When it comes to types of poultry you can profitably raise on a homestead, there's so much more to choose from than just chickens or ducks. Check out this list for some pros and cons of 11 types of poultry - some might surprise you!
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When I mention homesteading to people, I find that most tend to immediately think of three things: Chickens, gardens, and homemade bread.
And there's nothing wrong with that! But when it comes to poultry, I always feel like it's worth pointing out that there are SO MANY different types of poultry that can help a homestead prosper. And really, there's a big benefit to keeping more than one species of poultry. I raise both chickens and ducks, and I'm able to house and free-range them together. Because they take a break from laying at slightly different times, I'm really never without eggs. And since I breed them, it makes it so I can offer both chicks and ducklings for sale (doubling my customer base), without the hassle of maintaining separate breeding pens, as I'd need to if I were keeping multiple chicken breeds.
I've compiled a list of different poultry options below, that might be worth considering. Keep in mind that just as there's no "perfect chicken breed" for everyone - not all of these will perfectly complement any homestead, or even most of them. But depending on your homestead location, your needs and goals, and the character traits you enjoy working with in your animals, it might be worth considering adding one of these "chicken alternative" types of poultry to your homestead.
11 types of poultry for homesteads or farms
I'd be just plain remiss if I didn't list chickens first. They really are the quintessential homestead bird, and wonderfully dual purpose. I raise pure Icelandic landrace chickens and absolutely love them! They're hardy, efficient foragers, good mamas, and have lots of personality. Chickens can be kept even in many urban communities, and next to quail, are probably the easiest fowl to keep just about anywhere.
Pros: Most breeds are excellent egg layers, many are good foragers, and good mothers. Appropriate feed is easy (and relatively inexpensive) to find. A huge variety of breeds are available, and there's a ready market almost everywhere, if you decide to breed and sell them for extra homestead income.
Cons: Roosters can be loud, or even aggressive, and may not be allowed in all communities. Most chickens are pretty vulnerable to predators, like hawks, foxes, and even skunks, so may need adequate fencing for protection.
Y'all, I LOVE our ducks. Honestly, if I could only have one species of homestead livestock - this would be it. But don't tell the chickens.
I love them because they're so full of personality, they're perpetually cheerful (just TRY feeling sad, while you're sitting in a duck yard...it's really tough!), and they're so darn easy to keep healthy and happy. We raise Welsh Harlequins, and they're amazingly prolific layers, excellent foragers, and very quiet compared to many other duck breeds!
Pros: Ducks are extremely hardy - see them sitting in the snow? They love it! Because of this, shelter requirements are comparatively minimal - probably the least minimal of any poultry variety, as far as I'm aware. Many breeds are excellent layers, and good mothers. Feed for ducks is easily available in most places, and they can easily be fed chicken rations with simple supplementation. Most areas have a ready market for both ducks eggs, as well as ducklings if you want to hatch and sell them.
Cons: Some varieties of ducks can be loud. All ducks are passionate about water, which means mud - which can mean quite a mess. So setting up the duck coop and yard takes a little more thought and strategy than getting set up for chickens.
We had a pair of geese growing up. They were big old White China geese, and they started out as adorable little fluffballs that idolized my dad and followed him everywhere. They grew up to be wonderful watchdogs, but were eventually pretty aggressive. The male would sidle up all sweet and lovey, and then latch onto your leg and TWIST. Think "purple nurple" on your leg. It was awful!
Now, I'm not actually trying to talk you out of geese here. I've met many wonderful geese of several different breeds that have been just absolute sweethearts. And some of my dearest poultry-keeping friends are completely passionate about their flocks of geese. They really CAN make a wonderful addition to a homestead. I've found this blog to be an excellent source of tips about getting started raising geese.
Pros: Geese are known for being great watchdogs, and excellent foragers. Many breeds make wonderful mothers. Many feel that keeping geese along with chickens can help to deter predators. While geese may not lay as prolifically as geese, hatching eggs and goslings do command higher prices, so maintaining a breeding flock can still be a profitable venture.
