An integral part of the Kinnard Family Homestead is our animals. Viewed more as “co-laborers” than as “pets,” each of our furry and feathery friends serve a practical and economically-justified purpose by providing us a functional service in exchange for a comfortable and care-free home on the range.
The Loyal Protector
Our first and foremost contributor at the homestead is the dog. Currently, we have a Black Lab and Blue Heeler mix named “Heeler” who does an excellent job at alerting us to predators and trespassers on our acreage. He also accompanies our kids whenever they walk to the mailbox or decide to play in the woods. Previously, we tried keeping an Australian Shepherd, thinking it would be a good choice for future herding needs, but we had to let it go because of its high-energy nature which didn’t mix well with our breed of docile chickens.
The Egg Layers
Being one of the easiest farm animals to raise, chickens were the next logical addition to the homestead. Partial to a crossbreed of the Road Island Red and New Hampshire Red known as “the Cherry Egger” (which we ordered from the great folks at PurleyPoultry.com) our birds are ideal both for egg production and, once their laying years have ended, for meat production. Previously, we tried a flock of Bantam chickens from our local Tractor Supply store, but were disappointed by their overall performance in laying and the ratio of roosters per hens we ended up with.
The Mice Munchers
After our first few winters on the homestead, it was apparent we had a mice problem. Because it was (and still is!) the habit of our kids to make and scatter just as many crumbs as our animals do, we must have provided a never-ending buffet to feed a few lucky mouse families both in our house and shed. After the failed attempts of using mouse traps and poison, we finally decided to get a couple barn cats. We were reluctant at first because of our initial dislike for cats, but were immediately satisfied to find one munching away on a giant mouse in his very first week on the job. And now, we’re happy to report, it’s rare to ever see a mouse near the house unless it is desperately attempting to escape the jaws of one of our cats. What’s more, it’s rare to see many snakes around the house because of the lack of mice, since mice ordinarily attract snakes.
The Lawn Mowers
One of the necessary evils of homesteading is mowing. Lots and lots of mowing. When you own a land by the acre, you’re responsible for a lot of growth. In our case, about 10-aces of it. In the absence of a tractor with all of the fancy attachments, we made due for a few years with a well-worn, zero-turn mower. When it finally bit the dust one summer, we were faced with the decision of either investing a few thousand dollars in a new riding mower, or a few hundred in a couple of starter sheep and needed infrastructure to contain them. In our research, we read that sheep (more so than goats) are effective at keeping a semi-manicured lawn. And so, we settled on getting a male and a female of the Dorper breed, a South African cross between the Dorsey Horn and the Blackhead Persian varieties. Their names are Shaun (after Shaun the Sheep) and Daisy. We know we’ll eventually need an entire flock to manage our fields, but you start with what you can afford.