Our Barnyard Friends

Posted: 24th March 2010 by admin in Animals, food, Live Stock, Survival Food Strategy
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Before buying animals, learn as much as you can about them, but don’t expect to become an expert just by reading. When you get your animals you will need to also listen to them, watch them and notice their behaviors because they can tell you a lot.

Note: Do not give growth-stimulating hormones and medicated feed, because this may have long-term side effects that are as yet unknown. If medicine needs to be given for some reason do not eat, or drink anything from that animal for at lest two weeks.

 

1. Chickens

 

Chickens are possible the most common animal seen on small ranches and farms.  They are easy to raise and produce large quantities of meat and eggs.  A family of four will use about 30 chickens at a time:  10 laying hens, 15 fryers and broilers, and 5 larger capons.

Some good all-purpose choices include Rhode Island Red, White Leghorn, and California White.  Our favorite is Rhode Island Red, as we have found them to be great egg layer. Egg production from egg layers lasts about 16-18 months.  When your hens are no longer productive, they should be removed and used as a stewing hen.  Meat varieties like Cornish and Cornish Cross are bread for large breasts and rapid growth.

You can purchase laying and meat chickens at all stages of development, from eggs to mature birds.

Starting fertile eggs in an incubator is fun, but not especially practical for starting out.  It takes approximately 21 days for a fertile egg to hatch, and each egg must be turned 2 to 4 times per day.

Day-old and very young laying chicks can be purchased from any farm outlet.  They will need a brooder box with controlled temperature.  You will need to keep the chicks in the brooder box for 4 to 5 weeks, and count on a 20% mortality rate from hatching to the start of laying at 20-24 weeks.

Pullets, young hens approximately 20 weeks of age provide a practical alternative to eggs and chicks.  They are usually healthy and ready to start laying.  Pullets are a little more expensive but they are ready to put into a hen house.

Chickens are easy to care for.  They need feed, water, and a coop or house to live in.  You will want to build a protective fence of chicken wire around the enclosure or you can plan on having chickens in your garden and roosting in crazy places.  It is wise to have laying hens in one coop, fryers and capons in another.

The hen house needs feed and water containers and nesting boxes.  Make feed and water containers from available materials around your house, (wood, old plastic containers, old 5-gallon cans).  Make roosting benches along 2 walls, 3 feet above ground and 18 inches wide.  Use 1”x2” boards for the top and separate each board with a 2-inch space for droppings and cleaning.  On the roosting bench add a few nesting boxes, 1 for every 3 laying hens.  You can make nesting boxes from cardboard boxes or permanent wood structures.  The only necessity is that each box be about 14 inches wide, 20 inches long, and 20 inches high with a cover and easy-to-clean floor.  A little hay or straw makes good nesting material.

For full color step-by-step scale plans

* How to build a self enclosed mid-size chicken coop for up to 4 chickens using for just a small fraction of the price of buying a new one
* How to build a small portable chicken coop ark that makes cleaning simple and provides nutritious fertilizer for your garden
*  Simple tips on how to set-up your building site and select your materials that will make building quick and easy
* How to easily extend your coop into a free-range style enclosure
* How to pick the right breed of chicken for your climate, space and egg production
* How to easily breed chickens yourself and take care of the baby chicks so you have a self sustaining flock
* How to design a coop that keeps your chickens warm in even the coldest of climates
* The 9 daily, monthly and yearly chores you must perform to keep your chickens healthy, happy and laying eggs

2. Ducks

Ducks are extremely hardy and will forage for most of their food they need. You can supplement with the same food as chickens if needed. We buy young birds-ducks about 4 weeks old to start with. Two males and six females is a good number to start with. I think the Peking ducks are the best breed for meat, they are fast growing and taste the best, bigger then most other breeds and do not need any care. They lay 1 egg every other day and their eggs are great for baking cookies, cakes, pastry’s.

Duck eggs are larger then chicken eggs and have a stronger taste but can be treated and used the same way. Peking ducks are ready to butcher at about 8 to 10 pounds live weight.

 

 

3. Rabbits     

 

They are excellent animals to raise for meat. Not only are they delicious and hardy but they are also inexpensive to feed.

Rabbit pellets do provide the best diet, but food can be supplemented with hay, fresh grass, vegetables, fruits, and leaves.

My favorite breed is the New Zealand white. They have a good weight of about 5 pounds and when the rabbits are about 12 weeks old, they can be butchered as fryers.

If breading; a small box with a hole should be in the cage and you will need to put a male into your females cage for breading but after about two weeks or so he should be removed.

Note: Rabbits will need plenty of clean water and a small salt lick in the summer heat should be used.

 

Jonathan Deleon posted in Survival Texas.
created a doc "Raising Meat Rabbits: From the Country to the Big City ".
Jonathan Deleon created a doc “Raising Meat Rabbits: From the Country to the Big City “.

Raising Meat Rabbits: From the Country to the Big City

Jan 3rd, 2011 | By Esther | Category: Education, Skills | Print This Article

Raising rabbits for meat is a great, cost-effective way to keep your freezer full. Also, rabbit meat is very lean and healthy for those who are trying to cut fatty foods from their diets. Since raising rabbits doesn’t take up a whole lot of space, you don’t need to live on a farm to do it. People in the city who have a decent-sized garage can join the program and get a little taste of the country life. There are a few things that everyone should know before getting started though.

