When people use the term “homestead” animals are usually a part of that image. Here at Kowalski Mountain, it’s important that our animals on the homestead have a purpose that brings enrichment to the farm. Some animals on the homestead are working members of the team, others provide nourishment while others provide companionship.
We currently live in Florida however Philip purchased the property in Kentucky in 2016. We consider our time waiting for the big move as our classroom where we dabble in different aspects of homesteading on a small scale. This allows us to have a clear idea of the direction we want to take when homesteading become our full-time lifestyle. Over the years we have raised quite a few animals.
Currently, Philip and I are in transition. We are about 16 months from meeting our financial goals and moving to the homestead full-time. Over a year ago, we moved into our RV to live smaller so that we could reach those goals faster. Because of that, we don’t currently have a lot of animals. Let’s look at some of the animals we like to keep on the homestead and determine if they have a purpose or are a pet.
Animals with Purpose
All the animals on the homestead are raised for specific purposes. Some are work animals on the homestead, while others are raised for nourishment. One of the most frequent comments I hear is “I could never raise animals for meat, I love animals too much.” I have to say that I don’t know any homesteaders who don’t care about their animals.
In fact, most homesteaders actually care quite a bit about their animals. They desire to provide the very best care they can. Often waking up in the night checking on animals that may need a little TLC. We celebrate the births and even shed tears over the losses. While we raise animals for meat, that is just part of the process of living. For me, butchering day brings a variety of mixed emotions. I’m thankful for quality meat, but the dispatching of animals is not easy for me. We don’t raise meat animals because we don’t care about animals, in fact, most often we raise our own meat animals because we do care about the quality of care they receive. We care enough to provide our meat animals with the very best life we possibly can, even if that means extra effort on our part.
Pigs on the Homestead
Pigs on the homestead are an animal that has a purpose. At the Florida house, pigs have been raised for meat. Philip has raised and farrowed pigs in our suburban neighborhood. We’ve even discreetly butchered our pigs, using our vehicles to create a shield. Once butchered, we do all our own meat processing at home.
Philip also takes advantage of free animals he might find on social media. Often people may find they have bitten off more than they can handle. A pig purchased as a pet gets larger than expected and finds itself in need of a new home. We have rehomed several of these pigs. The animals are usually almost grown and ready for processing. It makes for a quick turnaround of meat animals on the farm. One of our pigs was even found. We answered a call of a homeowner who had a pig that kept breaking into his fenced yard. We were called in to remove the pig and finished raising him at our place until he was big enough to process.
Once we make the move to the homestead, pigs will have dual purposes. Much of our land is still wooded. Using temporary solar-powered electric fencing we will be able to place the pigs in areas that we need to be cleared. The pigs will happily do some of the grunt work! Pigs are an important part of regenerative farming. They act as automatic plows, removing underbrush, aerating soil, and providing fertilization. This allows us to repurpose land that previously may have gone unused, or just improve the soil health through their work.
Pigs also provide nourishment. While we will likely maintain a breeding pair of pigs on the homestead, the offspring will be raised for meat. Since pigs can farrow up to 14 piglets at a time, in addition to providing sufficient meat for our family, selling feeder pigs can also be a source of income on the homestead.
Turkeys on the Homestead
Several years ago, Philip and I bought our very first trio of heritage turkeys to raise turkey as a replacement for chicken. Our thought process was that we would get more bang for our buck, raising larger birds. One of the advantages of using our waiting room as our classroom is that we learned that we don’t like turkey as a replacement for chicken. Making these discoveries when we have access to other food sources saved us from making costly mistakes when we are raising our meat animals in the future.
We’re currently raising our very first production turkeys. We have only two Broad Breasted Turkeys. I’m excited to see the difference in the meat quality of the production turkeys in comparison to the heritage turkeys we have raised in the past. Read about the differences in the types of turkeys in this post. This comparison will help us determine the breed of turkeys that will raise on the homestead in the future. While broad-breasted turkeys are not a self-sufficient option that would allow for breeding turkeys on the homestead, we will be able to make better decisions regarding our goal for the turkeys that we choose to raise. Likely we will raise a mix of birds on our farm.
Chickens on the Homestead
Chickens are commonly called gateway animals on the homestead. They are easily accessible in farm supply stores and easy to keep. A minimum number of chickens can provide a suitable number of eggs for most families. We have raised a variety of chickens. Philip’s favorite laying hens are Buff Orpingtons. Orpingtons are dual-purpose birds raised for both eggs and meat. They are friendly which makes them a great choice for families. Orpington’s lay between 200 and 280 eggs per year, making them an excellent choice for egg layers.
I’ve had many types of chickens over the years and I think my favorite is the Black Lace Wyandottes. I just love the beautiful color and the fluffy under feathers that looks like a crinoline under a skirt. While choosing a chicken that’s pretty shouldn’t be a deciding factor, I think it makes the chicken yard so much more enjoyable. Wyandottes also have a gentle temperament, are dual-purpose birds and they lay about 200 eggs a year.
While most of our egg-laying chickens have been considered dual-purpose birds, I have to say that after raising Cornish Cross broilers, I doubt I will ever want to butcher laying hens for meat again. There is just no comparison in the meat quantity and quality found in production chicken breeds.
