Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Prepper Livestock - Chickens

Chickens are low maintenance, versatile, forage for food well; provide regular eggs for breakfast and meat to eat.  For that reason, I recommend that chickens be the first livestock you start with, followed by goats

Most feed stores sell them, so get a few immediately. There are a number of hatcheries listed in the Prepper Handbook Appendix under Recommended Resources. If you live in the city, give your chickens names, so they are classified as “pets” rather than livestock but avoid roosters that crow and disturb neighbors. If you ever need a rooster, most people who raise chickens have a few to spare.

To raise chicken for food, each adult needs four (4) hens for eggs and for meat, one rooster and breeding hen plus 16 young chickens in one week age increments. This will provide eggs for breakfast each day and a 2-4 lb chicken dinner once per week.  A flock of 22 foraging chickens per acre is fairly sustainable except possibly in the winter.  An acre will easily keep 50, but you will need to feed them.

This means you need about 1 acre per adult to raise enough chickens and be sustainable  These are estimates based on good land conditions and adequate water supply, which is essential. The actual sustainable carrying capacity of your land will depend on many factors such as rainfall, fertility, length of growing season, rotation, etc.   

Chickens are good foragers and will eat many table (and garden) scraps as will a hog or guard dog.  But you should grow some sorghum grain for feeding your chickens so figure another 1/2 acre per adult to do so. You can use hen scratch as seed, and it is good to plant seed bearing grains and grasses in your chicken pen such as wheat (winter & summer varieties), rye, oats, sun flowers and sorghum.

As a guide it takes about 15 lbs of feed to raise a white egg layer pullet (from chick to first egg), an estimated 18 lbs of feed to raise a brown egg layer pullet (from chick to first egg) and approximately 10 lbs of feed to raise a Cornish cross broiler to 7 weeks of age. When a standard size chicken (example: Rhode Island Red hen) is at 6 months of age it will consume 1-1/2 lbs of feed weekly

Without ample foraging space, figure on feeding 4 laying hens 6 lbs of feed per week.  Our breeding pair will need 3 pounds per week and our 16 chickens for eating will require 21 lbs per week for a total of 30 lbs per week. They can forage for this in the summer, but will need some feeding in the winter, depending on your location. Supplementing their foraging will increase your productivity in both eggs and weight gained on your meat chickens. You should experiment with this now to determine what works best for you. For a host of good information, here is a good site to visit: http://chickensforbackyards.com/aboutus.sc

This plan is  for 1 adult having eggs for breakfast and eating a chicken each week.  Figure about 1/2 this for children  For a discussion on what is the best breed of chickens see our blog post.  

If you want to eat one chicken per week, then you put one egg in your solar powered incubator each week. Then every second or third week put an extra egg in the incubator to be safe. Or any time one of your chicks dies, put an extra egg in the incubator. They will hatch in 21 days and about 70 – 80% should survive and grow to maturity in about 16 to 18 weeks and be great to eat. Eat the roosters first and use the young hens to replace your 3-4 year old hens, eating them.

For your 80 - 100 watt DIY Solar power 48 egg incubator, you will need three - 100 watt solar panels and four 100 amp hour 12 volt deep cycle AGM batteries and a 12 VDC to 120 VAC 1500 watt inverter to convert battery power to household 120 volts of alternating current (VAC).  Your alternative is to have chickens breeds that go broody, but you can't hatch one egg per week like that. Ideally you have both an incubator and broody hens.

Raising more chickens will provide additional meat, eggs and even breeding stock for barter with others who may need livestock. If times get really bad, this could make you a target of robbers who want to steal your food supply.  In such case, you will need to maintain security to protect what you have.  Our posts on Urban Security and Country Home security can assist you.

Either way, fresh eggs and fried chicken can't be beat.

For additional information see the following links: 
Prepper Livestock
Blog Table of Contents

Complete Sustainable Living Plan