The Biggest Mistakes Beginner Homesteaders Make

March 8, 2023

Hi, I'm Paige, half of the duo behind Fairway Stables™

This website is the one I've been searching for, for years; a compilation of knowledge on all things horsemanship, including practical advice on how to start an equestrian business.

No matter your experience level with horses or homesteading, I hope this is a place you can get lost in, and learn something along the way - we welcome everyone from vets, to lifelong ranchers, trainer, to nonprofits contributing.


homesteading for beginners

Leaving modern life to return to the land is a passion of many. Whether it’s as dramatic as buying a small farm or simply doing a technology detox, the desire to shed the excess of modernity and embrace sustainable living is becoming more and more popular.

Many people adopt homesteading to return to their roots, engage in responsible consumption, or lead a simpler and more sustainable life. Whatever your motivation, becoming a homesteader is a rewarding way of life, but there are some common pitfalls to avoid when you’re just starting out.

Going Too Big Too Soon

If you’ve been dreaming about your homestead, stashing money away, learning new skills, and preparing for your new farm life for a while, it’s natural to want to hit the ground running. But if you go hog wild creating a massive garden and hoarding chickens, ducks, turkeys, cows, goats, and rabbits, you could end up with more than you can manage quickly.

When you’re overwhelmed, it’s unlikely that you’ll enjoy the life you worked so hard to build. Take it slow and work in small steps, such as a reasonably sized garden and a small flock of chickens. As you learn the ropes, you can add new animals or ventures along the way.

If you’ve already gotten in over your head, scale it back a little. Sell, trade, or harvest some of your livestock, focus your garden on just a few crops, and make a plan for manageable growth moving forward.

Being Unrealistic About Your Space or Capabilities

Not all homesteaders live in the middle of the country. Urban and suburban homesteading is becoming more popular. While these homesteaders don’t have acres and acres to live out their wildest homesteading dreams, they can engage in the core focus of the practice – simple, sustainable living.

Of course, you have to be realistic about what you can accomplish on an urban or suburban homestead. You probably can’t have beef or dairy cattle, but maybe a small flock of chickens or ducks is doable, as well as a small but sustainable garden and composting heap.

There’s a lot you can do with limited space, as long as you’re reasonable about it.

Making Decisions on Impulse

There’s something to be said about a go-getter, but you need a plan when you’re looking to homestead. If you start gathering supplies or animals without adequate planning, you’ll be left stressed and overwhelmed – that’s not the idea behind homesteading!

Goals are great, but a goal without a plan is just a dream. Write down your short- and long-term goals and include steps for how to achieve them. Be realistic in your planning to ensure you’re not taking on too much, too fast.

Not Having a Budget

Homesteading offers self-sufficiency and simpler living, but the process to get started can be pricey. If you don’t have land, you have to purchase it, and you will need to stock up on supplies for your homesteading endeavors.

Also, if you want to leave your 9-5 to homestead full time, you will want to build up a financial cushion to cover your expenses before making the leap. You will still have some expenses, especially as you work your way to completely self-sufficiency.

If you don’t budget appropriately, your expenses could add up before your homestead has an opportunity to provide for you and your family or as a source of income. Remember, budgets are often overestimated, not underestimated, so add some padding to prepare for unexpected expenses.

Bringing Home Animals Without Housing

Farm animals are cute as babies – really cute. While it may be tempting to bring home a kid or chick, don’t do it without having your shelter and fencing ready to go. Once an animal is in your care, you’re responsible for its food, water, and veterinary needs, as well as protection from the elements and predators.

Build your barn, rabbit hutch, or chicken coop and fencing before you start bringing home livestock. It’s less stressful for you and far better for the welfare of the animal.

Getting Too Attached to Your Livestock

Not all homesteaders choose to raise meat animals, and that’s fine. But animals cost money to care for, and feed costs are among the highest recurring costs on any working homestead.

Have a plan in place for your animals, especially if you’re intending on breeding. You should have homes for the offspring or a plan to use them for food or other production.

Each animal you feed should have a purpose, whether it’s meat, eggs, dairy, fiber, or work, to avoid getting in the hole over putting more than you’re getting out.

