The prepper has many preparedness areas to consider. Obtaining and managing food, water cleaning and storage, security, communications, and efficient transportation, are only some of the areas that a good prepper will be concerned with. Finding, cooking, and storing food rightly seem to be the focus of many preppers preparedness strategies. With food and water survival becomes much more likely. While you may be cold or wet, uncomfortable, cut off from the rest of the world or in an unsecured location , you will at least have the essentials that will allow survival. Everything else can be worked out later. Preppers as a whole are wonderful at buying food cheaply and drying, canning or otherwise preserving it for a later time. Many also have MREs or some kind of freeze dried food that is easy to carry and lasts for a decade or more [if stored at a reasonable temperature.] However, not so many preppers factor in the huge boost that animals can give to almost any prepper’s survival plan. I know that many people do not have much time, money or space for animals and thereby think that food on legs is not for them. Many animals require copious amounts of all three, but not all. We are going to quickly consider two animals that require little space, have little need for special equipment or pens and use very little space, specifically chickens and pigs.
First, the humble chicken. Chickens are the perfect prepping animal, as they will eat practically anything, need only a few square feet per bird, are very quiet (as long as you do not have any roosters) and are very inexpensive to maintain. Lets go through how to buy and care for chickens with a prepping mindset. Chicks can be raised any time of the year, although depending on your climate it may be easier to have them arrive in the spring so you can take advantage of the warm weather and leave them to their own devices sooner. We have always ordered chicks through Murray McMurray hatchery and have found them to be of consistently high quality. Make sure to order your chicks a couple of months before you want them to arrive as they sell out quickly. When the chicks arrive your Post Office will call you at about 6 am to tell you that your chicks have arrived and to come pick them up. You do not have to pick them up. You can let the Post Office deliver them as usual, but why subject the chicks to being bounced and jounced around in a mail truck for hours?
Once the chicks are home the first thing to do is to gently unpack them and check for any dead or injured chicks (which is rare). Next you need some sort of enclosure to keep them in, either indoors or outdoors in a barn or shelter of some sort. We have had great luck keeping our chicks in plastic kiddy pools. They are the right size and with some shavings on the bottom make a nice clean enclosure. You can also use cardboard and make an enclosure as well. Either way, put newspapers, shavings or sawdust down before you put the chicks in their new home to soak up any liquid from the chicks. Chicks need to be kept at about 98 degrees for the first several weeks of their life. One or two 250 watt heat lamps serve this purpose well and can be purchased for about $15 at a local hardware store. You can buy special chick feeders and waters for $7 or less but a low dish works quite well as a feeder and a low bowl or a mason jar turned upside down in a disposable aluminum pan works as a waterer.
At this point you just need to refill their food and water (and they will eat a lot) and adjust the heat lamp. If all the chicks are huddled tightly together then they are cold, so lower the heat lamp until they start running around a bit. The chicks may ship with a packet of Quik Chick, a blend of vitamins that you add to their water for the first few days. If so just follow the directions until the packet runs out. Within about two weeks you can start easing up on the heat lamp( as long as its not really cold) and move them to larger more roomy accommodations. There are many plans online for all sorts of chicken coops, chicken tractors and chicken enclosures. If you have the inclination to build something big and fancy that is fine, but all you really need is a small movable pen, or a simple stationary coop. If you have a small grassy area, or even better, a pasture, then a chicken tractor is totally the way to go. A chicken tractor is basically a wooden, metal or PVC pipe frame wrapped with chicken wire and a roof over some or all of it. The floor is either chicken wire or just open so that the chickens are able to eat the grass and bugs on the ground. After a couple of days in one area you just lift or drag the tractor to a new area and the process starts all over again. If you have the land (and you don’t need much) this is the ideal situation. You save on chicken feed as you only have to supplement what they are already eating from the land, and your chickens will be happier for being able to eat their natural diet. Chickens will also live quite happily in a stationary coop, a small garden shed works perfectly for this. You will have to regularly put some sort of absorbent material down such as pine shavings, sawdust, newspapers or something like that to help with smell. Unless you have a lot a chickens in a small space though, it’s really not that big of a problem. For feed, table scraps are ideal, they don’t cost anything and the diversity of the food means that unless you eat nothing but chicken nuggets, your animals will be getting all the nutrients they need. You can also buy chicken feed for about $13 per 50 pounds which, depending on how many birds you have, can last over a month. If you go with egg chickens it will be about 6 months before they begin laying, but once they start you should be getting about 1 egg per day per hen. Not bad when you consider that for a a couple dollars of startup cost per bird you can get an egg a day for several years. Meat chickens grow much faster, if you buy a modern meat hybrid the grow time is under nine weeks. If you go the meat chicken route make sure you call the slaughter house where you want to the have them butchered at least a month before your ready to bring them in, since they get backed up very fast. You can also buy chickens that can be used for both meat and eggs. In a survival situation these could be ideal since one breed of bird could supply you with both eggs and meat. Ask your chick supplier, they should be able to tell you some breeds that do both.
