SHTF-Feed Chickens & Rabbits When Feed Stores are Gone
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You have been working very hard to prepare for the day when the grid goes down........You have stocked up as much supplies for your family as possible.........You have the chickens and rabbits in place to provide eggs and meat for your family..........You have tons of chicken and rabbit feed stocked up. The question is......What will you feed the chickens and rabbits when what feed you have stocked up for them runs out? The grid is down and the feed stores closed permanently months ago! How will you feed your chickens and rabbits three hundred and sixty five days a year now?!!!!!!
That is a very real and quite possible future scenario facing many who prepare. The bottom line in preparing is that it only prolongs the inevitable end of survival, if the very act and result of making preparations is not self-sustaining!
Always.....Always prepare in such a way as to keep in mind that whatever you buy now will eventually wear out or run out! The real goal to preparing should be with building a self-sustaining life for not just your family, but for your animals too.
Those tons of stocked up chicken and rabbit feed will eventually run out. So the question is.......How do you feed your chickens and rabbits in a way that is perpetually self-sustaining?
The answer is simple........Grow your own feed! Homegrown rabbit feed is all from seed. Homegrown chicken feed is mostly from seed, but they also require higher protein intake which will be explained further on in this article. First I'll deal with the seeds needed for feed.
I am assuming that all preppers know to stock up on, and only use non-GMO heirloom seeds, to grow food for their family. Part of the answer to a long-term supply of chicken and rabbit feed is to included them in your plans of stocking up seeds! Stock up on Alfalfa and Red Clover seeds too!
Alfalfa and Red Clover will grow just about anywhere, as long as they have the same basic requirements met as the vegetables you grow for your family, and they will provide most of the nutrition chickens and rabbits need.
It only takes an area 100' x 100' to grow enough Alfalfa and Red Clover, I call AC Hay, to feed a flock of twenty chickens and 10 adult rabbits eight months out of the year, until it is time to cut the AC hay again!
In moderate climates AC hay is a perennial which comes back by itself without replanting every year, once established. The only thing that needs done from year to year is cut, dry, and store the AC hay. Three crops of hay can be cut and dried each year, providing enough food for chickens and rabbits all year!
It is best to air dry the AC hay out of the sun, as quickly as possible. This preserves much of the chlorophyll and other essential nutrients the animals need. A really inexpensive hay drying shed can be built out of posts, pallets, tin, some 2' x 4' x 8'ers, and screen wire if you set your mind to scavenging and re-purposing. The tin roof will provide a low heat inside, and the open slatted, screen covered pallet sides provide plenty of ventilation. Then, when this small building is not being used to dry animal feed, it can be used to dry food and herbs for the family!
Some sort of enclosed dry storage is needed for the dry hay, so it doesn't draw moisture, after it is dried. This can be an existing barn loft, a corner of a large metal shed, or even another pallet shed!
So the dry hay won't be trampled and wasted when feeding it to the animals, make little feeding bins out of chicken wire, and attatch to the wall of the chicken house inside, and to the inside of the rabbit cages. This way the animals reach in through the holes in the chicken wire to get a bite of their hay, instead of trampling it right away.
Chickens and rabbits also need for you to grow field corn for them. Let the ears stand on the stalk until dry in fall, then store whole in a dry building, or bin. If you have trouble with deer and racoon eating the corn, place sachets of garden sulfur, protected by the cutoff bottom of a two liter soda bottle on top, suspended underneath by a wire or string going through a small hole in the inverted soda bottle bottom. Hang or put on posts about every twenty feet. Critters hate the smell and stay away!
Use a corn shelling machine and a corn cracking mill to break up the kernels before feeding to the animals. These machines are expensive to buy, but there is an alternative. Free PDF plans for a corn shelling machine and a corn cracking machine can be found on the internet. (See my article on building your own SHTF library, on how to obtain these files).
With the AC hay and corn, your chickens and rabbits now have the bulk of their dietary needs met. The only other thing you need to consider, to work with your AC hay year after year, is to make sure you have enough hand tools to cut and move the hay around.
AC hay and corn.......these are the chicken and rabbit staples. This is not all they need though......
Feed both chickens and rabbits as much live greens as possible, whenever possible. This can be table scraps of Lettuce from your greenhouse in the winter, extra Carrots and greens you grow in the greenhouse and garden just for the animals, Duckweed you've scooped off the top of a pond or other standing water, Wild Honeysuckle and Kudzu vines, and even Sweet Potato vines you plant for them.
Chickens do have additional protein requirements that rabbits do not. Provide them enough protein and it keeps them not only laying regularly, but also keeps them from cannibalizing each other. You can also 'grow' your own chicken protein that costs nothing!
