46: Episode 46 – raising pigs

If you are considering raising an animal purely for meat then pigs make the best option for someone new to the process.

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Raising Pigs

At the moment, pigs are the only animal that we keep that is purely for meat. And they are the easiest way of raising your own meat, in my opinion. We’re going to be talking about how, why, and whether you should do the same.

Welcome to The Self Sufficient Podcast. I’m here to talk about all things, self-sufficiency, sustainability, and food security.

Welcome to episode 46 of The Self Sufficient Podcast. Thank you all for listening and I hope you’re all safe and well. I received an email from someone called Karen, who is in England, and she was asking if we kept pigs and how easy, difficult, or hard it was. So thank you, Karen, for the email, and we’re going to be talking all about that today.

Why Pigs Are The Easiest Animal To Keep Purely For Meat

I think that pigs are the easiest animal to keep purely for Meat. There are several reasons why I think this and we’re going to be talking all about them today. We’re going to be talking about how to keep pigs, what sort of equipment you need. We’re going to be talking about how long you need to keep them, what type of breeds, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

One of the reasons I think pigs are the easiest animal to keep is their fencing requirements. Whenever you want to keep any animal, it’s really important that you can keep them secure because the last thing you’re going to want is an animal that escapes and ultimately costs you money because they go and do a load of damage or hurt someone or whatever.

And pigs can do an awful lot of damage. If a group of pigs got into your garden, you would know all about that. They wouldn’t take long and they would root out everything. Being able to contain them is absolutely vital. The best thing about containing pigs is that they are super smart and they all super respectful of an electric fence.

They will learn where the fence is very, very quickly, and then they will respect it. They will never test it. They’ll never try and go through it. This has been my experience and it’s been also the experience that’s been shared with me from other people who are far more experienced than I am.

How To Properly Fence In Pigs

Literally one strand of electric fence about a foot off the ground is probably enough, but a second one a little higher is also reccomended.

If you have two, one strand about half a foot off the ground and one, one and a half to two feet off the ground, that’s going to do the job. They are so cautious of it and once they know where they are, that’s it. We, actually took in some pigs from the people who used to live in our property. They used to keep pigs in the wood we now had and it came to pass that they couldn’t keep them anymore.

We looked after them for a period of time and we brought them back to the wood that they used to live in, and I couldn’t work out for the life of me why they wouldn’t cross into a certain section of woodland. There was a section of about a quarter of an acre they just wouldn’t go in, and only after they’d been there about eight weeks, we discovered a strand of electric fencing buried in the ground.

Obviously now dead and redundant, but the pigs had remembered where that was. Not only that they remembered where it was, but they were still respecting the fence that no longer even existed. Just a great tale that accentuates the point I’m making. That’s the first thing to say about pigs is that just a piece of electric fencing is all you need to contain them.

And conversely, having said all that we’re not using electricity at the moment. They’ve got the run of about an acre and a half of wood. It’s a lovely sight. It’s pig heaven. And we’ve got that fenced with standard stock fencing. And I think the reason that we’re able to do that, and we’re not having any issues (because realistically the stock fencing is good, but in places, it’s a, it’s past its best and they could probably get out when they get a bit bigger if they choose to), but because they’re in such a big space, I don’t think they’ve got any reason to so.

That’s how you want to contain your pigs. And, just to be clear, I’d have no issues at all saying that stock fencing is also adequate for containing pigs if it’s good quality and the posts aren’t rotten at the bottom and things like that, which is what I’m seeing a couple of ours getting that way and need replacing, which I’ll be doing this winter.

They’re a great animal for containment. That’s the first thing. The next thing we’re going to talk about is what other requirements they need and how you’re going to feed them and look after your pigs.

Requirements For Keeping Pigs

Requirements for our pigs, like all animals, they’re going to need. To have constant access to clean water, but they’re also going to need, (and ideally away from their water source) somewhere they can make a muddy wallow. For a pig to be happy it really does need access to a wallow it can, well… wallow in!

Pigs sunburn very easily, and they wallow in the mud to protect their skin. It’s very tempting to put the wallow. Next to their water source, because it’s the easiest thing in the world to just have a trough that you overfill. And that forms their muddy wallow. But I would strongly recommend against this for several reasons.

The first of which is the wallow can get quite deep and it can actually make access to the clean water quite tricky because pigs aren’t the most agile animal. That’s the first thing. And the second thing is, is that it can create cross-contamination between the mud and the clean drinking water. I do strongly recommend that you separate the two if you possibly can.

