Entries Tagged ‘homesteading’

Chickens are their own worst enemy

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.

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Farm update June 9 2015

Things are moving along nicely, but rather slow.  The new chicken yard is working out well, the new chicken house is nearing completion, a large pen oak fell on the property so I need to cut that up, still need to clear fence rows for the cattle field, have not started on the pole barn, one of my newly planted fig trees may have died, the new pear tree might have drowned from all the rain,,,, just all kinds of stuff going on.

Lets talk about target goals for surviving a post-SHTF world.

Egg production

My target goal for egg production that I think my family would need in a post-SHTF world is at least 2 dozen eggs a day. For my parents, my wife, our kids, our grandkids, close friends and other family, I think at least 24 eggs a day is a reasonable number.  Keep in mind that 2 dozen eggs a day is a bare minimum.  Good laying breeds should be able to produce at least 1 egg a day for every 2 – 3 chickens.  Those are conservative numbers, but depending on the time of year and quality of their feed egg production goes up and down.

For the sake of discussion let’s say 1 egg for every 3 chickens per day.

Including the chickens that are supposed to arrive June 10, 2015, my wife and I will have 64 chickens.

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Prepping plans for 2015

What are your prepping plans for 2015?

Here are mine.

Install solar panels on the chicken house.

Wire chicken house for 12 volt lights.

Plant some more apple trees.

Clear some sweet gum trees that are shading the apple trees.

Plant some more blueberry bushes.  Some of the blueberry bushes will be in the chicken yard.

Plant a pear tree in the chicken yard.  This will be for chicken feed and for my family to eat.

Plant another peach tree.

Clear out around some already planted pear trees.  In the past few years some Cherry Laural trees have grown up around the pear trees, so there is a crowding issue.  The Cherry Laural trees have to come down this spring.

Build a pole barn.  I am looking at a 36 wide X 40 long barn or maybe a 40 X 40 barn.

Fence off some land for cattle, sheep and or goats.

Expand chicken flock to around 40 hens.

Buy some Pearl Guineas.  French guineas are already being sold, but I want Pearl Guineas which are supposed to be available in May.

Drill a shallow well for the livestock.  The well will be located somewhere near the pole barn.

Get the Toyota Tacoma on the road.

Build some more raised bed gardens for my wife.  She likes the raised bed type of gardening.

Relocate a deer feeder and deer stand.

Build a hog pen somewhere around the pole barn.  I would really like to get a couple of pigs.


Farm update October 19 2014

Things are moving along nicely, but there is always some kind of setback.

When my wife and I moved to the farm I seriously underestimated the time and effort needed to get things up and running. When we moved here in August of 2013 my main goal was to get the small chicken yard built, get the septic system put down, get the water working, then get ready for winter. Winter of 2013 – 2014 here in southeast Texas was rather harsh, by our standards anyway.

Spring 2014 started out with around 18 – 20 new chicks. Things were looking up, then then it went to hell. My wife and I moved to the farm with 13 hens. We lost all of the new chicks to various predators. When the new chickens were moved to the new chicken yard, a couple of Rhode Island Reds kept jumping the fence. My dogs ended up killing those two Rhode Island Reds.

The good news, things are on the upswing.

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Update on the new chicken house

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

When you walk into the shed there will be steel trash cans on the right hand side where chicken feed will be stored.

I want to set up some kind of rainwater catch system and a pvc pipe system with nipples to water the chickens.

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Tractor auger for chicken yard corner post

While working on the new chicken yard I figured I would go the glorious route and do as much as possible by hand.

In our age of machinery we lose appreciation for hard work.  I wanted to be able to say yes, I have set fence post by hand.  This included everything from digging the corner post hole with diggers, to notching out the H-brace by hand with hammer and chisel.

After setting 5 post I said “screw this, it is taking too long”, and called my uncle who has a tractor auger.  I still have around 15 corner post to set.  Doing everything by hand is taking too long and  I have a lot to do before winter sets in.

Since I am using telephone poles for corner post, a regular 6 inch auger was going to be too small. It just so happened my uncle as a 12 inch auger bit.

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Planting potatoes for 2014 garden

If you plan on gardening during a long term SHTF event, the potato is one of your best friends. Not only are potatoes easy to grow, but they also store well, are easy to cook with, and any remaining potatoes at the end of the year can be replanted for next years crop.

Unlike a lot of crops that require special storage, such as canning and/or drying, just keep potatoes dry and in a cool dark place and they will store for close to a year.

Small potatoes can be eaten straight out of the ground.  Larger ones can be baked, boiled, mashed, or made into a soup.

Potatoes grow well in loose soil free from rocks, sticks, tree roots and other obstructions. Work the soil with a tiller, plow, disk,,, something that will break the soil up. Make the rows, add fertilizer, I like to mix the fertilizer into the soil using a tiller, then plant the seed potatoes. Plant the seed potatoes about 3 inches deep and about 12 – 18 inches apart.

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Buying land for a bug out location

In the forum there is a thread about what makes a good bug out location.

For the sake of discussion let’s say you want to buy a piece of land for a small farm that could double as a bug out location.

This would be a weekend getaway for you and your family.  A place off the beaten path where you and your family can go to relax.  And also a place where you and your family can stockpile survival gear for a long term SHTF situation.

If you were going to buy such a place what qualities would you look for?  In this article I hope to talk about some of the stuff someone interested in buying a bug out location may look for.  Keep in mind these are suggestions and food for thought, and not necessarily requirements.

Bug Out Location

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Clearing More Timber At The Farm

Before and after picture of the trees that were cut

Clearing timber sounds boring.  Some of my readers may be wondering why I posting a video about this, much less an article.   I went out and cut some trees, so what?

In the prepping / survivalist community there is this common misconception that if SHTF there is a farm in the family that has not been used in 40 (or more years) that the family is going to use as a bug out location. With a few days of hard work the farm can be up and running in a matter of days.

To bring this common survivalist plan to reality I am documenting what it takes to bring a farm that has not been used in 40 years up to speed.

If all you want to do is breakup the soil and plant some seeds, then yea, it may only take a few days. But if you want to rebuild the fences, have boards to build a chicken coop out of, have fence post, firewood,,, have a working farm with livestock, then you will need to cut timber.

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Meat Production After SHTF

There are all kinds of articles out there talking about meat after SHTF.  You want to know what is missing in a lot of those articles?  Exact details.Cooking at the Bug Out Location

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.

Per Capita Consumption of Major Food Commodities

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
Eggs 246 eggs

For right now lets exclude eggs and focus on red meat and poultry.  We will talk about eggs later.

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Uncle Sam Wanted You to Raise Chickens

There was once a time when Uncle Sam (the U.S. Government) wanted people to raise chickens. This was especially true in times of war when our troops needed food.

Unfortunately those days are far behind us. If a city dweller tried to raise chickens today, they would probably be sued by the city and forced to get rid of the flock.

What does that say about us as a nation when we turn away from time honored traditions of raising our food, only to become dependent on a grocery store?

Uncle sam wants you to raise chickens

I often wonder how the typical city dweller would act if the grocery store shelves were empty? How would society react if the government started rationing food like what happened in World War II?

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The Life Of Chickens

Over the past year and a half I have read and watched a lot of videos about chickens. This the best video I have seen about chicken behavior.

From a survivalist point, the video talks about a lot of important points. It is estimated mankind domesticated the chicken about 8,000 years ago. There has to be something that has allowed mankind and chickens to thrive together.

During World War II eggs were rationed. “If” we ever go to war with a major world power, do you want to be on the rationing end, or do you want to have fresh meat and eggs?

In England, it was not until the 1950s that chicken became a staple food. People are more rabbit then chicken.

