Using a 2-Acre Farm Layout to Raise Your Own Meat
Poultry Farming, Raising Pigs, and Bringing up Rabbits to Harvest Your Own Meat
Although the idea of using a two-acre farm layout to raise your own meat is both bewitching and bewildering, by the end of this article, you’ll have a good idea how to do just that. For years, I dreamed of buying homesteading land to grow a majority of our food, but the thought of raising meat somehow seemed difficult. I assure you, once I thought it through and broke down exactly what we needed to raise a year’s worth of meat for ourselves, things became much simpler.
Remember that for your first few years, especially, you might have to make adjustments. If you underestimate the amount of meat you need, then you can just adjust for the following year. It’s best to start with a rough estimate of how much meat you eat in a year and be slightly off, than to never start at all.
What Can You Raise on a 2-Acre Farm Layout?
First and foremost, if you want to start raising livestock for meat, you will first need to determine how much meat you consume in a year. For example, if you know you want to eat chicken once a week, you then know you will have to raise at least 52 meat chickens.
Determining something like pork might be a little different, but you can still work out a rough approximation of how much you will have to raise. The average portion size for pork is 8 ounces. If you know you want to eat more, such as 1 pound per meal, then you can easily scale up to know how much pork to raise.
Another option is to raise more than you think you’ll need. Just because you raise a lot of meat animals does not mean you need to harvest them all at once. If one pig provided enough meat for the year, then you can either sell your other pigs or just keep them for the following year.
When it comes to small-scale meat farming, you have a few choices for animals. Most people start using their two-acre farm layout to raise chickens, which provide both eggs and meat. Chickens, by and large, are some of the easiest animals to raise on a farm, and as long as they’re offered some basic necessities like high-quality food, dry housing, safety from predators and medical care, chickens can pretty much take care of themselves.
If you decide on raising chickens for meat, you can harvest your own food in as little as six weeks, depending on the breed of chicken you raise. Cornish crosses can be harvested fairly quickly, while heritage breeds, in my experience, require up to a year to reach a decent harvest weight (of course, this also depends on the individual breed and their diet).
For your first time raising meat chickens, you will do best only raising a few at a time throughout the year rather than raising them all at once on your homesteading land. I’ve found 15 to 20 to be a good number to start with. Especially with certain breeds like Cornish Crosses, you will have to process them at the same time. You might be overwhelmed having to process 50 meat chickens at once.
Quail are another option to raise for easy meat when you’re homesteading. Land required for quail is relatively minuscule compared to other livestock. Quail can easily be housed in just 1 square foot per bird, and since they must be cooped (quail are great at hiding and are excellent flyers), you can easily keep them in a garage or greenhouse.
Raising meat rabbits is an option for meat that is not poultry. While rabbits have been raised by people on homesteading land for centuries as a source of easy protein, and are still popular in parts of the world, they’re making a comeback in the United States because they’re easy to care for and breed prolifically.
A rabbit’s gestation cycle is about 31 days (give or take, depending on the animal and the cycle), and rabbits can easily birth up to 10 or so kits. For a small investment in food and housing, it’s easy to yield a large quantity of meat. The average rabbit provides about 2 pounds of meat, although, again that number is dependent on the size of the bunny and its breed.
If you plan to eat rabbit twice per month, then you will need 24 rabbits. With one breeding pair, you can easily reach that number to harvest. If you want to eat rabbit weekly, then one breeding pair can likely serve that need as well, although adding a second or third doe (female rabbit) would be ideal.
Like chickens, raising rabbits requires little except dry, clean housing, protection from predators, water, food and medical care. They can be kept in a small space (although their home should be about 4 times the length of their body), and many people keep them in raised cages in their garage if they don’t have homesteading land.
Pigs are another meat animal you can raise, although they do require more homesteading land than chickens, rabbits, and quail. If you plan on raising pigs for meat, it’s best to start small, with one or two feeder pigs. While you can easily keep a pig or two on two acres of homesteading land, their size alone makes them more intimidating than other small-scale livestock.
Pigs also eat more than chickens or rabbits, so feeding a breeding pair through the winter will require more money, as well as the dedication to care for them when the temperatures reach sub-zero weather. Another reason to raise feeder pigs is that when it comes to livestock, the longer you have them, the easier it is to become attached. If you want to raise meat on your homesteading land, then avoiding an attachment to the animals is necessary.
Unlike chickens and rabbits, pigs can grow very large, so it’s unlikely, unless you want to breed them or are feeding a small army, that you will need to raise more than two. One of our sows weighs about 400 pounds; taken to the butcher, she would likely yield about 200 pounds of meat. Plenty for one year!
In our area, we can buy feeder pigs (weaned pigs about 10 weeks old) for $50. If purchased in spring, we can let them grow up on our homesteading land for a few months before bringing them to the butcher. They’re able to have a good life on pasture, and you won’t have to feed them when the weather turns and prices of feed go up.
Raising enough meat for a year does not require a large amount of land when you choose animals that work well on a small-scale farm. If you’re interested in getting started with raising your own meat, you can read more on my homesteading website.
Are you successfully raising meat using a two-acre farm layout? Let us know in the comments below.