I was reading an article today on www.survivalblog.com by guru Jim Rawles and poster B.R. when I decided there was some additional insight I could offer on the article that seemed to make more sense to me. You can find the original article here if you choose to read it: http://www.survivalblog.com/2011/01/realistically_raising_chickens.html
Eggs Or Meat
Notably, from the beginning the focus of that article is birds for meat, when I really feel it should be a combination of both, I understand the scope of that article was to discuss meat production. Personally, I think raising birds simply for meat is foolish, and an incredible waste of time and resources. In a survival situation, most of your flock should be raised for their egg production. A good hen from a good breed can pump out an egg every day or 2 which could provide a few meals a week, for years, as opposed to a one time meal once. That said the focus and intent of that article was obviously probably referring to what to do with the cockerels and aging layers who are past their production.
Things To Consider
Owning your own flock under normal circumstances isn’t completely worry-free. Magnify those worries by a huge number in a survival situation. It’s important, when planning to have a flock of birds as a source of food, to take some necessary precautions in advance to allow you to better care for them when TEOTWAWKI comes. Here’s some things to consider about having your own flock in a survival situation:
- Everything wants to eat them. This means you’ll need plenty of supplies on hand to repair any damage done to the hen-house. Make sure to keep lots of extra wood scraps and chicken wire around to do quick repairs to the hen-house when needed. You’ll also need to be vigilante about putting them away before dark.
- Ensuring genetic diversity. As pointed out in JR’s original article it’s important to diversify the bloodline in your flock. I would add that if it’s possible, and you have enough space, try and run a few different flocks, and swap males our regularly to limit incest or in-breeding. This isn’t really a short-term problem, but should be considered in long-term situations.
- Northern residents and feeding in winter. It’s often a good idea to limit the size of your flock during the winter, if it’s cold enough you’ll also find that you can store some meat outdoors in ice-filled chests to keep it edible longer. You’ll still need to be able to feed some birds every winter. A few options I’ve used in the past is to feed the chickens whatever scraps are left over from the dinner table, and as JR posts, they are omnivorous and will do well with most types of food. Another option is to save a portion of your corn every year, dry it out, and bag it up for the winter, a few handfuls of dried corn will go a long way for your chickens. Not only will it stimulate them as they hunt, peck, and scratch around to find it, but it provides a good amount of energy the birds will need to stay warm during the cold months. I’ve been able to feed around 5 chickens off a single 10 lb bag of dried corn for around 3 months. Visit our sister blog and learn more about growing corn. Update: Visit our article about growing and making your own Chicken Feed!
My Suggested Breed
I’ve long been a fan of a breed known as the New Hampshire or New Hampshire Red.
The New Hampshire Red has rapidly become my favorite breed of chicken due to the fact that it’s easy to breed, disease resistant (My chickens don’t spend very much time locked up and are generally outside 12 hours a day, which helps!), provide a good number of eggs(200+ per year), and can get to around 7 lbs, a reasonable poundage for a meat bird. The eggs are normally light brown in color, and the mothers are tending their eggs and are easy to brood. The New Hampshire Red also handles the weather well, and performs admireably in both hot and cold climates. These birds also mature quickly and are normally docile.
A quick bullet list on the benefits of the New Hampshire Red:
- Easy to Breed
- Disease Resistant
- Good Egg Layers (Around 200+ per year)
- Reasonable Size For Meat Production
- Good Mothers and Brooders
- Durable in Harsh Weather
- Quick to Mature
- Docile and Easy to Handle
Helpful Links and Outside Resources
- Growing your OWN Chicken Feed
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, 3rd Edition
- The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!
- Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock
- Growing Corn – SimplySetup’s Guide To Economical Crops
- Ordering your birds: www.mcmurrayhatchery.com