From the time we started thinking about homesteading, we knew we wanted to raise a variety of animals. When we bought our property, we knew that we would be a little limited in what types of animals we could raise because we only have 3 acres to work with here.
However, after doing some research, we learned that we could do way more on 3 acres than we originally thought! Weed Em and Reap has been particularly inspiring to us! They have just one acre in the middle of the city and have successfully raised chickens, goats, sheep, pigs, turkeys, ducks, emus, and more. If you have never watched their channel on Youtube, you are missing out. Check them out!
We decided to approach adding animals to the farm slowly because we want to learn all we can and make sure we can offer our animals the best home. The plan is to start with chickens and then add some goats later this year. We are also looking at possibilities for raising turkeys, rabbits, and maybe pigs sometime down the road. Right now, we have a lot of land left to clear and then we need to add the right fencing. This is high on our list though because I am begging Josh daily to hurry up with the first fenced pasture area so I can bring home a couple of goats.
In the meantime, we have started visiting other local farms that have animals to learn from them. We went and learned how to milk goats at a local farm a few months ago. This was so much fun and we were able to ask a lot of questions and see up close what all is involved with the care and keeping of goats. Of course, this only added to my "goat fever" after I got to see and pet some babies.
As far as goat breeds go, we are still thinking through different options, We know we want to focus on dairy goats so we have been looking primarily at Nubians and Nigerian Dwarf breeds. The debate is still on about whether we will have females only or if we will have a second goat yard with a buck or two. In the beginning, we will probably start with only does.
Two weeks ago, we decided to go ahead and dive in and get our first batch of baby chicks. The kids were so excited about this! They had both been begging for us to get chickens for about 3 years and were totally surprised when I came home from Tractor Supply with a little box of babies.
We decided to start out with hens so we could have fresh eggs daily. After reading that chicks don't always survive, we bought 8 knowing that we wanted 6 egg layers. We lost one chick on the first night. We still don't know quite what happened, but when we got up the next morning, it was just gone. The other 7 chicks are all still doing well and they are growing like crazy! As they are getting older, they have learned to like us a little more and aren't quite so skittish. They get excited when we come close to the brooder. This morning, they hopped right onto Walker's hand when he placed it down in the brooder.
Although we can't really tell them apart yet except for one with a much lighter colored head, the kids named them after the characters on "Friends". So we currently have Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Janice. I guess the girls can cope with some boy names, right?
We also have a few fur babies enjoying life on the farm. Shadow is our golden retriever. She is 11 years old now (we think). Shadow joined the family one fateful day when Josh sent me to the pet store for an aquarium tank to hold hermit crabs we brought home from a beach trip. The local animal shelter had about a dozen dogs there to adopt and they were all tiny breeds except for Shadow... she was big and lanky and looked really sad. I asked about her and they told me she had been there for 3 adoption events and no one had so much as asked about her.
Well that's all I needed to hear. An hour later, I drove home with a hermit crab aquarium and a big golden retriever. Josh about killed me when I pulled in the driveway, but after about an hour of tossing a ball to her in the backyard, he fell in love with her too. The vet estimated she was around a year old when we got her.
She was sick with a respiratory infection the week we brought her home. Antibiotics did the trick and she got better quickly, but we read in the newspaper around that time that a respiratory infection had swept through the shelter where she had previously been and they had to put down a bunch of dogs who got sick. I am so thankful that I went to the pet store that day and saw her!
Ten years later, her face is all gray and she groans a bit when she lays down. Our old girl has a good life and Shadow was the perfect name for her because she follows me everywhere.
We also have a dog named Freckles. We bought Freckles from an ad on Craigslist after our dog died when Ally was 3 years old. We looked high and low for a chihuahua that had the same markings. The Craigslist ad promised that she was a full-blooded mini chihuahua like our former dog and she had the same colors. It was right before Christmas when Santa brought Freckles as a gift for Ally. Of course, we later learned that the Craigslist ad wasn't exactly honest. She's not a mini chihuahua at all. The best we can figure, she is a mix of Jack Russell and Chihuahua.
She is 12 years old now and fairly grouchy these days, but she still likes to play in the backyard with Shadow or take naps on her favorite pillow on the couch. Freckles is a big fan of sleeping, exploring the farm on walks to the creek, and begging for cheese-its, her favorite snack.
Last, but certainly not least, we have a cat named Penelope (or Penny for short). We adopted Penny in 2014 when she was 6 weeks old. She lives a charmed life as Ally treats her more like a human baby than a cat. She loves to "talk" and is famous for chattering at the birds and squirrels from her perch on the window sill. Penny is a big fan of torturing the dogs (she is the boss around here!), begging for her nightly can of wet food at precisely 9:00, and posing for endless Instagram photos for Ally.
Penny has also taken a real interest in the chickens and our outdoor brooder is set up right beneath the window where she can keep an eye on them throughout the day. Last week, she alerted us to a random cat lurking in the yard near our brooder by meowing and pitching a literal "hissy fit." So it seems she will be the guardian angel for the chickens (as long as she is inside and they are out!).
So that's it - now you have met our animals! Stay tuned as we share more about how we built our chick brooder and our plans for the next round of chicks... we are planning to place an order with a hatchery soon for some meat chickens. Maybe we'll even have a couple of goats around here soon (pretty please, Josh!).