but that has an upside, they honk at intruders or other creatures of undesirablenessicity (sorry couldn't think of a good word to describe it) and they help keep the rat population down so that they can't kill the chickens or other livestock.
+1 on the guard geese, but geese kill rats? This is news to me?

RogerK wrote: Checked out the red poll association in Michigan, and oddly enough, I personally know 3 of the members, but oddly enough as long as I have known them, I never knew they had red polls.....

I'll give them a call
Cool :), I say I'm in favour of red poll cattle for several reasons:

1: Best beef I have ever, ever had (and All the International and EU trials Agree)
2: Nicest cattle I've ever delt with
3: Norfolk Breed

And the fact That my grandad is secretary to the Red Poll Development Society.
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Post by gart43 » Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:19 pm

+1 on the guard geese, but geese kill rats? This is news to me?

Well i've had many geese that have attacked and killed rats, and once a possum.
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Post by Ad'lan » Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:34 pm

Dam, all I had was sissy geese, No Fair.
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Post by Jamie » Sun Dec 30, 2007 5:37 pm

I used to (and will again this coming spring) raise coturnix quail and rabbits...

I like them because they're quiet, and in PAW, it might be nice to have animals that don't make loud call each morning or all day long...

I also like them because they are food-efficient, easy to house/move/slaughter, and able to live on almost anything that I fed them...

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Post by Apollo-11 » Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:06 pm

Ad'lan wrote:Eating Snails?

Wild chickens don't lay eggs half as much as modern breeds do, thats why we need to supplement their feeds.

Yeah, Oyster or mussle shell in our feed, along with some grit.
+1 on that, Ad'lan. I used to breed Zebra finches. These little tiny birds will breed themselves until they die of calcium deficiency. You definitely have to supplement the chickens' diet if you expect to get good egg production and still live a good long healthy life.

One sign of calcium deficiency in the females is a bald spot on the top of the head in many kinds of birds. I don't know if this is true for chickens, but it's worth looking out for.

You can recycle the chicken egg shells, just clean them well and boil them if there is any sign of disease in your flock. Grind them up fine and add to the feed or grit.

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Post by paperclip » Sun Dec 30, 2007 9:49 pm

I want to start a hobby farm myself. Total self-sufficiency is hard to achieve. Slightly diverse with barter for what I don't have might be possible?
I like the permaculture idea; it seems obvious to me that whatever one does should have multiple returns for the effort. Too hard to do otherwise. I thought about going to one of those permaculture communities but the one I saw on TV wouldn't let a guy shoot rabbits (who were oddly enough right in their garden) to eat as they were vegan. Bah, hippies. They want to save the world but all they do is smell bad and smoke pot :lol: I'll put up with Cleric though cause even if he is a permaculture hippy he wears chain mail. :twisted:
It would be great if those who are trying to homestead would write about their experiences. Maybe some kind of collaborative how-to book? I like real-world "here's how I did this and the mistakes I made while doing it" type books. I read one called "The Have-More-Plan" that put the hook in me. It was written in the 40's but that family did what others here are talking about. I think it's still possible.
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Post by Tetra Grammaton Cleric » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:15 pm

If your dad wants cattle for milk (since I can't see you with a beef breed for slaughtering for meat due to your vegan thing/attachment to cuddly companion thing) I would heartily reccommend the Jersey as the breed to select and since you're already looking into them, it's not too much of a leap.

Cute as buttons, easy to work, good mothers, high content of butter fat in the bucket/vat as opposed to high "water milk" content of the big Black and White North American Holstien/Friesian breeds, less food intake requirements than these breeds as well, and less incidence of mastitis, and... umm... you're probably not going to like this, but... when young Jersey calf bulls need to be culled (they're useless in a dairy situation as your dad will tell you), well... Jersey Sausages are delicious! Your butcher who does custom kills will be calling you twice a year to see if you have any more... :wink:

One thing I personally think you need to look at is the numbers of critters you are planning on keeping.

I think, just between you and me that you're aiming a little low if self sufficiency is your aim.

Chickens, for example...

The 5 or so chickens you're planning on won't produce enough biomass/other benefit to offset the amount of feed and other inputs you'll have to bring in from outside to keep them. Granted a patch of Alfalfa (we call it Lucerne) near thier coop you can trim off and feed them will go a long way to keep them in base vittles, but you won't be getting any tangible byproduct, biomass, etc for all the extra effort you'll be putting in besides the eggs and maybe some income from excess eggs (5 chickens? not so much excess eggs with a non commercial laying breed as discussed earlier by much wiser folk on the subject than I). Also, 5 chickens can't really replace themselves... this means buying in new chickens as the situation requires. Again, more external requirements and not self sufficient.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just depends on what you really want out of your farmlet. It's in fact encouraged by many of the movements that folk aim for co-dependant interactive suffieciency with thier neighbours/other like minded folk in the district. It's not a bad idea as it allows for a degree of specialization in a specific area on each farm.

Can we define to what degree you want to be "self sufficient" for the sake of helping you more accurately?

This is a great thread btw... Everybody's giving great information and responses... I've kinda steered away from the Self-Sufficient Living section until now as I am sans farm atm, but the design aspects of your OP dragged me back in. :lol:
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Post by Tetra Grammaton Cleric » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:23 pm

Paperclip, haha - you posted that while I was typing my ass off! Great minds and all that... :wink:

You nailed what I was trying to say about degrees of self sufficiency, inter dependency and barter.

Also, I agree with you on Permaculture Hippyism... Pure Permaculture is simply a design concept, it adsorbs by association various philosophys and other systems in each system or community it is applied to.

A feedlot for Beef cattle could be designed along permaculture lines and the anti-rabbit shooting hippys would decry it... but as a design science it is still permaculture.

Right Livelyhood is the only overruling ethos of pure permaculture.

Me? I'll be shooting rabbits while wearing chainmail... :lol:

(and bathing :wink: -joke-)
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Post by GoldEagle » Sun Dec 30, 2007 10:40 pm

gart43 wrote: I'm from MN too! What part is your dad from?
He's from Plymouth, which is NW of the cities. My mom is from Bloomington. How about you?


Thanks for all the helpful tips! As this is all just speculation, we still have a while to go but this has helped me so much.
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