Chicken Project Two Month Update

Chickens in the chicken coopThe first set of dear little chickens turned two months old on April 25th, and what a trip it has been. Part of my long term SHTF survival plans include getting chickens and building a chicken coop. the goal was to have a secure chicken coop and egg production up and running by the middle of 2012. So far things have been running according to plan.

Over the past two months there have been several changes to the plans.

The first plan was to only have 4 or 5 chickens, but those plans quickly changed. My wife and I bought 5 chicks, of those five, two died.

One week after buying the first set of chicks, my wife and I bought 6 more.

About 3 or 4 days after buying the 6 chicks, we bought 4 more.

This left us with a total of 13 chicks. 13 is about 2 – 3 times what my wife and I had originally planed on having. During the initial planning phases dimensions of the chicken coop had been calculated so that each chicken had plenty of room. Now that we had 13 chicks instead of just 3, things had to change. The first thing that had to change was the square footage per bird.

The first coop was a simple 4 foot by 6 foot box – with 3 feet of hardware cloth, and 1 foot of laying boxes.

The second coop is 8 feet long and 6 feet wide. This equals out to around 3.23 square feet per chicken in the coop and another 3.23 square feet under the coop.

Lessons learned

If I were to build another chicken coop, I would NOT build it in 2 sections and put it together. I would build it in one section, and go from there. The problem with having two sections, you have 2 separate sections that you have to keep square not only with itself, but with each other.

Depending on how many chickens you have, try to give them as much room as possible. My coop is 8 feet by 6 feet. If I were to build it again, the coop would probably be 10 or 12 feet long by 6 feet wide.

The ladder works well, so there is nothing I would change there.

The area where I have the food and water needs to be a little wider. Currently the food and water dispenser is on hardware cloth 3 feet wide. 3 feet might sound like plenty of room for food and water, but its just barely enough.

Chickens are nasty animals, they crap on everythning – they crap in their food, they crap in the laying boxes, they even crap on each other.

The needs of the chickens seem to increase exponentially – the more they eat, the more they crap. The more crap, the sooner you need to clean their cage. They seem to be growing by day, which means the eat more and drink more.

Reasons why I built my coop on legs:

Portable – the coop can be moved around the yard, or even loaded on a trailer
Ventilation – the open bottom allows for air to circulate across the top and bottom of the coop
Security – the chickens roost in the top, which is secured with a ladder that is closed at night.

Drawbacks to having the coop on legs:

Chicken crap builds up under the coop
The coop has to be moved to keep prevent chicken crap from building up
The coop catches the rising fumes so you have to have vent windows
May not work well with chickens that do not tolerate confinement
May not work well in cold weather

Feeders and Waterers

Chickens supplies for SHTF / TEOTWAWKIWhen my wife and I bought the chickens, we bought some small feeders and a couple of small water dispensers. Within a few weeks the chickens outgrew their dispensers, so my wife and I bought some larger ones. two months into the chicken project, and the dispensers had to be upgraded once again.

We went from a waterer that holes 1 quart of water, to a waterer that holds one gallon of water, and finally to a waterer that holds 3 gallons. Hopefully the 3 gallon waterer will be enough. If its not we will upgrade to a 5 gallon system.

For the feed dispenser, we went from one that holds a 1 quart jar of food, to a 5 pound feeder, to finally a 7 pound feeder.

A lot of survivalist plan on obtaining livestock during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival situation. After working on my chicken project, my feelings are that its going to be difficult for people to go from having nothing, to having something. How do you build a secure chicken coop without access to building materials, saws, hammers, nails, screws, wire,,, and everything else you may need.

Predators of chickens during SHTF / TEOTWAWKI

When a family can barely feed themselves, what do you think the pets are going to do? The neighbors dog is starving, like the rest of the family. The difference you and your dog, the dog can smell those chickens from a long ways off.

You might say, “I will shoot any dog that comes around my livestock” – good luck staying awake 24 hours a day. Good luck working your crops and guarding your livestock at the same time.

Just as we plan for security of our family during a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI event, so should we plan for the security of our livestock and garden. Chickens are a good meal for a wide variety of predators, and not just the 2 legged kind.

Lets say that you are able to get some chicks from a nearby farmer friend, what then? Where will you keep your livestock? How will you protect the livestock from predators? How do you plan on keeping the livestock dry, cool in the summer and warm in the winter?

Then there are the egg eaters. What good does it do if you finally get your chickens to the point where they are laying, only to have snakes go into the chicken coop at night and eat the eggs? Raccoons love eggs. Even if you can keep the dogs, coyotes and hawks away from your chickens, what about snakes, opossums and raccoons?

Its not enough to say, “I plan on getting some livestock during a long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation.” There is a big difference between talking and doing. Sometimes things are not as simple as it sounds.

Construction of my chicken coop took about 3 – 4 days, and took a truckload of supplies. I do not know how things would have turned out if I had to use basic building materials along with hand saws, hammer and nails instead of screws.

Now the chickens need to start laying eggs so I can get some kind of return from my investment.