Out of all of the problems facing urban survivalist, fresh food and fresh water are probably at the top of the list. Sure there are lots of other problems, such as looters and other pest. But without fresh food and safe drinking water, life is going to go downhill pretty quick.
Why would chickens be a good choice for urban survival? They are easy to raise, they lay eggs just about all year long, the eggs are a good source of fats and protein, and if you need to, you can eat the chicken. The protein and the fats address at least two nutritional requirements of your long term survival plans.
Here is an interesting youtube video that talks about some of the aspects in raising backyard chickens.
Chickens are flock animals. Meaning they will not do well by themselves. If you are planning on getting some backyard chickens, plan on getting at least 3 or 4 of them. If you get 2 chickens, and 1 dies, then that puts stress on the lone chicken.
What makes chickens so special
They do not bite. They peck, but they do not bite, they do not even have teeth to bite with.
Make good pets (depending on breed).
Make little noise (as long as you do not have a rooster).
If you get tired of taking care of the chicken, you can eat it.
Eat just about anything.
Take care of themselves pretty good.
They do well in confinement
The do not complain.
Do not bark in late hours of the night.
Are a sustainable food source.
Humans have ate chickens and eggs for thousands of years, why change now.
Easy to raise.
If I had to pick three points on chickens that make then ideal for the urban survivalist, it would chickens are easy to raise, they do not take a lot of room, and they a good laying hen will lay a bunch of eggs. Lets talk about each one of those points.
Easy to raise
From the time the chicks hatch they are pretty self-sufficient. All the need is some small seeds, or small grains, bugs, water and they are good to go.
The chicks are substitutable to cold weather, so they have to be kept warm. The hen will sit on the chicks to keep them warm.
Within just a few weeks the chicks are chasing bugs and eating mosquitoes. When my chicks were moved to the chicken coop, I put a light out there to keep them warm. If one of the chicks spotted a mosquito or some kind of small bug, the chick did its best to catch and eat the bug.
At around 5 months old my chicks started laying. These first eggs are called pullet eggs. A pullet is a hen that is less then 1 year old.
Chickens do not have a lot of requirements. All they really need is a dry place to get out of the rain, not too hot and not too cold, place to roost at night, clean food and clean water. Besides those things, most chickens are happy to look for food and roll around in the dirt.
Do not take a lot of room
Each chicken needs at least 3 square feet of room. The more room you can give the chickens, the better. My coop is designed for each chicken to have something like 3.5 square feet per chicken. The attached run provides another 9 square feet per chicken.
Lets say you want to keep 3 chickens, lets say 4 square feet each, you would need a cage 3 feet by 4 feet for 12 square feet.
My step-daughter and her boyfriend built a simple chicken coop that is about 4 feet wide, 5 feet deep and around 6 feet tall. A coop this size is large enough for 3 or so chickens, and is portable. Move it around the yard so the chickens have access to fresh grass.
Some breeds of chickens do better in confinement then others. Do your research before you pick a breed of chicken. Make sure the breed you pick will tolerate the amount of cubic feet you have allotted.
Eggs and more eggs
Some breeds of chickens lay more then others. So before you buy, know what you are getting yourself into. Some of the popular breeds are Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock (aka Plymouth Rock), Production Red and Australorp, only to name a few.
When the chickens started laying eggs, the shells were nice and hard. After laying for the next 2 weeks the shells kept getting thinner and thinner. The eggs were so thin, one was almost transparent, the others cracked when being laid. After talking to the lady that owns the feed store, she suggested that I added oyster shells to the chicken feed.
Within a week of adding oyster shell to the chickens daily treat of hen scratch and oats, the eggs started getting harder.
Two weeks after adding oyster shells to the chicken feed, and we have not had a cracked egg in a week.
During a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation eggs can be an important source of fats and protein. Why waste time hunting when your chickens can lay eggs.
At just a few days short of 6 months old, my 13 chickens are up to 10 eggs a day.
These are my observations on raising chickens. I do not claim to be an expert on chickens. If anything, I am about as far from an expert as you can get. This article is a collection of my notes, observations and thoughts during the first 6 months of raising chickens.