That’s the first thing is they obviously need access to clean water. And the second thing is somewhere to shelter at night. If it’s cold, and our pigs tend to sleep out under the bushes, but they do have an arc that they can get into if it’s cold if they want to get out of the rain or. Just generally, they can make a nice sheltered bed away from the wind and the elements.

That’s the main thing that the pigs need. Beyond that, they just need some space. Now, pigs aren’t huge on exercise. They obviously, need to be able to get around and walk around, but they don’t need to have a huge paddock to run around. I’ve seen pigs living quite happily in spaces the size of a double garage for a couple of smaller pigs.

But what you need to remember is the more you contain your pigs, the more you are the only source of access to everything. You’re going to need to give them things to entertain them. You’re going to need to give them all of their food. They won’t be able to forage for anything. Obviously, I’m aware that we’re incredibly lucky that we’re able to offer our pigs this fantastic space, but even if you’re not, that shouldn’t necessarily put you off.

You can still keep them in a much smaller space and still keep them quite happy. If you put them in a smaller space, you’re going to want to give them things to entertain them. Perhaps some sort of really robust ball that they can play with or hang things up. It really depends on your pigs.

Personality of Pigs

They have such different characters. They are more like dogs as characters go than a lot of other animals, as they’re so varied in character, and some pigs will just want to sit in a corner all day and be left alone. Other pigs will want to be constantly seeking out things and exploring and want to be constantly entertained, so you’ll get to know your own pigs. Pigs can be an animal that you want to be cautious of if you’re not spending a lot of time with them. I strongly recommend that you do spend quite a lot of time with your pigs so that they get used to you. You get used to them, and you can get your pigs to become extremely tame and happy and come up to you for rubs and strokes.

But equally, if you never really go in with your pigs and spend any time with your pigs, then your pigs can become far less friendly. Personally, I’ve never had a pig that I was cautious about going in with, but then that’s because I go in with my pigs a lot. I do definitely recommend that you spend the time in there so that they’re used to being around you and they see you as a standard part of their day is coming in and seeing them.

And if you can give them a little stroke and a pat then, genuinely, they love it. They absolutely love it if you get them used to doing that, they do love the attention. So do spend time with your pigs.

If you’ve got your pigs out on the open ground, you should definitely be aware that they’re going to absolutely destroy it, particularly if it’s a smaller plot.

Our pigs don’t actually do too much damage in our wood because they’ve got so much of it. But on a lawn, it wouldn’t matter how big it was, they would absolutely tear it up. You can look at that as a negative, but you could also look at it as a positive. I read somewhere, (I can’t remember where so I can’t quote the source, unfortunately, but I’m sure it was a permaculture source) the saying goes, if you don’t keep pigs, then you’ve got to be the plow. What that is trying to tell you is that if you’ve got an area of ground that you want to plow or turn over, you can put pigs on it to do that work for you.

If you are not using the no-dig method, if you are going to till your ground, then you can use pigs to actually do that for you. They’re a utility animal in that regard. That’s not something we use them for, not something we have a desire to use them for, but they do keep the. Undergrowth down in the Woodland.

They’re useful for that for us because we don’t manage that particular piece of Woodland. We use it particularly just specifically for pigs. So having them in there, it means that it doesn’t all get overgrown and we can get around in there, which is great for me because I do harvest some wild mushrooms from that wood.

I wouldn’t necessarily be able to go in and get them if it wasn’t for the fact that the pigs are in there keeping it down all the time, or I wouldn’t find it quite so easy at least. So we have turkey tail mushrooms, and we also have velvet shank mushrooms that grow in there. And I go in there and harvest them and they’re really easy to find and see because I’ve got the pigs in there keeping the undergrowth down.

That’s what we’ve got at the moment. We got two pigs and. I would recommend if you’re just starting out, that you buy weaners, which are piglets that have basically been weaned and you just grow them on and slaughter them. And that will provide quite a lot of food depending on your needs.

Two to three pigs a year keeps my family in pork. As a family of five, five carnivores, you don’t need lots and lots of pigs. That’s the easiest way, the simplest way, and the best way I would suggest to anyone who gets into it. We’re probably going to keep one of our female pigs this year, and we’re probably going to breed her next year, it means we’re not going to be needing to buy weaners in anymore.

