By Allen Baler
To a survivalist, depending entirely on the world outside for a basic need is an unacceptable risk. The idea of not having a way of feeding their families in the event of a major calamity is an intolerable one. One of the most accessible ways of ensuring a steady supply of food after a calamity is also one of the oldest ones – you can raise chickens at home.
While the idea of securing your family’s food supply in the event of a calamity may seem unnecessarily far-fetched to many, there are many regular reasons why you might want to participate in the backyard poultry movement. You could have a great supply of fresh eggs that are uncontaminated by factory farming methods, for example. Chickens also make cute pets for the children.
These ideas appeal to millions of people across the country. While raising chickens in the backyard is illegal in many urban areas, they do it all the same – the draw of being in touch with nature is a very strong one. If the idea appeals to you, here is basic information that will help you get started.
Step one – find a chicken expert in the area
Whether you’re raising chickens for survival food or simply for eggs that taste better, you need the right breed of bird. Meat breeds aren’t usually productive in the egg department. It’s also important to find the right breeds for your part of the country. Ones that can’t handle the heat or cold of your region may not do well. It’s usually a good idea to not mix breeds – they don’t get along well together.
Resources such as mypetchicken.com have excellent breed selector tools to help beginners get started. Finding a chicken expert can be a good idea, too. Not only will you get good general advice as you start out, you’ll have someone to turn to when one of your chickens falls ill, too.
Get a chicken coop
While you might want to be self-reliant, building your own chicken coop out of scrap material tends to be a difficult, time-consuming project. You won’t end up saving much money, either. Simply buying a ready-manufactured model should do in the beginning. You’ll be able to get on with the fun of raising your chickens as quickly as possible this way. If you’re in a part of the country that gets very cold in winter, your coop will need heating arrangements.
You can’t expect your chickens to stay cooped up all day. You need to prepare a chicken run – a safe, enclosed area in your backyard where your chickens can walk around all day.
Be prepared for messy cleaning chores
Chickens are very messy creatures – not only do they love to peck at and shred anything that they find, they tend to leave droppings all over their enclosures, too. The best way to make your chicken enclosure easy to clean is to spread fresh straw on the floor each day. Straw is inexpensive, too.
Feed your chickens
While chickens usually find a reasonable part of their daily diet through foraging on their own, they need to be fed in winter when their natural food sources run out. Before you buy a generic chicken mix for your chickens, you should talk to your local chicken expert to make sure that you get the right kind for the breed that you have.
In the summer, simply giving your chickens a great supply of bugs to eat will keep them happy. Starting a compost heap in one corner of your yard can be an excellent way to attract these bugs.
Taking advantage of all your hard work
Starting at five months of age, a young, healthy chicken will usually lay an egg at least five or six times a week. Egg production begins to taper off over time, though. It is a good idea to not wash the eggs that your chickens lay, unless they are dirty with droppings. Water can wash away the natural, protective substances that cover eggs. Washing can also make eggs taste bland.
Finally, make sure that you keep your chickens safe and healthy
If you have cats or dogs at home, you need to do a good bit of planning to make sure that they never get anywhere near your chickens. Keeping your birds healthy is usually down to making sure that their area is kept clean at all times. You will still need to constantly be on the lookout for signs of irritation or disease, though.
If wild birds tend to swoop into your chicken coop to feed on some of the free food available, they could bring mites and other pests with them. If your chickens seem dull or irritated at any time, or if egg output seems to drop off, you should pick up a bird and carefully check the vent area – the opening that the egg comes out of. If you can see mites, you need to take your chickens to a vet.
There isn’t much else to raising chickens. They are low-maintenance creatures that tend to make, happy, friendly pets.
Allen Baler is a Partner at 4Patriots LLC, a Tennessee based small business that provides products to help people be more self-reliant and more independent. Allen founded the company in 2008 after 14 years as a corporate executive leading profitable business for the Easton Press and the Danbury Mint. He graduated with honors from Harvard University and resides in Nashville with his wife and 3 daughters.