Homesteading and Survivalism

Living a simple life

Tag: raising chickens for shtf

Losing Chickens To Predators

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Over the past couple of weeks have taken a huge toll on my chickens.  Several of them have gone missing, with just a few feathers in the chicken yard.  From the trail of feathers, something drug the chicken from the chicken house.

It is not a chicken hawk, because there is no body.  Chicken hawks do not eat the bones.

A trail camera in the chicken yard showed a couple of raccoons and an opossum.

Opossums will not drag a chicken off.  It will eat the chicken in the chicken house.

 

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Chickens are their own worst enemy

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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

Farm update June 9 2015
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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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All of the new chickens are gone

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I need to explain the title in a little more detail.  When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

It is rather depressing to put so much time and effort into raising something, then a dog, coyote, fox, or chicken hawk takes all your hard work.

Last weekend my dogs caught one of the new rhode island reds and tore her up pretty good. To end her suffering she was put down.

For those of you who follow my youtube channel, yall know I have been working on a new chicken yard. The new yard is working well. The dogs stay on one side the the fence and the chickens stay on the other side.

The chicken that was killed last weekend got out of the yard. I can only do so much to protect my chickens. They have to stay in the yard when the dogs are loose.

6 weeks ago my wife and I ordered another batch of 20 chicks plus one rooster off the internet. These are doing much better than the original set we got in February – March. They are being kept in an enclosed run and not allowed to roam free. When they reach around 4 – 5 months old they will be moved into the new chicken yard.

It is really depressing when you put so much time and effort into a project, then something comes along and takes away your hard work.

Taking care of new baby chicks

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Are you interested in raising some baby chicks, but are worried about how difficult it is to get started? If you take the right precautions raising chicks is neither difficult or hard, but it is a labor of love.

Chicks are small and cute, but provided they have the right conditions they are not fragile. During the late winter and early spring hundreds of thousands of chicks are mailed from hatcheries to farm supply stores and directly to customers. The vast majority of those chicks arrive alive and well.

Baby chicks should be provided with 5 things, safe place that will protect them from predators, heat lamp / heat source, food, water, and a clean place to sleep.

Let’s discuss each of those points in detail.

Keeping chicks safe

Baby chicks are an easy target for just about any kind of predator. They are an easy target for house cats, feral cats, aerial predators, snakes, opossums, minks, weasels, raccoons,,, to name a few.

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First Observations On Free Ranging Chickens

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Are you raising chickens as part of you long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival plan? If so, have you put much thought into how well your chickens are able to forage, and what type of land is available to the chickens?

During a collapse of society it will be critical for livestock to forage.

How do we know what chicken breeds are good at foraging and which ones should be avoided? I hope to do a series of articles on how well different chicken breeds cope with free ranging.

My wife and I recently moved to a rural area of southeast Texas. One of the first things we did after the move was let the chickens out to free range. The area directly behind the chicken yard is around 1 acre of cleared land, and then another 2 acres of timber.

When the 13 hens were being fed commercial laying pellets my wife and I were getting 8 – 12 eggs a day. Some of the hens are molting, so that may contribute to the fluctuation in laying patterns. We are also in the hottest part of the year with daytime temps reaching 100 degrees here in southeast Texas.

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Five Gallon Chicken Waterer

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After my wife and I get moved to the homestead, we are looking at increasing our chicken flock from 13 hens, to somewhere around 25 hens, and then 30 hens the following year.

One of the issues I will need to deal with is how to make sure all of the chickens have access to fresh water in these Texas summers. During July and August daytime temps can reach the upper 90s and low 100s, with night lows staying above 90 degrees.

This video shows how to make a chicken waterer out of a 5 gallon bucket, and some nipples.

I could hang a couple of 5 gallon buckets in the coop, with 2 or 3 nipples on the bottom of each bucket.

Best chicken breed for SHTF

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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.

Speckled Sussex, Australorp, Barred Rock and Rhode Island RedChickens 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.

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

Barred Rock

Two Barred Rock ChickensThe Plymouth Rock is a dual-purpose (for meat and egg production), cold-hardy chicken that makes a well-rounded choice for the homestead or backyard flock owner.  The Plymouth Rock is the family that the Barred Rock belongs to.

Barred Rock are usually friendly, easy to tame, hens are not usually aggressive.

The Barred Rock lays a large light to medium brown egg.  On average, a healthy hen will lay 3 – 4 eggs a week, which equals to 156 – 208 eggs a year.

The Barred Rock is a cold hardy chicken. During the winter some chickens stop laying. The Barred Rock lays eggs through the winter, but in a decreased capacity.

Hen weight – 6 – 7.5 pounds

Rooster weight – 7.5-9.5 pounds

The Barred Rock is a good forager who will seek out its meals. When given the chance, they will explore fields and tree lines looking for food.