It also means we’re probably going to have a surplus of pork. We’ll be able to actually sell some of that meat because of how many piglets we’ll have. Pigs will have quite a large litter of piglets.
We’re going to talk about feeding requirements. Next.

Feeding Pigs

Several times in the past, I’ve spoken about my passion for reducing the feed costs for our animals. It’s something I get quite excited about if I can feed our animals for free. It ties into the whole self-sufficient thing that we’re trying to achieve and of course saves us money. Pigs are great because they will eat almost anything.

You will definitely want to have a look at the regulations in your area. There are lots of places in the world where there are lots of things you cannot feed to your pigs, and if you’re going to sell the meat, that is even more likely to be something you need to consider. Because ours are all in house and it’s meat for the family, so long as I know what’s going on and I’m happy for them to eat it, then I’m happy to feed it to them.

One of the main sources of feed for our pigs is fruits and vegetables. We get fruit and vegetables from shops; fruit, and vegetable shops that are throwing out their stock that’s gone slightly over. I collect a 50-liter bin between once and twice a week, which takes probably 30% if not more of the feeding requirements for our two pigs.

We also have a bakery. That I collect their spare loaves. Things that have gone over. The dough that’s leftover, they cook it up in their ovens because it’s easier for them to dispose of cooked than wet. And that makes up probably another
30% of our pigs’ feed.

We also live next door to a microbrewery, so we have access to spent grains. That makes up another small portion of our pigs’ diets. And then finally we have table scraps and our own kitchen waste. Across the board, that makes up. Not quite, but almost 100% of our pigs’ diet.

When I say not quite, what I mean is I bought one bag of pig feed when we got our pigs, because on the days when, for whatever reason, I don’t have anything for them. It’s really important that I’ve got something. I don’t want them to not have anything. I bought that bag about nine weeks ago when we first got our pigs, and I think I’ve used probably a quarter of it.

I think there’s every likelihood that I’m going to be able to raise these two pigs from weaners all the way to slaughter for the cost of one bag of feed, and I’ll be really happy if I can do that. That’s certainly my goal. The other thing is that our pigs also have foraged food. They’ve got access to this massive Woodland, and half the trees in there are Oak so that they have all the acorns in the fall.

That will be, as they’re towards the end of their lives, they will have access to all of that, and they also forage for things like earthworms, which do make up a percentage of their diet. So across the board, they’ve got a really great balanced diet and they couldn’t be happier. The welfare of our animals is the most important thing to me.

If you’ve got animals, you are 100% responsible for 100% of their needs. And it’s my responsibility to ensure that the life they live while in my care is as good as it can possibly be. And I can assure you that our pigs are in pig heaven for the time that they are alive. It’s really important to me. I understand completely the case for veganism when you’re talking about factory farming, and there are lots of ethical cases you can make against eating meat from the supermarket, and I agree with all of them.

My main feeling is that animals should have a net positive life. That is that we’re going to be breeding, slaughtering, and eating animals that are going to have a life that was worth living. It was better for them to have come into existence and spent that time having a great life and then have a humane slaughter than to have not have existed at all.

That’s my feeling. I understand that this will jar with some people, but I’m guessing most of the people who feel that way probably won’t be listening this deep into the episode anyway, but this is just a way for me to share my opinions on it.
So that’s feeding pigs.
Breeding pigs is the next thing.

If you’re going to breed your own pigs, they will have several litters a year.

It’s very, very easy to become overwhelmed with pigs. If you’re going to keep your own breeding pigs, unless you’ve got a plan for having maybe 20 piglets a year, then you’re going to want to separate the boar from the sow. And again, what we’re going to do if we go down this route is we’re going to run electric wire within the wood, and we’re basically going to separate the wood into two sections, and one will be for the boar and the other will be for the sow.

I don’t know if that’s going to be a working plan, if that’s going to be suitable, I need to do a bit more research on that, but I definitely will need to separate the boar from the sows. We can’t just have them running free or we’ll just have too many piglets.

With regards to breeds, it really is a case of whatever you like.

There are pros and cons of all different breeds, and it’s really important to do your own research. My feeling was simply that it didn’t really matter that much to me, and that’s all based on our feeding costs because it doesn’t cost us very much to feed our pigs. It doesn’t matter if they take six months or nine months to reach maturity, slaughter age.

For me, it didn’t really matter. I only tend to just go for whatever I can get that’s quite cheap and available locally because I know that the environment they’re going into is going to be perfect for pretty much all breeds. What we’ve got at the moment is a bit of a mix, a bit of a crossbreed.

