Homestead Chicken Terms – How to Speak Chicken

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Having an egg factory in your backyard doesn’t come for free. There are responsibilities that you must take on as a chicken owner. There are issues within the flock that must be remedied, predators and illness. It can be a lot if you find yourself having a couple problems at the same time. While that …

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These Are The Best Mini Cow Breeds For Milk And Meat

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Unlike chickens and some other animals, I was raised that there are milk cows and there are meat cows. We had Jerseys to milk and red and black Angus for meat. Where I came from, there really weren’t many cows in that area that were good for both meat and milk.

Now that I’m out of the little town that I was raised in, I realize that there is a whole wide world of cows out there that are great for using for both milk and meat.

Since we’re the kings and queens of multi-purpose living, and most of us don’t have a ton of space to have several of each type of cow, we need to cull the herd a bit. See what I did there?

My goal over the next few paragraphs is to lay out some options for you so that you can have the best of both worlds.

Before we get into actual breeds, know that as a small homesteader, a lesser-known, miniature breed may be better for your needs than a mainstream cow because they’re often bred for one trait or another.

They may also be bred to live a commercial lifestyle, thriving on grain and hay rather than foraging. In short, they may be less hardy, and therefore less suitable for a sustainable situation that requires low-maintenance animals.

In short, we don’t want picky cattle that cost a fortune to feed and don’t meet our needs. We need a cow that breeds easily, because we want more meat and more milk. An open (non-bred, without a calf) cow is a cow that isn’t earning her keep in any way, and that won’t do. So what if she gives a ton of milk and produces a big, beefy calf when she calves if she doesn’t breed consistently?

What I’m saying is that what commercial farmers value in a cow may not necessarily be what we value. Remember, they value volume. They want a cow that gives a ridiculous amount of milk regardless of whether she needs expensive feeds and supplements to do so. We want a cow that provides a decent, constant supply of milk without needing expensive feed.

After all, what would we seriously do with five or six gallons of milk per day per cow?

So, who cares what Big Ag says is the best cow? As usual, what’s good for them isn’t necessarily what’s good for us.

I’ve done quite a bit of research lately and have come to the conclusion that the miniature cow route may be the route to go for us little guys. Adequate milk and meat for our needs, half the feed, and half the space; it’s a great idea. If you’re looking for a full-sized cow though, these first two may be good for you.

Forgotten Lessons of Yesterday

The American Milking Devon

These cattle were originally tri-purpose: milk, meat, and draft work. They’re thought to be the first English breed to be imported to the states in colonial times. There’s a farm called Flack Family Farm in Vermont ran by Doug Flack and his family that raise these cows, and they sound like the perfect cow for what we need.

They’re a smaller breed, with three-year-old steers weighing in at 600-750 pounds, hanging. They’re also hardy and do well in hot climates, but do fine in the cold, too – obviously, because these cows are in Vermont!

The cows give 35-40 (5 gallons or so) pounds of high butterfat milk per day while living on wild pastures (clover, orchard, bluegrass, and vetch) with no grain supplementation. Wow, this cow is sounding great! His cows lactate from mid-May to early November and are milked twice a day in the spring and once in late summer and fall.

And how about longevity? According to the interview I read, he has a 14 year old cow that’s still lactating! Regarding cheese, the average milk cow milk converts about 10 percent of their fluid milk to cheese, but the Milking Devon can convert almost twice that. That’s a crazy big deal.

The meat is beautifully marbled and is purportedly just as good or better than traditional meat cattle, and the steers are raised on pasture. This is a great way to have a cow that feeds your family and provides a dual source of income to help support your farm.

Holsteins

A Holstein is a mainstream cow that’s a great balance of milk and meat.

Be warned: she’s considered a milk cow and is the top-producing milk cow in the industry. Expect up to nine gallons of milk a day. This may be good if you only want to keep two cows (in case one doesn’t breed one year). Still, that’s a LOT of milk, but you’ll have plenty of friends, and you can always can it.

The meat is said to be good, and since the Holstein is a large breed, you won’t need to raise more than one or two calves a year for meat. A note though – they eat a ton! Apparently, they aren’t great at converting feed to meat, so they require 10-12 percent more feel than the average beef cow, or milk cow for that matter.

Still, I wanted to throw them in the hat because they’re easy to come by and do produce plenty of milk and meat.

There is a miniature version of them, but apparently the cute factor comes into play when contemplating eating them. It’s an option, though.