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Observations on types of chicken feed and egg production

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Over the past couple of months my chickens were fed different types of feed along with their laying mash.  During this observation the hens were between 7  – 8 months old.

Chickens eating table scrapsBreeds include Barred rock, Rhode island red, Jersey giant, Silver laced wyandotte, Australorp and Speckled sussex.

Time of year during this observation was August – early October.  Daytime temps ranged between the mid 80s – mid to upper 90s.

Oats, hen scratch and laying crumbles

For close to a month the chickens were given a 4 – 5 ounce scoop of feed oats, 4 – 5 ounces of hen scratch, a 3 – 4 ounce scoop of crushed oyster shell for calcium. Free access to Arrow Feeds poultry laying crumbles was provided at all times.

The Hens were let out of the coop early in the morning right around sunrise. The mixture of feed oats, hen scratch and ground oyster shell were spread over the ground for the chickens to pick up.

Egg production slowly dropped until the hens were laying around 5 – 6 eggs a day.

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Feeding Poultry

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Experiments have demonstrated that what may be called the gastric juice in fowls has not sufficient power to dissolve their food, without the aid of the grinding action of the gizzard. Before the food is prepared for digestion, therefore, the grains must be subjected to a triturating process; and such as are not sufficiently bruised in this manner, before passing into the gizzard, are there reduced to the proper state, by its natural action.

Chickens eating table scrapsThe action of the gizzard is, in this respect, mechanical; this organ serving as a mill to grind the food to pieces, and then, by means of its powerful muscles, pressing it gradually into the intestines, in the form of pulp. The power of this organ is said to be sufficient to pulverize hollow globules of glass in a very short time, and solid masses of the same substance in a few weeks.

The rapidity of this process seems to be proportionate, generally, to the size of the bird. A chicken, for example, breaks up such substances as are received into its stomach less readily than the capon; while a goose performs the same operation sooner than either. Needles, and even lancets, given to turkeys, have been broken in pieces and voided, without any apparent injury to the stomach. The reason, undoubtedly, is, that the larger species of birds have thicker and more powerful organs of digestion.

It has long been the general opinion that, from some deficiency in the digestive apparatus, fowls are obliged to resort to the use of stones and gravel, in order to enable them to dispose of the food which they consume. Some have supposed that the use of these stones is to sheath the gizzard, in order to fit it to break into smaller fragments the hard, angular substances which might be swallowed; they have also been considered to have a medicinal effect; others have imagined that they acted as absorbents for undue quantities of acids in the stomach, or as stimulants to digestion; while it has even been gravely asserted that they contribute directly to nutrition.

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Poultry Nutrition

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The following article was taken from:

Poultry: A Practical Guide to the Choice, Breeding, Rearing, and Management of all Descriptions of Fowls, Turkeys, Guinea-fowls, Ducks, and Geese, for Profit and Exhibition.

Author: Hugh Piper

Publication Date: 1872

With the introduction of commercial grade feed a lot of these lessons from the past are falling to the wayside. During a long term SHTF situation, this type of information will probably come in handy.

Protein, one great secret of profitable poultry-keeping is, that hens cannot thrive and lay without a considerable quantity of protein, and therefore if they cannot obtain a sufficient quantity in the form of insects, it must be supplied in meat, which, minced small, should be given daily and also to all fowls in winter, as insects are then not to be had.

Mr. Baily says: “Do not give fowls meat, but always have the bones thrown out to them after dinner; they enjoy picking them, and perform the operation perfectly. Do not feed on raw meat; it makes fowls quarrelsome, and gives them a propensity to peck each other, especially in moulting time if the accustomed meat be withheld.” Take care that long pieces of membrane, or thick skin, tough gristle or sinew, or pieces of bone, are not left sticking to the meat, or it may choke them, or form a lodgment in the crop.

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Chicken House Lessons From The Past

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The following article was taken from:

Poultry: A Practical Guide to the Choice, Breeding, Rearing, and Management of all Descriptions of Fowls, Turkeys, Guinea-fowls, Ducks, and Geese, for Profit and Exhibition.

Author: Hugh Piper

Publication Date: 1872

In this work we shall consider the accommodation and requisites for keeping fowls successfully on a moderate scale, and the reader must adapt them to his own premises, circumstances, and requirements. Everywhere there must be some alterations, omissions, or compromises.

We shall state the essentials for their proper accommodation, and describe the mode of constructing houses, sheds, and arranging runs, and the reader must then form his plan according to his own wishes, resources, and the capabilities of the place. The climate of Great Britain being so very variable in itself, and differing in its temperature so much in different parts, no one manner or material for building the fowl-house can be recommended for all cases.

Plans for poultry establishments on large scales for the hatching, rearing, and fattening of fowls, turkeys, ducks, and geese, are given in our smaller work on Poultry.