I can tell by looking at them, they’ve got some commercial pig in them, that pink pig that you’re used to seeing on commercial farms, but they’ve also got some saddleback in them, which is an older breed now. They’re awesome, allegedly fantastic tasting, better-tasting breeds that are INH pigs and older varieties.

And that’s certainly something worth looking into. But like I say, from my point of view, I don’t think it makes enough of a difference for me to spend too much time worrying about it. Now when we get into breeding, that might change. But where we are at the moment, we’re not too fussy about our breeds of pigs.

That’s about all I’ve got to say for pigs, and as I say, if you’re going to be raising an animal purely for meat, I think pigs are probably the best option to start with. Thanks for listening. See you on the next one.

15: Episode 15 – Incorporating chickens

Chickens are an integral part of almost every self sufficiency system. Here I talk a little about breeds, fencing, breeding, feed and other points regarding keeping hens.

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Incorporating Chickens

Even if you are remotely interested in self-sufficiency, you absolutely have to get some chickens. They have to be a part of your self-sufficiency plan. They do so much work and to try
and set up any kind of self-sufficient system where you want to work towards being 100% food self-reliant, then chickens are just an absolute no-brainer. They’re such an integral part of what we do here on my farm and I’m going to talk to you today about why you should have them. I’m also going to discuss a few more basic introductory things that you need to know about choosing your chickens, how you look after them, what they’re going to do for you and why you really do need to consider getting them if you haven’t already.

How To Incorporate Chickens in your Homestead

Deciding Type of Chickens

First of all, you need to decide on which chickens you are going to get. To start out at least, you should focus on egg-laying breeds now. Strictly speaking, there are three different types of chicken: Egg-laying chickens, meat birds and dual-purpose birds, which do both but they don’t do either quite as well as the dedicated birds would. I’m going to start talking about those three types of birds but there is a fourth type and they are more ornamental ones.

We have quite a selection here on the homestead. We’ve got lots of egg-laying birds. We don’t have any specific meat breeds. We get our chicken meat as a byproduct of what else we’re doing here. We have aesthetic birds as the fourth type which we have here as a small flock of predominantly Pekin Bantams, which do lay eggs. We are happy with the number of eggs they produce but they are more like our pets. They also command quite a decent price so you can breed your chickens and sell the young chickens of whatever breed you have. So that’s just another way that they can pay for themselves.

Egg Laying Birds

I’m going to start by talking about egg-laying birds and the main breed to promote from my point of view are ISA Browns. The breed basically makes up the whole of the battery farming sector of our farms. They don’t have a particularly nice life when they are barn birds. So I do want to encourage you to look into saving battery hens. ISA Brown is just a great bird. They’re so well-behaved and we find them so easy to look after. We’ve got over a hundred here and it’s the bird that we have the most of. Over 50% of our flock are ex-battery hens. Ex-battery hens will be put into work at a very young age. They start laying eggs when they’re very young and they lay eggs every day at a ridiculous rate. Then they start to drop off when they’re just a year and a half old. So after a year and a half of living in not very good conditions there, they are no longer deemed worthy and they go off to slaughter and end up in the animal feed (dog food) and things like that. At that point, even though under the very tight margins of a battery farming set up, they’re not viable. They are very much backyard hens.

So we get most of our birds as ex-battery hens. They spend that period of their lives churning out eggs at a ridiculous rate under not very good conditions, and we give them a beautiful retirement. We give them lots of open space and grass. You can consider getting them because it’s a nice way of increasing the well-being of that animal’s life, that’s already served humanity in such an abhorrent way. We also buy some ISA Browns which are of the same breed but we buy them at point of lay, which means they’re just about to start laying. So we also get that extra bit of time when they’re at their highest point of production. But again, we don’t try to make any of the situations that they live in, out of nature. These are the egg-laying breeds that I personally use but there are also some different varieties if you want to go down that road, for example, Australorps, Rhode Island Reds and Leghorn are well-known egg-laying breeds.

Meat Birds

Any bird that is raised for meat can be referred to as a broiler. But the broilers that are used in the factory farming process are super inbred to a point where they don’t even function as animals anymore. They’re bred to put on weight at such a rate that their legs can’t even support their weight and it really is quite a disgusting state of affairs. There are some less inbred versions of birds that you can breed. If you want to breed something specifically to get them to a nice size fairly quickly, then Jersey Giant and the Orpington are great options. Orpingtons are nice birds because they’re dual-purpose birds. The only downside is they don’t lay as many eggs as your egg breeding hens and also they take a little bit longer to get to their full size. But if your main goal is to have a dual purpose bird and maintain the welfare of the animal, then all Orpingtons are a great variety to go for.