The Belfair

This miniature cow is a cross between some of the best of both worlds. It’s a 50-50 cross of a small Irish Dexter beef cow and a Jersey milk cow. The idea was to add some of the delicious butterfat of the Jersey, but to use the Dexter to pack some meat on its bony frame. Oh, and to take away the meanness of the Jersey bull.

It worked; the result is a cow that gives good meat and milk and is docile, with even the bulls exhibiting little to no aggression.

The Belfair produces about three gallons of high butterfat milk per day and beef up quickly at around four months. The breed is small so it has a smaller appetite. Actually, it’s been called the poor man’s cow because it produces milk and gains weight on inferior pasture. Nothing high-maintenance about these cows.

The Belfair looks like a beefy Jersey cow; blacks and browns ranging from mahogany to dun. Sometimes, there will be some white, and the cow has horns, The cow is 42-46 inches at the shoulder and is actually considered a mid-sized miniature breed for registration purposes, formally known as the Belmont.

Why Go with Miniature Cows?

We just talked about the Belfair, which is a miniature cow breed, as is the Dexter, and the more I research, the more I think that miniature cows are worth looking at for those of us with little space to dedicate to cattle. I’ve also noticed that there’s a good selection of dual-purpose cows in the miniature pool. They were pretty much bred to suit our needs.

  • Midsize cows measure 42-48 inches at the hip
  • Standard cows measure 36-42 inches at the hip
  • Micro-miniature cows are less than 36 inches at the hip

That puts them at one-third to one-half the size of a regular cow. As a life-long farm girl, I have to say that this is an appealing idea, because, if for no other reason, they make smaller piles and would be easier to manage physically, especially for those of you new to milking. There’s nothing to make you grouchy faster than getting shoved out of the way by a 1000-lb animal when it’s 30 degrees and muddy.

Here are some reasons to go miniature:

  • They won’t drown you in milk, but you won’t run out, either. A mini cow will give you a gallon or a gallon and a half per day, more than enough for milk and butter.
  • You only need half an acre to an acre per cow
  • They’re 25-30 percent more feed-efficient and require about a third of what a regular cow eats. You’ll buy less and haul less.
  • One miniature cow will feed a family of four for several months

There are a few good dual breeds out there, in addition to the Belfair. The Zefu gives about a gallon of high butterfat milk per day, but from all accounts, you may have trouble butchering them for meat because it would be akin to eating the family dog since they’re so friendly.

Miniature cow breeds are certainly an attractive option for small homesteaders for all of the reasons that we’ve discussed. They’re widely available, but appear to be kind of regional, so what’s available in one part of the country may not be available in another. It’s an intriguing proposition – all of the benefits of having a cow with half of the downfalls, or maybe a third!

If you have any experience with miniature cows, or have a suggestion for a good dual-purpose cow of any size, please share with us in the comments section below.

Also, if you’d like to learn how to tan your hides, butcher your meat, can your milk, make butter, or can your beef, take a look at my book, Forgotten Lessons of Yesterday. I’ve compiled a ton of useful, diverse information so that you have it right at your fingertips, plus there are five free guides that are valuable in their own rights. Check it out!

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

How To Make Hens Lay More Eggs In The Summer

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Unless you live in the far Northern United States (and sometimes even then), summer can be absolutely sweltering.

When temperatures soar to the high eighties or above, nobody really wants to do anything that doesn’t involve a pool or river, a grill, and a cold drink. So it’s no surprise your chickens may not lay as many eggs, either.

Let’s take a minute to think about what summer means. Family time, fun-in-the-sun time, picnics, and grilling. That means deviled eggs, macaroni and potato salads, cupcakes, ice cream, and custard pies.

Well, you’re gonna need eggs, so maybe we should talk about what it’s going to take to keep your feathery ladies laying.

Chickens have a tough time when it gets hot for a couple of reasons. Obviously, they’re wearing a feather-tick coat all year round. Also, they have a higher body temperature than we do, about 103 degrees, so they’re more heat-sensitive than we are, and thus more prone to heat stroke. If you notice your hens becoming lethargic, or even worse, panting, they’re overheated and you need to take care of that quickly.

Unfortunately, chickens don’t come with instruction manuals, and there’s a learning curve, Fortunately, there are many ways that you can help your hens stay happy – and happy hens make yummy eggs.

This golden days’ practice will provide all you can eat food without buying from the supermarket!

Water

Just like us, chickens need plenty of water in the summer – it takes ten ounces of water to make one egg. Par for the course, they’re a little pickier about it than we are. They don’t care for warm water and they won’t come out of the shade to get it. Change out their water in the morning and the evening, and even at noon if you can and make sure that it’s in the shade and readily accessible to your girls.

