Over the past couple of years I have looked at several chicken breeds to develop a self-sustaining chicken flock. Some of the breeds I have looked at are the Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Dominique and Australorp (only to name a few). This article will focus on the Barred Rock, which is part of the Plymouth Rock family of chickens.
Why should we care about the Barred Rock? It is a good dual purpose chicken which has been raised for well over 100 years.
I do not consider the Barred Rock a high egg producer chicken, as it only lays around 200 eggs a year. There are breeds out there that lay well over the 200 egg mark. The Barred Rock makes up for its average egg production with its size, hardiness, and its meat quality.
While looking for information on various chicken breeds I came across this youtube posted by FarmRaised which talks about breeding the Barred Rock.
This video brings up some good topics for discussion:
Separate the chickens into groups based on desired traits.
Breed for size and traits.
Weigh the roosters and hens so your flock maintains a steady size.
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.
Can yall believe it’s been a whole year since my wife and I got our first chicks? For the first few months I posted several videos about building the coop and how the chicks were doing. After the chickens start laying, there is not that much to post about. They are chickens, they do their thing, they lay eggs and that is about it.
Now that the hens are a full year old I thought it would be good to post some kind of up date to let people know how things are going.
Between the last weekend of February and the second week of March 2012 my wife and I bought 15 chicks. Two of the chicks died a few days after we got them. After those first two died, we have not lost another chicken.
As some of yall may know chickens are part of my long term SHTF survival plans. In the next few months my wife and I are looking at moving to the homestead. After we get moved we are going to build a 30 foot X 75 foot chicken yard, along with a 20 X 16 chicken coop, then expand the flock to around 50 hens and maybe 5 roosters.
My experiences from the past year will help me build the next chicken coop and chicken yard.
Another weekend of cleaning up the homestead has come and gone. This weekend I focused on hauling scrap iron to the local recycler, picking up trash and cutting down some trees to make room for a pole barn.
For those of you following this blog, yall know some of my family members, and their friends, used a piece of the homestead as a landfill. They did not have permission to dump trash in a washed out area, they just did it. Most of the stuff is glass, metal and plastic.
My brother has a tractor with a grapple on the front it, which is what we used to pull a lot of trash out of the hole. Now that the trash is in a pile on flat ground, it’s time to sort through it and dispose of the trash properly.
When we first started cleaning out the hole we started loading various pieces of scrap on the trailer. This weekend right off the bat the first load was ready to go. The scrap metal on the trailer was a mixture of wire, box fan, washing machine,,, and a few other things.
Here in Jasper Texas on hwy 190 east we have a metal recycler. Which is where I have brought 2 trailer loads of scrap iron so far.
To make room for a shed a pole barn some small trees needed to be removed. The logger did not cut these trees, so I had to do it by hand.
Now that the trees have been cut and some of the small timber has been thinned, its time to call in a stump grinder. A stump grinder is machine with carbide bits which cut the stump down to below ground level. No digging around the stump, no burning the stump, no pulling on the stump with a truck,,, nothing but a machine that turns a tree stump into chips.
Instead of buying a stump grinding machine that would rarely be used, I called a contractor that works by the hour. In 3 hours the contractor had ground 109 stumps.
There are a number of stump grinder designs on the market, some of them look like large tillers. The one the contractor used attached to the back of a tractor and was operated by the power take off (PTO).
Why are we having stumps ground? The stumps are in the way of driveway, chicken yard fence, chicken coop and where the shed is going. Instead of having to drive around the stumps, and waiting for them to rot, now the stumps are ground 6 – 8 inches below ground level.
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?
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.
One of the things I would like to do after my wife and I get moved to the homestead, is to get some kind of milk and meat producing livestock.
Cattle was one of my first choices. My wife and I cook a lot of beef – ground meat, steaks, stew meat,,, just all kinds of different cuts of meat.
Goats were my second choice. Cattle eat grass, goats eat weeds, so they would not compete over the food sources. Unlike a cow, when a goat is butchered I would not have to deal with a 1,000 pound animal.
Then there are sheep. Unlike goats, sheep produce wool that can be used to make clothing. The breed of sheep I was looking at (under the suggestion from my brother) is hair sheep. Hair sheep look like goats, as they have short hair instead of wool.
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
A 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.
Leg bands allow the flock owner to mark certain chickens for easy identification. The problem with metal bands, a tool is needed to put them on and take them off, and the bands may not be widely available.
Instead of using metal bands, why not use cable ties?
Cable ties can be found at just about any hardware store. To put the cable tie on all you need is a pair of wire cutters to cut the slack off.
Leave enough slack so the cable tie will not cut off the circulation.
If you want to keep track of the chickens age, then use different colors:
Black for 2013
White for 2014
Yellow for 2015
,,, and so on.