Breeding Chickens

When you’ve got a flock of birds, you’ll have a decision to make and that is whether you’re going to keep a cock bird. My advice is that you do and the main reason for this is breeding. So I keep all of our hens with at least one cock bird. You only need one cock bird / 12 hens or more and they will keep all of those eggs fertile. then you can raise your own chicks, which you can do either in an incubator or you can let nature take its course and allow your hands to sit on those eggs and raise them.

Now, ISA Browns don’t tend to go broody and sit on their eggs because they’ve had that bred out of them. It’s not a useful thing for a battery farmer to have to deal with a lot of broody hens that aren’t laying anymore. But if you’ve got a mixture of birds, then you almost certainly will have some broody birds every Spring and quite often, other times of the year as well. Our Pekins are well-known as being really good broody hens. So when one of our Pekins decides that she’s going to sit on some eggs, we make sure that she’s got some of our ISA brown eggs under her and she’s going to hatch our next round of egg-laying birds, which is, a great way of keeping that cycle of energy. We don’t have to go out and buy more birds.

Now, of course, only the females will lay your eggs. So a byproduct of your own breeding system is you’re going to have cock birds that you don’t want. Beyond the few cock birds that you will want for breeding, every other bird is just going to be hungry mouths to feed. It doesn’t actually give you much back. We allow them to grow to maturity, have a great life and then they become meat birds. So that’s how we produce our meat which is a byproduct of our egg-laying birds.

How To Breed Your Birds

I’m going to talk more about how you breed your birds and how you use an incubator. So breeding your own hens, if you’ve got a broody hen, is that you’ll have a hen that decides she’s not getting up anytime soon. She’s literally going to sit in the nesting box for days on end.
She will just come out for the drink and a quick bite of food and then straight back. It’s because she’s decided she’s going to sit on these eggs and hatch them. In this period, they will readily accept extra eggs. So you can either swap the eggs that are under her for the egg you want to be hatched or you can just add a few to hatch the ones that are already under her. It’s quite important that you separate her into another little run so that other hens can’t continually lay eggs that she might try to adopt and you’ll lose track of which ones were she supposed to sit on. Eventually, she’ll have too many that she can’t keep them warm and you’ll have a high failure rate. Another way is to use an electric incubator. We personally use the broody hen method because it’s natural and free. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the incubator method. The only downside of the incubator method, apart from the electric costs, is that you also don’t end up with a mother hen who can teach chicks how to eat, how to forage etc.

Feeding Your Birds

When you’ve got your baby hens, you can either buy a product called chick crumb, which is basically like chicken feed pellet but a much smaller version for them and it’s got all the extra nutrients the chicks need. What we feed ours are mashed up boiled eggs mixed with a bit of bread and it’s got everything they need along with a bit of foraging that their mum will take care of for you. So that’s how we feed our chicks.

Feeding your birds in general across the board is dependent largely on the size area you’re able to give them. The bigger the area you’re going to give them, the less you’re going to need to find a feed for them. That is because they are great forages. They will eat slugs, bugs and worms and also peck at the grass and other plants, in my experience. You can check online for lists of plants that are poisonous to your hens. They’re also great at eating scraps from the kitchen. So with a bit of thought and enough space, you can get your food costs down to 0. Corn and mealworms also make a great treat for them. If you’ve got some chickens that you’re struggling to tame or you’re struggling to get to go away at night, teaching them that a few mealworms will be put in the run before you shut them away will definitely do the job. Like all animals, they will need access to lots of fresh, clean water.

If you’re going to feed your chicks in a feeder, I strongly recommend that you use a treadle feeder. They do have a cost. It is a big box that stores the food in and it’s a vermin-proof box. To access the feed, the chickens stand on a little trap door that opens up where the feed is and they’re really effective and they keep your feed costs down primarily because there are no rats and mice that you’re feeding.

How To Keep Your Birds Safe

The next thing you’ll want to think about is keeping your bird safe. When we think of free-ranging birds, we imagine they’ve got access to acres of land and everybody’s having a grand time. But unfortunately, that’s not the reality. If you were to truly free-range your birds and if I was to allow my chickens access to our whole garden, they would get picked off by the fox in short order. They would not last a month. So we do free-range our birds but we do it an electric fence. We’ve got an electric fence that we move. They’ve got access to grass all the time and they’ve got lots of space.