Before I continue explaining how to 'grow' free chicken protein food, remember...........we do what we have to do to maintain a self-sustaining life, and some things are not always pleasant. We are just playing at prepping, or very naive to think everything about a self-sustaining life will be easy or pleasant. The best way to approach the more unpleasant side of a self-sustaining life is to have the mindset that we are never too good to get our hands dirty to provide for our loved ones. With that said.........here is how to 'grow' your own protein chicken food.... .
Do this in warm weather when there is fly activity. To 'grow' your own chicken protein, collect as many plastic five gallon buckets as you can, about twenty, for a flock of twenty chickens. Next add a few table scraps to each bucket, then fill half full of water. Place the buckets out, away from the house, in an area where racoons and other nocturnal carnivores and omnivores can't get to the buckets.
Let the buckets set for three days, then check to see if they have maggot activity. It only takes about a week for the surface to become completely covered with huge blackfly maggots. This is the chicken's protein and food!
Strain the buckets over the compost pile, before the maggots have a chance to turn into flys, then dry on screen racks especially made for making chicken protein feed, and dry in your AC hay drying shed. Don't use the racks for drying anything else. Store the dry protein chicken feed in metal or plastic garbage cans.
Garbage cans with wheels are very handy for this. Keep plastic cans out of the sun's UV so they will last more than their normal UV lifespan of ten years, and/or clean off the manufacturing oils from the surface, dry, then spray paint them with plastic spray paint, and keep them stored where they will stay dry.
Repeat the process of 'growing' chicken protein over and over, while the warm weather opportunity is there. Twenty chickens will need approximately one full garbage can for one full year. Use an empty vegetable tin can to sprinkle out one can a day of this dried protein feed.
Chickens will not only give you meat and eggs, but can help lighten your workload, in maintaining a self-sustaining life. Consider it them paying you back for the the stinky job of you 'growing' their protein food! :-) Here is how they can help.......
Build a wood frame out in the chicken yard. This should be less than twelve inches tall. Scavenged and repurpose deck boards are perfect for this. Make the frame at least eight foot square, and two deck boards high. Leave a small gap in one side for the very young chickens to get in. The older chickens simply hop over the top to get in. Now the only thing you have to do is throw things you want composted out there! The chickens will do the rest!
Chickens love to scratch and dig around here and there in their compost box! They are really fun to watch in their excited, happy exuberance! By providing them with things like garden weeds, potato peels, squash and melon rinds, vegetable and bread scrapes, and anything else off the table, they happily peck at, break apart, break down, and poo on whatever you throw in there! The result? Compost made in a fraction of the time it takes to make the conventional way! Plus, literally every scrap of the food you labor so hard for is used and not wasted! Just never feed chickens raw meat scraps. It must always be cooked or the raw meat will promote cannibalism in the flock.
One last chicken nutritional requirement to mention for a self-sustaining life, and that is calcium. They must have a calcium supply to make thick eggshells, which is especially important for the ole settin hen to hatch new chicks, but also to keep the chickens from breaking and eating the eggs laid.
You can stock up on crushed oyster shell from the feed store. A flock of twenty only needs about one vegetable tin can dipper of this each week, but here again, this too will eventually run out. There is however another way to provide calcium for the chickens though.......
Now remember..... chickens won't hesitate going into the nest where eggs are waiting for you to gather them and eat every last one of them, if they are lacking calcium in their diet! So!..........let them have the eggshells! Just make sure to save all the eggshells you use in the house, and rinse them out well. This will prevent them for developing a taste for egg yoke. Crush the shells when dry, then sprinkle them back out in the chicken yard for them.
Of all the things chickens and rabbits need, most you can grow yourself. Your animals need more than just food and water though to stay healthy.
You can sprinkle hardwood ashes that have not been rained on around the chicken yard, inside the nests, and roosts to keep down mite infestations, if need be also, but there is one thing which serves the same purpose, you may consider a top-of-the-list stock up item..........
The one, and most important item to spend money on and to stock up on for your animals, rather than feed and oyster shell, is diatomaceous earth! You can get food grade diatomaceous earth from the feed store. Sprinkle a tiny bit in the entire chicken area to keep them wormed and mite free. I put my diatomaceous earth in an empty plastic Parmeasan cheese shaker. It works perfectly without wasting any!
Please take time to do research on this marvelous, all encompassing, essential stock up item, diatomaceous earth. It will keep your animals, your garden, and you at peak health for many years! As long as it says 'food grade' on the bag from the feed store, humans can use it too! Again.....please do the reasearch on this wonderful, natural mineral, and stock up on it!
What will you do when the feed stores close permanently and you can't buy more chicken and rabbit feed?.........Grow your own!
I hope this helps.Anonymous Ole Prepper