Animal Husbandry – How To Live Off The Land

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While getting a herd of cows or buffalo is probably more difficult than is recommended for the reader of this book, the survival gardener who wants to branch out into the animal kingdom can easily do so with a little guidance … even when living in the city! Before you buy, make sure to familiarize yourself with the breed you want and their specific needs. If you intend to raise animals for meat, think about how you will process them when the time comes. In many places, it is illegal to slaughter your own animals if they are intended to feed anyone but your family, and it may be illegal for you to slaughter larger animals at home altogether.


Bees are busy little producers of honey and beeswax, but they also help to pollinate your garden and thereby increase its productivity. They have an unfair reputation as stingers and are actually quite docile creatures. If you are deathly allergic, though, they are clearly not for you. Bees can even be kept in urban environments, if the council approves. By keeping them you are actually doing the world a favor as there is now a serious bee shortage.

Egg & Poultry Birds

The next step up is for the birds. Chickens in particular tend to be easy to care for and can be kept in quite small spaces. If you don’t have the room for a full-sized chicken run, you can build a chicken tractor, a kind of portable pen that keeps your chickens contained but lets you move them around. Chickens do need to be protected against predators by a good fence. Note that, on account of noise, most suburban and urban councils don’t approve of roosters.

Ducks can be slightly more difficult to raise than chickens, and they do require access to water that is deep enough for dunking their heads. But they don’t fight like chickens do and are less prone to illnesses. Ducks love to forage so they tend to require less feeding. They are often prolific layers, and their eggs are more nutritious than chicken eggs.

Turkeys and geese are larger birds with greater demands. Geese are the loud guard dogs of the bird kingdom and will both make noise and snap at humans who get too close. Turkeys are not as combative but require much more space than they tend to be given, even at family farms, which makes them little escape artists.

Small Animals

Even the indoor or balcony farmer can often maintain a rabbit hutch. Seeing rabbits as meat producers is unpopular in some cultures, but in rural France it’s popular to keep rabbit hutches in the backyard. Rabbits are easy to care for, they are incredibly prolific, and if you cross angoras with a meat breed, you can produce rabbits that serve both food and fiber purposes.

Pigeons are almost self-sustaining. Once their housing has been built and breeder pairs have been established in their new home, they will to some extent feed themselves, if you let them, and will produce plenty of squab.

Pigs are not terribly difficult to keep, as long as their fence is at least three feet tall and tightly woven. They also need a dry and wind-free shelter. Pigs are fairly economical, even if you don’t breed your own, and can live to a large extent on foraging and scraps.

Meat, Milk & Fiber

Sheep and goats are the ultimate multi-purpose animals. Depending on the breeds you choose, they will produce milk, meat and fibers. Goats are escape artists so your best bet is a woven wire fence with barbed wire or electric top. Sheep are much less likely to escape, but are easy targets for predators unless properly fenced in. Neither goats nor sheep need very fancy housing as long as they have access to dry and drought-free quarters.


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