Now it is time to pick out the animal that you will be bringing to your homestead. Chances are, you have already chosen the type of animal you want; dog, cat, horse, goat, pig, chicken, duck, goose, fish, etc. Have you thought about the reasons you want that animal?
First, will it be a pet, livestock, or both? For example, most of my cats are pets, but one is a barn cat. That puts him firmly in the livestock category. I have 1 dog that is a pet, and 2 that are livestock guardians. I have a horse, which is both. She is definitely a pleasure animal, but she provides manure to our compost pile. The reason you want the animal will determine if it is a pet or not.
Think down the road a bit. If this animal is not a pet, will there come a time when you will want to butcher the animal? Or if you will breed the animal, will you want to butcher the offspring? If yes, have you ever butchered an animal before? If yes then you will be fine. If not, you need to seriously consider if you will be willing and able to do the deed when the time comes. You don’t want an animal on your homestead that you originally put there to provide meat and is now just eating you out of house and home, because you can’t bring yourself to dealing with it.
Go to a farm where they butcher their own meat and watch. You were ok with that? Ask to help them. Still ok with that? Now imagine that you have raised that animal since it was born. If you can still see yourself butchering that animal then feel free to continue. Can’t see yourself butchering it, but can still see yourself eating it? Ask if that farmer would be willing to help you out, or find out if there is anyone else in your area willing to take care of it for you. Most will be willing to help if there is some sort of return in it for them as well. However, if you can’t butcher it and won’t be able to eat it either, you may want to rethink your reasons for getting the animal.
There are other reasons for getting an animal besides pleasure or meat. You could want eggs, milk, manure, selling offspring, etc. When considering all of this, to include pleasure and meat, there is always a ‘best breed for the job’. When it comes to chickens, there are birds that are great for eggs and birds that are great for meat. Then there are some birds that are pretty good at both. Same goes for goats and milk vs. meat. When it comes to choosing dogs, some breeds are good at running, some digging, some guarding… in fact you could probably choose a quality you like the most in a dog and there will be a breed for that specific quality.
Next, think about animal temperament. All animals, just like people, have their own personalities. What type of temperament are you willing to put up with? Do you want an animal that is calm and quiet all the time? Or one that is playful and curious? There are also diva’s that always need attention or they will find other ways to entertain themselves.
Finally, how long are you willing to care for the animal? All animals have different a life expectancy. A fish can live as little as a few months, a pet rat can live a couple of years. Dogs, dependent on breed, can live about 15 years. Cats generally have the same life expectancy as dogs. Horses can live 30 years. Some parrots and turtles can live 100+ years. If you will be unable to care for your pet for their full lives, what will happen to them when you are gone? Animals can be just like children to you and need to have security throughout their lives. It is also harder to find a home for an older animal than a younger one, so please see that they have somewhere to go if you cannot care for them their whole lives, or they just might join you over the rainbow bridge soon after your passing.
Once you know what you want in your animal, it is time to choose where to get it. If you are simply looking for a pet, I strongly encourage you to look around at your local rescues first. There are always animals looking for a good home. There are rescues for every type of animal. We have personally rescued dogs, cats, chickens, a turkey, ducks, and a rabbit. Rescued pets don’t always come with baggage, and when they do, they are usually ready and willing to leave it all in the past in return for a good loving home. Some of my sweetest and most loving animals were rescued.
There are other places to get your animal from. You could choose to go directly to the breeder, farm, pet store, stock yards, etc. Please do not choose your animal out of pity for the way the previous owner or breeder treated the animal. You will only encourage the breeder and possibly end up with a poor investment. If you find someone who is mishandling, abusing, or neglecting animals, they need to be reported immediately. When reporting, you need to have as much evidence that this is going on as the situation allows. There are people out there who breed animals just to make money and don’t care for or about the animals. These people need to be stopped. On the other hand, there are many people who take great loving care of their animals and will provide you with a quality animal that will serve your needs and desires.
If you are purchasing from a pet store, stock yard, or anywhere else that you will not be able to see the conditions in which the animal was bred, find out as much information as you can about the breeder that the situation allows. Again, purchasing an animal from a breeder that does not care for or about the animal they are breeding will only encourage them to continue. You are not doing yourself or anyone else a favor by purchasing that animal.
Once you have chosen the specific animal you wish to bring home, don’t let all of your good research go to waste now. Spend some time with that animal before making the purchase. Some things to pay attention to are general and overall health of the animal, the personality and temperament of the animal, the knowledge of the owner about the specific animal and breed, and the conditions in which the animal is being kept.
Be alert and aware for any feelings that you might have that this might not be the right animal or the right time. If any exist then take a step back. You can always come back again later once you have thought through the decision and made sure that this is what you want.
When you get your animal home, the first thing you need to remember is just how stressful it is to find yourself in a new place, unsure of what is going on and who these people are. You should immediately put the animal in its containment area inside its shelter. If this animal is a cat, dog, or other animal that will eventually have the run of the house, find a dark corner somewhere secluded like a bathroom where the animal is able to hide if it would like and make it a home with a crate and/or bed. Make sure that the animal has water nearby and even a bit of food. If you would like to stay nearby the animal that is fine, but give it some space until it feels comfortable coming to you. There are some animals that this period passes within minutes and may not even seem necessary, but there are some animals that can take up to several months to get used to being handled by someone new. Just be patient and make yourself available to them several times a day and soon you will have a sweet loving animal to call your own.
Next we are going to explore several different types of animals that we have chosen for our farm.
- Animals On The Homestead
- Housing For Animals
- Feeding Your Animals
- Containment For Your Animal
- Have We Thought of Everything Yet?