Cons: Geese can be fairly loud, and while this is certainly not the rule, they do have a reputation for getting aggressive. They also POOP. SO. MUCH.
My dear friend Kim tells me that her turkeys are her absolute favorite homestead animal. And that sweet lady keeps quite the wonderful menagerie, so that's saying a lot! She feels that they're one of the friendliest types of poultry, and loves how tidy, graceful, and easy they are to keep, once they're full-grown. I'm actually trying to talk the mister into raising a few heritage breed turkeys, this year (wish me luck!) This post from Lisa, over at the Self Sufficient HomeAcre, is a great place to start if you're considering raising turkeys!
Pros: At least in our state, turkey poults command high prices and sell out quickly every spring - there may be an excellent market for hatching and selling poults if you have an incubator.
Cons: Young poults are more delicate than chicks, and can be more challenging to raise to adulthood. Appropriate gamebird-type feed is more expensive than chicken or duck feed. Heritage breed turkeys can fly, so you may need to be prepared to clip wings or create a covered run, if keeping them contained is necessary. Poults are more expensive to acquire than chicks or ducklings.
We just added quail to our homestead this year, and we are absolutely smitten with these wonderful little birds. What absolutely amazes me is HOW QUICKLY they mature. They start laying eggs and are ready for processing by about 8 weeks. That's faster than growing spinach!
I've also found them easy to tame, and full of personality. We raise a few varieties of Coturnix quail, including "celadon" egg layers - they have the most beautiful blue-green eggs.
My friend Tiffany at ImperfectlyHappy.com has a great post about getting started raising quail. And if you're looking to hatch your own quail from eggs, I have an easy guide to hatching quail eggs that will walk you through it!
Pros: Fast maturing, require little space, and are inexpensive to acquire. During their first year, they're prolific layers of small eggs that may have a ready market in your area. Easy to butcher and excellent eating.
Cons: Because of their small size, it takes several birds to equal the output of a single chicken - both for meat and eggs. They're only prolific layers during their first year, and require at least 14 hours of daylight to lay. Since they're excellent flyers, they need appropriate housing to keep them contained.
Here's one poultry variety that gets seriously mixed reviews. This is a good post from Jill at The Prairie Homestead, about why you should keep Guinea fowl on your homestead. And here's one from my friend Sara at The Free Range Life, with 5 reasons you might NOT want to!
Me? Someone in our neighborhood kept them one year. Which meant that THE WHOLE NEIGHBORHOOD had guineas. And listened to the guineas. And had to try not to hit the guineas that didn't have the sense to stay out of road. It was good times.
Pros: Guineas are excellent foragers, and are prized for their tick control, as well as their ability to even catch small rodents. They're also less prone to disturb gardens than chickens, and, much like geese, can make good "watch dogs". While they don't lay as prolifically as most chicken or many duck breeds, their eggs are edible, and they are actually a fine source of meat as well.
Cons: They're very loud, and prone to wander from home if not contained.
Amy at A Farmish Kind of Life is my go-to expert when anyone asks me if I know anything about raising pheasants. She's been keeping them for a few years now and even hatches her own. Her post here is a great place to learn about the joys of raising pheasants. And this site is just packed absolutely full of helpful information about getting started raising pheasants.
Pros: Pheasants can make excellent eating, and are valuable for selling as gamebirds. Their eggs are also edible, and they're fairly prolific layers, as far as gamebirds go. Many also enjoy raising them for release into the wild.
Cons: They're very flighty birds, and don't warm up to humans the way chickens, ducks, or even geese can. They have a reputation for being poor mothers, and can be cannibalistic when kept in stressful environments.
I babysat a trio of peafowl one time. They were breathtakingly beautiful birds, but extremely aloof. The birds' owner could almost get them to eat from his hand, but even with a lot of patience, they would only tolerate me at a bit of a distance. Thankfully, I was caring for them during a time of year that wasn't their mating season, so they weren't exceptionally loud. Deb, at ThriftyHomesteader.com has a great post about getting started with peafowl.
