Awhile back we talked about how many chickens would be needed for SHTF. I would like to do this article in the same manner as the chicken article.
Lets start with one very important question, and that is how much meat does the average person eat? To find the answer lets turn to the US census.
Average US meat consumption in 2009:
|Commodity||Weight / Number|
|Red Meat, includes beef, veal, lamb and pork.||105.7 pounds|
|Poultry, includes chicken and turkey.||69.4 pounds|
For right now lets exclude eggs and focus on red meat and poultry. We will talk about eggs later.
Lets round the 105.7 up to 106 pounds, and lets round 69.4 up to 70 pounds.
That equals out to an average of 176 pounds of meat, per person, per year.
For example, a five year old child is not going to eat 176 pounds of meat in a year. While a 300 pound man will probably eat more then 176 pounds of meat in a year.
United States Government recommendations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture suggest eating 5 to 7 ounces of cooked lean meat, poultry, or fish per day. For the sake of discussion lets say 7 ounces of meat per day.
7 ounces X 365 days = 2,555 ounces.
2,555 divided by 16 ounces per pound = 159.687 pounds. Lets round that up to 160 pounds of meat per year.
The government suggest 160 pounds of meat a year, and what we eat on average is 176 pounds.
What do those numbers reflect? 160 pounds and 176 pounds reflect the body weight of an average adult.
What I am thinking is to plan on a person eating their body weight of meat per year. So far we have been talking averages. When you have someone that is 6 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 300 pounds, we can not say he needs the same dietary intake as someone who weighs 150 pounds.
Long term SHTF survival plans need to be flexible, rather than set in stone. Rather then saying each adult of the group needs 160 – 176 pounds of meat per year, lets just plan on each member of the group eating their body weight in meat every year.
I hope all of that makes sense.
Lets raise some meat
I weigh right at 200 pounds. In all honesty I am ashamed to admit that. This is coming from a guy who panicked when he reached 175 pounds several years ago. Working in an office does that to you, weight has a way of creeping up.
I am going to estimate my wife weighs around 150, my daughter maybe 130 pounds, couple of grandkids at 40 pounds each, mom, dad, brother,,,, lets use a rough estimate of 1,000 pounds of meat per year for a group of 8 people. This is not 8 grown adults, but rather a mixture of adults and children.
How are we going to raise 1,000 pounds of meat in a year? That equals out to 2.74 pounds per day. To make this simple, lets round that 2.74 up to 3 pounds. How do we raise 3 pounds of meat every day?
Chickens should be a key component to any SHTF survival homestead. They are easy to raise, produce food almost everyday through eggs and their poop is rich in nitrogen.
In a previous article we talked about how chickens may be needed for SHTF. Lets revisit that article for a minute. Under my estimate, a survivalist group of 10 people will need a summer time low of 30 laying hens, and a wintertime high of around 60 – 70 chickens. If you plan on letting some of your hens go broody, that wintertime number may be in the 80 or more chicken range.
For the sake of discussion lets say we are raising heritage breeds – Barred Rock, Rhode Island Red, Buff Orpington, Speckled Sussex and Australorps,,, to name a few.
One breed of chicken I have in my flock and plan on getting some more are the Jersey Giant. The Jersey Giant was developed as an alternative to the Turkey.
The problem is the Jersey giant is they are a a slow grower, so the breed never caught on with commercial growers. If the Jersey giant is a slow grower, why should we consider it for our SHTF homestead? Because of its size it can feed a family a full meal.
To make things easy, lets say that our chickens reach a butcher weight of 4 pounds in 16 weeks. That is an average of 1 pound per month. Keep in mind a lot of that has to do with the quality of the land available for foraging, quality of the breeding stock, type of breed,,,, and so on. Some of this is selective breeding so that only the largest of the hens and roosters are bred. Lets also breed for desirable traits, such as ability to forage, broodiness and not being aggressive towards other chickens, pets or people.
