Chickens would be great farm animals for SHTF if they were not so stupid. The honest truth is they will find a way to get themselves killed.
Build them a nice cage and they will find a way to get out.
They will wander away from the flock and get killed.
They will stay out to dusk, right when coyotes start looking for an easy meal.
They will spill their water.
They will crap in their food and water.
They will crap in laying boxes.
They will roost in high places so if they fall at night they will be hurt.
They will eat stuff that makes them sick – free ranging eating weeds, rocks, pieces of glass, etc.
They will free range out in fields where hawks can see them. They chickens can have all kinds of weeds and cover to forage under. But no, they have to go out in the open away from the flock so a hawk can get them.
For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.
You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.
My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.
My wife and I are planning on ordering some chicks Friday August 1st.
Breed / Quantity
Australorp – 5
Barred Rock – 5
Buff Orpington – 10
Dominicker – 5
Rhode Island Red – 5
Plus the 17 or so we have left after the dogs, fox and chicken hawk got finished.
47 hens with 3 roosters.
My Rhode Island Red rooster is on loan to my cousin right now.
Barred rocks and Rhode Island Reds are, but I have not seen a single one go broody. The instinct to sit on eggs has been bred out of certain breeds. When a hen sits on eggs, companies lose production, which means they are losing money.
The reason why my wife and I want a variety is for various traits. The Buff and Dominicker are supposed to sit on eggs, one of my Australorps will go broody at least once a year.
In a previous article we talked about the best chicken breeds for SHTF / TEOTWAWKI. There are so many good breeds out there, it is impossible to pick an absolute best. In order to expand my knowledge and experience with chickens, I want several different breeds in my flock.
As of right now the Buff Orpington is quickly becoming one of my favorite breeds.
The Dominicker is an old heritage breed dating back to the pioneer days. If a breed of chicken was good enough for the pioneers, it sho0uld be good enough for me.
It is amazing how fast chicks grow. In 1 month they went from being totally helpless, to foraging for food. With every passing day the chicks move further away from the chicken house.
The more I watch chickens, the more I understand why the species has been so successful, and why humans have grown dependent on them. While cats, dogs, humans,,, are still dependent on their parents at one month old, chickens are pretty much independent. At 4 – 6 weeks old chicks need protection from full grown chickens and predators, but they do pretty well at foraging and looking for food.
The colors of each breed are becoming more defined. The Barred Rocks are getting their distinctive white specs, Rhode Island Reds are getting a deeper colors red, Australorps are still black as they should be and the Buff Orpingtons are turning a bright yellow gold color.
At around 4 weeks old the chicks have shed their soft birth feathers and have got their real feathers in. Some of the chicks have bald spots from shedding (molting) one set of feathers and getting another set in.
Any readers of this blog and forum members wish to contribute to a chick weight / growth chart?
In my possession I have Buff Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds and Australorp chicks. All of them are less than a week old. When I get some Barred Rocks on Thursday, February 13th I plan on weighing them also. I picked these breeds for certain qualities such as egg and meat production.
Yesterday I weighed a random selection of the chicks and recorded the weight in ounces. Ounces did not seem to be accurate enough, so I switched to grams.
The plan is to weigh a random selection of chicks everyday, record their weight, then figure out an average. The goal is to enter the information into a spread sheet and chart the growth of each breed. This will give survivalist an idea about which breeds grow the fastest.
Out of my 6 australorps and 6 buffs I weighed 4 of each breed.
Out of my 3 rhode island reds I weighed all three.
The project will continue until I get bored and decide to work on something else. But I would like to continue this for at least 4 – 6 weeks.
Anyone wish to be part of this project? If so weigh at least 3 or 4 chicks in grams, post the weights or averages, age of the chick in days, type of feed and breed.
Type and brand name of feed is important to know, as we can chart that as well
Why should you consider the Australorp for your backyard chicken flock?
Tolerate heat well – they were developed in Australia in the late 1800s.
High egg production – in 1922-23 a team of six Australorp hens set a world record of 1857 eggs at an average of 309.5 eggs per hen for a 365 consecutive day trial (from wikipedia). Australorps also hold the world record for egg production. In trapnest testing, a Australorp hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days.
