Preparing for Chaos, Theory and Application- Part 1, by DF

Many people view the possibility of economic/societal disruption and collapse as science fiction, suitable as entertainment in dystopian novels or movies. I view it as actual science, not fiction and am preparing for the ensuing chaos and necessities to get past it. Well-proven theories in the areas of nonlinear systems and economics can help us partially understand what can happen, how we can prepare and respond, and even what is not possible to predict.

My first section on “theory” is quite abstract. It looks at some of the basic principles of chaos theory to describe the mechanisms of economic/societal collapse. It also looks at the laws of supply and demand to understand the likely failure of normal supply chains for goods and services. The other two major sections are very practical, almost boring, advice on creating your own supply chain for food supply to your farm animals, and ultimately, you.

Section I – Theory

I would like to discuss two theories– chaos theory and the laws of supply and demand.

Chaos Theory

Chaos theory describes certain types of nonlinear dynamic systems. It is characterized by a high gradient (driving force) and extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. The sensitivity to initial conditions make it impossible to calculate the exact behavior of the system very far into the future. Below are some simple examples.

Example of Water Flowing Through a Hose

Water flowing through a hose is completely predictable using newtonian physics at low flow rates. The water comes out in a smooth predictable tube the same shape as the hose. When the “gradient” of pressure driving force exceeds a certain threshold, the flow becomes turbulent and starts to spray in many different directions. Turbulence is a chaotic phenomenon that makes it impossible to predict where any specific water molecule will go.

Examples of Earthquakes, Avalanches, and Hurricanes

Earthquakes, avalanches, and hurricanes are also chaotic phenomena. Large gradients in tectonic forces, potential energy in the form of snow buildup and temperature gradients are the underlying driving forces. The initial conditions are never known well enough to predict exactly when and where the energy release will manifest itself. Some subterranean rock slippage triggers an earthquake. A snowshoe rabbit starts a small amount of snow rolling downhill which “snowballs” into a devastating avalanche. A butterfly flapping its wings off the west coast of Africa starts a swirl of air which eventually builds into a CAT 5 hurricane.

Economies- Large-scale Chaotic Dynamical Systems

Economies are large-scale chaotic dynamical systems. Capital “flows” from one sector to the next, driven by the search for profit and gradients in supply and demand. “Free” stimulus money provided by money creation monopolies (Central Banks) increases these capital flows. Leveraged bets with large interdependencies between financial institutions create a domino situation, where an individual failure has the potential to bring down an entire system.

Imbalances in debt vs. the ability to repay the debt will eventually lead some kind of reset, most likely in the purchasing power of the currency. This type of currency reset is not something limited to the Venezuelas and Zimbabwes of the world. France changed from the old Franc to the new Franc in 1960 by deleting two zeroes from their currency. Italian Lira was legendary for requiring millions for simple purchases. Germany under the Weimar Republic is the standard case study for hyperinflation. It is just a mathematical reality that as the amount of currency (and debt) increases toward infinity, the value of a unit of currency approaches zero. Stock and currency values are driven more by psychology and less by underlying value. Some triggering event will eventually start the psychological avalanche and the collapse will be sudden (IMHO).

Difference Between Triggering Event and Underlying Forces

It is important to recognize the difference between triggering events and underlying forces. In layman’s parlance, this triggering mechanism can be called “the butterfly effect”, a “black swan”, or “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. The small rock slippage is not really what caused the earthquake; the snowshoe rabbit hopping across the mountain slope is not to blame for the avalanche; and eliminating all butterflies from the planet will not stop hurricanes. These are merely the triggers that release the built-up forces. Likewise, a singular event, country leader, or law may trigger the inevitable collapse, but the cause is very simply our inability, as individuals and as a nation, to live within our means.

Supply and Demand

Secondly, I’ll discuss the laws of supply and demand. These laws are fundamental to determine prices in a market economy. We can argue that the laws of supply and demand continue to apply in command and control economies. Venezuela is a perfect example, where artificially low prices cause shortages in the official market and outrageously high prices on the black market.

