Wildlife on your homestead provides many benefits and opportunities for you. Attracting the right animals and insects, while humanely mitigating pests and dangerous animals, will make your homestead a thriving community for wildlife.
By managing wildlife, you can peacefully observe animals coming and going. If you’re an avid photographer, hunter or observer, properly dealing with a variety of wildlife can provide you with great photos, food or an enjoyable afternoon.
Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency and sustainability. You might grow your own food, collect rainwater and raise animals. If so, it’s necessary that you safely and sustainably care for your natural surroundings, which includes wild animals.
Create a Welcoming Habitat
If you’re looking to attract wildlife, you should create a habitat that welcomes them. You may have to clear overgrown or heavily-wooded areas so animals can maneuver around your homestead. You’ll want to cut down branches and any vines or brush that prevent wildlife from safely moving near your home.
Additionally, you can plant shrubs and small trees. This will provide a natural home and protection for animals. The goal is to mimic their natural environment, so if you need some inspiration, head to the woods or a field where the wildlife you want to attract is present. If you’re still unsure, you can contact a local environmental office to ask about vegetation that can thrive and welcome animals.
There are some other ways to create a habitat for wildlife. You could build and install birdhouses and bee houses. Place them near your garden. The birds and bees will help pollinate your plants, and they can get rid of pests that might be damaging your produce. If you decide to install a birdhouse, keep it away from your home so the birds or other animals won’t enter your homestead.
Provide Food and Nourishment
One of the easiest and most effective ways to attract wildlife is by providing them with food and other nourishment sources. Animals are always foraging, looking for food sources to survive. If you provide that consistently, they will continue to come back. Research what types of foods are best for the animals you want to visit your homestead.
For birds, install a bird feeder. Especially in the wintertime, backyard birds rely on people to give them seed. It’s difficult in snowy regions when most of their typical food sources are covered in a white blanket. Seeds and suet or fatty materials are perfect for most birds. You may attract squirrels as well with seeds. If you would rather them not feed on the bird food, you can give them peanuts or corn out of a special feeder for them.
Larger animals, like deer or turkeys, will feed from a food plot. There, you can provide things like apples and corn. However, if you plan to hunt, make sure you follow your state’s regulations for setting out food plots. Food plots will only work, though, if the surrounding area matches the animal’s habitat.
Build a Pond or Water Source
Of course animals will come to your homestead for food, but they’ll also come for water, as it’s necessary for their survival. A pond will also add even more diversity to your homestead. The addition of a pond adds so much value to your garden or outdoor living area. Just imagine sitting outside of your homestead, listening to the croaks of frogs and watching dragonflies go by!
Ponds will attract many types of animals. It provides animals with a source for water if there has been a dry period. Also, it can attract helpful insects that will pollinate your plants. Besides that, it can provide a place for emergency water storage, irrigation for your crops and trees, can help control unexpected fires, add a source for food production, recreation and more.
Building a pond offers many benefits to your homestead and can certainly manage wildlife. You’ll add diversity, which is essential for a thriving ecosystem, and you can bring in wanted wildlife that can enjoy your homestead.
Plant Diverse Vegetation
A great way to manage wildlife on your homestead is by planting diverse vegetation. You can both attract and deter different species by planting specific flowers or other plants. Of course, you’ll already have your vegetables and fruits that you typically grow as a food resource for your homestead. However, adding a few others can manage the wildlife on your property.
Insects like bees and butterflies are essential for an ecosystem. They aid in pollination for plants. Plus, if you have honeybees, you’ll get honey as long as you have hives. Wildflowers are great for these insects.
If you’re looking to get rid of unwanted pests, you can plant species that will naturally keep them away, which is called companion planting. Choose plants that are suitable for the area you live in to ensure they grow. Know the plants you intend to use as food and identify pests. You can research these for your region.
Make the Area Accessible
If you want wildlife visiting your garden or area around your homestead, you must make it accessible for them. Some may struggle to enter, and others may struggle to leave. You don’t want to risk trapping them in your property.
Leave a small gap at the bottom of one of your fence panels. If you don’t have a fence, make sure that you clear away the brush enough that larger animals can enter and exit freely without the risk of getting injured.
Another way to make the area accessible is by building wildlife habitat features. Of course, wildflowers and trees are a part of this. However, you can also add in logs, branches and rocks. They provide safe places for smaller wildlife to hide or take shelter. Placing them strategically can also ward off unwanted wildlife.
One thing you likely don’t want to happen is having wildlife enter your primary food crop and eating it all or destroying it. That’s why it’s important to fence those crops in to manage wildlife. A significant aspect of homesteading is growing your own food. If you can’t because of nosy wildlife, you won’t be able to provide for yourself and your family.