In order to reach 1,000 pounds of chicken meat per year we would need 2.74 pounds per day.
365 days in a year X 2.74 pounds per day = 1,000
16 weeks X 7 days in a week = 112 days.
For a chicken to reach 4 pounds in 4 months (112 days) it needs to gain 1 pound per month.
After a hen reaches a certain weight the math is not straight forward. The growth rate slows down once a chicken reaches around 5 – 6 months old, which is when the hen will start laying eggs and the rooster starts trying to crow. At this point the feed:weight ratio diminishes.
In other words, when a chicken starts to sexually mature, it is time to butcher if you are looking for meat production. Anything past the age of sexual maturity and you are looking at a diminishing return as the growth rate slows down.
So far we have determined we need to raise 3 pounds of meat (rounded up from 2.74) per day to reach our goal of 1,000 pounds per year.
We also have a rough number of 1 pound per month that a chicken puts on from birth to 16 weeks of age. After around 16 weeks we get diminishing returns on the feed:weight ratio.
Instead of working in 365 days, lets work in segments of 112 days, or 16 weeks/4 months. That is 336 pounds every 4 months to reach our goal of 1,000 pounds in a year.
Every 16 weeks we need to raise 336 pounds of chicken meat.
336 pounds divided by 4 pounds per chicken equals 84 chickens every 16 weeks.
Holy crap that is a lot of chickens.
Then there is the breeding stock to produce 84 chickens every 16 weeks. That is at least 14 broody hens producing 6 chicks each every 4 months. A single fox or bobcat in the hen house could kill several hens in a single night.
For small homesteaders we are talking impossible numbers. 84 chickens every 4 months, feed, water, security,,,. If someone already has a farm or homestead with all of that setup, then yea, we are talking feasible numbers.
To go along with the chickens lets look at domesticated rabbits as a food source. Two popular breeds are the New Zealand white rabbit and the Californian rabbit. A couple of months ago I restarted my rabbit herd of rabbits with 2 Californians. This is after a 13 year break of not having rabbits.
New Zealand whites can have as many as 8 – 10 kits in a litter. At 8 weeks old the kits have an average weight of around 4 – 5 pounds. Adults can weigh 8 – 12 pounds. The doe will weigh slightly more then the buck.
Californian rabbits have a estimated live weight of around 4 – 5 pounds after 8 – 12 weeks. For the sake of discussion lets low-ball those numbers and go with 4 pounds in 12 weeks. This gives us an estimated butcher weight of around 3 pounds at 12 weeks old.
For the sake of discussion, and to treat our rabbits in a humane manner, lets plan on breeding the does every 3 months. That is 4 litters a year, and lets plan on 6 kits in each litter.
This gives us a lowball number of 24 kits per year. With a butcher eight of 3 pounds at 8 – 12 weeks old, we have 72 pounds of meat from a single doe over the course of a year.
1,000 pounds divided by 72 pounds per year from a single doe = 13.888. Lets round that up to 15.
In other words, we would need 15 breeding does, being bred every 4 months, producing a litter of at least 6 kits each to reach our goal of 1,000 pounds of meat that our family would need over the course of a year.
I think that number is doable by someone who has a small homestead or farm.
Rabbits vs Chickens for SHTF
It is which one is better, but which one suits a given purpose. Chickens produce food almost everyday through eggs, while we have to wait for rabbits to grow after being born.
For meat production during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, I think rabbits are the winners. The main reason why I think rabbits are the winner is because we can control when rabbits breed.
With chickens we have to wait for the hen to go broody. There are some things we can do to encourage hens to go broody and sit on some eggs, but it is not like we can force her.
With rabbits we put the doe in the cage with the buck, they do their thing, and a month later a litter of kits should be born. We give her 2 months to recover, then breed her again.
Pigs / Wild Hogs
No serious article taking about meat after SHTF is complete without talking about pigs.