Rather than delve into the details of the laws of supply and demand, let’s just cut to important factors that apply during an economic collapse.

Disruptions in the Supply Chain

If there are disruptions in the supply chain, particularly food production and distribution system, those disruptions will affect the final product (chicken, for example) and the intermediate products (soy meal, cracked corn, et cetera) used to produce the final product. We cannot assume that the normal bags of cracked corn, prepackaged chicken feed, and the ability to receive baby chicks in the mail will exist in their current form during an economic disruption. Actually, we should assume and plan for the opposite.

Temptations of Politicians to Exploit Problems

We’ll face the temptations of politicians to exploit problems for an easy fix. Unfortunately, “society” has been conditioned to expect political solutions to many of its problems. Combined with a seemingly insatiable lust for power among the ruling elite, we can expect to see a strong push towards centralized control and away from personal/distributed decision making. This always has the effect of worsening the problems that it was meant to solve. In dynamic systems, this effect is called “positive feedback”- a kind of vicious circle where a bad solution causes things to get worse and worse. (See Venezuela.)

Summary of Section 1

In our summary of section 1, let’s recognize that the laws of supply and demand are immutable and exist even in TEOTWAWKI. Disruptions in supply and demand transmit up and down the supply chain, affecting intermediate product (like animal feed, fertilizer, et cetera) prices, and availability. There will be immense political pressure to “fix” disruptions in food and other commodities, which, if done, will lead to both shortages in the “fixed” market and exorbitant prices in the black market.

Competent preppers will have robust supply chains in intermediate supply chains (animal feed, fertilizer, et cetera) and not just final products (human food).


Chaos: Making a New Science

Order Out of Chaos

Section 2 – Alternative Supply Chains of Chicken Feed

It is pretty easy to get a bag of pre-formulated chicken feed from your local Tractor Supply or Ag store. But what are the options when that supply is no longer an option?

Chickens are Omnivores

Chickens are omnivores and are very opportunistic eaters. You can see many articles and videos regarding “chicken tractors”, moveable pens that allows poultry to forage plant and bugs in a new “square” of pasture every day. If timed with rotation of larger mammals (cow, goat) pasture rotation, it has the advantage of collecting the nutrients that often disappear from hatching insect larvae located in the mammals’ feces. It provides good nutrition for the birds and fertilization to the ground. I would refer you to Joel Salatin as a clear innovator in this area. I will mention a few other food sources that I have personally experimented with.


Crabapples are rarely eaten by people, but they are necessary pollinators for commercial fruit trees. However, I have noticed that my free range chickens love crabapples. They will peck at the fallen crabapples until they are completely gone. As I have expanded my orchard, I have strategically placed some crabapple trees next to the chicken pens so some of the apples will directly fall in or near the enclosure. I think the diversity of food also helps them stay more healthy.

Outdoor Worm Bin

My part of the country can get very cold, almost -40 for some days of the year. Rather than build an indoor worm bin (my wife is patient with my eccentricities but has her limits), I decided to build an earth-sheltered worm bin that could withstand the coldest days. I dug a rectangle hole, about 3 feet by 4 feet and about 2 1/2 feet deep. I “seeded” the bottom of the bin with some worms and try to feed just one side of the bin at a time with compost feed. The “food” includes food scraps, grass clippings, leaves, et cetera. The worms will move from one side to the next as the food source changes, leaving behind some great organic fertilizer.

As autumn comes, I rake the leaves and pile them on top of the worm bin to a depth of four or five feet. That leaves the worms under five to six feet of organic matter insulation, which keeps them alive through the winter. By springtime, the leaves will settle and compact and leave a nice dense layer of organic matter on top of the worm bin.

All of this was done to preserve the worms through the coldest months of winter. However I noticed a bonus at springtime. Yes, the worms survived, but the layers of leaves on top provided an ideal environment for all kind of other bugs, including millipedes, spiders, beetles, et cetera, and chickens love them all. During their free range time, they go to the leaf pile, scratch the leaves and eat the bugs they find underneath. Their scratching also mixes the remaining organic matter and essentially they do all the “turning” work to create great organic fertilizer.