And just a tip – add a tablespoon or two of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar to their water. It has much of the same benefits for them as it does for us, and it also helps them retain calcium, which will make the eggshells stronger.

Bonus tip – have a couple back-up waterers and fill them halfway with water, then freeze it. When you’re ready to use it, fill it up with water, and you’re good to go – poof – ice water for the ladies.

Provide Shade for Your Chickens

Your girls will likely want to get out of the coop but they won’t want to hang out in the sun for long.

Provide plenty of shady areas by using tarps or even the picnic tents. They’ll appreciate it.

Oh, and if you have a barn and your girls are loose, don’t be surprised to find them in there – it’s cool and there’s likely both grain and a place to take a dirt bath!

It’s hen summer heaven!

Add a Fan to Keep Chickens Cool

Your coop is kind of tough – it’s critical that it’s warm and cozy in the winter, but it needs to be cool in the summer. Open up the vents and set up a fan so that it’s blowing through and keeping a breeze going.

This will also help keep the coop ventilated and smelling a little less chicken-y. Even if your coop is cleaned well on a regular basis, it doesn’t take long for the ammonia to smell in the heat.

Hose Down the Coop

Running cold hose water over the roof of the coop will help cool it down. You can use a mister, too.

Remember that chickens aren’t fans of being wet. Shade such as trees is a good thing to keep in mind when you build your coop because it will help keep your coop cool in the summer and will shield it a bit from the weather in the summer.

Dirt Bath

Chickens love to roll around in the dirt – it’s actually how they bathe. It keeps their skin and feathers clean and helps prevent parasites. Diatomaceous earth and sand make a great combination, so put it in the shade so that they can cool down while bathing.

Feed Your Hens Correctly

Just as with any other time of year, if you want your hens to lay, you have to adapt to meet their feeding needs in the summer.

Since they have a harder time maintaining their body temperatures that we do, we need to give them a little help by eliminating corn from their scratch. They need it in the summer because the extra energy helps keep them warm, but skip it in the summer.

Also, make sure that they have plenty of oyster shells or crushed egg shells and grit in addition to good quality layer feed. Make it as easy for them as you can. You don’t have to spend a fortune, but you do want to make sure they have what they need.

One tip – if your hens get fat, they may quit laying, so keep an eye out for that too.

Decrease Stress in Your Hens

We all know that hens can be a bit scattered and that they like things a certain way.

Summer is hot and it’s a time when the kids, along with the neighbor kids, are outside playing, we may be doing more outside such as mowing the grass, barbequing, or just enjoying summer, and then of course it’s hot. All of this amounts to a ton of stress for your hens.

And what happens when hens get stressed? That’s right – they take it out on us by withholding our deviled eggs. Therefore, we need to make sure that we remove as many stressors as possible. Make sure their water is cool, try to keep the noise down in the yard, or at least keep them fenced off from it and give them a place to go (probably the coop) to relax.

Refreshing Treats and Scratch

Summer is a time for delicious salads, juicy melons, and barbeques. Don’t leave the girls out! Throw them the leftovers – there’s very little that humans eat that chickens can’t. For some reason, people are often surprised that we throw the steak and burger scraps to them, but they do love meat, and will often choose it first.

And then there are the fruits and veggies – cucumbers and watermelon are two good ones, but leave them whole to keep the water in longer. Oh, and you can always freeze the scratch, too. Clean out your freezer. That frozen bag of green beans that’s been in there forever? They’ll love it!

Choose the Right Breed

There are several breeds of chicken that are particularly suited to hot weather, and to cold for that matter, so do the research on your area when you decide to raise chickens.

It’s natural for a chicken to lay in the spring and summer because that’s when they’re naturally reproducing, so until you get to late summer, Mother Nature is working in your favor. Still, summer does present numerous unique challenges for hens that aren’t just free-range laying in the wild. That’s why it’s so important to take the steps necessary to the ladies happy!

Raising chickens is one simple way to provide the best, nutritious foods that will not only keep you healthy, but make your body strong and virtually bullet-proof against diseases or the toxic food that’s being shoved down our throats. Take the chance to grow your own food instead of spending hundreds of dollars at the grocery store!

 

If you have any hints or tips to help hens lay in the summer, share it with us in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Choosing Chickens for Eggs and Meat

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You may think that a chicken is a chicken. Well, if you actually start raising chickens, your thinking will change when you end up collecting eggs from your banty (or Bantam) chickens. They’re about half the size of a regular egg. They’re good for small roasting chickens, though.