Unfortunately, the idea of actually free-ranging a bird doesn’t really work if you also want to keep them alive. Free-ranging is important for keeping the costs down because the more you give them access to land, the more they can feed themselves. The hens that we’ve got outside our kitchen have got access to probably half an acre of fenced-off garden and dogs are also free-ranging in so they keep our animals safe in that space. The hens that are a bit further out are mainly egg layers. They’re not in that space with the dogs so there’s nothing there to deter the fox and the badger. Within that electric fencing, we have another run within that’s got six-foot harris fencing all the way around it. We’ve also got a strip of the electric fence about 8 inches off the ground all the way around as well to stop things digging under it. So you do need to think about the safety of your birds.

Another way a lot of people do it is they keep them in a hutch overnight and then they let them out onto their lawn in the day. The fox is the biggest predator here in the UK so you need to keep them safe from whatever predators live in your area. Something that can help with that is an automatic door. We’ve got two automatic doors on our runs out in the field where the electric fence is. Once our hens are away at night, the door comes down automatically. It’s on a solar sensor and that’s just that extra layer of security for our hens. Once you’ve got your fencing in place if you’ve got a normal four-foot fence or something of that nature, your chickens will, depending on your breed, learn to jump up on it and get to wherever they want to get. So you can clip their wings. It’s really simple, you just extend their wing out and you take care not to actually damage the wing itself, just cut the flight feathers back with a pair of scissors. We normally just do one wing and that stops them from being able to fly where we don’t want them. It doesn’t hurt them any more because it’s like cutting your grown out fingernails.

Another thing is that you might want to worm your chickens. It really does depend on your stocking levels and whether you’re able to change the ground because the worms live in their faeces If you’re moving the hens to a different plot every six weeks, letting that ground recover and using good animal husbandry, then you probably won’t need to. We’ve also got some wormwood bushes that I’ve transplanted into all the areas that we put the chickens and they can also self medicate from that bush.

Final Thoughts

So that’s just about everything I’ve got to say about raising chickens. Hopefully, if you don’t have any already, I’ve inspired you to consider getting some. Even though the main purpose of having them is to feed into what we’re trying to achieve and being food secure, they also make great pets. They’ve got great characters and I’m sure if you get them you won’t regret it.

4: Episode 4- Livestock 101

An overview of the different types of livestock you should consider for becoming self sufficient. We talk about goats, chickens, pigs and many more… Which animals are going to be best for your needs and how to keep your feed costs close to or even at zero!

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Livestock 101

Now, we've got a nice big garden where we live. So we're able to raise pigs, goats, geese,
chickens, and sheep. We're very very lucky here. And today, I'm just going to run through all the
benefits of keeping livestock, which ones you should get started out with, how you can reduce
your feed costs, and all the benefits and products that they give us.

What Livestock to Start Out With


So to start with: pigs. We're very lucky. We've got a piece of woodland on the edge of our
property that we've got fenced in. So we keep pigs in there. Now the main product that we get
from pigs is obviously meat (pork), and we find that somewhere between two and three pigs a
year is just about right for our family's needs (a family of five). Up to and including this year,
what we've done is we've bought in weaners, which are piglets that are old enough to be
separated from mum quite happily. And we've basically bread them on, fattened them up, and
slaughtered them for meat.

So two things to say about that. Firstly, ethically. Now every animal including pigs on our
homestead are given the very best life that they can have. I've got no ethical conundrum in my
head about whether or not these pigs had a nice life. They absolutely had a net positive life. And
they are free to range over an acre and a half of woodland, just a few of them foraging around,
having acorns that fall in the autumn and just having an absolute perfect existence while they're
with us. Everything we do is as humane as possible, and that includes the transportation and
what have you. So ethically I've got a clear conscience there.
Another thing just to think about with pigs is that they're very easy to fence off, if you use
electric. They're very respectful of an electric fence. They also don't jump, so one or two strands
of electric fence quite low down, they'll learn where it is very quickly and they'll never test it. So
that's a great thing with pigs.
Another thing with our pigs is that we're able to keep our food costs down to pretty much zero.
We do that in a number of ways. I'm going to go into food costs later on in this post and go
through all the ways that we keep our food bill very very low.