I have a regular supply of predators that have a taste for free-range chicken. I also have some very effective traps. After a raccoon has been dead a few days, there tends to be a nice supply of maggots on the underside of the carcass. Maggots are full of fat, and chickens love them. Yeah, I know it sounds gross, but it creates some delicious eggs. And there is some karma in the whole process. The chicken gets some nutrition from the creature that was going to kill and eat it.

Bug Zapper

Sometimes the bugs get pretty thick during the long days of summer. We have an electric bug zapper for the pesky insects that get past the initial layers of defense in the house. Well, I just put an aluminum pan underneath to collect the dead bugs. The chickens probably prefer the live ones, but they eat the recently dead ones like a bag of popcorn. In the “real” world, chickens get the needed calcium for strong egg shells from the exoskeletons of insects, and this is a completely natural food source for them. (I still supplement ground oyster shells to the chickens, though.)

Tomorrow, we will continue looking at food for the chickens and wrap this section up and then move on to look at alternatives for feeding pigs.

See Also:

SurvivalBlog Writing Contest

This has been part one of a two part entry for Round 76 of the SurvivalBlog non-fiction writing contest. The nearly $11,000 worth of prizes for this round include:

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Round 76 ends on May 31st, so get busy writing and e-mail us your entry. Remember that there is a 1,500-word minimum, and that articles on practical “how to” skills for survival have an advantage in the judging.


  1. Great article. Not too many people stop to think about how Supply & Demand plays a big role.
    We are constantly trying new foods with the chickens and we did not know they like crab apples! We have one very young tree that we haven’t gotten any fruit from yet. I think we may sprinkle a few more around the homestead. We share zucchini and cucumbers when we are over run or find a hidden giant. We are going to build a chicken garden out of scrap material as a “flower bed” in front of the coop. They also enjoy produce trimmings like strawberry tops, melon seeds and rinds and leftovers.

  2. The writer said he/she wanted to discuss Chaos theory and Supply and Demand; sounds like it could be interesting. I hope writer gets to it in part 2. Unpredictable triggers setting off extreme events with unpredictable results — sounds like the S_ _ _ hitting the fan followed by TEOTWAWKI. Raising chickens without store bought feed could be interesting to maybe there will be more on that in Part 2. I would like to be supportive but I can’t quite figuar out what the topic is for this one.

    1. Sorry, I agree first part may be a bit tough to follow. Take home message for the chaos discussion is that a collapse is inevitable, but timing is unpredictable.

      I hope the practical suggestions make up for the abstractness of the first part.

  3. Well i’m not sure “tough to follow” is the correct word. I think most of us can follow reasonably well but the introduction of the Chaos Theory may be to impress us, rather than provide any substantive material for prediction of SHTF events. Your notation of a butterfly flapping it’s wing off the coast of Africa seems to be a take off of Wikipedia’s description of Chaos Theory “butterfly flapping it’s wings in China can cause a hurricane in Texas”.

    I’m not sure that I am really interested in theoretical non linear applications to preparedness. Attempting to make something complex sometimes will lose the reader.

  4. Another bug getter, is the “fly trap” sold in hardware stores. They have a bait that is very attractive to flies. Add some water and tie it to a treeAnd, they stink. After a few days, you should have nice bunch of flies in the trap. Bob appetit.

  5. I hang a bug zapper in the coop’s run. The hens hear the zap, and head straight for where critter fritters inevitably land. It feeds the hens and controls the flies. Who could ask for more?

  6. As a visual/abstract thinking person myself, I found your method of connecting the dots quite interesting and thoughtful. The purpose to me just seems to describe the imminent failure of systems in a different way than how I have seen it described elsewhere. If there is a bucket of water balancing on a 2×4, it won’t take much to create a cascading event. This, to me, is more convincing than say some conspiracy theory where accurate facts are not easily obtainable to verify its validity and that therefore may or may not be easily written off by a reader. I look forward to part 2.

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