Since we’re in the habit of using items that are multi-purpose, the same rule should apply to our farm animals. There are chickens that are perfectly good for both eating and eggs, but it depends on what you’re looking for in a chicken. Let’s talk about a few different breeds so that you’ll have a better idea of what may be a good choice for you.

Weather with chickens should be a consideration when you’re buying chickens, because they tend to be particularly sensitive to extremes of temperature, both hot and cold. Also, you need to consider how much they eat and what your budget is, how docile they are, and how adaptable they are.

There is nothing as empowering as growing and making your own food. Without further ado, let’s talk chickens!

Discover the golden days’ practice for getting all you can eat food without buying from the supermarket!

Jersey Giants

These are, without a doubt, great for both meat and eggs. They grow to be an average of 12 pounds and produce great brown eggs while you’re waiting to eat them. Because they’re so large, they need a lot of feed, so that’s something to keep in mind. The roosters can also be aggressive, but the hens are usually calm.

They come in black, white, and blue and are relatively slow growers, taking 16-21 weeks to mature for meat purposes.

Orpingtons

These chickens grow to an average of 8 pounds or so and will lay around 200 eggs a year, so they’re a good dual-purpose chicken. They tend to get broody in the summer, though, so they a bit less than some other chickens. They’re great “pet” chickens as they have great temperaments and will easily come to eat out of your hand.

Since they’re not huge, they require an average amount of food and they’re docile. Though they’re good layers, the meat is where they really stand out. It’s some of the most tender and flavorful there is.

Orpingtons come in buff, black, blue, and white and take 18-24 weeks to mature for meat purposes.

Marans

These chickens are mostly dark grey with white flutters and are medium in size. They lay about 200 nicely sized brown eggs per year and the meat is delicious. They don’t require much space and are gentle, but not particularly sociable, so though they’re great to collect eggs from, they’re not a fan of being pets.

Sussex

These are dual-purpose chickens that lay around 250 eggs a year. The egg colors range from brown to cream and the chicken is white with black neck and tail feathers. One of the best things about Sussex hens is that they enjoy free-ranging in the garden without destroying it. They’re calm and laid back, and will eat from your hand.

The meat is also good, so they’re just a great choice all the way around, especially for new chicken owners.

Delaware

This is a heavy-bodied bird, weighing in around 8.5 pounds for the rooster and 6.5 pounds for the hen. They lay jumbo eggs, mature quickly, and are great in both cold and hot temperatures. They mature quickly for a non-broiler and have great temperaments. They’re currently on the list of endangered chickens because the Cornish Cross took its place as the country’s top best-tasting meat chicken in the 50s, so help bring this amazing breed back!

They’re white with black neck and tail feathers and look similar to the Sussex.

Dorkings

This chicken is calm and non-aggressive, so it’s great for kids and small dogs. The meat makes it a superior table fowl with large, tender breasts and wings.

They’re hardy throughout the winter, providing eggs when other breeds may not be laying. They’re good broody hens and great mothers that stay with their chicks longer than most chickens.

Leghorns

Yes, as in Foghorn Leghorn. These chickens are white or brown with a big red comb and will lay around 250-280 white eggs per year. They’re good for anybody who wants a dual-purpose chicken that lays lots of eggs, but they are shy and hard to tame. The roosters can be cranky.

Leghorns are especially hardy in hot weather and are good foragers. The hens weigh around 5 pounds each and reach maturity for meat at 16-21 weeks.

Rhode Island Reds

These are probably the chicken that you think of when you imagine chickens pecking around in the yard, or at least they are for me. However, if you’re expecting a bright, all-red chicken, you’re probably not thinking of the Rhode Island Red, because they’re reddish brown with black feathers mixed in, which gives them a bit of a darker appearance. They’re great for both meat and eggs, laying 250 brown, medium-sized eggs per year.

They’re tough chickens that are able to take care of themselves, but they’re super friendly and are great for first-time chicken people.

Hybrids

One great hybrid chicken is the Golden Comet. Hybrids are bred to lay lots of eggs, but eat very little, so they’re an economical chicken. Expect around 280 eggs per year. Though they’re tough and resilient, they’re friendly and rarely turn broody. This chicken is easy to keep, lays lots of eggs, and has decent meat, so what’s not to love?