Pros: They're gorgeous, and add a lot of beauty to a homestead. Males shed their lovely feathers, and these can be used for crafts or sold. Females are not prolific layers, but fertile hatching eggs and peafowl chicks command a very high price, so they be profitable to breed.
Cons: They're flighty and prone to flying away if not properly conditioned to stay in their home territory. Not prolific layers, or very multi-purpose, compared to other poultry.
Partridges are another small game bird, much like pheasants. They're prized as being excellent for eating, and easy to butcher (like quail). They can also be purchased as chicks and raised out to be sold for hunting. As with Pheasants, many folks also raise them out simply for the joy of releasing to the wild.
Although this website is primarily about quail, I actually find that they have some of the most helpful information about raising partridges as well. I'd really like to try my hand with partridges this year. Since we raise nearly all of our own meat, we raise out a batch of roosters, and another batch of drakes for filling the freezer each summer. Adding a small game bird for some extra variety could be an enjoyable way of mixing up our winter food supply!
Pros: Excellent eating, and when raised only to 16-20 weeks, can be profitable for raising to sell for game bird hunting.
Cons: More susceptible to diseases (like blackhead and coccidiosis) than chickens, so require more effort in terms of housing and environment to prevent disease in the flock. Game bird feed is more expensive than chicken feed, and partridges are generally not free-ranged.
If you've read my post on 52 Ways to Make Money on a Small Homestead, you've already heard me mention the idea of raising Pigeons for meat. They make excellent eating, and are actually in demand with high end restaurants in many areas. My friend Kris at Attainable Sustainable has a good post here, on getting started with raising pigeons for meat. Interestingly, meat is not the only reason to raise these petite fowl - they're also kept as racing birds, and white homing pigeons are actually rented out for release at weddings.
Pros: Easy to keep and breed, pigeons do very well rearing their own offspring. They make excellent eating, and can be sold for meat. Homing pigeons can be raced for both pleasure and profit. In the right locations, there can be a market for white homing pigeons to release at weddings.
Cons: Many find pigeons to be messy, and if not contained, they can escape and become a nuisance in the neighborhood as they find other barns and outbuildings in which to take up residence.
Now, so many people I talk poultry with think that Emus are adorable. Personally, I always think they look like want to kill me, so let's just say we won't be bringing any home to Wynterwood Farm any time soon. However, there are plenty of people who are really enjoying raising them - and doing it profitably! Both this page and also this website have a lot of good information about getting started with emu farming.
Pros: They can actually be used as livestock guardian animals. They're fairly efficient at feed conversion, so for their size, are not as expensive to feed as I might have thought. In many areas, chicks can be sold for fairly significant prices, so breeding pay be profitable.
Cons: They can be dangerous - Emus have extremely sharp talons. Fencing requirements are much more rigorous than for other poultry, since Emus are tall and can also jump. They may attack animals they don't perceive as being part of their "flock" so great care must be taken with introducing new animals.
You know, as I've been writing this post, a couple of things have really struck me. First, is HOW DIFFERENT so many of these types of poultry are from each other. Doesn't it seem almost crazy to lump them under one category, even one as broad as the word "Poultry"?
The other thing that struck me is that while I myself have only kept a few of these poultry types - I have dear homesteading friends who have not only kept each of these types of poultry, but have found these extremely different birds to complement their unique homesteads, bringing them joy, profit, or both. While there might be no such thing as one perfect poultry for every homestead, chances are, there's a kind of poultry here (or even a few kinds!) that will perfectly complement YOUR homestead.
For me - I've got my eyes set on turkeys and partridges! How about you? What birds on this list have you raised? I'd love to hear about it!
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Kaitlin D says
I miss raising poultry. Maybe one day I will again. I had raised chickens. They had a very nice set up and eventually added a stray Muscovy Duck to the flock one time and she fit right in. Unfortunately in Wisconsin the Chickens require a lot. So that was my truly only downside. I loved free ranging them pretty much until the snow falls. Certainly endured many trial and errors. Also raised and released a Canadian goose. The chickens and duck all took to him although he wanted nothing to do with other birds 😂 Birds are constantly entertaining and when kept right a fun hobby!
