Living a sustainable lifestyle on your homestead means growing some or all of your own food. But not everyone wants to spend time taking care of farm animals.  

That’s why we’ve sorted through our favorite low-maintenance farm animals to pick the best one for the time-starved homesteader. 

The chicken topped the list for the most low maintenance farm animal. Chickens don’t need much land, food, or clean-up, and in turn, just a couple of chickens can provide you with a constant supply of meat and eggs.

Now, hold on!  Before you run off to buy some chicks, let me explain a few of my reasons why chickens are the most low maintenance compared to other farm animals. 

Just remember, what works best for me may not be best for you.  You might have 1000 acres where cows can roam and do their thing and you only come calling when its time to butcher.  But for the average backyard homesteader, the chicken is it!

Related: Looking to make the most low maintenance farm animal even more low maintenance? You need an automatic chicken coop door opener. I had one of these on a farm in Malibu once, theyʻd open when the sun came up and close when the sun came down. I didnʻt have to rush home to close their door to keep them safe at night, making life so much easier.

Happy Henhouse Automatic Coop Door Opener

What Makes an Animal Low Maintenance?

There are plenty of factors to consider when naming the most low-maintenance animals. Here are the considerations we used, when deciding which animal is easiest to keep.

  • Land. Maintaining grazing property is time-consuming. Many of us don’t have access to a large plot of land, either.
  • Food. Sourcing and/or growing food takes time and is expensive.
  • Visitations. Needy animals require lots of time every day.
  • Clean up. Some animals have high cleanliness needs, which makes them time-consuming.

We also partially considered the farm animal’s return on investment. This was the case when we compared bees to chickens. Bees are just, if not more low maintenance than chickens but don’t provide as much quality food as chickens do, for example.

The Most Low Maintenance Farm Animals, Compared

Here’s our list of popular farm animals and how much work they are.


In areas where predators are scarce, chickens can thrive pretty much on their own in a food forest landscape.  The chickens I have even roost in a tree, no housing needed.  All I have to do is hunt for eggs and catch one every now and then when we want to harvest the meat.

In other areas where predators are an issue, chickens can be housed in a moveable chicken coop that can house 1 chicken per 3 sq ft. 

In it, they can be protected from predators, forage fresh pasture every day (minimizing the need for supplemental feed), and have a safe home to live in. 

All you have to do is provide fresh water, move it a couple feet every now and then, throw in a few kitchen scraps, and collect some eggs.

If you go with a stationary coop, you can employ a deep bedding system that allows you to only have to clean the coop once per year. 

Youʻll have to do all the feeding of course, and usually there are more medical issues with chickens in this environment, but it really doesnʻt take up much time at all, especially if you get an automatic coop door opener like this one on Amazon.

If you get a good heritage breed of chickens, they’ll go broody and raise their chicks independently, without much input needed from you. But which breed is a good breed? No need to worry. Iʻve already done the work for you in this post where I break down the best chicken breeds for Hawaii.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirement:

Wild Chickens: 30 minutes

Chicken Tractor: 7.5 hours

Stationary Coop: 5 hours


Sheep are grazing animals that can live off of rugged terrain. They don’t need much day-to-day care if you have a lot of land for them to graze.  Sheep do pretty well in a food forest setting which you can read about in this post. In fact all you may need to do is sheer them 2xʻs per year.

On smaller properties, theyʻll need some sort of shelter that needs to be cleaned regularly, daily supplemental feeding, the occasional sheering and hoof trimming.  All this can add up to a decent amount of time needed to care for these animals.

I havenʻt even mentioned raising sheep for milk, which if you choose to do that will be a regular daily chore that will take a significant chunk out of your day.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirement:
Free Range: 1-2 hours per month

Small Properties:  4 hours per month

Milking Sheep: 15 hours per month


Goats are also grazers like sheep, but they’re more of escape artists. If you don’t have a good fence, you’ll spend a lot of time running after them, and that’s not low maintenance.  One of my favorite fences for goats is a good electric fence like this one from Premier One.

If you purchase dairy goats, you’ll need to milk them once or twice a day which is time-intensive. Breeding/kidding goats also take a lot of work.

All in all, theyʻre a lot like sheep, just more work. Read more about raising goats in this article, then let me know if goats are easier than sheep.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirements:
Free Range: 3 hours per month

Small Properties:  5-6 hours per month

Milking Goats: 15-20 hours per month


The main downfall of cows is how large they are. A single cow requires at least an acre to graze on and needs supplemental hay and grain in most cases. 

If you have a lot of property for beef cows and good grass to graze, they’re one of the lowest maintenance animals. 

But for most of us not on a ranch, cows require lots of space and food daily. And if you buy a family dairy cow, you’ll be working with one of the highest-maintenance farm animals out there.  Milking takes a lot of time.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirements:
Free Range: 1 hour per month

Small Properties:  6-8 hours per month

Milking Cows: 20-30 hours per month


Depending on how you raise them, Bees can be one of the most low-maintenance farm animals. With traditional hives, they need to be checked on a couple of times a week.

If you house them in a topbar hive our log hive, you may not have to check in on them much at all!

It can take a hefty amount of money to get started, but you don’t need any land, and you don’t need to feed them (or rarely do).

It does take a bit of knowledge to learn how to keep bees though. You can get started down that path by reading this post on how to raise honeybees in Hawaii.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirements:
Langstroth Hive: 2 hour per month

Topbar Hive:  30 minutes per month

Log Hive: 15 minutes per month


Ducks are also fairly low-maintenance farm animals. They live in a group and can provide delicious eggs and meat. They do require more space than chickens, and they’re messier since they’re water birds and will need a pool or pond to splash in. 

And to be honest, their poops are disgusting.  They make this sloppy mess everywhere, especially on your front porch if you allow them to free range.

Other than that, they don’t need very much land, don’t consume too much food, or take lots of time to care for.

Estimated Monthly Time Requirements:

Free Range Ducks: 1 hour 30 minutes

Stationary Duck Run: 8 hours


If you’re raising a couple pigs for meat, then pigs are fairly low maintenance. They require about the same amount of space as a goat, will eat leftovers, and need to be fed once or twice a day. 

If you decide to go into breeding pigs, that will take a lot more maintenance on your part, including heavier cleaning, regular tests and vaccinations, and much more food.

If you go down the road of raising pigs, theyʻre a great homestead animal to have.  

Estimated Monthly Time Requirements:

Foraging pigs:  4 hrs

Penned up pigs:  10-15 hours 

Why the Chickens Top the List

Although other types of farm animals are easy to maintain, chickens will always be at the top of our low-maintenance farm animal list. They’re versatile animals that can fit into the smallest homesteads. In fact, many city ordinances allow people to keep a few chickens.

Chickens require minimal land and clean-up, and the start-up costs are affordable. It doesnʻt take many chickens to get a dozen eggs per week according to this article. They’re super beginner-friendly and don’t require much knowledge to raise successfully.

Bees are a close contender, but they aren’t numbered one for us because they don’t provide as much or as regular food as chickens do. They’re not super beginner-friendly and can also be expensive to get started with unless you already have the equipment. 

Ducks are another good low-maintenance farm animal, but they are water birds makes them a bit more work than chickens.

A herd of beef cows is arguably the easiest animal to raise, but they’re not an easy farm animal to get into for the average small family homestead. The land needs and initial costs alone make them difficult to raise if you aren’t grandfathered in.

Remember that finding the most low-maintenance farm animal depends on your circumstance. If you have plenty of land, don’t like eggs, or already have farm animals, you might disagree with us. 

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