How Many Acres Do I Need to Start a Homestead?

Starting a homestead is an exciting process. Learning to be more self-reliant and produce your food and energy on the land you live on is rewarding.

Everyone from the city to the country can start a homestead, whether it is fully self-sufficient or not, however some people don’t have the luxury of a large plot, and aren’t sure whether this is a good idea.

free-ranging goats and a horse
free-ranging goats and a horse

So how much land do you need to start a homestead?

Around 1 acre per person on the homestead is recommended for full self-sufficiency.

Gardens require up to an acre. Small livestock, like chickens, requires up to 25 square feet per animal. 5-6 small ruminants or pigs can graze per acre. Large ruminants need an acre per head.

Homesteading By Land Size

Let’s dig a little deeper to see what you can and cannot grow and raise depending on the amount of land you have at your disposal.

stevia plants in the garden
stevia plants in the garden

Up To 1 Acre of Land

Those with city plots of land and suburban dwellers will typically fall into this category. This category is usually referred to as Backyard Homesteaders. Achieving full self-sufficiency isn’t always possible, but you can still do a lot!

A garden can be up to a half-acre on this size of land, and it will be your main source of food. Growing lots of varieties of fruit and vegetables, using succession plantings, vertical gardening, and growing year-round will increase productivity.

Having dedicated storage space to preserve your garden harvests in your house is easy enough and doesn’t require extra space in most cases.

Urban homesteaders will can, freeze, ferment, and dehydrate their food produced on their land in their kitchen. Storing it is as easy as a pantry and freezer, requiring no extra land!

A homestead has many different systems. A garden is great, but a garden alone isn’t a homestead, it’s just a garden!

For livestock, you’ll be limited to smaller animals, like chickens and rabbits. Chickens are typically recommended because they’ll give you eggs and meat. You can fit 10-15 chickens in a 250 square foot pen. This size is recommended to avoid health issues from overcrowding, or fighting due to lack of space.

Raising chickens for meat can be done year-round in small batches instead of doing one huge batch per year. This will reduce the amount of land needed as well.

On a small plot of land, you can still produce most of your power needs as well by using solar panels on the roof, passive solar room heaters in the windows, passive solar water heaters on the sun-facing side of the house, and human-powered washing machines. None of this requires more land!

Sunny windowsills make great mini gardens or greenhouses. Growing herbs and spices, and started seedlings in the house requires no extra land but will help you produce more on your urban homestead!

two chickens inside a raised garden bed
two chickens inside a raised garden bed

1-3 Acres of Land

With this size, you can expand your garden and small animal pens a bit as well. You can also add in small ruminants, Pigs, or a mini fruit and nut orchard.

Small ruminants, like Goats and Sheep, don’t require a lot of land. Each acre can support around 5-6 animals.

Pigs also don’t require a lot of land. Many feeder pigs only require about 100 square foot for optimal growth.

However, you will be hard-pressed to find a city lot that will allow pigs, due to their smell and rooting nature that can destroy landscaping. If you are in a rural area but still have a small homestead, pigs are an obvious choice for meat production.

Orchards take up a lot of space since each tree needs to be spaced 20-30 feet away from the next. An acre can fit around 70 trees of different varieties of fruits and nuts, all which can feed you and your animals.

You can stack systems at this time and create silvopasture. The trees may be spaced a bit further to allow for more sunlight to the ground between the trees and the ruminants graze the orchard area.

Protecting the trees from the animals may require metal or electric fencing, but it allows you to do more on less land. An acre could have around 50 trees and 5-6 goats!

two Icelandic lambs next to a large hoophose
two Icelandic lambs next to a large hoophose

3-5 Acres of Land

At this size, you can expand on everything from the smaller size homesteads above and add in a couple of large ruminants.

Large ruminants require around 1 acre of land per head if you want healthy grass-fed meat and dairy products.

You can also support a larger variety of livestock. With 3-5 acres you can:

  • Garden up to an acre
  • Chickens and Rabbits on a half-acre
  • Pigs on a half-acre
  • A silvopasture of 50 fruit and nut trees and 5-6 Sheep or Goats on one acre
  • Another acre for a large ruminant animal, which could also rotate into the silvopasture
  • The rest of the area for your house

At this point, you can achieve self-sufficiency with food production.

tractor plowing the garden
tractor plowing the garden

5-10 Acres of Land

Expanding to this size allows more room for all the animals to graze, creating less demand for external food input.

You can also expand your ruminant herds to include more breeding stock or just more feeders.

At this point, you may be able to start thinking about selling some of the excesses that you can create, whether it be fruit, vegetables, meat, or dairy products.

You could also start a small orchard for firewood with fast-growing trees like Eucalyptus. Depending on your winter climate, this size may be enough for all of your firewood needs, especially if you use passive solar room heaters on cold, but sunny days.

fertilizer truck on pasture
fertilizer truck on pasture

10+ Acres

This size is much more than one household needs to be self-sufficient. But, at this size, even your livestock feed can be grown on-site.

More land means more grass for the ruminants. You can set aside a few acres for hay production to store and feed during the winter months.

You can plant various nut trees to create a forest setting for your pig operation that gives them a natural environment while providing them with high-quality food like walnuts, almonds, and acorns.

You can grow all the food needed for your chickens and rabbits in a larger garden.

This size is begging to become a profitable farm as well.

Benefits Of More Land

More land can be more beneficial for food production for your livestock. Small homesteads can house a lot of livestock, but much of their food needs will still be purchased off the farm.

Larger plots of land allow for more free-ranging. This means more food is available on the land for the animals already. With larger plots, you can get large livestock, like cattle, and grow orchards for firewood.

More land also opens the possibility of turning your homestead into an income generator. If you are self-sufficient with food and power, what better way to expand then becoming self-sufficient with money on your farm? Everything you do to produce food for your household can be done to produce income as well!

3 thoughts on “How Many Acres Do I Need to Start a Homestead?”

  1. Very good article. One thing I would add is the terrain and features of the land will determine how much usable acreage you actually have. I live on 12 acres in the north GA mountains and about half is not suitable for crop growth due to a mountain on the NE-SE side that blocks much of the sun especially when the leaves are on the trees and a large spring area in the bottom land. The mountain is above my property line so I cannot cut the trees. Also there are several very steep rock outcroppings that would be fine for sheep and goats but fencing would be a challenge if at all possible. Useful acres and total acres may not always be the same.

    • You speak to land quality not being equal, and that seems to be ignored in most of these articles. Its apparent to me that most people who write these, while perhaps knowledgeable in their area, dont realize that their expertise doesnt travel far. An acre in the Arizona desert is different from an acre on the Nebraska plains which is nothing like an acre in Maine. The best experts are the people who have to make a living off of it. Talk to area farmers for a solid idea of what the land can produce and what it takes to do it.


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