Over the years, I’ve become increasingly more involved in the concept and practice of prepping and urban survival.
One aspect that has particularly caught my attention is the idea of raising backyard chickens as a sustainable and practical way to enhance my food supply and overall self-sufficiency.
Backyard chickens can provide numerous benefits, such as fresh eggs and meat, natural pest control, and even fertilizer for gardens.
As someone living in an urban environment (although a small town in a rural area), I understand that space and resources can be limited.
However, I’ve found that raising chickens for prepping purposes is not only feasible, but also enjoyable and rewarding.
From researching the best breeds for my specific needs to setting up an appropriate coop and ensuring proper care, I have discovered that raising chickens as a part of my urban survival strategy is an excellent way to increase my self-reliance and contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle.
To successfully raise chickens for preparedness efforts, it’s crucial to consider factors such as local regulations, available space, and the specific needs of the chosen breed.
Through careful planning and commitment, I am confident in my ability to maintain a small, thriving flock of backyard chickens that can greatly enhance my urban survival efforts and overall preparedness.
Why Backyard Chickens for Prepping and Urban Survival
As a prepper, I find backyard chickens to be an essential part of my urban survival plan.
One of the primary reasons for raising them is their versatility and adaptability, making them perfect for small farms or even backyard gardens.
Chickens provide a sustainable source of protein through their eggs and meat, ensuring that I have access to food in case of emergencies.
Furthermore, having chickens allows me to maintain a level of self-sufficiency.
I am not reliant on external sources for my food production or quality control.
Chickens help in keeping my garden pest free, as they love to eat insects and worms.
Plus, their waste serves as a natural and effective fertilizer for my plants, improving the productivity of my garden.
In addition to providing food and pest control, chickens are also educational and engaging for children.
Teaching my kids how to feed and care for chickens and collect eggs can be a valuable introduction to farming and prepping.
This hands-on experience instills a sense of responsibility and ensures that they learn essential survival skills at an early age.
Raising chickens in an urban setting may require some adjustments, but with the correct planning and implementation, it can be a successful and rewarding experience.
Before starting with backyard chickens, it’s essential to check local regulations to ensure that raising chickens is allowed in my neighborhood.
While my town has weird restrictions…sometimes you have to make a judgment call (ahem).
Ultimately, raising backyard chickens supports my goal of becoming more self-sufficient and prepared for various survival situations.
It offers me a cost-effective way to obtain a steady source of food while also improving my urban garden’s sustainability and teaching essential life skills.
Choosing the Right Chicken Breeds
When it comes to selecting the perfect chicken breeds, the key factors I consider include the climate in my area, the breed’s egg production, their ability to forage, and their temperament.
After conducting some research, I have narrowed down a few top breeds that meet these requirements.
Firstly, it’s important to choose a breed that can adapt to various climates.
The Rhode Island Red is a popular choice for backyard chickens because they are calm, friendly, and can handle various temperatures.
Egg production is another crucial factor, and I would choose a breed like Buttercups, which are known for their great egg-laying abilities.
These Mediterranean chickens have beautiful orange and black markings and also adapt well to different conditions.
For preparedness, selecting a breed with good foraging capability is essential.
The Easter Egger is a hybrid variety that excels at foraging, and the added bonus is their unique egg colors, which range from green or blue to pink, white, or tinted eggs.
Lastly, considering the temperament and handling ability is important, especially in an urban setting.
Faverolles, a French breed, are known for their unique appearance with a beard, feathered feet, and 5 toes.
They are friendly and easy to handle while providing plenty of eggs.
For us, I chose the Black Australorp.
The Black Australorp is a breed of chicken that is known for its hardiness and excellent egg-laying ability.
According to Chickens and More, this breed can lay more than 5 eggs per week, making it a great choice for backyard chicken keepers.
Additionally, the Black Australorp is a large, heavyset bird with soft, close-fitting feathers and an upright posture.
They require at least 4 square feet of coop space, with a little extra space needed due to their larger size.
If they cannot free-range, they will need about 8 square feet of space in a pen per bird, according to Backyard Garden Lover.
In summary, while there are many breeds to choose from, Australorps, Rhode Island Reds, Buttercups, Easter Eggers, and Faverolles are some of the top options due to their adaptability, egg production, foraging capability, and temperament.
Housing and Coop Design
In my journey to raise backyard chickens, I’ve learned that housing and coop design are essential factors.
A well-designed chicken coop will not only provide a safe, comfortable environment for your chickens but also make your life easier when it comes to maintenance and cleaning.
Size and Space Requirements
One of the first things to consider is the size of the coop and the space requirements for each chicken.
As a general rule, I’ve found that it’s best to provide at least 3-4 square feet per chicken inside the coop and about 10 square feet per chicken in the outdoor run.
This ensures that my chickens have enough room to move around, stretch their wings, and engage in natural behaviors.
For a small flock, a classic backyard chicken coop can be an excellent choice as it is simple to build and takes up limited space.