The best way to keep animals away is by putting up barriers. You’re causing no harm to the animals, and you’re protecting your crops and homestead from potential damage. If rabbits are causing you issues, make sure to use a smaller wire mesh fence. For larger animals, you can use regular fencing. Deer can jump high, so if you’re worried about them getting into your crops, you’ll need a higher fence.
Try not to use fertilizers or chemicals to deter unwanted animals. One of the goals of homesteading is living sustainably. Chemicals harm the wildlife, and they can harm the surrounding environment.
Be Careful When Building Your Homestead
For those who are just beginning their homestead, be cautious of where you place your buildings. There might be nests and other living areas where animals have been living long before you arrived on the property.
Building sites often provide some of the best shelters for wildlife. If you have scrap materials piled up, try to get rid of them as soon as possible. Wildlife take every opportunity they can to make their home in a safe environment. You provide that for them with scrap wood, branches and other natural materials you use for your home.
To avoid animals sticking around, clear the debris. Better yet, have a dumpster or other container to hold all of those scrap pieces so animals won’t come near it to begin with.
Keep Domesticated Animals Separated
Some common animals on a homestead include chickens, ducks, goats and rabbits. They’re great for food and milk sources. Homestead animals can come in contact with wild animals if you don’t appropriately manage the wildlife there.
When feeding your domesticated animals, make sure to try and always feed them in the pen. Food thrown around outside of the pen can attract wildlife that could be harmful to your animals. You can still allow them to roam about the homestead, just feed them in an enclosed area.
For your larger animals, follow the same protocol. Feed them in an enclosed area as well to ensure the food they eat won’t attract wildlife. It could be dangerous for them if a bear or other predator senses their food because then the bear would sense your animals. Your livestock and pets can be seen as easy prey for wild animals as well. Think of it as keeping predators out rather than keeping your animals in.
Know the Local Species
In order to manage wildlife and live peacefully with them, you have to know what species live in your region. Without this knowledge, it will be challenging to take the proper measures to either keep them away from your homestead or invite them to your homestead. For example, not all types of birds will be attracted to the same feed or flowers you plant.
You can either research online the various types of wildlife you have in your area, or you can find a wildlife guide at a nearby state park. If you’re interested in researching yourself, you could set up a trail camera nearby or simply sit outside and observe the wildlife. When you can quickly and effectively identify a species, you can take the right steps in dealing with them.
Besides having this knowledge to manage the wildlife on your homestead, it’s essential to know the wildlife for legal reasons, too. There could be an endangered or protected species near your homestead. If there are, then you know not to harm them.
Avoid Domesticating Wildlife
The last thing you should ever do is try to domesticate wildlife. Animals are in the wild for a reason — not to be domesticated. You may be tempted to feed them and get close to them. However, by doing that, you’re putting them in danger, and you’re putting yourself and your homestead in danger.
Here are a few other reasons why you shouldn’t domesticate wildlife on your homestead or anywhere else:
- It’s illegal: You could get in trouble with the law if you try to domesticate a wild animal, especially if it’s a protected species.
- They could carry diseases: Many wild animals can carry deadly diseases to humans. Animals like raccoons could carry rabies without showing symptoms. If you pick one up, you’re putting yourself at a high risk for a serious illness.
- They grow up: Sure, a wild baby rabbit is cute! However, the rabbit won’t stay little forever. Plus, once they’re older, their natural, wild instincts will kick in.
- They probably don’t need to be rescued: The lonesome baby deer or injured animal you see probably doesn’t need to be rescued. Mothers often stay far from their young to keep them safe. If an animal is in danger, you can call a wildlife association or game commission to have it taken care of.
- Wild animals can’t be domesticated: Domestication takes years and years. You won’t really be able to domesticate a wild animal in your lifetime.
To manage wildlife on your homestead, avoid domesticating them.
Keep Your Homestead Clean
One last way to manage the wildlife on your homestead is to keep your homestead and the surrounding area clean. Just like livestock feed can attract animals, trash and human food can attract animals as well.
If there are bears where you live, make sure all of your trash is in bear-proof containers. Otherwise, you’ll have bears coming to your homestead often, especially before winter, to stock up on food. Not to mention, trash will be strewn across your yard.
Other animals, such as raccoons, coyotes and foxes, can also get into your trash. For extra security and management of wildlife, make sure all of your waste is secure. Keep it in sealed containers and properly dispose of it.
Live in Harmony With the Wildlife Around You
As you live your life on a homestead, you want to live sustainably while managing the wildlife in your region. Wild animals are important to the ecosystem and to human survival. Whether you want to attract them to your property or keep them away, there are ways to safely and ethically do so.
Appreciate the wildlife around you and do your best to live in peace with them.
Jane is the editor-in-chief of Environment.co. She is passionate about sustainability, gardening and homesteading.