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.
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.
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.
Why should you consider the Australorp for your 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.
APA Standard Breed – Breeds recognized by the American Poultry Association (APA) prior to the mid-20th century.
Naturally mating – let nature takes it course.
Long, productive outdoor lifespan
Slow growth rate – You may be asking “why do you want your chickens to grow slow?” Chickens that are bred for meat production put on weight faster then their legs can keep up. As a result, certain breeds of meat chickens may become lame and not able to walk. Certain breeds of meat chickens do not tolerate heat well. The chicks have to be bought in early spring and butchered before the summer heat kicks in.
The slow growth rate is for the chickens growth to match the rate the legs, bones and muscles to develop.
When I first started watching this video, I thought it was just another “here is my chicken coop” video. Then she walked around and showed what the coop is made out of. Its a metal desk that can be found just about anywhere.
Not only is she wearing that cute beany hat, not only does he have a nice figure and long hair, she has a pretty awesome chicken coop.
This is a good example of how someone in an urban setting could improvise a chicken coop post-collapse.
Some of the issues facing urban survivalist are food and water. A few good laying hens such as the Australorp will provide a small family with a good source of protein and fats.
What would we need for this project? Metal desk, wire, hinges, pop-rivets, tin and a couple of rocks (for sloped roof), angle iron or wood to build back door out of, legs to get desk off ground, some kind of bow for hens to lay eggs in, something for a roost.
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 need to address before we get more chickens, such as – having enough room on the coop, access to feed and access to water.
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.
Instead of building a new coop, I am thinking about building in leanto around the existing coop. The chickens would use the existing coop for roosting, then they would have the leanto for when the weather gets bad, or they need some shade.
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.
In this article I hope to talk about how my chickens are doing in the winter time. 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.
4 – Rhode Island Reds
2 – Silver Laced Wyandotte
2 – Barred Rocks
2 – Australorps
2 – Black Jersey Giants
1 – Speckled Sussex
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.