However, be mindful of the size and adjust it according to the number of chickens you plan on keeping.
Security and Predator Protection
Security is paramount for my backyard chickens, as predators such as raccoons, foxes, and birds of prey can be a significant threat.
To protect my flock, I make sure to include the following security features in my coop:
- Sturdy construction using strong materials such as wood or heavy-duty plastic
- A secure latch on the coop door that cannot be easily opened by predators
- Hardware cloth or strong wire mesh on windows and ventilation openings to keep out unwanted visitors
- A covered run to protect chickens from aerial predators
OSU Extension Service also recommends ensuring the coop is well-secured when designing it for backyard chickens.
Ventilation and Insulation
Proper ventilation is crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of my flock.
I make sure to include ample airflow through the coop by adding vents or windows that can be opened and closed as needed.
This helps to prevent the buildup of moisture, ammonia, and heat, all of which can be detrimental to my chickens’ health.
At the same time, insulation is important to regulate temperature inside the coop.
Depending on the climate in my area, I might use insulated walls or add extra insulation during colder months.
It’s rare here as we are more likely to deal with extreme heat.
The key is to strike a balance between proper airflow and maintaining a comfortable temperature for my chickens.
Feeding and Nutrition
Since I count on these chickens to do their job, it’s crucial to provide my chickens with proper nutrition to ensure their health, egg production, and overall well-being.
Types of Chicken Feed
I’ve learned that there are various types of feed for different stages of a chicken’s life.
For example, chicks require a starter feed with high protein content, usually around 18-20% protein, to support their growth.
As my chickens grow, I switch them to layer feeds with lower protein content but increased levels of calcium and nutrients to support egg production.
Supplements and Treats
Supplementing my chickens’ diet is essential for their health.
Providing grit is a must if I offer anything other than commercial feed, as it helps them digest their food.
I also give treats and scratch grains in moderation, with these extra food sources making up no more than 10% of their daily food consumption.
Feeding Techniques and Equipment
It’s important to me that my chickens always have access to clean water and fresh food.
For this reason, I chose hanging feeders and nipple waterers to minimize waste and contamination.
It also helps to maintain space in their coop, which is essential for urban environments.
When it comes to feeding my chickens, I also pay close attention to temperature regulation.
This is especially important during winter months when their water supply may freeze.
Ultimately, proper nutrition and feeding practices have allowed my backyard chicken flock to thrive even in an urban environment while providing me with a sustainable source of eggs and prepping experience.
Health and Disease Prevention
As a responsible backyard chicken owner, I am aware that keeping my flock healthy is crucial to maintaining a successful, sustainable source of eggs and meat for my family and me.
In this section, I will discuss common chicken illnesses, vaccinations and treatments, and biosecurity measures that I implement to ensure the health and well-being of my flock.
Common Chicken Illnesses
In my experience, I have encountered some common chicken illnesses that can threaten my flock. These include:
- Marek’s Disease – a viral disease affecting the nervous system, leading to paralysis and tumors in chickens
- Salmonella – a bacterial infection that can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in both chickens and humans
- Avian Influenza – a viral infection that can cause respiratory symptoms, swollen head, and sudden death in chickens, with some strains having the potential to infect humans
Vaccinations and Treatments
To protect my flock from common illnesses, I make sure to:
- Start and expand my flock with vaccinated birds from reputable sources, specifically for Marek’s disease, which can prevent more than 90% of opportunities for the disease to spread
- Consult with a veterinarian for guidance on additional vaccinations and treatments, specific to my flock’s needs and local disease prevalence
- Monitor my flock for signs of illness, so I can seek veterinary advice for diagnosis and treatment as needed
I have implemented the following biosecurity measures to minimize the risk of infectious diseases entering and spreading within my backyard flock:
- Limiting access to the chicken area
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting the chicken coop, feeders, waterers, and other equipment
- Properly storing feed to prevent contamination and reduce the attraction of pests
- Practicing good personal hygiene, such as washing hands before and after handling chickens or their products
By staying informed about common chicken illnesses, ensuring my birds are vaccinated, and following proper biosecurity measures, I am confident that I can maintain a healthy flock.
Egg Production and Collection
Egg Laying Frequency
In my experience, a hen’s egg production is usually at its peak from around 6 to 18 months of age, although this can vary depending on the breed and individual chicken.
During this time, just six chickens can provide over two dozen eggs a week!
As my hens age, their egg production tends to decrease.
By the time they reach 18 months to 2 years old, most will start molting and lose many feathers before growing new ones.
This natural process can also affect egg production rates.
Nesting Boxes and Egg Retrieval
I always make sure to provide my hens with comfortable nesting boxes as it encourages them to lay their eggs in a safe place.
A good rule of thumb for nesting box size is one box for every four to five hens.
My chickens seem more inclined to lay their eggs in these boxes, making it easier for me to collect the eggs daily.
