Maybe it’s road closures to your nearby grocery store…
Or food shortages related to a collapsed economy and extreme price inflation like we are seeing in Venezuela…
Whatever the situation, hobby farming is an essential activity to attain freedom from the industrial food complex and develop true self-sufficiency. On the one hand, you’ll be able to rely on a constant supply of crops you can grow and consume. From greens to potatoes, these crops will come in handy whether you’re looking to save money or developing a backup source of food and nourishment during emergency situations.
But what about animal products?
In addition to having a garden, raising your own livestock is a great way to supplement a food storage plan during an emergency. Cows, sheep, and goats may come to mind. But for most people, they are too big to fit into a yard and require too much upkeep and maintenance.
However, chickens are small and relatively easy to keep. If you’re new to the concept of raising poultry, and a bit intimidated to start, read further, and I’ll share how to get started in raising your own poultry.
But first, I’m going to outline a few more benefits for raising your own backyard chickens...
Why Raise Your Own Chickens
Raising your own chickens can set you up to…
- Easily access a steady supply of protein and eggs in the event you can’t access groceries from a store.
- Save money on eggs and meat, so you can put more money toward your food storage budget.
- Eat tastier and fresher eggs than store-bought ones.
- Improve the quality of your garden. Chickens uproot weeds, get rid of insect pests, and consume damaged or overripe vegetables that remain in your garden at the end of gardening season. Additionally, their poop can be used as compost for the garden.
- Enjoy having chickens around the yard if you decide to let them free-range. They have personalities and like to hang out around people, especially if you raise them starting when they are chicks.
More and more people are catching onto these benefits. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 1 percent of all U.S. households surveyed in 2013 reported owning backyard fowl, and 4% more planned to start in the next five years.
In total, that’s over 13 million Americans participating in poultry raising (including several of us here at MPS).
Convinced yet? Keep reading, and you’ll be primed on how to get started in raising your own poultry in no time...
Local Laws: First things first--take the time to look into local laws to determine whether or not chicken farming would be an illegal activity in your backyard. Although a 2015 review of 150 of the most-populated U.S. cities found that 93% of them allowed backyard poultry flocks, some cities have restricted the activity. That’s a shame.
Coop: From there, you’ll need to build or buy a chicken coop. A new coop typically runs between $150 and $1000, while used ones will cost between $50 and $200. You can build one for less and there are many how-to instruction online. This coop is where you’ll keep the feeder, water containers, and nesting boxes. Nesting boxes are advisable as they make egg collection and hatching smoother and easier. If appropriately sized, one box should fit three hens.
The coop should be big enough for you to comfortably stand in or around, gather eggs, and shovel manure. A good rule of thumb is to have at least two to four square feet of coop floor per chicken. A bit more than that is better. Overcrowding can lead to disease and feather picking. So the more space, the happier your chickens will be.
Getting your chickens: Starting with full-grown hens, instead of chicks, is the easiest and quickest way to start harvesting eggs. Whatever you decide, you can order chicks online, or find local chick and hen suppliers via Craigslist and other local listing resources. Some stores even have annual Chick Week sales, especially in the spring! Contrary to what you may think, you don’t need a rooster.
Spring is the best time of the year to get chicks. They grow fast! Hens will lay through spring, summer, and into the fall. Hens will even lay through the dark winter months if you provide adequate hours of artificial light. Considering that a hen will lay four to six eggs per week, three or four chickens are enough to keep a family well supplied. If you decide to raise them for meat, you should know that one chicken can feed a family for several days.
Food and water: Not unlike humans, chickens require daily food and water. They typically consume about 1/4 pound of feed a day. You can either grow your own chicken feed or purchase it.
The feed can be served in a small bowl, as long as you ensure it doesn’t get wet. You can purchase waterers online, they are relatively inexpensive. Some watering units hold enough water to last for a week. If temps fall below freezing in the winter months, make sure you have a heater base for water container.
Conditions: In order to lay, hens will need to have 12-14 hours of daylight per day, as well as enough space outside to spread their wings. While the coop serves as an indoor space for the chickens to lay their eggs, eat, drink, and sleep, the outdoor space is where your birds will keep themselves entertained--sunbathing, foraging in the grass for worms and beetles, and scratching in the dirt.
Keep in mind that if you aren’t using a run, an enclosed space on all sides including the top, the space should at least be fenced to keep chickens in and predators out. Chicken wire can come in handy in this case.
Manure: As I mentioned previously, chicken waste can be composted and used to create manure for your garden. You can accumulate one cubic foot of manure per chicken in about six months. Toss egg shells and chicken poop into the compost pile.
Egg Collection: When it comes to collection, expect to collect eggs either once or twice a day. If you hear your hens cackling loudly, that’s typically a sign that they are laying.
Egg Cleaning & Storage: An eggshell’s bloom is a natural coating that protects the egg from bacteria. Therefore, it’s best to avoid washing your eggs and, instead, wipe them down using a dry, rough cloth. Use a damp cloth if you need to remove manure spots. From there, let them air dry completely before putting them in dated egg cartons and storing them in the fridge. Fresh eggs will stay good for a month if stored in the refrigerator.
Growing your flock: At some point, you may want to grow your family of chickens. If you want to support young chicks as they age up, you’ll need a brooder lamp. For the first four to six weeks of their lives, they must be kept warm--which is where a brooder lamp comes in handy. Keep your brooder at 90°F for the initial week or 10 days, and then gradually reduce it to normal temperatures. Approximately 5°F each week should work until the brooder temperature is the same as the ambient temperature.
From laying delicious eggs to eating bugs, and serving as a source of meat to giving you organic manure, there’s a wide range of benefits to raising your own chickens. And overall, backyard chickens aren’t a lot of work. Essentially, your time will be used to distribute feed, change the water, clean the manure every few days, and gather eggs.
Ready to start? There’s no time like now.
Have a great weekend and stay alert, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply