Preparing for Grid Down: Raising Chickens 101

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So, what’s the current price for a dozen eggs where you live? Let’s talk about the benefits of raising chickens, as part of your plan for preparing for a grid-down event.

In 2022, the United States experienced a highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak that led to the deaths of millions of egg-laying hens. This outbreak drastically reduced the egg supply, consequently driving egg prices to reach record highs. By December 2022, the cost of a dozen eggs had surged to nearly $5. 

The population of egg-laying hens has since started to recover, and as of the summer of 2023, egg prices have returned to a national average of approximately $1.20 per dozen. However, there is no doubt that with the ongoing depreciation of the dollar and a rise in “accidents” affecting the US food supply, we will likely continue to face escalating prices for eggs, assuming they are even available.

What does grid-down have to do with chickens?

It’s obvious that if we face a grid down situation as a result of a nuclear attack, unless you had a means of raising chickens in your fallout shelter….you would have no chickens.

If we faced a grid-down situation from a complete loss of the power grid due to EMP from a solar event or a High-Altitude EMP event, then chickens could become one of your best investments.

The Great Depression in America brought about widespread unemployment and economic hardship. Many families turned to raising chickens as a means of producing their food and generating a small income. Chickens provided a relatively inexpensive source of protein through their eggs and meat.

Chickens also played a role in bartering and trading. People could exchange surplus eggs, meat, or even live chickens for other goods or services they needed. 

This part of the Great Depression should serve as a course on how chickens can be highly important in your preparation for a grid-down event.

Let’s look at how you can get started raising your chickens, no matter where you live. Keep in mind that none of the following is medical advice. 

Check with a veterinarian if you have any health issues with your flock. With that said, raising chickens can sound intimidating, but it’s not. After your first season with your birds, you come to see how natural it feels to have chickens.

Raising Chickens
Raising Chickens

How to Raise Chickens?

Living in a rural area generally allows the keeping of chickens without encountering issues. However, it’s advisable to review any covenants and perhaps discuss your intentions with nearby neighbors, if you have them. Additionally, having a rooster would make it simpler for the chickens to naturally replenish their population.

Residing in more urban or city environments might require additional steps. It’s recommended to get in touch with your local government officials to inquire about your city’s regulations regarding chickens, determining whether backyard chickens are permitted. 

In numerous urban communities, there are local meetups or online chat groups dedicated to the subject of raising backyard chickens. Once you are familiar with the regulations concerning backyard chickens, getting started should be straightforward.

It’s best to start with a small number of chickens. Chicks are flock-oriented, which means they like to be in bigger groups, but it’s recommended to start with no less than 3 birds. For a family of 3-4 people, it’s recommended to start off with 5-6 chickens which should give you about 6 eggs each day. There are a lot of factors in the laying pattern, but usually, you’ll get 1 egg per day, per chicken. This can still add up!

Now, your chickens will need a home or a coop, as well as space to move around, known as a “run”. Depending on size and breed, the average bird will need about 5 square feet of coop space and about 10 square feet of run space. This is easily achievable in most sub-urban areas and urban areas where chickens are allowed. If you live in the country, the coop and run are still very important, but chickens work best when they can roam in more open spaces.

You can find coops online through Amazon, but if you want quality, we recommend OverEZ Coops. While we are in no way affiliated with OverEZ, we have purchased products from them and these are quality coops and runs.

Of course, if you are handy and have the materials, the best option is to build your own coop.

What Do Chickens Eat?

If you live in the country or even in some suburbs, chickens will need to be fed very little during the spring, summer, and fall. If possible, allow chickens to free-range or forage in a secure area. They’ll find insects, plants, and other natural food sources that supplement their diet and contribute to their well-being.

Access to clean and fresh water is essential at all times. Chickens need water for digestion, temperature regulation, and overall health.

Where free-range feeding is not an option, or in addition to free range as well as in the north, during cold seasons, the foundation of a chicken’s diet should be a high-quality commercial chicken feed. These feeds are formulated to provide the necessary nutrients, including protein, vitamins, and minerals. 

