Preparing for Chaos, Theory and Application- Part 2, by DF

In part 1 of this two-part article, I wrote about the theory behind the reason for preparing for chaos and provided and overview of the laws of supply and demand. Then, I moved from theory into practical matters. I began with alternative feed for chickens, as chickens are a means for sustaining us when the SHTF and our transportation system is not delivering feed, chicks, or supplies to our stores. We have looked at crabapples and how to provide them with various insects. Now, let’s look at sunflowers to use as chicken feed.

Sunflowers/Sunflower Seeds

One of my neighbors grew some sunflowers one year and complained how much work it was to prepare the sunflowers for human consumption. My response was simple; grow them for the chickens and let them do all the work. Chickens will peck at a sunflower head until all the seeds are consumed.

My first challenge was to find some good sunflower seed. The local bulk seed store did not sell seeds for growing, but they had black oil sunflower seeds for bird feed. I just bought one 50 lb. bag, and the seeds had a 97% germination rate. So that’s what I planted.

A Modified Three Sisters Plant Strategy

I co-planted the sunflowers with an heirloom variety of large winter squash as a kind of modified three sisters plant strategy, with only two sisters. Sunflowers replaced the corn in the sister group, providing some shade for the squash as well as a grid for the squash plants to climb. By arrival of autumn, I had a few hundred sunflower heads (and a lot of squash). It is important to harvest the sunflowers before the wild birds eat too many of them. Also the sunflower seeds provide valuable fat and oils to the chickens, but they can make them fat and unhealthy if fed exclusively. It is also important to have a mouse-free bin to store the sunflower heads, since rodents like them, too.

Mobile Chicken Tractors

Mobile chicken tractors are another option. They can be used to contain poultry and allow the birds an element of free-range access to forage for natural plants and insects.

Summary of Section 2

Crabapples and sunflowers are relatively easily-produced sources of vegetable poultry feed. An earth-sheltered worm bin can be used to help worms survive cold climates and provide a good source of protein feed for poultry. The compost byproduct is also very useful in the garden. Maggots can also provide protein to the chickens, in a pinch.

References for Section 2: Pastured Poultry Profit$

Section 3 – Food Sources for Pigs

We always hear about the efficiencies of scale from large manufacturers and mega farms. However, there are also some benefits that are unique to small-scale, family-sized farms. It is important to use those advantages for the family farm.

Scraps

Scraps do not scale up to large-scale farming, but they can make a good supplement, and almost a primary food source if you have a large enough group. Ideally, in TEOTWAWKI, wastage will be at a minimum, but there are plenty of things we don’t normally eat that pigs will consider a delicacy. These items include potato peels, squash rinds, watermelon rinds, outside cabbage leaves, liquid from yogurt, et cetera. Mix it all up, and put it in the slop bucket. If you have some food that has gone a little bad, the taste is ruined for humans, but heat it up to kill the bugs, and mix it in with all the other pig slop.

And you don’t have to wait for TEOTWAWKI to collect scraps for your pigs. Take a big bucket to the next church or company picnic. It is horrible how much food gets wasted, but your animals will appreciate the “repurposed” leftovers and wastage. Pigs are susceptible to many human diseases, so it is still a good idea to cook up scraps before giving them to your animals. There are Federal guidelines that specify the temperature and duration of the sterilization for slop feed. Although those guidelines are useful, it gets ridiculous when Federal law specifies that the slop has to be cooked in a government approved and monitored facility. Some of those laws many not be as critical for personal consumption in case of a real crisis.

Pigweed (Lamb’s Quarters/Amaranth)

In my part of the American Redoubt, any field that is cleared from grazing the previous year will just erupt in pigweed in the spring time. It is thick, so thick that you can’t walk in it without stepping on it. And it grows, well, like a weed and reseeds itself rapidly, especially when the ground is moist. While is it young, less that two feet in height, pigs will consume the entire plant. It is also much easier to just pull out the whole plant. When pigweed gets much taller than that, the stalk gets very tough, and the pigs will only eat the outside leaves.

A Continuous Supply

It’s not that difficult to keep a continuous supply of pigweed growing in a relatively small patch of dirt. I made a small path through the pigweed patch and just go through thinning the largest plants and those which are growing really close to each other. That small patch of dirt soon sprouted some replacement plants. Gathering large armful of plants twice a day, and three times on weekends, I fed five pigs on just pigweed for over a month in the spring. Later in the year, I would collect pigweed from the field, or even my neighbors’ fields and use it to supplement the other food. It became their favorite food. I knew because they would always eat the pigweed first.

Pigweed will still grow in the hot, dry summer, but the stalks become thick and tough to eat and harvest. In this weather, it will not reseed itself as easily. To keep a continuous supply going for longer, it requires some kind of irrigation when the weather gets hot and dry. It may seem silly to water weeds, but I don’t know of any other plant that just produces so much biomass so quickly with just a little bit of attention.

Pen Rotation

I might also mention that pigs will forage pigweed themselves if it is in their pen. But pigs lack the skills to keep a continuous supply growing and will quickly trample every living thing in their pen. However, through pen rotation, it is possible to use the empty fields created by the pigs as a place for pigweed to reseed itself the next spring. I have three pens that I rotate the pigs between, and the two “cleared” pens for planting people crops or fallow pigweed pastures.