Australorps seem to be growing faster then all of the other types of chickens, except maybe the Black Jersey Giants.
One Australorp seems more aggressive and defensive of the flock. When I reach into the coop to get a chicken, there is one Australorp runs over and starts pecking my arm. If the chicken I picked up starts acting scared, the Australorp acts like she is angry or in distress.
The Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks seem the most eager to dig into a pile of grass clippings thrown into the run. When I throw a rake full of clippings into the run, almost every time the Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks are the first ones to jump on the pile and start scratching.
If I mix anything with the pellets in the feeder, such as scratch or oats, the chickens will pick around the pellets to get to the oats or scratch. The scratching gets so aggressive that the feeder is knocked over from time to time. The coop is up on legs. When the chickens scratch the feed the feed falls through the wire and onto the ground. When I let the chickens out of the coop, they will eat the food on the ground.
After cutting the grass I will rake up the clippings and throw them into the coop. The chickens seem to have a good time scratching through the clippings. Funny thing, the chickens eat a lot of the clippings. I guess this would be the same thing as if the chickens were free range.
While in the run, the chickens are too lazy to go into the coop to get their water. Rarely, and I mean rarely would the chickens go into the coop to get some water during the heat of the day. I figured they were not getting enough to drink, so I moved their 3 gallon waterer from the coop to the run. With a waterer in the run, the chickens are drinking water all the time. With the 3 gallon waterer in the run, that leaves a single 1 gallon waterer in the coop.
The first chickens to sleep on the perch were the two silver laced wyandottes, one Rhode Island Red and one Barred Rock.
My chickens HATE feed pellets. If I mix hen scratch or oats in with their feed, the chickens will scratch the pellets out of the feed dispensers to get to the other pieces of food.
After the first 50 pound bag of pellets, the chickens looked like the stopped putting on weight. I think its because they only eat the pellets when they have no other choice. Its only when they are given nothing but pellets will they finally eat the stuff.
Chickens do not like to eat while they are in a raised coop. For some reason my chickens will not go into the raised coop to eat. They would rather eat off the ground. I can take a feeder out of the coop, set it on the ground and the chickens will run over to it and start eating like they are starving.
The first chickens to start roosting were around 3 months old. Only about 3 chickens started to roost, then a few days later a couple more, a few days later a couple more,,,. The majority of the chickens started roosting when they were around 3 1/2 months old.
If you have a raised coop with hardware cloth for the chickens to stand on – if the chickens eat grass, the grass will pass through the chicken in their poop, and the grass gets hung up on the hardware cloth. This makes washing out the chicken coop a pain. Even though the poop washes through the hardware cloth, the pieces of grass hang from the wires.
At around 5 months and a couple of weeks the eggs started cracking easy. The lady at the local feed and fertilizer store told me to switch them to laying crumbles and add oyster shell.
I give the chickens a daily treat of hen scratch, oats and have added oyster shell. The treat is usually given to the chickens first thing in the morning.
One of the biggest issues I having to deal with is keeping fresh water available at all times. The waterer in the run is up on blocks, but it still gets dirt throw in it.
During hot days in late July early August the chickens drink a lot of water. I am seriously considering installing some kind of automatic watering system.
At six months old my 13 chickens are going through 50 pounds of feed about every 2 weeks. This includes a morning treat of hen scratch, oats and oyster shells.
The first eggs had a nice thick shell on them. Over the next few weeks the shells got so thin that a couple of them were transparent and flexible. Adding oyster shell to their daily treat fixed the thin shell issue.
At 5 – 5 1/2 months old the chickens were switched from a grower to a laying mash.
Six month update video of my chicken and chicken coop project.
Post your comments in this forum thread – Chickens as part of your urban survival plan.
About the Author
Kevin Felts was born in southeast Texas in 1968. Entered the workforce in 1984 and graduated high school in 1986. After spending 8 years in the welding field he decided to attend Lamar College in Port Arthur Texas. I left the welding field in 1999 when I was laid off at Allied Fabrication. Went back into the welding field in 2003 – 2004.
My grandparents raised chickens on their farm, I raised chickens in the late 1980s and currently have a small flock in my backyard.
I currently live in Jasper Texas with my wife and work in the computer field.