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.
They may not even run from dogs or coyotes until it is too late.
They will eat their own eggs.
Yesterday (September 23, 2015) I noticed several of my new Australorps and Barred Rocks were missing out of the small chicken yard. I call it the small yard because I have two chicken yards.
Large yard – 200 feet long and 100 feet wide.
Small yard – 75 feet long and 35 feet wide.
I found the missing chickens outside the yard. My dog Ellis had got ahold of several and pulled the feathers out. Ellis does not try to kill them. He likes to hold them down and pull some of the feathers out. Once he has his fun, he will let the chicken go and go catch another one. Sometimes the chickens will go into shock and die.
The chickens have plenty of room, food, water and they still want to get out. What kind of idiot leaves a safe area just to get killed. Just stay in the yard and everything will be fine. But oh no, you can not be content with staying in the chicken yard, you have to get out.
Video from June 2015. These are some of the chickens that got out.
What really aggravates me is how much time, effort and money I put into taking care of these chickens. Only for them to get out of the chicken yard and get themselves killed. I do everything I can to take care of them, and they have to go off and do something stupid which ends up getting themselves killed.
The breeds that got out were not some poor quality breed. These were good heritage, dual purpose breeds:
Australorp – Developed in the late 1800s for dual purpose meat and exceptional egg laying. This is one of my top chicken breeds for SHTF. Between 1922 and 23 a team of six Australorp hens set a world record by laying 1,857 eggs (an average of 309.5 eggs per hen) in 365 consecutive days.
Losing one Australorp hen cost my family around 200 – 250 eggs a year. Losing 4 hens is devastating as we lost 800 – 1,000 eggs over the course of a year. During a complete collapse of society, or even rough economic times 800 – 1,000 years in a year is a lot of food.
Related article: How many chickens would you need for SHTF
Besides the excellent egg production Australorps make a good meat bird with hens weighing between 7 – 9 pounds and roosters weighing 8 – 10 pounds.
The Australorp is one of the few chicken breeds that retains the instinct to go broody. Some of my hens will go broody twice a year, once in the spring and once again in the mid-late summer. Having a hen that will sit on eggs is essential for a self-sustaining chicken flock.
Barred Rock – Dating back to the 1800s this is a good dual purpose meat and egg production chicken. While the Barred rock does not lay as many eggs as the Australorp it is a well rounded, hardly and a good forager.
One of the things I do not like about the Barred Rock is the instinct to sit on eggs as just about been bred out of them. The Barred Rock will sometimes sit on eggs, but not near as much as the Australorp. Then again if you want egg production sitting on eggs is a bad thing.
The Barred Rock and the Dominicker are easily confused. This video describes how to tell the difference.
Prepping for a long term SHTF/TEOTWAWKI situation takes a lot of time, dedication, money and effort. Just when things are going your way those stupid chickens get out of their yard and get killed. It takes at least 6 months for a pullet (a hen less than one year old) to start laying. When the pullet starts laying it will be another one or two months for production to stabilize and the eggs to reach full size.
Losing several chickens puts my survival plans back at least 8 months. Let’s just go ahead and say a year. Instead of buying chicks and waiting 8 months, the other option is to buy pullets or hens who are already laying. In rural areas people will sell hens who are close to laying, or who are already laying. Around here in Southeast Texas a laying hen, or a hen who is about to start laying will cost around $15 – $20.
To replace 4 or 5 hens who were just about to start laying will cost around $80 – $100. That money could have been spent elsewhere if those stupid chickens would have just stayed in their yard. $80 – $100 could buy a lot of first aid supplies, ammo, solar panel,,, some other addition to my SHTF survival plans.