Thursday, March 10, 2011

Twenty-One Days - Day 8: Livestock

Some of my favorite (and least favorite) discussions back when I first started blogging about homesteading in the suburbs came from people who would tell me what I couldn't do. It used to drive me bonkers, because if people know only one thing about me, it's that I don't like being told that a thing is impossible. My thought pattern goes something like, "Really? How do you know? Have you tried it?"

Most of the time those who are the most vocal about how a thing won't work are the ones who would never try that thing, because they've already convinced themselves it can't be done, and what really drives me crazy is the excuse-making. When I was in the military we had some rather crude ways of saying things. One of the best was excuses are like assholes; everyone has one, and they all stink. I hate excuses. I hate making them, and I hate hearing them. I hate getting sucked into those conversations, because at the beginning of the conversation, I will believe that the person is genuinely interested in trying this thing we're discussing, but just in a quandry as to how to manage it, but then, for every possible solution, he/she will give me a reason why it wouldn't work, and really, some of the reasons why are kind of lame.

Those excuses are just euphemisms for "I'm not really interested", because if that person REALLY wanted to do whatever is being proposed (growing food, raising animals), he/she would find a way to do it.

I've had rabbits on my homestead almost since we bought our house. We've had chickens for the past five years, and we added ducks two years ago. When I talk about my livestock, especially in those early days, there were always those who would say, "well, that's good for you, but I can't have chickens."

And my response is that it doesn't have to be chickens. There are other options for egg-laying, meat producing birds for a small homestead. The problem is that most people can't think beyond the obvious. Chickens are against the rules for wherever they live and if they can't have chickens, there's nothing else.

... but there is ... something else.

How about quail?

Quail are much smaller than chickens, which means they take up considerably less space. In fact, six quail will fit in the space necessary for one laying hen. Likewise, their eggs are tiny, and three eggs is roughly equivalent to one chicken egg.

But they are prolific layers, and one could easily get overwhelmed in a very short time by the number of eggs provided by a dozen birds.

Quail are also very quiet. They don't cluck or crow. They coo and tweet, and it's actually quite a beautiful sound - a bit like wild bird song.

Unlike chickens, both male and female quail are needed for egg production, and a female quail will only lay for about nine months. But unlike the typical non-roostered suburban chicken flock, the quail flock can be self-propagating. I have to buy new chicks whenever I want new laying hens. If I had quail, I would only need to purchase the first set, and they would provide off-spring for me.

The bottom line is that the only thing that's truly impossible is that which we won't try. I won't go as far as to claim that there is some sort of potential food animal or food producing animal that can be kept no matter where one lives, but ... but, yes I will, because there is. It's just a matter of thinking beyond the usual choices.

For those who might be able to consider some traditional farm animals, I have two great books to giveaway:

The first is Barbra Kilarski's Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces. It's the book that started it all for me, and after reading this book, I just knew that I was getting chickens.

The second is Gail Damerow's Your Goats. I got this book because I wanted to raise goats, but I've since decided that goats aren't a good choice for me right now, and I'd like to pass this book along to someone who will actually use it.

Since there are two books (two winners), I'd like to make it a bit more interesting. You still only need to leave a comment for a chance to win (and if you have a preference of one book or the other, be sure to say so), but this time, if you send a friend over here and that person comments and gives your name, you'll be entered in the drawing twice.


The winner of the book The Solar Food Dryer is Ain't For City Gals. Congratulations :!. Please leave a comment with the address to which you would like your book mailed. Comments are moderated, and I won't post your address. Be sure to leave your full name :).

Greta, please leave a comment with your full name. I have your address, but don't have a name to mail it to, and want to be sure it gets to the correct person :).


  1. I think you're right about excuses. Some people really do have challenges to food production or livestock keeping. But it usually comes down to what someone's priorities are.

    I'd love a chance at the book on goats. I'm pretty well set with our chickens, so unless the first book covers quail as well, I think someone else would better benefit from it. Thanks for all these great giveaways!

  2. I think I'd like the book about chickens - right now we aren't allowed to keep chickens in our town, but there is a group of people (including myself) who are petitioning the local government to change it's ordinance regarding small livestock.

    I must admit that is a good point about the quail - unfortunately, quail is included in the ordinance, so no birds at all for me until we manage to get it changed. But I'm still looking at rabbits!

  3. I'd love the book about goats. I already have chickens, but have been afraid to get goats because I have always wondered about the proper fencing. Don't need goats in the garden. I've just started to learn about cheese making, and goats would be wonderful to have! Debsdobe

  4. Don't forget Guinea fowl! :-D Not sure about their egg laying capacity, but I hear they eat ticks.

    Doves could be kept and eaten for meat. Pigeons too.

    :-D I'm all about sneaky solutions. My husband is the king of "that won't work, we can't do that." It drives me NUTS!

    I'd love one of the books, so count me in.

  5. So, I have a question about the quail. Do they also need to be contained, like chickens, if you are in a more suburban area? In other words, do they have a tendency to wander? That would be a concern here, as we have some dogs next door with and Invisible Fence. Don't get me started on those....if there is something "good enough" on the other side, I have a feeling they would cross over and get it.

    I'm really wanting chickens....but you've peaked me curiosity on quail. And we've just been "approved" for zoning here. I'd love to read that book on chickens!

  6. I would like the book on goats only, as I already raise chickens. I raised a Nubian as a pet when I was a kid myself, but have forgotten almost everything except how much I love goats!

  7. We currently have chickens, and soon hope to get a goat. But my hubby also wants quails and rabbits. lol! Before too long we will have a mini-farm in our backyard. BTW I'd love the book on goats! :)

  8. I know what you mean abipout all those excuses! I try not to talk to anybody about the general topic anymore.
    We are going to finally get our livestock this year and I can't explain how relieved I am feeling about that! I'm really enjoying your series here.If the contest isn't closed yet, I'd be more interested in the Solar Drying book since that is our next big project.