The best aspects for the fowl-house are south and south-east, and sloping ground is preferable to flat.

“It is only of late years,” says Mr. Baily, “poultry-houses have been much thought of. In large farmyards, where there are cart-houses, calf-pens, pig-styes, cattle-sheds, shelter under the eaves of barns, and numerous other roosting-places, not omitting the trees in the immediate vicinity, they are little required–fowls will generally do better by choosing for themselves; and it is beyond a doubt healthier for them to be spread about in this manner, than to be confined to one place. But a love of order, on the one hand, and a dread of thieves or foxes on the other, will sometimes make it desirable to have a proper poultry-house.”

Each family of fowls should, if possible, have a house and run; and if they are kept as breeding stock, and the breeds are to be preserved pure, this is essential. And where many kinds are kept, the various houses must be adapted to the peculiarities of the different breeds, in order to do justice to them all, and to attain success in each.

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Egg Recipes

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Chickens are probably the perfect livestock for a long term SHTF survival situation. Unlike a lot of farm animals, chickens will produce food every couple of days in the form of an egg. Once the chicken has matured and stopped laying, the chicken can be butchered and eaten.

One of the problems that people will experience after SHTF will be food fatigue. Even though the chickens may be laying eggs everyday, once food fatigue kicks in people will be sick of eggs.

To help ward off food fatigue, here is a list of various egg recipes.

OMELETTE

3 fresh eggs.
1 cup sweet milk.
3 level tablespoonfuls of flour.

Place a small pan on the range, containing one tablespoonful of butter.

Place 3 tablespoonfuls of flour in a bowl, mixed smoothly with a portion of the cup of milk, then added the three yolks of eggs which had been lightly beaten and the balance of the milk and a pinch of salt.

Stir in lightly the stiffly-beaten whites of eggs.

Pour all into the warmed fry-pan and placed it in a moderately hot oven until lightly browned on top.

The omelette when cooked should be light and puffy, and remain so while being served.

Double the omelette together on a hot platter and sprinkle finely chopped parsley over the top.

Serve immediately.

HARD BOILED EGGS

Eggs to be hard boiled should be carefully placed in boiling water and cooked 15 minutes from the time the water commences to boil again.

If cooked a longer time, the white of egg will look dark and the outer part of yolk will not be a clear yellow, as it should, to look appetizing when served.

SOFT BOILED EGGS

The quicker way to prepare eggs is to drop them in a stew-pan containing boiling water, and let boil 3-1/2 to 4 minutes, when the white part of the egg should be “set” and the yolk soft, but a soft
boiled egg is said to be more easily digested if dropped into a stew-pan of rapidly boiling water.

Remove the stew-pan of boiling water the minute the eggs have been put in from the front part of the range to a place where the water will keep hot, but not allow the eggs to boil. Let the eggs remain in the hot water from 8 to 10 minutes. On breaking the egg open, the yolk will be found soft, and the white of the egg a soft, jelly-like consistency.

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Four chicken breeds survivalist should consider

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Are you thinking about getting chickens for urban survival, or as part of your long term survival plans?

Lets say SHTF, what are the breeds of chickens you should focus on?  In my opinion, some of the better chicken breeds for survivalist are the Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Speckled Sussex and Australorp.

Rhode Island Red inside chicken coopRhode Island Red

Cock / Roster average weight: 8.5 lbs
Hen average weight: 6.5 lbs
Good foragers
Dual purpose for egg production and butchering
Egg production: around 200 eggs a year

My grandparents kept Rhode Island Reds back in the 1960s and early 1970s. Dad told me Rhode Island Reds are good at foraging and finding their own food.

Early 2012 my wife and I bought 4 Rhode Island Reds for our flock. Out of all the chickens we have, the RIR are the most friendly and affectionate. When I open the door to the coop, the RIRs walk up the ladder to greet me. I can pick up my RIRs as easily as I can pick up the family cat.

From time to time my wife and I will let a couple of the chickens out of the coop. The Rhode Island Reds go to work scratching through the leaves looking for something to eat.

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Chicken project 6 month update

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When the SHTF do you have a sustainable food source already setup? Or do you plan on bugging out to the wilderness with your family and foraging for food? Given the options, I would rather stay at home and have fresh eggs and oatmeal – eggs from my chickens and oatmeal from my food stockpile.

In mid-late 2011 my wife and I talked about getting chickens. I started looking at coop design, types and breeds, drawing designs for my own coop, working up a bill of material, cost,,, just general plans.

February 25 2012, our first chicks.

August 23 2012, got 10 eggs.

First 5 chicks were 3 Black Jersey Giants and 2 brown Speckled Sussex. 1 black Jersey giant and 1 Speckled Sussex died.

Next set of chicks were 2 Barred Rocks (aka Plymouth rock), 2 silver laced wyandottes and 2 australorps.

Next set were 4 Rhode Island Reds.

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