Lets say there has been a complete collapse of society. The trucks have stopped rolling, grocery stores are empty, you have some chickens and a couple of rabbits, but you want to have a feast to boost morale.
Besides humans, pigs are probably the ultimate survivor. Domesticated pigs and wild hogs can be found on every continent, except Antarctica. Some states are so overrun with wild pigs, loses to agriculture total in the billions of dollars. In a post-SHTF world wild hogs are resource that should not be overlooked.
How do you catch wild hogs?
The two popular methods are using a hog trap and trained dogs.
Since food and fuel are going to be in short supply its doubtful someone wants to drive around checking the traps and putting out corn or some type of other bait.
The second and probably the best way to catch hogs after SHTF is with dogs. If you know wild hogs are in a given area, drop the dogs off to do their job. You may have to walk (or run) after the dogs. Walking is free while fuel will be priceless.
After the dogs have the hog corned the hunting party moves in to do their job. The legs are tied together, a limb is cut, then the hog is packed out.
Once the hunting party has caught a few hogs, then you have breeding stock.
After being bred the gestation period is 114 days.
A sow will usually deliver 9 – 11 piglets in a litter, depending on age and how many litters the sow has had.
As with the rabbits lets shoot for a lowball number of 6 piglets in a litter.
We are going to breed the sow twice a year. So we should have an estimated 12 piglets a year off a single sow.
At 2 months old the piglets should weigh in the 48 pound range, plus or minus a few pounds depending on food supply and food quality. Since we are lowballing weight, lets say 40 pounds at 2 months.
40 pounds x 6 piglets = 240 pounds.
240 pounds x twice a year = 480 pounds a year.
1,000 pounds we need for our family divided by 480 = 2.083.
Round that 2.083 up to 3, and we have 3 sows being bred twice a year to reach the 1,000 pounds of meat we need for our family every year.
Our example party has 8 people. The simple answer would be to say that each person is going to eat 2 – 3 eggs everyday.
(2 eggs x 8 people) x 365 days in a year = 5,840 eggs a year.
(3 eggs x 8 people) x 365 days in a year = 8,760 eggs a year.
The problem with those rough numbers are my 4 and 5 year old grandsons can 3 and 4 eggs each for breakfast. Since we are rounding up on certain things, lets round that 3 – 4 eggs for breakfast up to 5 eggs. That is going to be 10 eggs a day between 2 grandkids. Just for the 2 grandkids we need 3,650 eggs a year.
The remaining 6 people get 3 eggs each everyday, for a grand total of 6,570 eggs.
3,650 eggs for the two grandkids + 6,570 eggs for the adults = 10,220 eggs every year.
Lets say we have a flock of Barred Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Australorps and Buff Orpingtons, all of which are good dual purpose heritage breeds. Lets also use a rough number of the hens laying 200 eggs a year. Some of the chicken breeds we listed lay a little more than 200 eggs a year, while some lay right around 200 eggs a year.
10,220 eggs a year divided by 200 eggs per chicken equals 51.1 laying hens. Lets round that up to at least 75 hens so some can be broody and sitting on eggs, add in a few roosters and we are looking at around 85,, maybe 90 chickens. Since we are going to be butchering chickens, lets say we need a grand total of 100 chickens to meet our egg and meat production for 8 people.
For the sake of discussion we have used 8 people in our group, which contains a mixture of adults and children. We estimated that each person would be eating their body weight in meat every year.
Dietary requirements were based of census information and U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended daily intake.
Rounding up and rounding down to be on the safe side we learned,
1. Chickens would probably be best used for egg production rather then as a primary meat source.
2. Rabbits with our ability to control their production cycles would make an excellent food source.
3. Pigs with the fast growth rate would make an excellent source of meat after SHTF.
We have not even talked about cattle, sheep and goats yet.
What are your thoughts on this article? Post your comments below. If you are a member of the forum, see this thread about fresh meat after SHTF.