Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: prepsteading

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.

Using a Tractor to Move Debris At The Farm

Mahindra 4530 4-wheel drive tractor

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 Debris

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.

Another Work Day at the Farm

Cutting pine tree stump

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.

Now for the rest of the story.

February 1 2013

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 in Jasper, Texas. 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.

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:

Thinning Trees At The Farm

Stihl chainsaw on pine tree stump

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 another article we had talked about planning a cleanup day at the homestead. This was the day we put those plans into motion.

We had two people cutting with chainsaws. To reduce the risk of injury from falling trees the two saws were spaced far apart. When a tree fell, there was no way it was going to land on the other cutter. Most of the trees we were cutting were anywhere from a couple of inches to 12 inches in diameter.

We had 2 people running a chainsaw each (a Stihl and an Echo), 2 people loading the debris into the truck (Toyota t-100) who also drove the truck to the bonfire location, then several people unloaded the truck and stacked the debris.

Planning A Cleanup Day At The Homestead

Pulling trees with a Toyota T-100

In the next few weeks my family and some of our friends are going to the homestead for a cleanup day. There is an area where some trees need to be cut, and that same area has been used as a semi-trash dump for close to 40 years.

Here is the plan, form three groups – the cutters, the pullers and the haulers.

The cutters – Hopefully we have 2 chainsaws running. The loggers left some small trees right in the way that need to be cut up and hauled to the burning pile.

Then there are some trees that need to be thinned out. A couple of oak trees are right next to each other, some are 3 – 4 feet apart. The largest trees will be saved and the smaller trees cut. The trees that I am referring to are only about 3 – 6 inches in diameter and maybe 8 – 10 feet tall.

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.

Moving To The Homestead Part 4

Cutting limbs at the Homestead

Now that the loggers are finished, we can get a survey of how things look. So today my wife and I made a trip to the homestead. Man oh man, what a mess. Its not that the loggers left a mess, its the tree limbs that have to be removed before the logs can be hauled.

There are tree tops that had to be cut off before the trunks can be hauled.

A couple of the pine trees were forked at the top, so the fork had to be removed.

The top of a sweet gum tree is laying in a field, it needs to be cut up and burned.

Chicken Yard

Now that some of the trees and brush have been cleared out, I can get a good idea of how large the chicken yard can be. Why should I pay so much attention to stuff like the chicken yard? Because chickens and other small livestock are part of my long term SHTF survival plans.

Using a 25 foot tape measure, my wife and I were able to estimate the chicken yard to be 25 feet wide and 50 feet long. Which equals 1,250 square feet.

After my wife and I get moved, we want to increase our flock size to around 24 hens and a rooster. Lets go ahead and say 25 chickens.

In anther article we talked about how many chickens would be needed for a long term SHTF event. In that article we gave a summer time low of around 30 laying hens, and a wintertime high of around 70 – 80 chickens.

Source Of Fresh Meat After SHTF

Fresh yard eggs

What is your long term plan for fresh meat after SHTF? Do you plan on hunting, trapping or raising your own? What about a combination of all three?

This article is going to focus on 4 sources of fresh meat – chickens, pigs, goats and rabbits.

Chickens

In a previous article we discussed how many chickens would you need for SHTF. If you have not read that article, please do so. Here is a recap of the important information.Fresh yard eggs

Lets start with 10 people in our group, now lets estimate that those 10 people will be eating 2 eggs a day, which equals at least 20 eggs a day.

During the winter time egg laying can drop after a cold front passes through, or while the hen is molting.

For the sake of discussion, lets use my lowest egg count of 3 eggs from 13 hens. The 3 eggs were laid after a cold front passed through, and the hens were around 9 – 10 months old.

Bug Out Location For Future Generations

A few months ago I was over at my aunts house. As we were talking, she told me how my grandfather would take her on these camping / hunting trips on some property my grandfather owned on the Trinity River here in Texas.

The land was a couple of acres, right on the river that bordered national forest. They would camp on the property, then hunt in the national forest. It was a remote area that was only accessible by boat. So it was doubtful that they would run into strangers.

While my aunt was telling about their various hunting trips, and how cold and miserable she would be, I was thinking about how a piece of land like that could be used as a last resort Bug Out Location. Instead of bugging out to wilderness that will probably be on public land, having private property would be ideal.

On my dads side of the family there is some land that has been passed through three generations, its where my wife and I hope to build our homestead at in 2013. Knowing that you have land that you can go to at anytime provides a sense of comfort, a sense of security and a sense of stability.

Related Links:

Moving to the homestead part 1

Moving to the homestead part 2

Moving To The Homestead Part 2

Where do you want to be in 10 years, how about 20 years? That question is not about financial stability, or your career, where do you want to be physically in 10 years, what do you want your life to be like?

I want peace and quiet in my life. I want a back porch where I can grill some steaks, listen to the wind blowing through the trees, hear the chickens,,, and that is all I want to hear, except maybe some music.

I want a small garden that my wife and I can get fresh food from.

I want my chickens to be able to free range as much as they want, because happy chickens lay plenty of eggs.

Where do I want to be next year (2013)? I want to be living in peace and quiet. But first, my wife and I have to get there.

One of the things that has to be taken care of before we are able to put a house on the land, is some of the timber has to be cleared. As much as I despise cutting trees, we have to make room for a home. Not only room for a home, but the fence rows need to be cut.

Nobody has lived at the Homestead full time since the late 1970s, which was when my grandmother passed away. Mom and dad moved from the Jasper Texas area in the late 1970s and have lived in Bridge City for the past 35 years.

What Is The Best Livestock For SHTF

Pigs raised for slaughter

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.

Best Chicken Breeds For SHTF

Speckled Sussex, Australorp, Barred Rock and Rhode Island Red

What chicken breeds are best for a long term SHTF survival situation? Most breeds are good foragers, but we want something that would make a good meat chicken, good layer, good breeder, is friendly with other chickens and deals with confinement well.

Chickens are an excellent livestock choice for SHTF / TEOTWAWKI. Eggs are a good source of protein, fats and essential amino acids. Chicken meat is a good source of protein. Chickens can be let out out of the chicken coop during the day, and they will return to the coop at night. Which is unlike other livestock that will wonder off if let out of their pen.

There are more chicken breeds than someone can shake a stick at. For the sake of this discussion, let’s look at heritage chicken breeds that have been established for more than 100 years. This gives the breed a century to prove itself. If a chicken breed is going to work out, then this gives it a century to succeed or fail

My suggestions are the Barred Rock (which is part of the Plymouth Rock family), Rhode Island Red and the Australorp.

Barred Rock

Kevin Felts © 2008 - 2018