If you’re new to prepping or if you’re a prepper who has been exploring ways to become more self-sufficient for an extended SHTF event, you may have wondered is keeping backyard chickens feasible? The truth is that backyard chickens are a great way to get more prepared for a SHTF event and when managed correctly, could provide you with more than enough food as well as many other benefits for your homestead.
In fact, backyard chickens are just one of the options that many people consider to supplement their food source for a farm, urban homestead, or an off grid property. There are many benefits to keeping backyard chickens. But raising them takes a lot more than just picking up a couple chicks at your local tractor supply. If you’re going to keep chickens to save money, supplement your food sources or even as part of your SHTF planning, there are several things to consider.
Local Zoning Restrictions
The first step to determine whether or not it’s feasible to keep backyard chickens is to research local zoning restrictions for your area regarding livestock and specifically, poultry. If you’re within city limits, you may be prohibited from keeping chickens altogether.
Outside of the city limits, your ability to raise chickens may be restricted based on the amount of land your house sits on, the distance between you and your nearest neighbor, or what area of the township or county your home happens to be in. In some counties, if you have less than an acre of land, you are restricted to six chickens or less and they must be hens, not roosters. If your location doesn’t allow you to keep a rooster, raising your own chicks will be impossible without access to one. Even if you can’t keep a rooster to raise your own chickens, you can still keep backyard chickens for their other benefits.
Benefits of Backyard Chickens
The second thing to consider when deciding whether keeping backyard chickens is the reason or reasons behind your desire to keep chickens. There are many benefits to keeping them including:
- Fresh eggs that are more nutritious than store bought ones.
- Homegrown meat without added chemicals or hormones is a healthier food alternative.
- Companionship–chickens are fun and entertaining to watch, and often each develops their own personality.
- Fertilizer-chicken manure once it’s prepared properly is great compost material for your garden or flower beds. It’s high in nitrogen and other nutrients which can help improve your soil and help your plants grow healthy and strong.
- Feathers from non-productive birds (once properly cleaned) can be used for lots of different things including: stuffing pillows, plastic, insulation, absorption, to replace chair or cushion padding, and even to make paper.
- All-Natural Insect and Pest Control is made possible with backyard chickens. Your chickens if allowed to free range will eat many of the insects, bugs, and other pests such as snakes and mice that plaque your yard and garden.
- Garden and Lawn Cleanup is made easy because your backyard chickens will scratch and peck at the dirt and weeds in your garden and yard. This reduces the weeds you have to pull and makes the remaining weeds easier to remove.
- Kids 4-H Project-chickens are small and lightweight which makes them great 4-H projects for young children to start out with. They are fairly inexpensive and easy to care for which makes them a good option for households with budget constraints.
Once you’ve identified the benefits you wish to gain from raising backyard chickens, it’s time to consider some other factors about keeping backyard chickens.
Noise and Neighbors
Chickens are quiet most of the time. They can however be noisy when they are laying their eggs, and if something excites them such as a snake or other predators getting too close to the coop. Keep this in mind if you have neighbors nearby who may become agitated with early morning noise from your coop.
If you have a rooster, they will crow several times during the day and your chickens will make more noise when the rooster is trying to mate with them. In some cases, offering fresh eggs to your neighbors can help prevent them from being overly agitated with noise from your coop. Be sure to consider noise and smell when choosing the placement of your coop in relation to your neighbors.
With the proper setup, backyard chickens require very little maintenance. Chickens are roosting animals, which means they will need a coop that allows them to get up off the ground to sleep at night. The coop doesn’t need to be very big which makes them the perfect choice even for small suburban backyards.
They won’t wander very far from their coop, even during the day, so put the location of your coop well away from neighboring properties and away from the road to keep them from getting hit. A chicken coop only needs to be cleaned a couple times each year to keep your birds healthy and happy.
Chickens are surprisingly hardy animals, and do very well in most climates, even cold ones, as long as their coop is secure from predators and is dry and free of drafts. If you are raising your own chickens, you may need a heat lamp to keep new chicks warm during colder temperatures.
Most chickens will be perfectly content to free-range during the daylight hours, and then come back into the coop at night. Chickens will go into the coop and stay there at night but you’ll need to close them in to prevent predators from getting inside.
For chicken owners with limited yard space or in areas where dogs, hawks, or other predators are a threat during the day, a portable chicken pen that keeps chickens secure during the day but can be moved around can be beneficial. Chickens do require fresh water daily so be sure to consider ways to keep their water fresh, especially in cold climates where temperatures drop below freezing.
Cost of Keeping Backyard Chickens
Other than the cost to purchase or build the initial coop and a fenced in area for protection, chickens are relatively inexpensive to own. You will need to get at least one chicken waterer, a feed pan, and a nesting box or several with some straw to cushion the floor of the boxes.
Chicken feed is relatively inexpensive and can be fed in a pan or thrown out into the chicken pen or yard daily. In warmer climates, chickens can get a lot of the nutrients they need to survive if they are allowed to free range or scratch and peck around a pen or the yard to eat insects.
This makes chickens a great option for an off grid or grid down situation because with the right preparation, it is possible to raise chickens without having to purchase commercial chicken feed by letting them free range and throwing them scraps of food waste from your table.
Benefits of Backyard Chickens for the Elderly or Disabled
- Low maintenance required
- Very entertaining to watch
- Small and lightweight
- Scratching can help keep garden beds pliable
- Help control insects and pests naturally
- Physical tasks such as coop repairs and cleaning can be contracted out
- Inexpensive after initial outlay
- Can reduce waste by eating food scraps
Benefits of Backyard Chickens for Children
- Fun to watch and enjoyable pets
- Easy to care for
- Raising chickens is educational
- Caring for chickens helps instill responsibility
- Make great 4-H project animals
- Eggs and meat are more nutritious than store bought
Benefits of Backyard Chickens for Gardeners
- Can help clean garden in fall and ready it for spring planting
- Seasoned manure is great for the garden to improve soil
- Will eat garden pests and insects–natural pest control means healthier plants
- Eat excess or rotting fruits and vegetables
- Scratching keeps garden pliable and helps reduce weeding time
Benefits of Keeping Backyard Chickens for Preppers
- Easily sustainable source of fresh eggs for multiple cooking needs
- Nonproductive hens and roosters used as meat supply
- Low maintenance
- Require very little space
- Fares well as free range and eating food scraps if commercial feed is scarce
- Reduces waste by eating food scraps
Benefits of Chickens for the Health Conscious
- Free range chicken eggs have more nutrients in them.
- Meat from backyard chickens has less chemicals and no antibiotics
- You know where your chicken eggs and meat have been because you handle everything yourself, no worries about dirty factories, steroids, or other harmful things getting into your food.
- Other than the floor of their coop, you will find chickens to be fairly clean animals. They self groom and you will rarely have to clean up after them or bathe them.
If you’ve decided after reading this article that keeping backyard chickens is in fact feasible for you, congratulations! Your next order of business should be to research all the different breeds of chickens to find the breed that will best fulfill all of your needs.
Do you already own backyard chickens? What benefits are you getting from them? Do you have any tricks for keeping backyard chickens? If so, share them below for those who are just getting started.