I enjoyed reading this post. Very helpful. I am new to raising poultry. I have 6 ducks that I am raising. I started with 2 originally and now I have 6 so it defenitly is a obsession. I have 2 pekin ( Paco and Sunflower), 2 khaki Campbell's ( chocolate and mocha) and 2 ancona ( scrap and splash) they all seem to get along. Paco is my favorite. He loves to be held and get kisses and hugs. He is a disabled duck so he will mainly be inside for most of his life. When he was about 2 weeks he hurt his leg and can no longer keep up with his friends. So he is a mommas boy and he knows it!
Aw, Cassie! You sound like an amazing duck mama! Ducks are so dear to my heart, and some (like your sweet Paco) just get to be so very special. Thanks so much for your kind words, and sharing about your wonderful babies! LOVE your names, by the way!!
Madeline Gutierrez says
I only have time for a quick mention -
I suggest with great fondness for the birds that you reaquaint your self we peafowl.
For a decade we enjoy the "dog-like" friendship of an Pied India Blue Peahen.
We had raised all kinds of chicken breeds (we show poultry and help 4H and homeschoolers) as well as ducks, geese, pheasants, quineas and turkeys.
I had no idea what to expect in "tameness".
We had chosen her because at a day old she didn't run from us but came to us in the broader.
We raised her mostly inside as she got bigger and even learned to fly..
She sat on our laps during movies and walked down the tile floor towards her "bed" every night.
When she got older she spent basically "working" hours outside in her aviary, where she had a few "pet bantams."
In the morning, if you rose late, it was usually with a feeling someone was watching you. She would have grown restless - left her sleeping space and be standing by the bedside "giving you the wake up look."
Of course we didn't know if we had a male or female pea chick - so she got the androgynous name "Splendid."
Her last year's our small urban property was safe for her to roam - she could fly but only once flew over the fence.. Looked up and down the road.. And flew back over - running to me as I called from the door.
Raise a peacock with hugs, pets, even kisses and if it's an India not the Java species or a hybrid - you'll have a loving pet.
We miss her since passing terribly.
Oh Madeline, what a beautiful story of your precious Splendid! You totally had me blinking back a tear at the end. Thank you so very much for sharing your wonderful story, and helpful advice on raising a loving pet peafowl. I appreciate it so much, and I know other readers will benefit as well. Thank you so much for sharing!
Kyriacos Kolokasides says
Dear Sir. I am interesting to buy pheasant eggs ( 500 + ) and I would like to know if this is possible to sent the eggs in Cyprus and how much these are costing.
Hi there, Kyriacos! My understanding is that international shipping of hatching eggs can be pretty cost prohibitive. But - these folks at Paphos Chicken Farm appear to be in Cyprus and offer pheasants for sale - I wonder if perhaps they could be a lead for you? Best of luck in your endeavors!
I meant to add. When I said now in two months. We have two incubators and I have one hatching and pipping right now. Thank you all and have an Amazing Day!
Order a cackle surprise box and ask for turkeys , you might get lucky with a few heritage turkeys. You could always say you ment to only get chickens. Lol
Oh my golly, Donna, you have me laughing in my coffee over here! Love how you think!!!
Diana Denham says
I really like the way you have posted (pictures, short descriptions, pros and cons).
I am from Australia, 25yrs old, married, no children. I grew up on a farm and so I missed animals a lot. I had a duck once when i was a teen but sadly after a couple of months we took it back to the countryside (we had moved to the suburbs). So I reaaaaaally wanted ducks again and thanks to my loving husband we have 2 ducks about 4 weeks old now. Your post on how to raise friendly ducks has helped me.
I would eventually like to get peacocks and quail. Maybe chickens too but I also want more ducks! We have Indian runners but I would really like some Welsh Harlequins
Diana, thank you so much for the kind words! I'm just so delighted for you that you have ducks back in your life! They are such a daily source of joy to me. I so often wish that my readers weren't so far away...your comment makes me wish I could just drive over with a pair of Welshies to add to your little flock! They really are a wonderful breed, and I hope you're able to find some...the Welsh Harlequin facebook group I believe has several good breeders in Australia. Thank you again for your sweet comment, and I wish you so much joy as you build your flock!!