In addition to choosing the right chickens for your survival flock or homestead, you need to provide them with the best environment, too. A chicken always lays more eggs in its first year, and older chickens will lay less, and it really decreases after the third year. Also, happy chickens lay more eggs.

They need to have the nutrients that they need, too. There are layers pellets that have all of the key nutrients and minerals that hens need.

Make sure that they have plenty of water and light (at least 14 hours), and they coop needs to be clean and well-ventilated. They also like to have a box of sand or diatomaceous earth to “bathe” in, too.

I’ve tried to choose the hens with the best temperaments, who lay the most, largest eggs, and that provide generous amounts of good-tasting meat.

Raising chickens for food and meat is one of the steps you can take today so you can once and for all put an end to this store-bought food dependency we’re all suffering from and that’s slowly poisoning us.

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I’m sure that I’ve missed some, so please feel free to tell me about your favorite chickens in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

6 Best Tips For Butchering A Cow

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This isn’t necessarily a topic for the faint of heart, but slaughtering and butchering is part and parcel of being at the top of the food chain in a survival situation unless you’re a vegetarian.

Even if you just want to learn how to break down your meat so that you can buy it in bulk and butcher it yourself, this is the article for you.

Thinking about it, the term “butchered it” is typically meant as a derogatory remark, as in, “She absolutely butchered my hair” or “He butchered that song when he sang it.” It implies that it was hacked up when in fact, butchering is pretty close to an art. As a matter of fact, if you don’t do it right, you really run the risk of … err … butchering a good cut of meat. Yeah, I don’t blame you – I’d groan, too.

Butchering a cow was a skill most pioneers grew up with as an essential part of an independent life.

Discover the golden days’ practice for getting all you can eat food without buying from the supermarket!

Forget About Mad Cow

Before we move forward, let’s clear something up. You’ve no doubt been warned about eating various parts of the cow. You’ve probably been told that you’ll catch Mad Cow Disease. Scientifically known as BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Mad Cow has only been found in one cow – a dairy cow – ever in the US. And it’s not entirely clear that Creutzfeldt Jakob, BSE’s human variant (153 cases, ever) is caused by eating infected animal protein.

In other words, your odds of catching Mad Cow is exactly nil, and the odds of catching the human variant is, well, nil.

What You’ll Need

If you’re going to do this, do it right. You need a crazy sharp knife, non-serrated. I actually have a few different sizes so that I can make long strokes when I need to, but can use almost surgical precision when it counts. You also need a hacksaw (no, I’m not kidding) and a meat cleaver. Though that’s a tool that you may want to use judiciously.

And most importantly – space and containers, then refrigeration or freezer. A cow is big, even when it’s quartered, and you’re going to have a lot of meat.

Finally, use safety equipment including goggles and safety gloves (metal mesh).

Butchering Tips

Remove any membranes from the meat. It will be sort of a bluish sheen stretched over the meat, but you want it off. It’s tough and it gives the meat a stronger flavor

Watch your fingers! You’re going to be cutting blind in some instances so use your head unless you want to lose your fingers. If your knife is sharp enough to cut through cow flesh, it’s definitely sharp enough to cut through yours!

Clean your meat as you go. This is just a personal preference for me, but I’m the rare southern girl who can’t stand the texture of fat. Tendon doesn’t bother me, but it’s tough and unpalatable. So as you clean your meat, trim it before you store it. That way when you pull it out to use it, it’s ready.

Fat and connective tissue (marbling) is what cooks down and makes your steak tender and flavorful, so don’t ruin it by taking the lean route and trimming all of the fat off.

And speaking of the fat, if you’re going to make tallow (and why wouldn’t you?), you need to keep the chunks of fat, then render them down.

Parts of the Cow

Now the first thing that we need to discuss is the parts of the cow. Obviously, there are some folks that enjoy tongue and brain, so that’s in the head. The tongue is removed by simply cutting it out of the mouth and the brains are removed by cracking open the skull.

  • Hind quarters: The rear quarters are where you the rump roast, the round roast, and the shank
  • Front quarters: This is where your chuck roasts. The neck meat is typically used for stew meat or to make hamburger because it has a lot of fat in it. Also, the breast is there, and that means BRISKET!
  • Belly: Flank steak and skirt steak. These cuts are typically tougher than other cuts and are therefore either sliced thin to use in dishes such as fajitas, or are used as stew meat and cooked low and slow for tenderness. You can also marinate them for tenderness.
  • Ribs/Back: Now we’re getting to the good stuff, at least if you’re steak and ribs kinda person. The ribs, short loin, sirloin, and tenderloin are on the back. You can get a variety of cuts from these sections. The rib section has the baby backs and St. Louis style ribs, or you can do boneless ribs. This is also where you’re going to get your steaks from.