A trapnest is a nesting box that closes after a hen has entered the laying box. This traps the hen and allows inspection and marking of the egg to a specific hen. If a hen is eating eggs, a trapnest allows the farmer to know which hen is eating the egg, as the hen will be trapped in the laying box with the egg.
Heritage Chicken – This is something that we need to pay attention to, or at least take into consideration.
APA Standard Breed – Breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century.
Naturally mating – let nature takes it course.
Long, productive outdoor lifespan
Slow growth rate – You may be asking “why do you want your chickens to grow slow?” Chickens that are bred for meat production put on weight faster then their legs can keep up. As a result, certain breeds of meat chickens may become lame and not able to walk. Certain breeds of meat chickens do not tolerate heat well. The chicks have to be bought in early spring and butchered before the summer heat kicks in.
The slow growth rate is for the chickens growth to match the rate the legs, bones and muscles to develop.
What chicken breeds are best for a long term SHTF survival situation? Most breeds are good foragers, but we want something that would make a good meat chicken, good layer, good breeder, is friendly with other chickens and deals with confinement well.
Chickens are an excellent livestock choice for SHTF / TEOTWAWKI. Eggs are a good source of protein, fats and essential amino acids. Chicken meat is a good source of protein. Chickens can be let out out of the chicken coop during the day, and they will return to the coop at night. Which is unlike other livestock that will wonder off if let out of their pen.
My suggestions are the Barred Rock (which is part of the Plymouth Rock family), Rhode Island Red and the Australorp.
The Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose (for meat and egg production), cold-hardy chicken that makes a well-rounded choice for the homestead or backyard flock owner. The Plymouth Rock is the family that the Barred Rock belongs to.
Barred Rock are usually friendly, easy to tame, hens are not usually aggressive.
The Barred Rock lays a large light to medium brown egg. On average, a healthy hen will lay 3 – 4 eggs a week, which equals to 156 – 208 eggs a year.
The Barred Rock is a cold hardy chicken. During the winter some chickens stop laying. The Barred Rock lays eggs through the winter, but in a decreased capacity.
Hen weight – 6 – 7.5 pounds
Rooster weight – 7.5-9.5 pounds
The Barred Rock is a good forager who will seek out its meals. When given the chance, they will explore fields and tree lines looking for food.
Lets say SHTF, what are the breeds of chickens you should focus on? In my opinion, some of the better chicken breeds for survivalist are the Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex and Australorp.
Rhode Island Red
Cock / Roster average weight: 8.5 lbs
Hen average weight: 6.5 lbs
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 200 eggs a year
My grandparents kept Rhode Island Reds back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Dad told me Rhode Island Reds are good at foraging and finding their own food.
Early 2012 my wife and I bought 4 Rhode Island Reds for our flock. Out of all the chickens we have, the RIR are the most friendly and affectionate. When I open the door to the coop, the RIRs walk up the ladder to greet me. I can pick up my RIRs as easily as I can pick up the family cat.
From time to time my wife and I will let a couple of the chickens out of the coop. The Rhode Island Reds go to work scratching through the leaves looking for something to eat.
From wikipedia – The Chicken of Tomorrow is a 1948 documentary short film about advances in chicken and egg farming. This mini-documentary was narrated by Lowell Thomas and is in the public domain.
The film was mocked in a seventh-season episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
The Chicken of Tomorrow deals with poultry farming and egg farming in the mid 1940s. Filmed to educate the public about how poultry and eggs are farmed, it also deals with how advances in genetic engineering and technology produces a larger chicken. Eggs are farmed and kept in industrial incubators, and an equal number of chickens are used for meat and other products. Altogether, this produces more food for less money, and allows people to support local poultry farms without breaking the bank. This is relatively similar to today’s poultry farming despite there now being technological differences.
The chicken of tomorrow should provide some food for thought for survivalist who are raising chickens. Do you want a flock of skinny chicken for your family? Or do you want types of chickens that have plump full breast and will lay plenty of eggs?
Do you want chickens that are slow growers and susceptible to disease? Or do you want chickens that mature quickly, lay good quality eggs and resistant to disease?