Chickens are one of the best livestock a family can have for a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation. Chickens (depending on their breed) are excellent foragers, they can eat just about anything, do not need a lot of care, and produce food in the form of eggs almost daily.
If you and your family are prepping for a collapse of society event, how many chickens would you need?
Before we can get close to answering that question, I feel there are some questions that first have to be answered.
Land – Do you have a backyard of nothing but grass, do you have wooded property, open fields that cattle, goats or horses roam in?
During a long term SHTF event, chances are the feed stores are going to be closed, that means you will not have access to commercial grade feed. It achieve their maximum egg production, chickens need a balanced diet full of vitamins and minerals. The calcium the eggs are made out of does not appear out of thin air.
This is where the quality, and variety of the land comes into play. Chickens need seeds, bugs, green leaves,,, just a wide variety of food sources.
My chickens laid their best when they were able to free range and had access to commercial grade laying pellets. During this time, they were laying around 8 – 10 eggs a day in August and September 2012.
Prepping for SHTF is a never ending process. Unless money is not an issue, chances are people have to divide their efforts between various projects.
Over the past few weeks I have been posting about what my project for 2013 should be. Should it be rabbits, honey bees, both, or maybe even something else?
The question from there needs to be, what project is going to provide my family with the greatest return on our investment?
Which farm animals are the best able to live off the land, have the best food to output ratio, produce the most food for the amount of room they take up.
Cattle: Lets start with the one farm animal that everyone knows in one way or another. Most people eat cheese, butter, steaks, brisket, hamburger,,,, and so on.
The cow is a universally recognized farm animal, but what is it really good for during a long term SHTF situation?
If you butcher a 1,000 pound cow, then you have to have a way to preserve the meat. Do you have a smoker, and a pressure cooker large enough to process a whole cow?
During the middle ages, cows were not a preferred livestock. Which was mainly because they are so large it takes great effort to preserve the meat.
Over the past couple of months my chickens were fed different types of feed along with their laying mash. During this observation the hens were between 7 – 8 months old.
Breeds include Barred rock, Rhode island red, Jersey giant, Silver laced wyandotte, Australorp and Speckled sussex.
Time of year during this observation was August – early October. Daytime temps ranged between the mid 80s – mid to upper 90s.
Oats, hen scratch and laying crumbles
For close to a month the chickens were given a 4 – 5 ounce scoop of feed oats, 4 – 5 ounces of hen scratch, a 3 – 4 ounce scoop of crushed oyster shell for calcium. Free access to Arrow Feeds poultry laying crumbles was provided at all times.
The Hens were let out of the coop early in the morning right around sunrise. The mixture of feed oats, hen scratch and ground oyster shell were spread over the ground for the chickens to pick up.
Egg production slowly dropped until the hens were laying around 5 – 6 eggs a day.
Chickens are probably the perfect livestock for a long term SHTF survival situation. Unlike a lot of farm animals, chickens will produce food every couple of days in the form of an egg. Once the chicken has matured and stopped laying, the chicken can be butchered and eaten.
One of the problems that people will experience after SHTF will be food fatigue. Even though the chickens may be laying eggs everyday, once food fatigue kicks in people will be sick of eggs.
To help ward off food fatigue, here is a list of various egg recipes.
3 fresh eggs.
1 cup sweet milk.
3 level tablespoonfuls of flour.
Place a small pan on the range, containing one tablespoonful of butter.
Place 3 tablespoonfuls of flour in a bowl, mixed smoothly with a portion of the cup of milk, then added the three yolks of eggs which had been lightly beaten and the balance of the milk and a pinch of salt.
Stir in lightly the stiffly-beaten whites of eggs.
Pour all into the warmed fry-pan and placed it in a moderately hot oven until lightly browned on top.
The omelette when cooked should be light and puffy, and remain so while being served.
Double the omelette together on a hot platter and sprinkle finely chopped parsley over the top.
Scald cornmeal with boiling water. Soak bread in cold water and milk. Separate yolks and whites of eggs. Beat each until light. Mix ingredients in order given, folding in whites of eggs last. Bake in buttered dish in hot oven 50 minutes.
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, have a nice thick breast and resistant to disease?
When the SHTF do you have a sustainable food source already setup? Or do you plan on bugging out to the wilderness with your family and foraging for food? Given the options, I would rather stay at home and have fresh eggs and oatmeal – eggs from my chickens and oatmeal from my food stockpile.
In mid-late 2011 my wife and I talked about getting chickens. I started looking at coop design, types and breeds, drawing designs for my own coop, working up a bill of material, cost,,, just general plans.