Caroline Murphy says
I enjoyed this list and its list of pros and cons. They're very helpful in the decision making process. I think Arkansas should get as many Guinea fowl as they can to terminate their tick problems. Wish I'd known that little fact when my brother-in-law owned a house there. Some of the list is completely out of my scope of interest such as emu, pea fowl. My uncle owned an emu once and always had trouble keeping it fenced. It was a dangerous animal, he eventually sold it and it killed someome. I don't have anything against pea fowl, they seem too particular for my taste. I am very interested in Turkeys, Quail, Ducks, Geese, and now possibly Guineas or even partridge. I'm still looking for the best housing method for quail and making a decision on how many I'd be able to manage on my own. I'm also looking for a way to manage ducks or geese with a pool and keeping it clean and odor free. My last trip to the local zoo has me leery of water fowl since the flamingo exhibit was the most disgusting walk through. I don't want that on my farm, if I can help it at all. May need to carefully limit my stock and find an area on the "back 40" not that I have a back 40 but worried about maintaining that. I greatly appreciate ALL of the Links to these other articles! Thank you for sharing them.
Kris Bordessa says
Thanks for including me! To be clear, I don't raise pigeons myself - I'm just pondering the reasons one might. It's interesting to think about, and they DO end up on the table in Europe more than in the USA.
Nice article! Thank you for sharing a link to my turkey post! Best wishes convincing hubby in the turkey keeping project. (I find it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission...lol!)
Oh, thanks for the kind words, Lisa! And haha...thanks for the advice! Think hubby would notice a few poults if I hid them in with the next batch of chicks? ; )
Omg. Y’all are killing me. This is why I have more than I should but not more than my Husband can handle. Lol
The way I added turkeys and hid that from my husband, ( and they are his pets now btw ) is I ordered and when they arrived, remove the packing slip, because of yah have an investigative hubby, he’ll look for it. I said. “huh! I wonder what these are honey!” Exact words. No joke. He bought it! Hehe. Now before y’all start pecking at me for being devious or manipulating him. Well I did. Lol. We all do it For Our spouses. If we didn’t, the garage would be full of junk. How many cars or tools or arborvitaes,( yes I said Arborvitae) have y’all had to fight off I ask yah. He has his quirky weird stuff. Mine produce eggs and his produces oxygen. Soooo. My eat bugs and cut the grass. ( they will not argue past lawn being mowed ) When it comes to my flock, I am as effective at protecting them as a mother goose. When it comes to adding here and there, now that’s a much harder thing. Now I am incubating and he’s loving it, because I’m not bugging him or our Son. That’s how I am adding now, here and there. Got him involved and make it exciting ( like a little boy ) and my husband is all over it.
We hatch our eggs from our Rouen Ducks as of right now, first time and it’s exciting. In two months I have one hatching as I am typing. We currently have Geese, Ducks, Turkeys and Chickens. My favorite are the Turkeys and Geese and we love our ducks. The eggs are so fun, I’m a helicopter mother, I guess, because I hover and I didn’t when our son was a baby or did I. My husband said he can’t remember. It was 23 years ago.
I cannot tell y’all to do what I did, but I can give you something to take away. If yah have bugs, ticks, field mice, snakes or anything we have here in the country. Get ducks. They literally eat just about anything. Please if y’all have dogs. Clean up after them. If not your ducks will. ? if y’all need something to take away on my advice or how I did it. This is coming from a man that is married to a man. What better advice can you get about why men do the things they do. Ask a man. I’m married to a goofy man, and I adore him. All that said, I adore our flock and he does to. Have fun and I love raising them lil fluffy balls of happiness.
Haha! Jimmy, you had me laughing out loud. "Hmmmm...I wonder what these are?!" Thanks so much for sharing! I hear from so many folks that turkeys quickly become their favorite barnyard critters. I'm thinking this may be the year we give them a go. Best wishes to you!