Choose feed appropriate for the stage of life your chickens are in, whether they’re chicks, layers, or broilers. Food can be purchased at your local hardware stores, country stores, or online as well.

How Do I Keep Chickens Warm in Winter?

Chickens are hearty creatures and generally take care of themselves outside of feeding and watering. 

However, in areas where it gets very cold, they will need your help to stay warm. The happier your chickens are, the more eggs they produce.  

Insulate the chicken coop to prevent drafts and maintain a comfortable temperature. Seal any gaps or cracks in the walls and windows. Proper insulation can help retain heat and block out cold winds.

While insulation is important, ensure that the coop has proper ventilation to prevent moisture buildup. Moisture can lead to frostbite and other health issues. Use vents positioned above roosting areas to allow fresh air circulation without causing drafts.

Add a thick layer of dry bedding material on the coop floor. Pine shavings, straw, or hay can provide insulation from the cold ground and help trap body heat. Regularly clean and replace bedding to maintain cleanliness and warmth.

Make sure you have wide roosting bars for chickens to perch on. Chickens huddle together at night to conserve heat, so provide enough space for them to comfortably roost close to each other.

Ensure your chickens have access to unfrozen water. Use heated waterers or check water frequently to prevent freezing. Dehydration can be a concern during winter.

Increase their calorie intake by offering higher-energy feeds, such as scratch grains, during colder weather. Extra calories help chickens generate more body heat. Give your chickens warm treats like cooked oatmeal or scrambled eggs. Warm foods can help raise their body temperature slightly.

If your chickens have an outdoor run, consider covering it with clear plastic or tarp to create a windbreak and provide some outdoor space even during colder days.

How to Keep Chickens Healthy?

Chicken health and disease prevention are important concerns for backyard chicken keepers. Here are a few general tips for helping with the overall health of your flock.

Provide a clean and spacious coop with proper ventilation. Regularly clean out soiled bedding and droppings to prevent the buildup of harmful bacteria and parasites.

Feed your chickens a balanced, high-quality commercial feed appropriate for their age and purpose (meat or egg production). Ensure the feed is stored in a dry and rodent-free area. And of course, let them free range whenever possible.

Ensure your chickens have access to clean and fresh water at all times. Dehydration can lead to health issues.

Implement a regular deworming schedule to control internal parasites. External parasites like mites and lice should also be managed through dust baths, cleaning, and appropriate treatments. Deworming is easy and the best way to do it is by adding dewormer to food or water. Take the natural approach by adding diatomaceous earth or pumpkin and squash to the chicken’s diet. You can also use chemical dewormers like fenbendazole or ivermectin. Again, if you have issues or questions, consult with a veterinarian or other chicken experts.

Now you should be asking…and our final section here, Where Do I Get My Chickens?

If you’re looking to buy chickens as a beginner, there are several options.  

Check for local hatcheries or poultry farms in your area. These establishments often offer a variety of chicken breeds suitable for beginners. Buying from a local hatchery can also be advantageous because the chickens are likely to be acclimated to your region’s climate.

Many feed and farm supply stores sell chicks and pullets (young hens) during the spring and early summer. This can be a convenient option, as they often provide the necessary supplies and information for raising chicks.

Several online hatcheries specialize in shipping chicks directly to your doorstep. Research reputable hatcheries with good reviews and a history of healthy birds. Keep in mind that shipping live animals can be stressful for the chicks, so choose a hatchery with a good reputation.

In our case, we live close to communities of Hutterites, who are closely related to Amish people. In some of these communities, chickens will be culled after a short period of egg production. In many cases, you can buy live chickens from these communities very affordably. This also gives the birds a chance at a longer life. 

See, that doesn’t sound so complicated right?

Chickens are a wise choice for your grid-down preparedness list. Now you can have a resource for protein through eggs and poultry meat. 

You’ll be able to sell eggs, meat, and even live chickens in the event they become unavailable through stores or open markets.

That’s it for now. We hope you found this information helpful and informative. 

Stay safe and keep preparing.