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.
Over the past 2 days I have given away 2 dozen eggs. Some people might be saying “so what”? To give food away means that my wife and I have an excess food supply.
Think about that for a minute. My wife and I bought our first chicks February 25, 2012. In all we ended up with 13 chickens. The chickens started laying when they were around 5 months old. At close to 6 months old we are getting 6 – 7 eggs a day.
We are dealing with a couple of topics here, the time required to get your food production up and running, and being able to grow more food then you need.
I see a lot of survivalist saying that if SHTF they are going to get some chickens, goats, maybe a couple of cows,,, the usual stuff. I see those types of planes as being unrealistic. You think you are going to be the only person looking for farming supplies and livestock after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI?
Lets say you have a buddy that knows a friend whos second cousin has a few chickens they are willing to trade for 1,000 rounds of 223 Remington. After some bartering the two of you finally agree on 500 rounds of 223 Remington and 500 rounds of 7.62×39 for 2 laying hens.
You get your hens home, now what? Where are you going to keep them at? Do you have an enclosed yard to keep your chickens in, do you have a coop? Or do you plan on keeping the hens in your garage? Hopefully you will be lucky enough to find some hens that are already laying. If not, you are going to have to wait several months for the chicks to grow and start laying.
Its not just livestock, what does your seed stockpile look like? Do you have tools to work the field? Do you have access to a tractor, tiller, hoes, rakes and manpower needed to get a field ready to plant?
After you get your squash, cucumbers, zucchini, turnips, snap beans,,,,etc planted, you are looking at 60 – 90 days before you are going to harvest anything.
Its official, my wife and I got our first dozen eggs. The eggs are rather small, but they will get larger as the chicken matures. My aunt calls the first eggs a chicken lays “pullet eggs”.
The first egg was laid on July 14, 2012
The 12th eggs was laid on July 22, 2012.
The chickens went from laying one egg every other day, to laying 3 eggs in one day. For the past 3 days, the chickens have been laying 3 eggs a day.
It took around 4 months and 3 weeks before the first egg was laid. After the chickens starting laying, the rate of laying has picked up dramatically. Hopefully the rate of laying will continue to pick up over the next few weeks. As of right now, I think only 3 of my 13 hens are laying. When all of the hens start laying, I am hoping to get anywhere from 6 – 10 eggs a day.
My wife and I have 13 chickens:
2 Black Jersey Giants
1 Speckled Sussex
2 Barred Rocks (aka Plymouth Rocks)
2 Silver Laced Wyandotte
4 Rhode Island Reds
From now on, my family and I do not have to buy our eggs from the grocery store. During a long term SHTF survival situation, my family will have a source of protein and a source of fresh food.
Chickens have been a vital food source to humans for thousands of years. There is no need to change now.
All of our hard work is finally starting to pay off, one of the hens has started to lay eggs. This means my family and I will have a source of fresh food (especially protein) during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation.
February 25, 2012 – got our first 5 chicks, 3 Black Jersey Giants and 2 Speckled Sussex. One of the Black Jersey Giants and 1 of the Speckled Sussex died.
March 3, 2012 – bought 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes and 2 Australorps.
Around March 7, 2012 – bought 4 Rhode Island Reds.
After it was all over with, my wife and I had 13 chickens.
Around March 21st or March 22nd the chicks were moved to their new coop. For the first few weeks the chicks were in a plastic box that was being kept in the bathtub. My wife and I take showers, so the bathtub is rarely used.
In the previous article we built the first 1/2 – 1/3 of the chicken coop. Now its time to look at building the rest of the coop.
During the final stages of the coop construction, there are 3 things I want to focus on:
Exhaust fan for the coop – this is a “maybe”
Lets see if we can break this down:
1 solar panel for the hotwire
1 solar panel for the 12 volt battery for lights and exhaust fan
My orginal plans were to run the light, fan and hotwire off one solar unit and a single 12 volt battery. But since the hotwire system has a 6 volt battery,I am going to have to go with 2 solar units. 1 solar for the 6 volt battery and hot wire, 1 solar unit with 12 volt battery for lights and fan.
