Why Not Chickens? Beginners Guide for Preppers
As a prepper I think self-sufficiency plays a big part of being able to be prepared so why not try raising chickens. Here are some reasons to have chickens as a prepper.
- Chickens are easy to raise. They really don’t take too much work and have a big upside.
- Chickens are cheap to buy. Depending on what type you get you can sometimes get them for a dollar each. These are usually the eating chickens, but most of the layer chickens are no more than four dollars each to buy as chicks.
- You can still leave the home and go on vacation with very little upkeep and many times you don’t even need anybody to watch them. We were thinking about getting goats, but this is the main downfall to having some of the bigger animals especially ones you must milk every day. Guinea pigs and rabbits could also be a good meat animal as well.
- Fresh eggs are much better than store bought. The fresh eggs normally have a much more deep yellow almost orange yolk and are a little bit richer as well.
- Chickens really don’t need much area to live. Each chicken only really needs 4 sq ft in a chicken coop and about the same of outdoor land.
- Many places allow chickens even in towns. Just recently in AZ there is a bill that looks like it will pass. It is called the Homegrown Freedom Act which makes it illegal for towns in AZ to outlaw chickens in backyards.
- Chicken poop can be good for your compost bin and for your garden.
- Chickens can be good to eat some of the bugs you may not want.
- Chickens can free range and find what they want to eat while allowing you not to feed them as much and they come back to their home each night.
- Kids love the chickens! We have friends who will bring the kids over to see the chickens which is quite fun.
Below is a slideshow that shows the chicken coops and setups. Below the slideshow is much more information about how we raised the chickens and some tips.
When we got our first three chickens we really lucked out. We already had a chicken coop at our home when we bought it. All we had to do was put a little fence around it to keep the chickens in when we wanted to and get some hay for the bottom of the coop. So we spent very little money on the coop which is not spectacular but does the job. The first three chickens we got were actually free which was fantastic! We found them on facebook from somebody who wanted to get rid of them. We also got a water heater, laying baskets and about 50lbs of food for free with the chickens.
So when we first started we had no idea what we were doing. It was a great way to start by getting full grown chickens as they are already laying eggs and can stay in the cold all winter with no problems. If possible try to find full grown chickens that are still pretty young. Our chickens were about 3 years old, but are still laying eggs and got us accustomed to having chickens and seeing the benefit right away.
This spring we decided to get 4 more chickens. We originally started the chicks in the garage in a kid’s swimming pool with a heat lamp. The second night we had two of the four chicks die as it got too cold. What we decided to do was get the plastic storage bins and put the heat lamp on the bin. The bin stayed much warmer than the kiddie pool as there was much less place for the chicks to go. We also had to move them inside into a room that was not being used (they do kind of stink but it is fine if the door is closed). Now that the chickens are over 6 weeks old we have been able to move them back out to the garage where they have more room, but are still out of any extreme cold. Also as we did not get the chicks vaccinated we just use a medicated chick starter feed which makes them less susceptible to any of the diseases that chickens get. It is also good to get the chicks water as soon as you get them. Sometimes you must push their heads into the water to get them to start drinking.
We also decided to get four more chicks and have them in the bin inside. As it is getting warmer the adolescent chicks will be moved into the chicken coop and the small chicks will be able to be moved into the garage. So we have found a good system that works for us. For us having very little experience with chickens they have been very easy to take care of. Some sites and articles say to cross everything off your calendar if you get chicks and to focus on them. I really don’t believe that. We just recently went on a 3 day weekend and had a friend come over on Saturday just to make sure they were still alive and had food and water. They are nowhere near as demanding as babies. The worst thing I could see is if they tip their water over and they flood their area. This has not happened yet even with a chick that many times perches on top of the water.
With the large chickens we have run into no problems other than how to clip their wings which is quite easy. Also remember that for your chickens to lay eggs they need about 14 hours of light. In the winter we have a light on a timer in the coop which gives about 2-3 more hours in both the morning and night. This doubled egg production. As for the chicks there were a few problems so knowing what we know now helped. The two problems we ran into were:
Cold: As I said before two chicks died. Moving the chicks to somewhere warmer as well as giving them a more confined space with a heat lamp solved this problem. When you first get a chick they need to be kept at 95 degrees for the first week. Each week they can be kept about 5 degrees warmer than the previous week until they are 10 weeks old.
Pasting: Out of all six chicks we only had one chick with this problem. Pasting has another name and that is “poopy butt”. Ya it is a little gross and it is just like it sounds. Basically it is easy to see as they will have poop start to cake near their vent (this is the butt as well as where the eggs come from). This can be deadly and may come from them not drinking enough. It is also quite easy to treat. What we did was just put a little water in the bathtub and then put the chick in the warm water. The poop will get wet and will come off with a little help from a wet paper towel. The chick won’t like this much, but it may save its life. Just remember to check the chick routinely and make sure the chick is drinking water so it doesn’t happen again.
Other than these few fixable things the raising of chickens is really quite easy and they are pretty hands off animals if you want them to be. So if you are planning on getting animals that can help you be a little more self-sufficient chickens should be your first choice. Now getting the rooster to actually fertilize the eggs is one thing we still haven’t done. Many places don’t allow roosters because of the noise they make so make sure to check out the rules and laws in your neighborhood. At some point we may move to this, but as of yet we like the system we have and like learning one step at a time. So I hope you have a little more info on chickens and that you really don’t need to be afraid of how to take care of them.