Use red to mark chickens that have bad habits that you may want to cull.
Some people build coops with either a wooden floor, or pour a cement slab. Due to the cost of having a wooden floor and the cost of pouring cement, I am going with a bare earth floor. Also, a bare earth floor is natural to the chickens. This is the way chickens have been raised for thousands of years. My option is to either build a pole barn, or build a leanto chicken coop. At the current time I am leaning towards a pole barn.
Issues that need to be addressed: Square footage, security, food, water, lighting and laying boxes.
Square Footage – Its recommended that each chicken have at least 3 square feet inside the coop. For example, 30 chickens multiplied by 3 square feet equals 90 square feet.
In another article we discussed how many chickens are needed for SHTF. In that article we talked about having as many as 60 – 80 laying hens. Lets go with a high number of 80 chickens. 80 X 3 = 240 square feet.
Keep in mind 3 square feet is a bare minimum. The more space chickens have, the better. When chickens are packed together, they get bored and will start fighting and pecking each other.
The pole barn I am looking at building provides 192 square feet, which is 12 feet wide and 16 feet long.
The local building supply stores sell metal roofing in 8 and 12 foot long sections. Two pieces 12 feet long will be enough to do one end. Four pieces 8 feet long will be enough to do one side. This way the metal does not have to be cut to size and there is no scrap material left over.
This article is part of the moving to the homestead series – part 1, part 2, part 3, clearing timber, part 4. Now that the heavy timber has been cleared, its time to do some selective thinning, trash removal, landscaping, cutting trees for fence rows, planning the water well and septic location,,, and the list goes on and on.
We arrived at the homestead Saturday morning around 9:30am. As the women were cooking breakfast the men walked the property to get an idea of what needed to be done. The goal of this weekend was to thin the timber leaving select trees. Trees were selected on size, health and location. I wanted to space the oak trees 8 – 10 feet apart, and pine trees about the same.
Breakfast was biscuits, bacon, fresh eggs, pan sausage and a low-carb monster energy drink to wash it down.
In the next few weeks some of my family members and some of my friends are meeting at the homestead for a cleanup day. The area we are cleaning up has not been used in close to 30 years. During that time various family members dropped off unwanted trash, such as a hot water heater, large box fan, tin, fence wire,,, and other odds and ends.
Pine trees, sweet gum and oak trees have been growing in this same area.
We have three things to take care of – clean the brush out, cut some small trees down and pull the metal trash out so it can be hauled to the recycler.
Stihl chainsaw with 18 inch bar
Chainsaw fuel and bar oil
8 pound sledge hammer
Chains for pulling logs with the truck
Files – for sharpening axe and chainsaw
Ruger 10/22 for snakes
There is an oak tree down in the back of the field. The plan is to cut a 2 feet section of the trunk for a chopping block.
As we cut down some of the small pine trees, they will be cut into sections that can be split and thrown on the fire. Split wood burns better then non-split wood.
One of the big issues we are having to deal with is having a water well put in at the homestead. To have one professionally drilled is going to cost at least $5,000. That $5k number is a low ball estimate. If the driller has any issues then the price could easily go to $6,000 or $7,000.
Another option is to drill the well ourselves.
Then comes the question if we want a submersible pump, air pump, or some kind of lift pump that pulls the water to the surface.
Submersible pumps can be expensive, and they do not work without electricity.
Using air to pump water out of the well is cost effective, and it works without electricity. If you “had” to, a bicycle air pump could be used to push water out of the well, or even a 12 volt car/truck air pump. In a worse case situation use a 12 volt battery and a 12 volt air pump to pump water out of the well.
The typical water well that most people think of has lift limitations as in it can not lift water past a certain depth, and it does not work without electricity.
I am stuck between a rock and a hard place. My wife and I want to move in April 2013, but having a water well drilled could put us back another 5 – 6 months. So what do we do?
drop 1 1/4 inch well point to bottom of well (for outlet pipe),
back fill with gravel to create buffer between soil and well point,
build a well head for air input and water output,
install water storage tank next to well head,
use water pump to pump water to home.
When I was living in Orange Texas this was the setup my wifes grandfather was running, and it worked well.
The storage tank had a float to tell the air compressor when to come on. The compressor turned on, pushed water out of the well and into the storage tank. The water pump then pumped the water to the home.
We had two homes running off this system, and not a single time did the well go dry. the 250 gallon storage tank acted like a buffer between the homes and the water well.
Sink the well then build a storage building around the well head. The shed will contain and protect the air compressor and water pump from the elements. Install the storage tank outside the shed under a leanto.
Worse comes to worse, a pitcher pump would be installed on the well head. Since the well head will be inside a shed, we can pump water when the weather is bad.