Purslane

Purslane is a remarkable weed. I have seen it growing on my land, in the frigid northwest U.S., and in the deserts of the Arabian peninsula. Supposedly, it contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other leafy vegetable plant. I have seen it for sale in the markets in the Middle East, and it is extremely drought tolerant.

Pigs don’t seem to like purslane as well as pigweed, but they will eat it when they are hungry (and pigs seem to be always hungry). It is relatively easy to pull up. It also seems to grow best in moist ground in the spring on clear dirt. Once you recognize it, you can use it to supplement other pig food. I don’t have any scientific data to prove it, but I do think that it probably helps keep the pigs healthy, just like the Omega-3’s help keep people healthy.

Corn Stalks

Once your pick your corn, don’t waste any time giving the corn stalks to the pigs. My pigs would strip down the leaves of corn stalks one layer at a time until nothing was left. Once the plants were drier, they were less interested in the plants or wouldn’t eat the whole stalk.

Changing Pig Food

In regards to changing pig food, pigs have the reputation for a willingness to eat anything. However, that skill is really with goats. Pigs can actually be quite picky. There is technique involved in getting them to eat new foods as the seasons and forage changes. I’ll give you a couple of stories.

Expensive, “Blue Ribbon” Pig Food the Pigs Never Touched

I had been feeding my five pigs mostly foraged food when one of them became ill. He would come out and sniff at the food, and then he’d just go lie down again. Like kids in grade school, they all got sick, one after the other. I didn’t want to lose these animals, so I went to my local farm supply store and bought the most expensive, “Blue Ribbon” pig food I could find. The pigs never touched that stuff, whether healthy or ill. They were not used to it. Eventually I had to mix it in with their other food, just to get rid of it. (The pigs eventually just got better and started eating again.)

Introducing Crabapples to My Pigs

When early autumn arrived, I tried introducing crabapples to my pigs. (How iconic is the apple in the pigs mouth, right?) They wouldn’t touch them. So I chopped them up into little pieces and mixed it in with their normal food. They would separate the apple bits with their snouts and not eat them. I almost gave up. Then I made them skip a meal, and the next meal I gave them only crabapples. Eventually they got the idea, and it became a favorite food. I’d bring a 5-gallon bucket down to them, and they would chase the apples all over the pen to get more than their siblings. They really are very similar to humans in that way. A PBJ is just wonderful, if I am really hungry.

Summary of Section 3

In summary, there are a variety of alternative food sources for pigs. Food scraps are a good source of food for pigs and represent an economy-of-small-scale that is not available on a commercial level. Pigweed is very prolific and seeds itself on bare land in wet weather. It can be watered in dry weather to keep a continuous supply of plants that pigs will relish. Purslane, corn stalks, and crabapples are also valuable plant sources to feed pigs during different seasons. Sometimes pigs need to experience a bit of hunger to be convinced to try new foods.

References for Section 3: The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival

See Also:

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7 Comments

  1. I have found that if you cook potatoe peels, my pigs would love them. Also, the chickens too. Just a couple of minutes in the microwave does the trick to get them soft. Boiling takes longer of course.

  2. Another good source of food for your porkers are pumpkins. They are well liked, easy to raise, nutritious and best of all they store well for winter feeding when other fresh food may be lacking. Another use for pumpkins is for dogs that are prone to constipation, I steam chunks in the microwave, freeze baggies for future use and feed approx. 2 tbs/ day to our old dog and haven’t had to go to the vet over this issue again. I read once long ago that feeding some pumpkin to pregnant pigs makes for easier birthing. If you have any neighbors raising them commercially for Halloween or holiday decorations you might want to talk to them about gleaning. Be sure to thank them with some of you pork. I have seen fields with literally tons of left over pumpkins and it is sure easier to pick up a 10 lb. pumpkin than 10 lbs of weeds. I haven’t tried them on chickens yet but I think they might be a good supplement. Let me know.

  3. Purslane sells for a hefty price at my local farmer’s market in the city. It’s tart but I enjoy small amounts in my salad. It also grows wild here in the NE. I’ve often seen it in cracks in the sidewalks.

  4. I know a guy who wrote a book about lots of things, and one of them was feeding pigs. I think the phrase was, “time to feed the hogs”. I’ll leave it at that. Long book, very popular with the “gun culture” types. The US Army and other Armed Forces routinely make a bunch of money selling mess hall garbage (edible only) to local pig farmers, to be boiled first and then fed to the pigs. Trichinosis is to be avoided at all costs. And all pork should be cooked well done. Pigs will eat their young at times, seen it myself. Not much different from people.

  5. Slightly off topic… when you can’t get chicks in the mail or at the feed store…
    Can anyone recommend a “broody” strain of chickens that still has the instinct to sit on their eggs and care for its young? I remember seeing feral chickens with chicks in Hawaii that obviously reverted to their natural instincts.
    My chickens loved pumpkins… filled up the back of the truck with free ones from the local grocery store after Halloween.

    1. Professor Wagstaff, get some bantam hens (old farmers call them “banties”) They will attempt to hatch anything! I had one set on a doorknob she found in the barn & another who would wait for the barn cat to leave her kittens for a few minutes and then run over & spread out on the babies. She would fight the cat when she tried to reclaim her babies. You will want larger hens for meat chickens but keep a few bantams for broody hens. As for the author insinuating goats will eat anything, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

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