Regular egg retrieval helps to ensure that the eggs don’t get dirty or damaged, and it reduces the chance of hens brooding or attempting to hatch the eggs (assuming they’re not fertilized).
Egg Storage and Handling
Once I collect the eggs, it’s important to store them properly to maintain freshness and reduce the risk of contamination.
I always wash my hands before handling the eggs and avoid using cracked or dirty eggs for consumption.
For extended storage, I sometimes use a simple method of glassing.
Water-glassing eggs is a method of preserving eggs for long-term storage.
It involves submerging the eggs in a solution of water glass (sodium silicate) and water, which creates a protective layer around the eggshell and prevents air and bacteria from entering the egg.
This method can keep eggs fresh for up to 18 months, or even up to 2 years according to some sources.
Breeding and Chick Rearing
As someone who is focused on preparedness, raising backyard chickens has become an essential part of my self-reliance plan.
In this section, I will share my experiences and knowledge about breeding and chick rearing.
Incubation and Hatching
When it comes to incubation and hatching, there are some options to consider.
You can either rely on my broody hens or use an incubator.
While a broody hen can provide natural incubation for the eggs, an incubator offers more control over the temperature and humidity.
After selecting either a broody hen or an incubator, closely monitor the eggs for 21 days, which is the average incubation period for chicken eggs.
During this time, you need to ensure they are kept at the right temperature, around 37.5°C (99.5°F), and maintain the humidity at approximately 50-55% for the first 18 days, raising it to around 65% during the last three days.
Brooding and Raising Chicks
Once the chicks have hatched, I provide them with a safe and warm brooding environment.
My chicks are kept in a brooder (thanks mom), a designated space with a heat lamp where they can fulfill their warmth requirements.
The temperature should be around 35°C (95°F) during their first week, decreasing 5°F per week until they are fully feathered.
Apart from the temperature, I also focus on the chicks’ diet.
Newly hatched chicks require a special feed called “chick starter,” which is high in protein and essential nutrients.
I make sure they have access to fresh water and clean bedding at all times.
Integration into the Adult Flock
Integrating the new chicks into the adult flock can be a little tricky, and needs to be done gradually.
As a rule, I begin the integration process when the chicks are around 6-8 weeks old and are fully feathered.
First, I introduce the chicks to the adult flock in a safe, controlled environment by placing them in a separate, smaller coop within the main coop or run.
This allows the birds to see and interact with each other without physical contact.
After a week or two, I start allowing supervised interaction between the two groups.
Finally, when I feel that it is safe, I fully integrate the younger birds into the main flock.
With proper care and attention, it is possible to create a sustainable source of organic, fresh eggs and meat for your family.
Legal Considerations and Community Involvement
Local Laws and Regulations
When considering backyard chickens for prepping and urban survival, you may want to research local laws and regulations.
In my experience, most urban areas allow only chickens, but some do not restrict the kind of poultry that can be raised.
Usually, there is a limit on the number of adult birds you can have, with most ordinances allowing between five and six.
Additionally, there may be guidelines for coop construction, such as requirements for mobility and minimum square footage per bird.
You should familiarize yourself with these rules and abide by them (if you wish) to avoid fines and potential conflicts with neighbors.
Dealing with Neighbors
Maintaining a good relationship with neighbors is crucial when raising backyard chickens.
Sometimes, neighbors might have concerns about noise or odor.
To address these issues, I make sure to keep the coop clean and ensure proper disposal of poultry waste.
It’s also a good idea to share the benefits with neighbors by offering them fresh eggs, for example, and involving them in the decision-making process.
Community Networking and Support
Connecting with fellow backyard chicken enthusiasts is an excellent way to learn and share resources.
In my experience, local clubs and online forums can provide valuable tips and advice for raising chickens in an urban environment.
Additionally, they can be a great place to find support when dealing with legal or neighbor-related issues.
Understanding local laws and regulations, maintaining good relationships with neighbors, and connecting with the backyard chicken community are vital elements of successful urban chicken keeping for prepping and survival purposes.
By staying informed and involved, you can help ensure the well-being of both your chickens and the community.
In my journey to become self-sufficient and prepared for urban survival, raising backyard chickens has proven to be a rewarding and vital addition to my efforts.
Not only do they provide a consistent source of fresh eggs and meat, but they also contribute to my garden by keeping pests at bay and serving as natural fertilizers through their manure.
Some of the benefits I’ve seen in raising backyard chickens include maintaining control over my food sources and a significant decrease in grocery expenses.
As a prepper, having a small flock has given me a sense of independence and security in uncertain times.
Choosing the right breeds is important for urban compatibility.
Some of them are known to be hardy and adaptable to both heat and cold conditions.
It’s crucial to familiarize myself with the local regulations and be respectful of my neighbors while raising my flock in an urban setting.
Overall, I can confidently say that incorporating backyard chickens into my urban prepping strategy has greatly enhanced my self-sufficiency, and I encourage others to consider such an undertaking in their quest for preparedness and resilience.