Thursday, January 14, 2010

Jelly Bellys and Chickens

I don't know about you, but if I were forced to eat only what I've got stashed in a cold, dark room for a year, well, I can think of things more pleasant. However, if it's that or starve, believe me, I'd be very grateful! But it's the extras - things beyond survival basics - that make preparedness more appealing, even an enjoyable way of life.

First of all, I keep a little stash of M&M's, Jelly Belly's and hard candies between the rolled oats and powdered milk. It's "comfort food". But what I really need, is something FRESH! A garden is ideal. A greenhouse would be great. If the best you can do is a few herbs and vegies in a window box - absolutely do it! I store garden seeds and sprouting seeds. If any of you are interested in sprouting but don't know how to go about it, I can post some sprouting info.

Today, I want to peak your interest in other kinds of fresh foods. Imagine there's a food shortage going on and you have fresh drumsticks on the roost! How about organic eggs straight from the nest. Or fresh milk right out of the udder! Mmmmmmm!

Goats and chickens are fairly easy to raise and they aren't very expensive to keep. It's probably easier to have goats and chickens than you think. I know at least a dozen different people who live in little houses in town with little back yards and keep either goats or chickens, or both. For now let's just talk about chickens.

Chickens need a coop with nesting boxes where they can stay warm and dry, and a penned-in area outside surrounded with chicken wire, including on top. That's as much for keeping predators out as it is for keeping the chickens in. You can get ample ideas and building plans from books or the internet on how to build a simple chicken coop.

Some people just scatter feed every day, but I'd recommend a feed trough where their food can stay dry. Chicken feed isn't very expensive and well worth it for all the eggs and meat you can raise. They also need a clean water source. It's nice to keep sawdust or something in the coop to make cleaning it out easier. If you start with new chicks, don't make the mistake of putting them on straw. The straw is slippery and their little legs are not strong enough. We ended up with a few that couldn't stand up on the straw and by the time we realized it, they were crippled.

I'm not going to go into depth here on the details. I'd just like more people to be aware of how do-able it can be, even if you live in town. You can raise "fryers" for meat or "layers" for eggs, or both. We have a friend with 12 chickens who gets more eggs than he knows what to do with. He gives most of them away. I asked him why he doesn't just keep fewer chickens. He says he thinks harder times are just around the corner and he'd rather have too much than not enough, because he can sell them or trade for other things he may need, or just be able to help other people out. Trading and bartering is a great win-win situation. If you have children, it's a wonderful experience for them to have some animals to take care of. There is so much to be learned by observing and working with nature.

The more we can do now to LIVE more self-reliantly, the less trauma and crisis we will go through when times are harder and supplies may be hard to come by. For most people it will be a huge adjustment to go from living daily off the convenience of store shelves, to trying to figure out how to take care of themselves. I know a lot of people who wouldn't hardly notice the difference if the world shut down, because they don't have to rely on anyone else to live comfortably now. They would just keep on doing what they are doing. The closer we can get to that, the better off we'll be.

Google "Backyard Chicken Coops" and you'll be amazed at how popular raising chickens in the back yard is! There are designs that take as little as 10 x 6 feet for a coop and small run for 3 good laying hens. Here are a few nice ideas from Google Images:

With a few chickens and a stash of Jelly Bellys, you'll be on your way to being truly prepared! And, it's a much healthier way to live! (Well, maybe not the Jelly Bellys.) In the next post, I'll convince you that no home or family is complete without a couple of little goats!

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