The Art and Meaning of Good Husbandry

Reader Contribution by Amy Fewell

When we started our homesteading adventure, I knew that “just having a few farm animals” wasn’t going to necessarily be an easy task. But I also didn’t realize how much observation and cleanliness was involved. If you know me, then you know I suck at house cleaning. It’s partially because I live with a dog and two boys, we’re home all day every day, and life is extremely busy. But it’s also partially because, I just suck at cleaning house and have about 10 million other “better” things I could think of doing.

With that said, my coop is normally pretty darn clean. The rabbit cages never smell. And while there might be trash in my yard from my husband being a landscaping and estate maintenance man (and brings everything home!!), my animals are healthy, clean and well taken care of. Just like my boys…

There’s an art to good husbandry. You can’t just have animals and assume “nature” takes care of that for you. Otherwise, there wouldn’t have been any need for the original farmer….Adam. You know, that guy who ran around naked in the garden of Eden for awhile and was told to “tend” to all of the animals.

Husbandry isn’t just ‘cleanliness’, however. It’s a lot more than that.

Good husbandry means:

• Your animals are taken care of. You get the job done – feeding and watering come heck or high water.
• You do not take on more than you can handle. You realize that if something is too much for you (physically,emotionally or monetarily) that you are not a failure. However, you do need to find a way to “let it go”. This might mean finding new homes for your animals, not buying anymore animals (this is so hard for those of us who love them!), or simply hiring a helper so that all the animals can be tended to properly. This is a really big issue for some of us.But please realize that you are doing more harm than good, and it is not practicing good husbandry at all.
• Your coops, hutches, barns and sheds are kept up, both with mucking and fixing what needs fixing.
• Your animals are typically in good health, and when they aren’t, you notice it long before it gets “bad”. Yes, things happen, we all know this. This is not a “judgement” listing but a general statement. In other words, you shouldn’t constantly have sick or dying animals on your homestead. This isn’t an animal issue, this is a YOU issue.
• You take careful consideration when it comes to breeding, labor/delivery, and the raising of the young animals.
• If you butcher your own meat on the homestead, then this means your tools are clean before, during, and after processing. You take pride in your skill and humanely process these animals that have served a great purpose on your farm.
• Your animals, no matter where they are or what is going on in your life, are always a priority. Their health, their safety and their offspring aren’t something to take for granted. Fifty percent of the time, it is not the animals fault that it got hurt, it is lack of good husbandry skills.
• You’re diligent in all of the above, and whatever other tasks arise. Because those of us who practice the art certainly know just how often that art has to be put to good use….

It completely hurts my heart when I see animals suffering at the hands of others because they simply either do not or refuse not to see what good husbandry really is.

Please understand that as a human-being, you have the opportunity to make a different in the lives of your livestock — be it for the good or the bad. And ultimately, it boils down to you.

Cleaning the coop out on a hot summer day!

At all times, we reserve the right on our own homestead to not sell to individuals who we believe don’t practice good husbandry skills. This is not an issue with your character or your personality, however, our livestock is well loved and tended to. And we wish to keep it that way long after they leave our property.

As a fellow homesteader, I want to encourage you to make sure you know where your animals are going. I also want to encourage you to take an extra step each week to make sure your own animals are receiving the best care possible. Do a heart search, understanding that you aren’t a failure, but that ultimately there might be some things you could do “better” or maybe even things you need to move onto or off of your homestead. It helps to do a weekly or monthly walk about, as well as a soul search, to ensure that you aren’t slacking on certain areas of the homestead or doing more in one area that could be switched up to another area.

Good husbandry starts in your heart: your passion and love for what you do and what you care for. You have been entrusted with precious animals that need you and depend on you more than you may know. Make sure you’re making the right decisions, making cleanliness a priority, and practicing the art of husbandry at all times.

Amy Fewell is a work-at-home mom, homesteader, blogger and writer. Her and her family live on a mini-homestead in Virginia where they raise Icelandic Chickens (and other various breeds), standard Rex rabbits, ducks and more! For more information about their homestead, visit them online at The Fewell Homestead.

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