Selective breeding has improved certain traits.

Chickens can learn rather quickly.

If you have a spare hour to watch the video, please take the time to do so.

Free Range Meat Chicken

Lets talk about a good breed of meat chicken for the homestead that does well on free range.

For the sake of discussion lets say that some kind of SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation has happened. Whether its some kind of new SARS virus, wide spread civil unrest, nuclear war with China, hurricane, blizzard,,, something has happened to disrupt food shipments.

You go out to the chicken coop, survey the flock for dinner, what kind of chickens would you see? Did you focus on egg production, meat production, or both? Did you buy hens that go broody, or did you go with breeds that do not go broody? If you butcher a hen, will it be replaced?Barred Rock chicken

What are some of the traits we are looking for?  Lets start with heritage breeds that have a proven track record of over 100 years.  The older the breed the better.

Lets look for chickens that weigh at least 6 – 7 pounds before processing, because do we really want to butcher 2 or 3 small hens for a single meal?  We want a hen that can go broody, is a good mother, raise her chicks for the next generation, is a good forager and will feed a family of 4.

Dominique – There are lot of other breeds out there that are larger and lay more eggs, but, how can we argue against a chicken that has fed America since the colonial days?

The Dominique is a result of chickens that were brought to the new world by early settlers. It is considered Americas first true chicken breed.

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Moving Debris At The Farm

After several weeks of having to manhandle debris while cleaning up the homestead, we finally got some heavy equipment on location. The tractor we were able to get was a Mahindra 4530 4-wheel drive with a grapple, bucket and brush hog.

The main goals for this weekend include – get the brush piled up, clean out the hole that had been used as a trash dump and clear out various small brush.

Piling Up Brush

Mahindra 4530 4-wheel drive tractorA couple of weeks ago a buddy of mine, my son and I thinned out a bunch of small trees. Instead of pulling the trees to the burning pile like we did the day before, the trees were pulled into an opening so they could be pushed by a tractor.

While the loggers where cutting the timber, they left a rather large mess in a 2 acre field directly across from where the house is going.

Besides piling up the trees that had been thinned out a couple of weeks ago, the debris left by the loggers also need to be piled up. For one pile the operator of the Mahindra 4530 used the bucket to push the trees together. On the other pile, the bucket was replaced with a grapple. the trees were pushed, pulled, lifted,,, and whatever else it took to get the debris cleaned up.

The 4-wheel drive capability of the Mahindra 4530 tractor is what saved the day. Some of the tree trunks that had to bee moved would have stopped a 2-wheel drive tractor in its tracks. The grapple allowed the debris to be stacked, rather then just pushed together.

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Another Work Day

During the last trip to the homestead we focused on thinning trees. The largest and healthiest trees were flagged so they would not be cut, the smaller trees and underlying brush were thinned out.

On February 1st and 2nd we focused on cutting tree stumps down to ground level so the heavy equipment can get in there next weekend.  This part of the land has been used was an makeshift family trash dump back in the early 1980s. Most of the stuff  dumped in this location is scarp metal, tin, hot water heater, cans,,, stuff like that.Stihl chainsaw on pine tree stump

Now for the rest of the story.

February 1 – Started off like any other day.  My wife and I got up around 6:30am, got our shower, got dressed and headed out the door.  On this Friday I had the day off work.  so instead of going to work, I headed to the homestead for another kind of work.

On the way out my wife, my daughter and I stopped by the Shell station at the corner of Hwy 63  and FM 777.  We were thinking about going by the donut shop, but decided to stop by the shell station.  The store sells breakfast sandwiches and breakfast biscuits that are freshly made.  I got a breakfast sandwich with sausage, egg, cheese.  To wash breakfast down I got a low-carb monster energy drink.

One of the things I wanted to do Friday morning was to try and burn a pine tree stump.  I had an idea how things were going to go, I just wanted to burn the stump to say I tried.

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