Prepper Pards – Poultry by R. Ann Parris for PrepperGroups.com
For many of us, animals are part of everyday life. With the exception of the days/weeks we spend stressing over their health and well-being and that awful day we lose them, they’re good for us, both mentally and physically.
Like our small children, they are usually burdens to our budgets of time and resources (but worth it). However, incorporated into our prepper plans, they can work for us – even beyond the “normal” ways we incorporate animals in design and function of landscapes in permaculture. We can make use of our poultry lots of ways.
Poultry are predators.
Most GP/DP heritage and homestead breeds are happy to hunt, and pretty good at it. That means we can lay on plastic hex mesh or longer-lasting wire of the same general design, upgrade to somewhat pricey mobile electric fencing, avail ourselves of store-bought or salvaged cattle panels of rectangular-mesh “dog” or “cattle” wire, or scavenge storm doors and shipping pallets to create nice little runs. Permanent or temporary, we can arrange those runs so the birds will help keep all kinds of areas bug- and even mouse-free: wood piles, storage sheds, perimeters of gardens, even working rotations around our homes and larger livestock enclosures and barns.
(Waste will build up, so that is intended to be on a temporary, rotating basis.)
Chickens can replace yard boys.
Chickens are awful things, because they’re diggers and grazers, but chickens are also incredibly useful for the exact same reasons. We can build temp pens or turn the materials above into boxes – or use wire dog kennels and crates – to top garden beds or rows, or surround compost heaps, and take advantage of that trait.
Other poultry will happily remove seed, spread and turn compost digging for munchies, and sometimes are even better at removing pest insects without disturbing vegetation – or as much of it. Chickens will go further and strip out weeds, go back for less-tasty options, and even remove roots as they start digging deep.
That can be particularly handy when we’re bucking out a new bed, or trying to reclaim one from weeds.
They regularly need to be focused so they eat what we want, not what we’d rather keep, but for the price of the pens and a few minutes of moving hens around, we walk away to complete another task while they work for us.
Doing so will also make for more entertained birds, which means less fussiness, and help reduce mess in the primary coop pen.
Broody hens are not discerning.
Not all hens will go broody, particularly at young, productive laying ages, but once they are, whew, Katy bar the door. Some of them would happily sit a half-grown emu. That can save us both effort and money, especially with smaller and mid-sized flocks and especially when we have mixed flocks of domestic fowl and gamebirds.
Chickens are about the only truly copious producers of the lot. They also tend to be excellent mothers, watchful and defensive enough without excessive flightiness (#1 culprit: guineas) or mortal stupidity (also guineas).
That means our high-production chicken hens and low-production geese, turkey, and quail can continue laying while a slower-laying hen raises their offspring. With guineafowl and ducks, the benefits are even greater, because they can get back to less-guarded foraging that rids our gardens and orchards of pests without endangering our harvests – or as much of it.
And while they’re at it, the bitty hens will be getting more of those offspring through to harvest-age or maturity than the less-skilled mothers of the poultry world.
Broody hens can eliminate box brooders.
There are pro-con’s with it, but with a good hen, we no longer need to burn electricity and turn eggs, and once they’re hatched, we need added heat less – which reduces the risks of the livestock-related fires that are all too common even now. There’s also bitty hens that will even surrogate fluffy peepers they didn’t hatch, which can save those young birds if an outage or malfunction suddenly removes heat lamps.
Birds are messy and noisy, they have needs and restrictions, but they’re also homestead workhorses.
There’s some extra steps and effort sometimes, but the ability to tap animals we already have to perform chores for us can actually increase our efficiency – especially for times we can’t access outside resources. The production and labor they offer make poultry particularly helpful prepper partners.