After I build the rest of the chicken coop and enclose the run, I am thinking about putting a solar power / battery powered hotwire around the edge of the run. Tractor supply has some hotwire systems for various lengths of wire and various sizes of livestock. From what I understand this is supposed to be all-in-one units with solar cell and voltage regulator.
The problem I am running into is the hotwire tractor supply carries is Zareba, and it looks like their systems are 6 volt, and not 12 volt.
My first batch of chicks turned one month old on March 25th. All of the chicks were bought within a week and a half of of each other, so lets say all of the chicks are within 10 days of each other.
When my wife and I bought the chickens we bought two water dispensers. One of the dispensers was used for food and one was used for food. The one used for food did not work very well. But then again, when the chicks were a couple of days old they did not eat very much either.
The first two waterers bought were red and screwed onto a pint or quart sized jar. The chicks quickly outgrew the pint sized jar and had to be upgraded to a quart sized jar.
The quart jar lasted only a few weeks before a 1 gallon sized container had to be bought. Currently 13 chicks that are about 1 month old take about 2 – 3 days to drink 1 gallon of water. I keep the quart jar in the coop with the 1 gallon jar just as a backup. Within the next week or so the quart sized waterer will probbly be removed from the coop.
I imagine that the chicks will have to upgraded to a 3 or 5 gallon waterer before too much longer.
After the coop is finished, I am hoping to have a waterer in the coop and a waterer in the run. During the summer heat I want to make sure the chickens have access to water 24/7.
Somewhere in buying the second of third batch of chicks my wife and I bought a “real” chicken feeder. The first feeder we bought is made of plastic, and either a quart of pint jar can screw onto it. At first my wife and I were using glass pint jars, but the chicks quickly outgrew the pint size jars. It was not long before the feeder was upgraded to a quart sized jar. Fast forward a couple of weeks and the chicks have outgrown the quart sized jar.
My wife wanted one of those galvanized chicken feeders that are about 18 inches long, and have a series of holes for the chicks to stick their heads through to get the feed. It looks like a hog trough, but for chickens.
I do not know what it is, but I can put the feeder that is round and has the jar on top of it right next to the trough feeder and the chicks will barely eat out of the trough. The round feeder can run out, and the chicks will knock it over before they eat out of the trough feeder.
Maybe the chicks are used to a round feeder since they used it first? Maybe the trough feeder is too deep and the chicks do not like to stick their head into it?
After watching the chicks ignore the feed in the trough, I had gave up and removed it from the coop.
Now that the chicks are emptying a quart sized jar almost daily, my wife and I decided it was time to upgrade. We went to the local Tractor Supply and bought a feeder that is supposed to hold 7 pounds of feed and has an attachment for hanging it from a string, rope, chain or cable.
While the chicks are getting used to the new feeder I am going to continue to use the small feeder. The two chicken feeders are going to be put next to each other so that the chicks will have the option as to which one they want to use.
The chicks spill a lot of food while they are eating. In an attempt to keep as much food as possible where its accessible by the chicks, the feeders were put on a 1×12 that is about 18 inches long. I was hoping that the feed would spill out on the board, where the chicks can continue to eat. But even with the board in place, the chicks still spill a lot of feed that falls through the hardware cloth and onto the ground.
The new 7 pound chicken feeder might last a couple of months before its time to upgrade again. Instead of retiring the 7 pound feeder, it might get moved to one side of the coop and the new feeder on the other side. That way the chickens will not be bunched up when they go to eat.
For the past month the chicks have been fed chick starter food. With the handy chart on the back of the bag, we will probably continue to feed the chicks chick starter through the end of April.
Spring is here, that means its time to stock up on seasonal preps. The local feed and fertilizer stores are getting their seed shipments in, as well as baby chickens, fertilizer,,, and so on.
Some stores carry farm supplies all year long, some places carry them on a seasonal basis. If at all possible, find a place in your area that carries farm and livestock supplies all year long. Here in Jasper Texas we have 3 feed and fertilizer stores that carry farm supplies all year long.
Circle Three Feed
Pickle’s carries a wide assortment of seed, pesticide and fertilizer. If you want to buy corn seed, this is the place to go.
Circle Three Feed carries a lot of farm and livestock supplies. If you want to buy chickens, feed, deer corn, this is a good place to go.
