Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: livestock

Building A Rabbit Hutch

Rabbit missing her box

A couple of weeks ago my wife and daughter got a two Californian white rabbits. The rabbits can not stay in their cage in the kitchen forever; the time has come to build a hutch and move them outside.

Instead of building or buying some simple wire cages, my wife and I decided to build a solid rabbit hutch. This is something that will fit into my chicken coop plans with no change of design or other major alteration. The rabbit hutch my wife and I built this weekend is a total of 8 feet long, divided in half gives each rabbit a space of 3 feet by 4 feet, for a total of 12 square feet.

If I am going to keep rabbits and chickens, I want to make sure they are treated humanly, protected from the elements, and have plenty of room.

Rabbit Hutch Bill of Material

Starting The Rabbit Project

California white rabbit

For the sake of discussion let’s say that some kind of SHTF situation occurred. Whether it is widespread civil unrest, nuclear war, financial collapse,,, something has happened to disrupt food shipments as well as infrastructure.

How do you plan on providing fresh vegetables, fruit and meat for your family? In other articles we have discussed gardening, beans, squash, potatoes and chickens (only to mention a few topics we have discussed). So lets talk about rabbits for a little bit.

California white rabbit

Why Rabbits

  • Easy to raise
  • Eat a variety of grass
  • Reproduce like crazy,,, well, they reproduce like rabbits
  • Easy to butcher
  • Easy to cook
  • Do not require a lot of space
  • Do not make a lot of noise
  • Large enough to feed a small family
  • Manure makes excellent fertilizer

Using Easter To Kick Start Chicken And Rabbit Project

Chickens in chicken house

Easter is next weekend, April 31, 2013. If you live in the burbs or in a rural area you may see people selling rabbits and chicks on the side of the road. Or you may be seeing ads in the local paper for chicks and Easter bunnies for sale.

Public Service Reminder, please think before you buy live animals for Easter.

Those bunnies and colored chicks are cute, but they will soon grow up.

The majority of live animals bought for Easter will either be abandoned, or will die before they turn a year old.

I have bought my kids bunnies for Easter before. But we also built the rabbit hutch and took care of the rabbits. It was a fun project for the whole family.

But then again, not everyone wants to invest the time, effort or money into building a rabbit hutch. Keep in mind some cities prohibit keeping rabbits and chickens. It would be a shame to buy a couple of chicks, then find out your family will not be able to keep them.

Uncle Sam Wanted You to Raise Chickens

Barred Rock Chicken

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?

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?

Around 2002, 2003 I was working in Kingwood Texas. There was a drought going on and the city issued an order for people not to water their grass or wash their cars. One day I arrived at a customers house while he was watering his lawn. I asked him if he knew about the water restrictions. the customer said yes. He went on to tell me that he did not care about the restrictions or the fines, he was going to water his grass.

Chicken Project One Year Update

Raising chickens for a long term survival situation

Can yall believe it’s been a whole year since the chicken project was started and I got the 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.

Free range shickens foraging

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.

Chicken Project Observations

Best Free Range Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds

Barred Rock chicken

Lets talk about some good free range dual purpose chickens. These are chickens that are good at free ranging, egg production or for butchering.

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 Chicken

Considering Sheep For The Homestead

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.

Sheep For The Farm

Sheep are flock animals, so you do not have to worry about them wondering off away from the pack.

Designing A Chicken Coop Pole Barn

Chicken coop pole barn design

Some people build a coop 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.

192 square feet divided by 3 = 64 chickens.

Australorp For Your Backyard Chicken Flock

Australorp in laying box

Why should you consider the Australorp for your backyard chicken flock?

From my experience with the Australorp, they are an excellent dual purpose chicken. The Australorp is an excellent egg layer, and good sized for butchering. Australorps would make a nice addition to just about any 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.

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the definition of a heritage chicken is as follows:

Building a Homestead for Surviving SHTF

Buff Orpington chicken

How viable are your long term SHTF survival plans? That is a question I kept asking myself while a buddy of mine and I were talking. The discussion was about water, livestock, food storage,,, just your basic stuff. In reality, how viable are those plans for a complete collapse of society?

There is an old saying, “plan for the worst and hope for the best.” My TEOTWAWKI survival plans are based off of a complete collapse scenario – no water, food, electricity or fuel from the outside world.

One way I am looking at arranging my farm is like a medieval farm, that is the only way I know how to describe it. The goal is to supply our own water and food, but in a primitive format. Today it would be called organic gardening.

Water At The Homestead

The first issue we have to address is water. Without safe drinking water life as we know it can not exist.

The plain is to have a well drilled, and to have an electric water pump put on the well.

Issues With Increasing Chicken Flock Size

Chicken coop

Awhile back we talked about how many chickens would be needed for SHTF. We came up with a low number of 30 chickens, and a high number somewhere around 70 – 80. At the present time my wife and I have 13 hens.

In the next few months my wife and I are planning on moving to the homestead. Once we get moved, our chicken flock will be increased from 13 hens, to around 25 hens. There are a couple of problems we nee´╗┐d to address before we get more chickens, such as – having enough room on the coop, access to feed and access to water.
Chicken House Size

The current coop size provides each chicken with 3.69 square feet. If the flock is doubled, that gives each chicken 1.84 square feet. 1.84 square feet is not enough room.

I do not want to rebuild the coop. My wife and I put too much time, effort and money into building it the first time, I do not want to build it a second time.

Chickens In Wintertime

Raising chickens for SHTF

In this article we will talk about how my chickens are doing in the wintertime. All of the hens were bought as chicks within two weeks of each other. The first chickens were bought on the last weekend of February 2012, the next batch were bought the first week of March. The final batch were bought around March 7th or 8th, 2012.

Part of my long term SHTF survival plan includes having a self-sustaining chicken flock. In a previous thread we talked about how many chickens a family may need for a TEOTWAWKI event.

Current chicken flock has:

  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Silver Laced Wyandotte
  • Barred Rocks
  • Australorps
  • Black Jersey Giants
  • Speckled Sussex
  • Buff Orptington

My observations are based off a rather small sample size, so we will have to take part this thread with a grain of salt. When my wife and I get moved to the homestead, we plan on adding 12 – 13 Dominickers.

As the flock size increases, the sample size increases. Hopefully next year I will be able to provide a article with a larger sample size.

Moulting

Selecting A Chicken Breed

Wondering what is the best chicken breed for your flock is? Victoryfarm made an outstanding video about some of the chicken breeds they raise.

Some of the chickens discussed in the video:

Barred Rocks
Rhode Island Reds
Hybrids

My experiences with the Barred Rocks and rhode Island Reds have been opposite of his. My Rhode Island Reds seem to be a little more fussy then my Barred Rocks.

Both of my Barred Rocks are pretty tame, and only 1 of my Rhode Island Reds is tame.

I have raised Barred Rocks twice, and both times they have been hardy during the winter time.

This is my first time raising Rhode Island Reds, but so far I like them My grandmother raised a lot of Rhode Islands when my dad was a kid.

Raising Backyard Chickens

Interested in raising backyard chickens? Cookingupastory posted an great video that covers some of the basics.

I like how Naomi Montacre, co-founder of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply gives a clear description on each of the topics.

Some of the topics includes:

Eggs and egg production
Chicken lifespan
Pullets
brooder box

How Many Chickens Would You Need For SHTF TEOTWAWKI

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?2 Rhode Island Reds with 2 Barred Rocks in the background

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.

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