When you’re searching for new homesteading land, the hardest part may prove to be the decisions regarding your livestock. Moving yourself, your family, and all the household goods is difficult by itself, add moving livestock to the mix and you can quickly become overwhelmed. When choosing your new homesteading land, you have to consider the needs of your family and your livestock. The decision must be made as to what livestock will be moved and which will be re-homed.
For the livestock you choose to take with you, careful planning is necessary. You have to consider the health of the animals, the distance you will travel, the expense involved, and any emotional attachment which just can’t have a price put on it. If you don’t own a livestock trailer then finding a good used livestock trailer is something to consider.
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Evaluate Health of Livestock
Any sick or injured animals would experience increased stress during any move. As caretakers of those living things put in our care, we must do what’s best for the animal. There is also the risk of taking any disease with you to the new homesteading land. To avoid the risk and any worsening of illness or injury to the animals, they should be culled or re-homed. If you choose to re-home them, be honest about the illness or injury with whoever takes them.
Consider the Distance
There’s an old saying, “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” The distance to be traveled is directly related to the animal’s care and well being. It may even affect your decision on which livestock to take to your new homesteading land. As I have recently learned, the climate at your new location is also an important consideration for your animals. Are they equipped to handle the climate?
With large livestock, the greater the distance the harder the trip will be on them. Horses, for instance, have to allowed to get out of the trailer and walk around. Some people who transport horses say they take their horses out for a stretch every four hours.
An acquaintance, who hauls horses to shows and rodeos, says they don’t let their horses out for breaks. He says in his 14 years of experience he’s “found it more stressful for the horses when you let them out and reloaded them every few hours.” He recommends taking extra long gas, bathroom or meal breaks to allow resting time for the horses or other livestock in their trailer.
They take their trips in no more than 12 hour stretches and allow the horses or cattle a full 10 hours off the trailer overnight. He also says he doesn’t tie them. This allows them to freely move their heads and keep their airways clear. Keep water available for them as you travel and check them at every stop.
I have moved with chickens on more than one occasion and have found them to be more suited to transportation than most livestock. I hope I never have to move with cows or goats again. Not only was it stressful to them, it was stressful for me too, worrying over them. I prefer re-homing chickens and livestock when there is a long move involved like we recently made; 2500 miles.
Preparation on the New Homestead
Hopefully your homesteading land has suitable outbuildings already on it, but what if it doesn’t? It’s important to have a plan in place to either put up a temporary fence, electric maybe, or use picket lines until you can get permanent housing set up. If you have fenced pastures, that would be great. Even if you plan on free ranging your livestock, they’ll need confinement time to recover from the trip and learn where their food, water and protection are located. Having your farm tools list in your mind and keeping them in a convenient place will prove beneficial.
For chickens, the new coop should be set up or the transport box should be designed for them to stay in until you can get it set up. Remember to provide plenty of water for them while traveling. Offer food to your livestock at night and be sure your chickens have a place to lay eggs. They may not, but I had some who did lay during a move. The greatest distance I have ever moved with chickens is 158 miles. I had them in a trailer my nephew put together for me. They could stand and move around, but could not fly up or have room to fight one another.
Preparation for the Move
The day before you move, keep the routine as normal as possible for the livestock you will be transporting. For chickens, once they have gone to roost or early in the morning before they awake, transfer them to the cage or trailer you have decided to transport them in. This keeps their stress level down since you won’t have to chase them to catch them. When chickens sleep, they’re like zombies, really like zombies, so all you have to do is pick them up and put them in their transportation carrier.
For other livestock, load them about an hour before transport, but not longer to avoid excessive stress. I would be sure they are used to the trailer they will be traveling in. If it’s a new one or one you’ve recently bought or borrowed, spend some time loading and unloading them beforehand
I’ve been asked, “Can you scare a chicken to death?” I’m not sure about the scaring of a chicken to death, but I have seen chickens die from stress. Stress has an effect on all living things. It may make a cow stop milking or cause them stomach issues. Stress affects animals differently just as it’s effects vary with people.
One common effect among all creatures is the compromise to the immune system. This allows the opportunity for disease and disease related issues to suddenly surface and hamper health. Pecking order can be disturbed in poultry and may cause picking problems. I would recommend loading the dominant rooster first and then the hens. You should never load more than one rooster in your transport carrier because of the risk of fighting.
Make sure they have water available. They can do without food and in many cases it’s preferred to not feed them until you stop for the night. If you choose a carrier that is enclosed, be sure your poultry and livestock have plenty of air. This will avoid overheating and anxiety from close proximity to one another.
Providing for the Journey
I know by this point in the move you and your family feel stressed. Remember to take time to stretch, breathe deeply, and enjoy the trip. Your energy and relaxed attitude will go a long way toward helping your livestock feel confident. It will also help you keep a clear head, ensuring you are able to make sound decisions and respond appropriately to whatever circumstance may arise. Trust me, the unforeseen will always arise.
Be sure your animals aren’t exposed to unprotected sun, wind, rain or any weather. Take turns as smoothly as possible. Taking more time to reach your homesteading land will be worthwhile when you and your livestock arrive safely. Your animals will not eat or drink normally on a move. They are stressed, unsure and anxious.
When we moved from the deep south to northwest Idaho last year (2015) our Pack moved with us. They only ate at night and during the day drank very little. We had prepared them and ourselves, so we knew this was to be expected. So be sure, when you stop for the night, your livestock are provided for before you turn in.
We’re not livestock handlers; we’re homesteaders. We aren’t just transporting goods; we’re transporting part of our homestead team. Keeping this in mind will help you make the best decisions you can for yourselves and your livestock.
Can you share tips on moving a homestead with us? We’d love to hear about it.
Safe and Happy Journey,
Rhonda and The Pack