Farmers Feed carries a lot of everything. I have bought deer corn, chicks, seeds, 16 gallon drums,,, all kinds of stuff from Farmers Feed.
Even if the stores carry supplies all year long, there are still items that are seasonal, such as seeds and chicks. If you want chicks and if you want seed, get down to a local feed store and stockup before the seasonal stuff is sold out.
Its another thing to have access to several acres of land, able to have chickens, a nice sized garden for a variety of fresh veggies, various types of fruit trees, access to fresh running water and access to land to hunt on. Maybe even have access to water to fish in.
Two of the main differences I see between the various long term SHTF survival plans, is access to fresh food and access to fresh water. People may argue there are lots of other differences, but for this article I wanted to talk about two main topics – water and fresh food.
Everything needs water in some form or fashion. Humans can live several weeks without food, but only a couple of days without water. We should all know how important water is, so there is no need into going into all the little details. Because water is so important, we are going to discuss water before food.
I see a lot of urban preppers doing two things – trying to stockpile water and/or developing rainwater collection systems. There is nothing wrong with either system. If you want to stockpile water, that is fine; if you want to build a rainwater collection system, that is great. The problem is both systems have a chance of running out sooner or later.
Its impossible to stockpile enough water. You and your family will “have” to have a way to replenish your water supplies.
During times of drought, rainwater may not be reliable. During the 2011 drought across the southern part of the US, some areas got less then 12 inches of rain for the whole year of 2011. If your plans were to reply on rainwater, you were out of luck for a whole year. During the first three months of 2012, those same areas received more rain then the whole year of 2011.
If you have not read part 1 of this raising chickens series, please do so. Its been over 20 years since I have owned chickens, so this is kind of a new venture as I have fourteen a lot over the past 20+ years.
Week 1 – my wife and I bought 5 chicks. Within the first few days 2 of the chicks died. One of the chicks looked small and weak from the first day. One chick died on day one, second chick died on day 3.
Week 2 – on March 3, 2012 my wife and I went to a local feed store to buy some Production reds. When my wife and i arrived at the store, we were told they had sold the last of the Production Reds just a few minutes before we arrived.
After talking about what we should do, my wife and I decided to go to Farmers Feed on HWY 96 north of Jasper, Texas.
Farmers Feed did not have any Production Reds, but they did have several different types of chickens. My wife and I decided to buy 2 of each type of chicken, of a total of 6 chicks. Two of the chicks are Barred Rocks. the other 4 chicks, I can not remember the type. I will call the feed store Monday morning and ask what kind they are selling.
During a long term SHTF survival situation, its going to be important for people to grow their own food. One type of seed that survivalist should stockpile are seeds for squash and zucchini.
Ok, why you grow squash and zucchini? They are easy to grow, bug resistant, packed full of nutrients, can be jarred for long term storage, some types can be stored for a couple of months of kept in a cool dry place, summer squash and zucchini can be eaten raw.
Its estimated that various types of squash have been cultivated by mankind for 8,000 – 10,000 years. Think about that for a minute, squash has been with mankind for thousands of years, why change now? Follow in the foot steps of those that came before you. Use available resources to achieve a desired goal. Our desired goal is to survive a long term teotwawki situation.
Lets say that the world goes to crap tomorrow. Some kind of long term SHTF situation has happened – plague, meteor, massive climate change,,,,, what does your SHTF seed stockpile look like this very second? If you walked to where your seeds are stored, pulled out the container, would you be happy, or disappointed?
I have decided to divide my SHTF seed stockpile between my home and my bug out location. the mindset being, lets say that my family and I have to Bug Out and we do not have time to grab the primary seed stockpile, we have a backup. With a variety of seeds stored in each location, if we forget the main seeds, we have the backups.
Some considerations – seeds that grow quick like Radishes, plants that have protein like pinto beans, plants that do not need to be cooked like Squash and Zucchini, cold weather crops like turnip greens, plants that can be dried and stored easily like peas, beans and corn.
