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.
Also, let’s look at dual purpose breeds – good egg layers and can reach a good butchering weight.
My suggestions are the Barred Rock (which is part of the Plymouth Rock family), Rhode Island Red and the Australorp.
The 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.
The Plymouth Rock breed is an older breed, having been developed in the mid 1800s. The breed was created from cross breeding Dominiques, Black Javas, Cochins, and perhaps Malays and Dorkings.
Rhode Island Red
The Rhode Island Red (RIR) is a good dual-purpose chicken for meat and egg production. The RIR may not be as cold hardy as the Barred Rock, as egg production drops off as the temperature nears freezing.
Rhode Island Reds can be friendly, and easy to tame, but can also be aggressive. It is not uncommon for a RIR to peck the hand of someone who gets too close while the hen is sitting in a nest.
When given the chance to free range, Rhode Island Reds will explore areas looking for food.
Rhode Island Reds are good layers. On average, a hen will lay around 200 eggs a year.
Hen weight – around 6.5 pounds
Rooster weight – around 8.5 pounds
Noise – from time to time one of my Rhode Island Reds will get in the chicken coop and will start clucking very loudly. I do not know what is causing this behavior. One day I saw a chicken snake close to the coop. A few minutes later a RIR was in the coop clucking very loud. Maybe she saw the snake and was trying to alert the other hens?
It is only my RIRs that act this way with getting into the chicken coop, jumping up on the perch and making lots of noise.
If you ask someone from the United States what their favorite breed of chicken is, chances are they are going to say one of the popular older breeds, such as the Barred Rock or the Rhode Island Red.
The Australorp originated from Australia, and has only been around for about 100 years. The Australorp is a mixture of various breeds imported to Australia from England.
The Australorp is usually friendly, easy to tame, not aggressive, handles confinement well, plays well with other chicken breeds and is cold hardy.
What makes the Australorp so special? Its a nice sized chicken that lays a lot of eggs.
A healthy hen can produce around 250 eggs a year, which is more then either the Barred Rock or the Rhode Island Red. One Australorp hen set a worlds record by laying 364 eggs in 365 days under official Australian trapnest testing.
After SHTF and you and your family need livestock for food production, would you rather have a chicken that lays 200 eggs a year, or 250 (or more) eggs a year? And that is why the Australorp is included in this list.
Hen weight – 7 – 9 pounds
Rooster weight – 8 – 10 pounds
Give the Australorp some serious consideration for the SHTF chicken flock. You will have a chicken breed that can lay 250 (or more) eggs a year, and can weight anywhere from 7 – 10 pounds. That sounds like a pretty good combination to me.
Noise – my Australorps are very quiet, they rarely, and I mean rarely make any noise.
If I Had to Pick One Chicken Breed
If I had to pick one chicken breed to raise on a homestead, that would be a tough choice.
When my dad was growing up on a small farm in Southeast Texas his mom had Rhode Island Reds. I know Rhode Island Reds are good chickens as my dad, my aunts, my uncles and my grandparents were able to feed themselves with the Rhode Islands.
I had Barred Rocks in the late 1980s for a couple of years. When the chickens got old and their egg production slowed down, the Barred Rocks were butchered.
In March of 2012 my wife and I bought 2 Barred Rocks, 4 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Australorps, 2 Silver Laced Wyandottes, 2 Black Jersey Giants, and a single Speckled Sussex, for a total of 13 hens.
From my past and current observations:
1, the Australorp would have to be my first choice.
2 & 3, either the the Barred Rock or the Rhode Island Red.
If I lived in a cold area, I would go with the Barred Rock as it seems more cold hardy then the Rhode Island Red.
Since I live in southeast Texas and the weather does not get “that” cold down here, it would be a close tie between the BR and the RIR. The BR looks like it has a fuller breast then the RIR. So if meat production is just as important as egg production, then maybe go with the BR and then the RIR.
While prepping for a complete collapse of society / SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation, I feel that is important to look at all of the characteristics of the chicken. What good is egg production when the chickens are aggressive and fighting?
Happy hens lay lots of eggs.
Add tension, fighting, bullying, aggression,,, egg production and the overall health of the flock can go downhill.
My Australorps are probably the least aggressive hens in my flock. There is some hen pecking that goes on, but the Australorps seems to play well with others.