We have been raising our own meat for a few years and I must say, it is one of the most rewarding aspects of striving for self-sufficiency.
We have raised our own beef a couple of times as well as chicken, pork and chevon(goat). If I had a pond(maybe in the future) I would add fish to that. From our own experiences, I thought I would share with you some of the lessons we learned and are still learning and a few pointers.
First and foremost, we are no experts here. But, this is all speaking from experience and we want to save you from making the same mistake(s) we did. And, if one of these pointers saves you some trouble, then I will sleep better at night! Some of these pointers might be old news for experienced people, but it might be very useful for those just starting out.
So, here are some pointers for you that worked for us and some things to avoid:
1. Raising your own meat might seem overwhelming, so I would suggest starting out with meat chickens. They are small, need less space and, let’s be honest, the kids don’t get too attached.
2. If you plan on butchering your own, get a video on how to do it or look it up on YouTube. Seeing it done is so much easier than reading about it and looking at pictures.
3. Build a chicken tractor for your meat chickens. This will keep you from dealing with the plethora of bird droppings all over the farm. Plus, you can put your chickens to work and move the tractor over a future garden spot.
4. If and when you build a tractor, do not use 2 x 4s. Remember, you will be moving it, so it’s supposed to be lighter than a shed!
5. I personally like the Cornish Roasters as they are slower growing, have no leg problems and like to forage. I have heard good things about Rangers, but have not raised them.
6. Don’t put off butchering. Sometimes you have to say no to other engagements so that you can get it done. Next thing you know, it’s too cold to butcher. This was a hard lesson learned for us!
1. Once you have gotten used to the taste of your own homegrown chicken, you’re not going to want to stop there. Feeder pigs are a good option for those with limited space as well. All you need is a pen(ours is movable) and shelter.
2. DO NOT NAME YOUR PIGS! Unless, of course, it’s Ham and Beans.
3. Pigs can also be used to fertilize and plow up your garden. Put them to work! We have cattle panels with t-posts, but do not put the posts all the way into the ground. That way, we can lift them out and move the pen easily.
4. Get a game plan on how you will load them into the trailer when they are ready to be butchered. If you don’t have a plan, get ready for the workout of your life!
5. As far as loading, make sure you can back the trailer into their area or holding area. If not, create a makeshift chute to the trailer and again, be ready for a workout!
6. Pigs and chickens can co-exist as long as they have plenty of space to move about and plenty of food and water. We learned this unintentionally.
7. Plant turnips for your pigs. You can harvest them or put your pigs in that area to plow and fertilize.