Now moving on to pigs. While the chicken can be kept by practically anyone with even a small back yard or grassy area, pigs will require slightly more in the way of room and containment. You will most likely require about 150 square feet per pig, so a 10 ft. by 15 ft. pen is adequate for one pig, although the more room the better. If you have more room to work with your pigs will benefit by having more natural food to eat and more room to run around. If possible, it is always better to get more then one pig, as just one can get lonely. If you can only get one pig you can make it work if you have other animals, such as a dog or cat, that might socialize with the pig. A old bowling ball can be put in with one or more pigs as a toy. They will roll it around with their snouts and it distracts them for hours. Every second they are rolling the ball around they aren’t thinking about how to dig out! Since pigs are the third smartest animals in the world after gorillas and dolphins, you need to put some planning into their housing and fencing. In the old days the test of a good fence was if it was horse high, bull tough and pig tight. Pigs are good diggers so it is important that there either be something around the walls to discourage them from digging out, or you need to bury the fence 16 inches so that they can not dig under it. For pens, dog kennels work very well, or you can just fence in a small pen with high quality woven or braided wire. We used Red Brand fencing which is very high quality, made in America steel fencing company. Such fencing can be bought at your local farm supply or hardware store, and if your only fencing a small area is usually quite reasonable. The two main things to remember about pigs are: they can dig and it is very important to provide them with a place to get out of the sun and cool off a bit. Pigs can actually get sun burned if there is no shade to protect them.
Pigs will literally eat anything. So the only problem with feeding them is finding enough food. If you call around to local restaurants and/or super markets and tell them your raising pigs they are usually happy to give you leftover or slightly out of date food for free. Frequently bread companies have distribution hubs where most of the bread that is out of code, or will be out of code before the next time that company shows up goes. Most of them will sell you a pickup truck load for $10. With a little ingenuity it’s very reasonable to be feeding at least two hogs for next to no out of pocket cost. Pigs usually grow for eight months before being sent to slaughter, so if you purchase them in the early spring they will be ready for slaughter in the late fall. Call a local slaughter house( do a web search for you area) in the early summer to make a slaughter appointment, as they will fill up fast!
With these two animals it is very possible to keep you and your family in meat, both in everyday life and in a survival situation. If you choose to get a couple of roosters with your chickens( which I recommend if you can put up with the crowing in the morning) then you can hatch chicks if you wish, thereby extending your flock. Then you will be getting both eggs and if needed you could eat some of the birds every now and again, since you will be constantly replenishing your stock with your newly hatched chicks. For the pigs, if you get a boar and a sow then every spring and sometimes in the fall you can will get a litter of between 8 to 12 piglets, enough to eat some and sell some to neighbors or friends. In sum, with these two animals, which are easy to keep, inexpensive to maintain and provide good food for their owners, a prepper can extend his food supply dramatically. Raising animals thoughtfully can be rewarding for the family, responsible for the environment, and provide nutritious and sustainable food for months and years to come.