The second animal is sheep. Now, we have one sheep, which is a pet. So strictly speaking, she
doesn't fit into the self-sufficient model very well. She's a bit of an outlier. There's a whole story
behind how we got her, but ultimately, she's my daughter's pet.
Now raising lambs for meat, there are two ways to go about it. The first is the same way as we
have done up until recently with the pigs, and that is to buy in lambs. Now the advantage of
doing this is that most lamb production farms have quite a number of orphaned lambs every
spring. These are lambs whose mothers have died during childbirth or whose mothers have
rejected them. And they just don't have the capacity and the manpower to deal with them all.
So, we bought our lamb as an orphaned lamb two days old or one-day old for just £10. So
they're very very economic to get hold of if you do it that way.
The other way obviously is to have your own breeding flock. Now, the only reason I personally
would warn against this and why we haven't looked into it, is just because of the high mortality
rate with sheep breeding. Or at least this has been my understanding from what I've learned.
And the high level of care and maintenance and man hours required around lambing time to
mitigate that. So personally we’re not planning on breeding our lamb but what we do do is save
the wool. My wife processes the world and uses it use it to knit with. So she's not completely
useless insofar as providing something, but she doesn't really pay her way. Like I said, she's
more of a pet on our homestead.
But in the future, having orphaned lambs and keeping them for a season is something we would
certainly consider. It really depends on how we manage the ground here and what capacity we
have on our grass.


Which brings me nicely on goats. Now goats are an amazing animal because, not only do they
produce food in goat meat, but they also provide us with milk. Now if you're considering getting
goat, so I strongly suggest that you have at least one milking goat.

Now different breeds are good for different things. We have milking goats. That is the entirety of
our heard here. We've got three adult females as I speak now, and we've got four kids. Of the
kids, we have one male and three females. So the male kid will be castrated very soon. And he
will be living with us for almost a year, and then he will go to slaughter and be meat. And the
females will either go with him or they may go into our milking herd. But I've got to be honest,
three is plenty. Just one of our goats Fern, our top producer, she produces comfortably 12 pints
of milk a day when she's milking. So we don't really need any more than three.
The beauty of milk obviously though is that it also produces butter, cream, ice cream, cheese,
and all of the dairy products. So that's great. They are a really vital part of our self-sufficient plan


The next item I want to talk about is cows. Now people that I know who raise cows, they tend to
do it the same way. I’ve spoke about with the pigs and the sheep, which is just a buy in calfs at
a cheap cost and keep them for a season.
Personally, that's the only way we would do it. We don’t have the space here to be breeding
cows. But also in terms of a dairy cow, you need about four times the amount of ground to keep
a cow as you do a goat. And to us that's just not practical. So we're quite happy with our goats

for our dairy product, and we are generating plenty of meat already. So we don't have the need
for a cow.
We do sometimes trade some of our pork or goat meat for beef with other people living locally
that are doing similar things to us but do keep cows, but I don't have a lot of experience with
cows. So I don't really have a lot to add here.
All I would say is that if you're considering getting a cow, and you don't have goats, certainly
think very hard, do a comparison, and you may find it's much easier and simpler for you to keep
goats or a goat than a cow.


The next animal for meat is rabbit. Now we don't have rabbits here, but it's something I'm very
keen to experiment with in the coming months and years. So I will certainly keep you up-to-date
with that. Rabbits are, from what I can tell, a fantastic source of meat, easy to process, and easy
to breed. We all know they breed like rabbits, so there's that!


And the final animal I want to talk to you about is chickens. Now chickens are an absolute
essential part of any homestead, in my opinion. You get different breeds for meat than you do
for eggs, but everybody's first step when they're considering animals is (or should) be egg

The reason for that is because every family I know eats eggs, so you've got that straight off the
bat. But also, it's very easy to over produce eggs, and then they are also the easiest thing to
sell. So, when you're starting to try and produce an income from your homestead, and you're
maybe thinking about putting an advert in the paper or building a little stall at the side of the
road, eggs are by far the easiest thing to monetize. I certainly think that egg chickens should be
everybody's first step to animals.
Now we are lucky insofar as we've got about a hundred egg-laying chickens here and the sales
of those eggs actually pay for every piece of animal feed we have to buy here. Everything else
is effectively generated for free apart from obviously the time commitment that it takes.

