Urban preppers and homesteaders may have limited choices when it comes to keeping livestock, but that doesn’t mean preppers living on small and highly regulated acreage can’t raise their own meat and eggs.
Chickens are the most common livestock raised by preppers, regardless of where they live. This dual-purpose livestock bolsters the amount of protein and nutrient-rich food the prepper family can cultivate during a long-term disaster.
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Benefits of Keeping Chickens
It would be nearly impossible to find a more economical way to raise your own meat. Common breeds of chicks can be purchased for between $1.99 to $3.99, depending on where you live and shop.
While you will have to spend around $150 to $250 to build a sturdy chicken coop and run if you don’t have scrap lumber, fence posts, and wire around your survival homestead, that is still far less expensive than setting up a pen and shelter for larger livestock.
Because you’ll only have to wait a matter of weeks and not months for a chicken to mature and reproduce, feed costs are also decidedly low. Since chickens will provide your family with both meat and eggs, that is double the bang for your buck.
You must be prepared to butcher any meat you are raising yourself. Securing the services of a professional off-site butcher during an SHTF scenario is simply not a viable option. Poultry birds are easy for even a novice to learn how to slaughter and butcher. No expensive or space-consuming equipment is required to butcher a chicken.
The only time-consuming part of chicken processing is the removal of feathers. By hand, expect it to take about 20 minutes to remove all of the feathers. To hasten the time it takes to pluck a bird, you could opt to invest in an automatic machine to remove feathers or make your own and attach it to a common power drill to use as a power source, as seen in the video below.
Now even though urban and suburban preppers can keep chickens as part of their survival plan, they will most likely be forced to follow some potentially stringent guidelines. There will be hurdles to jump through, often even in small incorporate towns, but rarely is keeping chickens entirely prohibited.
Before rushing out and buying a bunch of cute little chicks or a quality pair of proven breeders, make absolutely certain to review all state and local laws first. If you live in a right-to-farm state, you will have a lot more flexibility in keeping small livestock like chickens, ducks, and rabbits.
But, being allowed to keep chickens does not mean you can necessarily buy the breeds you want, keep a large (or even medium) flock, or have a rooster in your coop.
Typical chicken keeping restrictions in urban and suburban areas could require a specific number to be on the premises (four to six is not uncommon), mandate specific “quiet” chicken breeds, and prohibit roosters entirely.
Not being allowed to keep a rooster will be one of the biggest problems for urban preppers. Without a male in the mix, none of the chicken eggs can be fertilized. During a long-term disaster, you will not be able to simply tap a few keys and order more chicks online or venture into an agriculture store to increase your flock.
Trying to sneak a rooster from a quiet breed into your urban or suburban chicken coop and hope he will go unnoticed could get you fined or prompt local officials to order the removal of your entire flock. A quiet rooster will still crow, perhaps not as loudly, but every dawn and even throughout the day, the rooster will make his presence known. The high-pitched sound is not something your neighbors are likely to miss…or appreciate.
A solution for city preppers to the roosterless flock issue? I’m afraid I don’t have one to offer. The best advice I can give regarding roosters and flock longevity in non-rural areas is to keep cash or barter items on hand and develop a relationship with a breeder who lives as close as possible so you can attempt to get to his or her farm and back during a disaster. Not a pleasing thought, right?
Unfortunately, this one urban chicken keeping obstacle might be insurmountable, at least legally.
One time at an event where I was speaking, I once a suburban prepper who found a clever (yet not legal under his municipal restraints) way to keep a rooster. He literally sound-proofed his chicken coop. The man kept a quiet chicken breed and did not let the flock out into their run until well after dawn and put them up just prior to dusk.
He also had a wood privacy fence and as many fruit trees, berry bushes, and container plants as his yard would hold, creating a natural barrier that he felt stifled the tell-tale rooster noise.
This particular prepper had been able to keep his single rooster a secret for about eight months. Now, he was on a 1-acre corner lot that had woods behind it and an equally spacious lot adjacent to it – which assuredly helped him keep his poultry lawlessness hidden. How long the man was able to keep his rooster hidden and how well this illegal act would work for anyone else remains to be seen.
Quiet Chicken Breeds
Fortunately for urban preppers who are required to keep a quiet chicken breed, or merely want to in a dual effort to maintain OPSEC and peace with the neighbors, there are multiple varieties of quiet birds that are also dual-purpose breeds.
Dual-purpose chickens are both good producers of meat and eggs. Developing a flock of this type is especially beneficial for urban preppers who may be limited on the number of poultry birds that can be kept for either legal or space reasons, or both.