Neglecting Your Education

You don’t have to know everything about homesteading, but you do have to be willing to learn new things if you want to succeed.

Like everything else, start small. Pick one subject or skill and become an expert at it – or learn as much as you can, at least. Buy books, take courses, watch videos, or learn by shadowing more experienced homesteaders. Once you learn the basics, you will have a strong foundation to learn as you go.

Not Keeping Good Records

Whether you’re monetizing your homestead or not, it’s important to keep detailed records. Even if you think you’re going to remember that recipe or process, writing it down ensures you will have the information at your fingertips.

Track all the details, including the varieties of crops you’ve planted and the feeding and veterinary schedules for your animals. You’d be surprised how easy it is to lose track of this information in your head, and it’s harder to troubleshoot issues if you don’t have the information to start.

Here are some things you should track:

  • The crops and varieties you’ve planted
  • Where you planted them
  • The livestock you have and their health records
  • Specific expenses
  • Your harvest
  • Recipes

This information is valuable for your own knowledge, but it’s essential if you’re planning on monetizing your homestead. You can’t know your profits if you don’t know your expenses.

Wasting Food

If you’re wasting food, you’re throwing hard-earned money or hard work away. Keep an inventory of the food that you’ve preserved and plan your meals around it. This not only reduces your waste, but it makes it much easier to maximize your stored resources.

Ignoring the Zoning

There are farms and country estates, but just because you have land doesn’t mean you’re automatically allowed animals. Check your zoning before you start bringing home livestock and be sure to check for the specific animals you want to keep.

Also, the closer you are to a city, the more likely it is that there are bylaws about owning animals.

Keeping Up with the Joneses

Homesteaders live simply, so they’re less likely to get caught up in the latest tech or designer fashions. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be competition, however. It’s easy to get caught up in what other homesteaders are doing on social media and feel inferior, but everyone starts somewhere.

The only comparison you need is where you are now vs. where you were a year ago, or even several years ago. Only compare yourself to previous benchmarks to see how far you’ve come, not how far you are compared to everyone else.

Failing to Know and Use Your Resources

Being self-reliant doesn’t mean that you have to do absolutely everything on your own – particularly when you’re starting out. A lot of homesteaders build a community and barter for goods and services, such as trading chicken eggs from your flock for your neighbor’s fresh produce.

It’s important to learn what resources you have at your disposal and use them.

Approaching Business Homesteading as a Hobby

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with homesteading as a hobby for yourself and your family. But if you want to make money homesteading, you have to approach it like a business – because it is.
A full-time homesteader with income streams is involved in a business venture, not a hobby farm. Each new project you take on is a potential revenue stream, and you should consider the value of adding it to your homestead activities.

Not Starting Your Homestead at All

Being paralyzed by indecision is a real thing. You could get overwhelmed by all the choices and possibilities that you just do nothing, leaving your entire dream stalled.

You don’t have to do everything all at once. Start with one thing, whether that’s acquiring land, prepping your existing land, starting a garden, or building a chicken coop and getting some chicks. Take it one step at a time to avoid overwhelm.

Get Ready for Your Homestead Life

Starting a homestead is a rewarding experience, but there are a lot of beginner mistakes that can cause stress and burnout. The better prepared you are from the start, the smoother and less chaotic your first homestead experience will be.

Frequently Asked Questions Homesteading for Beginners

Wondering about homesteading as a beginner? Here are the answers to the most asked questions.

What Is the First Thing You Should Do on a New Homestead?

Research and plan. Sure, it’s not as exciting as preparing your garden or stocking up on animals, but it’s key to your success.

What Should I Know Before Homesteading?

There’s a difference between “simple” and “easy.” Homesteading may be all about living the simple life, but it’s far from easy. Be prepared to work hard and gain knowledge as you go.

What Qualities Do I Need to Become a Successful Homesteader?

Successful homesteaders are generally patient, resilient, and resourceful people. They’re willing to admit what they don’t know and commit to learning all the time. No one is born knowing how to run a homestead, but the successful ones become that way by seeking out knowledge and experience.

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