Ducks and Geese

A brief mention for ducks and geese. Now goose eggs are very very easy to sell. We sell them
for £2 per egg fertilized – or advertised as fertilized to people who want to put them in incubators
or have a broody animal to sit them. But we also sell them at one pound fifty at the side of the
road for just general sales, and they sell very well. So, our geese pay for themselves. I'm not
sure they do more than that. But a byproduct of geese is obviously meat. What we do is, when

one of our geese goes Broody, we just allow her to do her own thing. And any of the goslings
that come on, they can be for the table. So that's the profit there if you like.
And Ducks very much the same. The only thing is you need to be a bit more careful keeping
them safe.

Things to Consider Before Getting an Animal

Now, I want to leave you with a few other points for you to do before you go and get yourself an
animal particularly a large animal.


The first thing is: do your own research. Spend a lot of time digging into exactly what you're
getting, why are you getting it? What do they need? Are you ready? and everything else. It’s
certainly what we did before we got any animal, and I'm glad I did.


I cannot tell you how important it is to get the infrastructure in place before you have the animal.
Now, this is a golden rule that I have frequently broken in the past, and I'm really quite strict with
myself now not to do so because I've paid the price.
If you need fencing of a certain type, get the fencing before you get the animal. If you need
housing or whatever else you need to have in place, get that in place. It really is super important
because trying to do it when you've got the animal makes it 5x harder because you've already
added to your workload because now you're looking after the animal. But chances are you're
actually having more workload than you otherwise would because the animal isn't being housed
as perfectly as you might like.

Find a Mentor

Next thing I want to say, if it's at all possible, find yourself a mentor. And it doesn't have to be a
formal arrangement, but find yourself someone, hopefully locally – but if not online in a forum or
somewhere – someone who's done what you want to do. And just talk to them. Talk to them
before and during the process. It really is quite helpful just to know that there's someone there
the other end of a keyboard or a phone, if you need it – even if you never do.

Find a Vet

Next thing is that, if you're getting big animals – less important with the smaller animals if you're
a little bit more experience – but if you're getting anything bigger than a chicken or a goose, I
think it's really quite important to meet your local farm vet. Have them come to your property as
soon as you get your animals. If nothing else, in my experience what that did is it opened up a
line of communication. I now have our local vets’ mobile number, and nine times out of ten, I can resolve any issue with a quick phone call. I was actually on the phone yesterday to the vet
about an issue with our sheep and just being able to call her on her mobile (which she is quite
happy to take) saved me a visit and potentially 70-200 pounds for a vet to come out, which
wasn't needed after the phone call.

Consider the Legislation in Your Area

That's almost everything. I've got to say for our overview of raising livestock and animals. A few
last points are, just make sure you consider if you're raising animals for meat, make sure you
consider the legislation in your area. Do you need to register the movement of your cattle? Do
you need to register that you're holding certain types of animal? Do you need a certain vehicle
to take them to the butchery? Where are you going to take them to be butchered? Things like
that. Have you got the transport you need to move them? If not, what are your arrangements?
These are all just things to think about before you jump in.

Feed for Your Livestock

And finally, I just want to have a quick chat about feed, and feed costs. Now, we get our feed
costs down to pretty close to zero and we do that with four different ways I would suggest. The
first is we are able to generate most of our feed here on site, and we do that by way of grazing.
So having grass available for the goats and the geese but also our hedging and trees that we
trim back. That is all feed for the goats and obviously waste food from the kitchen, small in
amount as it may be, that obviously doesn't go in the compost. It goes to the animals, and the
animal that gets it will depend on the type of food waste. So that's the first thing.

The second thing is we have a bakery within a hundred yards of our house. So, we save them
refuse costs that they would have to pay to have someone come and take away all the leftover
bread at the end of the day. And generally, what happens when they finished baking certain
type of bread, there's a pile of dough left over. They bang that in the oven because it's easier for
them to get rid of that way. So effectively we get all the leftover cooked dough by way of bread.
Thirdly fruit and veg grocers. We have an organic fruit and veg greengrocer locally. And we do
the same, we take away all their produce that they haven't sold that has just gone past the point
where they are willing to display and sell it to their customers. We bring that back here, and that
makes up a large portion of particularly the pigs’ food.
And finally, microbreweries. There's a microbrewery not too far from our house and we are able
to take some of their spent grain.
So, between those four methods there really is a very little feed that we need to go out and


For me, that is the crux of self-sufficiency. It's a combination of balancing your outgoings with
your in goings. Making sure that you can be generating as much as you can to supplement
whatever it is you're bringing in, and making that cycle work.