The first thing you want to do when getting started is to make sure you have the proper space to raise your rabbits. A medium-size garage is efficient when raising meat rabbits. You then want to furnish the garage with your rabbit pens. There are several different types of cages, but when living in the city, you should probably invest in rabbit pens with drop pans. This will help keep the floor of your garage clean and make clean up a breeze. You can use newspaper to line the drop pans, but wood shavings are ideal because they are more absorbent. You also want to get rabbit pens that help utilize the space you have. Rabbit pens that stack on top of each other will help conserve space and leave you room to still walk around. These pens will typically hold three to six adult rabbits.

What Types of Rabbits Make the Best Sense for Meat Production?

Once you have designed your rabbit shelter to your liking, the next step is to fill those cages with meat. There are many breeds of rabbit, but not all make meat rabbits. Some rabbits are strictly show or pet varieties, and would not serve your purpose very well. While any breed “can” be used for meat, the best ones have thick, heavy muscling along the back (loins) and hind legs. Finding the right breed of rabbit is critical. Some of the best choices are as follows:

  • New Zealand Whites
  • Californians
  • Beveren
  • American Chinchillas
  • Silver Fox
  • Satins
  • Cinnamon
  • Palomino
  • Champaign d’Argent

These are the most popular and common breeds of meat rabbits. These rabbits will get as big as ten to twelve pounds on the average. The mighty New Zealand White can actually attain weights of up to twenty-five pounds each. Keep in mind that “live weight” will produce less when slaughter time comes. However, rabbits are one of the most efficient animals for meat production livestock. The average cow converts live weight to what is known as “hanging weight” (the meat and carcass remaining after processing) at about 30 to 35%. Rabbits have a 50% on the average conversion, so for a ten-pound rabbit, you can expect a five-pound carcass for food.

Husbandry Practices

When raising meat rabbits, you want to keep a few choice breeding animals around. These rabbits are the lucky ones, and will not make it to the dinner table. Breeding your rabbits is actually a quick and easy process, but there are a few tricks to keep in mind when you get started. You always want to take your female rabbit and place it in the male rabbit pen. You wouldn’t think it makes a difference, but it does more than you think. Female rabbits tend to be overprotective of their space. If you place a male rabbit in the female pen, they will be fighting too much to get any breeding done.

The first time you introduce your rabbits, it may take them a little while to warm up to each other. Once they get accustomed to each other, the breeding process will only take a few minutes. You will know when the male gets the job done because like humans, he will just roll off and find a place to sleep. After they have bred, you remove the female and place her back in her pen. You will also need to put a nesting box in the female pen so the rabbit has a place to have her babies.

You can either buy a nesting box or, if you want to save some money, you can always make one yourself. They are really quite simple to assemble. You also want to make sure you put some wood shavings inside to help insulate the babies when the female isn’t in there. If it is the winter season and it’s really cold, you should use a heat lamp to keep the babies warm.

Caring for Your Meat Rabbits

A rabbit diet is pretty basic and cheap. You can find rabbit food online or at any local feed store. You really don’t have to worry about over-feeding your rabbits; they are pretty good about only eating when they need to. You just want to make sure they always have something to eat. Rabbits need a lot of water too, so you want to make sure they have plenty. You can use the same type of water bottle that is used for a hamster. Water bowls are another possibility, but they are easy to tip over and get dirty fast. The rabbits learn to drink from drip bottles quickly, and you won’t have to worry about cleanliness as much. A great addition to your rabbits’ diet are alfalfa cubes. You can get them in bags at a local feed store, or fresh from a field if you have a stand of alfalfa. Grass is good too. Just make sure there are no pesticides or chemicals on it. Make sure you place a little salt block in their pen as well.

Choosing the right time to butcher your rabbit is pretty important. For the best efficiency, you don’t want to feed them longer than you have to. Eight to twelve weeks is the ideal time to butcher your rabbit because by then it should have already reached its peak weight and will not get any bigger. The longer you keep them past twelve weeks, the meat gets older and tend to gets a bit tough. You can use older rabbits when they have outlived their production purposes to make fantastic stews, however. So there is no waste in the rabbit meat breeding process.

As you can see, raising meat rabbits is rather easy. Once you get started it only gets easier. The hardest part is the start up. It is well worth the effort to give meat rabbits a try. They are a great way for a meat lover to keep their freezer stocked with meat, and it can be done by anyone whether you are a rancher, or a city slicker.

 

4. Dairy Goats

Goats make ideal dairy animals for a small farm or homestead. They are easy-to-handle, and excellent foraging ability’s. Their milk if fully comparable in flavor and in some ways it is superior. It is naturally homogenized-the fat particles are so small, they do not separate from the milk and this makes it easier to digest. The breed I like are Nubians.

Goats will forage for most of there food but you should include well-cured hay at times and additional mixed-grain in their diet. Do not overfeed them with grain, since this can lead to bloat. To prevent overeating, feed grain only after they have eaten plenty of grass or hay and only enough for that moment. Make sure your goat area is free of buttercups. If ingested they will get sick and lethargic and will require you to inject them with a shot of vitamin B complex.

Note: You must have 2 goats minimum, if not they will get lonely and become to stressed.

  1. Emzi00 says:

    I liked the article but i have to disagree with the rabbit breeding.You should NEVER take the buck to the doe’s cage, always the other way around. Does are very territorial.And they should only be with eachother until the deed is done and should always be watched incase they decide to hurt the other.Two weeks is WAY to long especially since gestation is about a month. You can always go back and breed again if she doesn’t take , but you can’t save a dead rabbit that got killed from fighting.

    • admin says:

      I agree with you on that guest post. I have had rabbits for 8 years now. Thank you for pointing this out and will edit the guest post.