Metropolitan area preppers should also consider investing in birds that mature quickly so regular butchering and preserving of meat can take place more frequently and new chicks can be placed in the coop to replace the harvested ones.
Top 5 Dual-Purpose Quiet Chicken Breeds
1. Rhode Island Reds
These birds are consummate layers of rich and large brown eggs. Even though hens of this breed should be expected to lay around 250 eggs annually, they are not good sitters.
If you can keep a rooster in your flock, it would be wise to either purchase an incubator to hatch them eggs or buy a few Bantam chickens to sit on the eggs. These little hens are extremely maternal and will readily take in abandoned eggs and sit on them. Rhode Island Red chickens generally weigh about six pounds once they reach maturity.
2. Buckeye Chickens
This is a heritage breed that might take an extra week or two to reach mature weight than typical commercially available chicks. They were once crossed with Cornish game hens to help cultivate the Rhode Island Red breed.
Buckeye chickens, like the Reds, are not only a quiet breed, they’re an incredibly docile one. While both Buckeye and Red roosters are decidedly more quiet and affable than roosters of other breeds, they will still crow at least a few times per day. They lay about 200 brown eggs each year and at maturity, they weigh between six and seven pounds
3. Buff Orpington
These chickens are also easy to handle and dual-purpose. They lay approximately 180 eggs a year and are a good winter time layer but tend to slack off during the hot weeks of summer.
4. Barred Rock Plymouth
These large brown egg layers should provide about 200 small to medium brown eggs annually. Barred Rock Plymouth chickens tend to weigh about seven pounds when mature and are known to be a hardy breed that tolerates both heat and cold well. These birds weigh between seven and eight pounds when mature.
These dual-purpose birds weigh about seven pounds when mature enough to butcher. They are known for their moist and tasty meat. Ameraucana hens lay approximately 180 medium brown eggs annually. Unless a hen or rooster of this breed feels threatened, they tend to be both quiet and amicable birds.
Just because you’ll be raising “town” chickens doesn’t mean you won’t have to worry about predators. Dometic pets can pose as deadly of a threat to your poultry flock as a fox, raccoon, bobcat, or coyote.
If you live near a creek or pond, mink could be lurking near your backyard looking for a free meal. These small predators are as elusive as they are deadly. A mink can maneuver through a hole about the same width as a quarter.
Hawks can swoop down and kill an entire flock within a week if their run is not covered, the vents in the upper wall or roof area are too large, or the flock is allowed out to free range in the backyard.
Rats and snakes will also be potential predators of urban and suburban poultry flocks, and they can push themselves into small areas to steal eggs and dine upon your chicks.
A properly constructed coop and run will be your best defense against predators. Never ever use chicken wire to construct a run. It is great for keeping chickens in, but lousy at keeping small predators out. Chicken wire is too thin and pliable to thwart predators.
Use hardware cloth to make your chicken run and to cover any vents or potential weak spots in the chicken coop. Elevating your coop off the ground to prevent burrowing predators from getting inside is common and allows run space beneath for small area chicken keeping.
I highly recommend putting a layer of hardware cloth down and attaching it to the base of wood coop floors if they are ground-based or raised. A weak spot in wood that will rot over time might be all that a mink or rat needs to start working their way inside.
Layering hardware cloth beneath the chicken run and then covering it with dirt will help deter burrowing predators, as well.
One thing we rural chicken keepers don’t have to pay much mind to is what the folks at the next mailbox will think about our chickens and other survival homesteading activities. Urban and suburban preppers are not so lucky, but if approached correctly, fussing can be kept to the sheer minimum.
Attempting to hide your flock is not really the best way to go and will almost certainly fail in the end. Tell your neighbors you are getting some backyard chickens and take the chicks to meet them. Only the hardest of hearts could look at a baby chick with disdain.
Be well-versed in the breed you are buying so you can share information about them with your neighbors, hopefully reassuring them that you know what you are getting into and to give them an accurate glimpse into the low impact they will have on the neighborhood.
Be prepared to show off your new coop and run to any neighbors who are concerned about them getting loose and wreaking havoc in their own yard.
Offering to deliver some urban farm fresh eggs or delicious homestead raised meat will probably go a long way in appeasing the neighbors.
Chicken keeping can be a rewarding experience no matter how few you have or what type of location you call home. Taking your family’s food supply into your own hands is one of the most important decisions you can make as a prepper.
Urban and suburban preppers should focus on what they can do on a property confined by space and government regulations rather than what they can’t.
When planned properly, even a ¼ acre homestead can provide all the protein and produce you need to feed a family of four on an annual basis.
For more info on urban homesteading, check out our article, How To Homestead In An Apartment.