Examples of my SHTF survival seed stocks:
G-90 – Hybrid sweet corn
Truckers Favorite – Open pollinated field corn
Yellow Dent – Open pollinated field corn
Peas and Beans:
Roma II – snap bean
Texas purple hull pink eye
Mississippi purple hull pink eye
Purple hull pink eye BVR – the BVR stands for virus resistant. If you see some BVR peas, pick them up. Contender bush bean
Blue lake bush bean
Pinto beans – One thing to take into consideration is pinto beans, which are high in protein. So if there is no meat, pinto beans can be eaten.
I prefer bush beans over climbing beans – its just personal preference.
Cucumbers – contain very little nutritional content, require lots of nitrogen and are not very drought tolerant. But on the plus side, certain types are high producers. There are a lot of hybrid cucumber seeds on the market. So when buying your seed be sure to be aware of what your buying hybrid or heirloom.
Not drought tolerant – cucumber roots run just under the ground. When the top of the soil dries out, the cucumber leaves may start to wilt. Allowing the leaves to wilt may stunt the growth of the plant.
Nitrogen – cucumbers LOVE nitrogen. Without it, the cucumber does not form properly and will be pointed on the end.
My personal cucumber seed stockpile includes 2 types – the pickling cucumber and the straight 8.
Pickling cucumber – is a high producing plant and makes a cucumber maybe 3 – 4 inches long. Despite its name, the Pickling cucumber does not have to be “pickled”, it can be eaten just like it is. But its small size makes it an ideal cucumber for Pickling. Pickling cucumber are an heirloom types, meaning the seeds can be saved and used in next years garden. Just 1 or 2 of these cucumbers makes a good side dish for a meal.
Straight 8 – makes a larger cucumber then the Pickling cucumber, and grows to about 8 inches long. Thus the name, Straight 8. The Straight 8 is an heirloom type cucumber so that the seeds can be saved from year to year.
Peas and Snap Beans – since peas and beans are so much alike, lets just group them together. In fact, there are debates saying that peas and beans are the same thing. I personally divide peas and beans into 2 groups – one you eat whole (snap beans) and one you shell to get the bean/pea out of the inside and eat it instead of eating the husk.
Peas and beans return nitrogen into the soil, so that makes them good for crop rotation. Before you plant a high nitrogen requirement crop, such as corn, plant some beans or peas at the same time, or the season before the you plant the corn.
One of the problems with peas and beans – wildlife love it. Deer and rabbits will eat the bean / pea plants down to nothing but a stub sticking out of the ground. To protect the bean and pea plants, plant some squash or zucchini with them. The pea / bean plants will provide the squash plants with nitrogen, and the squash plants will help protect the pea plants from deer. The squash and zucchini plants have little “hairs” on the stalks that the deer do not like.
Peas and beans are a good long term storage food crop. The old timers used to run a needle and thread through the pod, and hang it up to dry. Thus the name “string beans”. When it comes time to eat the beans, pull them off the string and boil until ready to eat.
Care must be taken when picking the beans and peas. If you pull too hard, part of the plant may break off. Sometimes I like to use scissors to cut the pea / bean pod off, so that the rest of the plant is not damaged.
Snap Beans are a high producing plant, the more you pick it, the more it produces. While you might get just a couple of pickings from purple hull or silver skin crowder peas.
My pea and bean stockpile contains maybe 4 or 5 different types of seeds – mainly purple hull pink eyes and about 3 different types of snap beans.
There are 2 different types of bean plants – runners and bush.
Bush beans – and we are not talking about the canned “Bush baked beans” either. These are bean plants that form a bush and do not form a vine.
Runners also called climbing beans – do just as their name implies, the vine climbs stuff. A lot of times people will plant their beans and corn together. The beans will supply the corn with nitrogen and the corn will give the bean vines something to climb on. Other people may plant their bean vines close to a fence so that the vines have something to climb on.
Personally, I like bush beans. Even though you have to dig through the bush to find the beans, it seems like you can plant more bush beans then you can runners in the same amount of space.
Fertilizer – when adding commercial fertilizer to peas and beans, try not to add add a lot of nitrogen. Use a well balanced fertilizer like 10-10-10 or 13-13-13. In most cases beans and peas do not need a lot of nitrogen, adding high nitrogen content fertilizer like 21-0-0 or 16-6-12 is a no, no. The exception might be if the soil is nitrogen deficient; but the only way to know that is if you have a soil test done.