What survivalist can learn from the chicken of tomorrow project

From wikipedia – The Chicken of Tomorrow is a 1948 documentary short film about advances in chicken and egg farming. This mini-documentary was narrated by Lowell Thomas and is in the public domain.

The film was mocked in a seventh-season episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

The Chicken of Tomorrow deals with poultry farming and egg farming in the mid 1940s. Filmed to educate the public about how poultry and eggs are farmed, it also deals with how advances in genetic engineering and technology produces a larger chicken. Eggs are farmed and kept in industrial incubators, and an equal number of chickens are used for meat and other products. Altogether, this produces more food for less money, and allows people to support local poultry farms without breaking the bank. This is relatively similar to today’s poultry farming despite there now being technological differences.

The chicken of tomorrow should provide some food for thought for survivalist who are raising chickens. Do you want a flock of skinny chicken for your family? Or do you want types of chickens that have plump full breast and will lay plenty of eggs?

Do you want chickens that are slow growers and susceptible to disease? Or do you want chickens that mature quickly, lay good quality eggs and resistant to disease?

Barred Rock chickens at feederWhile doing the research for my flock, I not only read everything I could on the internet, and bought a couple of books on chickens, I also talked to my dad who had chickens when he was growing up. The breeds I decided to focus on were Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. I have several other types of chickens, such as a couple of Silver Laced Wyandotte, Black Jersey Giants and a couple of Australorps.

When my wife and I get moved to the farm, we plan on getting a few more chickens (we have 13 at the time) and a rooster. Part of my indefinite sustainability plan includes having a self-sustaining chicken flock.

Just as the chicken of tomorrow worked to develop a good quality chicken with certain characteristics, so should homesteaders and survivalist look for chickens with desirable traits.

I want a flock of chickens that are good foragers so they can find some of their own food, good layers, good survival rate of the chicks, and have a good thick breast for butchering.  I am looking at Rhode Island Reds for egg production and Barred Rocks (aka Plymouth Rock) for meat production.

Food Requirements

After my wife and I get our homestead setup, the chickens will have 2 chicken yards.  Each yard will be 25 feet X 100 feet.  The chicken yard will also be a garden plot.  Besides the chicken yard, the chickens will have access to several acres of wooded and cleared land for foraging.

Part of my long term SHTF  survival plan includes having the chickens forage for some of their food.  During a real SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, commercial chicken feed may not be available.  All the chickens will have is table scraps and what they can forage for.  When food is difficult to find, maybe a smaller hen would be better then a larger hen?


Australorp hen weighs around 7.3 – 9.2 lbs
Barred Rock hen weighs around 6.6 – 7.5 lbs
Rhode Island Red hen weighs around 6.5 lbs

If I was looking for only weight, then the Australorp would have a 2 – 3 pound advantage. But on the other hand, larger chickens also need more feed.

Something that the chicken of tomorrow project touches on is how much weight the chicken gains per pound of feed. Do you want a chicken that needs a lot of feed to gain just a little weight?

Egg Production

During a long term collapse, eggs will be an important source of fats and protein.  Eggs also make an excellent barter item, as they are universally recognized food.

Australorps are good size chickens that are also good egg layers.  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 days. And this was before the advancement of the commercial grade chicken feed we have today.

Australorp – around 250 eggs a year
Rhode Island Red – up to 200 eggs a year
Barred Rock – at least 200 eggs a year

Maybe I should go with a combination of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks and Australorps?  That way all of my eggs are not in one basket.

Share your thoughts on the topic of raising chickens.