While I plan to raise Cornish Cross broilers as long as they are readily available, in the interest of self sufficiently, we need to continue to seek out a more self-sufficient option of chickens to raise meat birds on the homestead from egg to table. I am most interested in trying the American Bresse Chickens that are quickly becoming popular among homesteaders. We have not had a chance to give this breed a try, but they are at the top of my list for chickens that we’d like to raise. Even better, I’ve found a small family farm that breeds American Bresse Chickens not too far from the homestead.
Honeybees on the Homestead
Honeybees certainly have a variety of purposes that they fulfill on the homestead. Most importantly they provide pollination to the gardens and fruit trees on Kowalski Mountain. In fact, 80% of the world’s food production depends on animal pollination.
Philip had been studying beekeeping for some time when the first colony of bees literally fell into his lap. Philip owns and operates a tree service company. The job he was called in to do, unexpectedly was full of a colony of bees. He brought that colony home and we jumped into beekeeping feet first!
Philip’s main goal in keeping bees is to grow bees. Bees reproduce in two ways. The first way is just through normal reproduction. A queen bee’s main job is to lay eggs to build a colony. The second way that bees reproduce is to break into separate colonies. A hive splits, each with its own queen, and they continue to grow. Bees naturally split through swarming. However, beekeepers can grow bees by splitting healthy colonies themselves and ensuring they are provided with a queen, or that they can produce one themselves. Philip enjoys growing healthy colonies, splitting those, and seeing them grow. He also rescues bees whenever he gets the opportunity. He nurtures the bees and grows the colonies. When ready, he sells bees to local beekeepers and also mentors new beekeepers as they learn the craft.
The last perk of beekeeping is honey! I’ve been blown away by the amount of pure honey our small colonies are producing. While I used to use honey sparingly, we now can use all we need. Using it as a sweetener, in canning and selling the excess.
Animals as Pets on the Homestead
The value that animals bring in companionship should not be underestimated in its importance on the homestead. I’ve always said my very best workout partner over the years was my old dog, Sarah. No matter the weather, how cold, hot, rainy, or icy she was always ready to go for a walk. In her old age, I had to sneak out to leave her behind, because it pained her too much to walk. Animals are loyal in ways that few humans can emulate.
Cats on the Homestead
Currently, in the Florida house, we have four animals that I consider our pets. We have three cats, Roz, Finesse, and Trouble. While Trouble gets a few bonus points for being the lead mouser at Kowalski Mountain, he leads a pretty comfy life in the air conditioning curled up on the couch. Roz is practicing her mousing skills and Finesse leads a leisurely life, chasing the occasional fly that makes its way into the house. They are all affectionate, loving cats that bring great joy to our lives.
Dogs on the Homestead
We also have our dog, Roxie. We frequently refer to her as our supervisor, since she is always close by, watching what we are up to. Here at the Florida house, she is spoiled and spends much of her time at grandma’s house. While we are in Kentucky. she usually hangs out with me, which I find interesting. She is certainly Philip’s dog and considers herself his first love. I honestly think she hangs out with me as a protector. Philip is the alpha, but I think she feels the need to watch over me, likely trying to keep me in check. She always tags along where ever I might go.
Roxie gets a few bonus points for purpose on the homestead. She can blood trail a deer, a little bit. Roxie has saved our broiler chickens from aerial predators in the past by barking at birds. She has minimal birding skills. Roxie is sweet-natured, well-behaved, and good with animals and children. Every person should have a loyal and faithful dog at least once in their life just like her!
Take a Closer Look
This post is part of a YouTube collaboration #purposeorpet. Meet the animals of Kowalski Mountain! Watch the entire playlist and see what kinds of animals YouTubers across the country keep on their homesteads. Special thanks to Sarah Buzzell for leading this YouTube collaboration.
Future Animals on the Homestead
Most of the honeybees are currently in Kentucky now. We took four colonies to the homestead several months ago. They are the first official residents of Kowalski Mountain!
The two Broad Breasted turkeys that we are raising right now are the last animals that we plan to raise at the Florida house. We are about 16 months from our debt-free goal and the next animals we raise will be on the homestead in Kentucky.
Once we hit the ground, chickens will be first on the list of needed animals. I’m very interested in trying the American Bresse Chickens and I’m thrilled that I will be able to source locally. Likely it will be time to raise another batch of broiler chickens soon after we arrive. We just processed 29, so likely the poultry freezer will be getting low on meat.
Pigs and goats are animals that we want to get to help with land clearing. Both will be put to work, clearing out the underbrush and regenerating the forest floor.
A milk cow is very high on my list. This is one we will have to work towards. Proper fencing will be needed before we can invest in a cow. We will also look into beef cattle as well. These will bring a supply of beef and also income to the homestead.
Donkeys are on the list of necessary animals. Donkeys are excellent defenders against predators. Philip desires to get a jenny donkey to put with the smaller stock as they have a reputation of being better protectors.
A Work in Progress
We’ve talked about guinea fowl. Guineas are excellent predator animals as well because they are so vocal. They also help with pest control. They eat mice and an abundance of ticks. However, we will have to take precautions to protect the bees. Since guineas eat insects, we will have to prepare the apiary to protect the hive boxes from the guinea fowl.
Likely Kowalski Mountain will look a bit like Noah’s Ark. Since it’s just the two of us, we don’t need large numbers of animals to sustain our family. Pairs of most animals will be sufficient for our needs. Likely, we will add animals as we build the needed infrastructure to sustain them. We will start with our greatest needs and work our way through the list. It won’t be long now and soon the adventure will move to the next level! We can’t wait!
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.