Now, let’s break it down a bit further. The ribs are also where you get the ribeye steak, the rib steak, the rib roast and the ribeye roast, depending on how you cut it. As the names imply, the rib roast can be cut into rib steaks, and the same goes for ribeye roast.

The Difference between a Porterhouse and a Filet Mignon

Moving further toward the south end of the cow, you’ll find the short loin section, right behind the ribs. This is where the majority of steaks come from. Top loin, T-Bone, Porterhouse, tenderloin roast and filet mignon, which is just the tenderloin roast cut into steaks.

Now, you may not know this, but all of these steaks are inter-related since they all come from the short loin. Technically, they’re all T-bones, in that they have a T shape to it, with two different cuts of steak – one on either side of the bone. A Porterhouse is cut from the rear end of the loin and is bigger. On one side is a tenderloin, or filet mignon, and on the other is a New York Strip. A standard T-bone is cut closer to the front, is smaller, and contains a smaller portion of tenderloin.

And behind the short loin is the sirloin, which is still a decent cut of meat. As a matter of fact, if it’s cut and cooked right, it’s nearly as tender as the loin. That makes sense considering the tenderloin runs right along the bottom of the sirloin and short loin, coming to a point right behind the ribs.

So, how does all of this information help you? It gives you an idea of what things are going to look like when you get in there. Now you’re ready to start cutting, because there’s no time like the present.

Getting Started

The first thing that you need to decide after the cow is skinned is whether you’re going to age it or not. If so, you need to do it before the roasts are cut into steaks. Many people do it with a steak that they buy from the store and this may be the easiest way for you, too, unless you have somewhere to hang the whole carcass.

The purpose of aging is to break down connective tissue so that the meat is more tender, and to allow the flavors to mellow and develop. Unaged beef will have a metallic, bloody taste to it, but aged beef will have those deep, mellow flavors that are the signatures of a good steak. There are two methods – wet aging and dry aging.

Wet aging is a relatively new process and is done by vacuum-sealing the steak. It’s faster and there is no waste, but you may not be getting the exact flavor that you want. Many people love wet-aged steaks, though. As a matter of fact, you know how it seems that a steak just doesn’t taste the same when you cook it at home? That’s because most store steaks are wet-aged, whereas good steakhouses used dry-aged meat.

The bad part about dry-aging is that you need special, temperature-sensitive meat lockers to do it, and even if you do have them, you’ll lose some meat. Still, I think the flavor is worth it. And you can dry it at home – but that’s an entirely different article!

The only way to truly know your meat is truly safe, is to slaughter it yourself so take the next step to food independence.

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If you have any questions or would like to add anything, please do so in the comments section below. There’s nothing better than talking beef!

 This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

Help Your Cow Or Goat Give More Milk!

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If you have cows or goats for milk, you’ve most likely ran into times when milk production goes down.

There’s always a reason for this, but it doesn’t always mean that something’s wrong, and you can’t do anything about it. Many times you can, though. We’re going to talk about how to increase milk production when things slow down.

How Much Milk to Expect

Many new farmers read lots of articles about their milk cows and have preconceived notions about how much milk they should be getting, then think something is wrong when they get less. Rule number one: know your cows. There are many factors that affect how much milk your cow makes: age, temperature, environment, diet, and cycles: there’s no exact answer.

Understand, too, that your cow or goat isn’t going to give milk every day all year round. You need to give her a couple of months off. Actually, she’ll TAKE a couple of months off no matter what, so expect it. Assuming she’s bred back, she’ll stop lactating during the last couple months of her pregnancy in order to give her udder time to heal and get ready for the calf or kid.

Also, for about 4-5 days after she calves or kids, there will be colostrum in the milk, so you need to let the baby have that. You don’t want to drink it. After that time period, though, it’s fine to resume the milking schedule.

Discover the golden days’ practice for getting all you can eat food without buying from the supermarket!

Tips to Count on for Increasing Milk Production

Remember that milk production will ebb and flow even for the same cow, so her production won’t be the same over the course of her lactation period. What you need to watch for is a sudden decrease. Here are steps that you can take to make sure that you’re providing optimum conditions for top milk production.

Water

This is one of the top factors that can affect milk production in your animals. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your animals have plenty of water. A milk cow will drink 30-50 gallons of water a day, and if it’s really hot (or cold) that may increase. It can actually double. A dairy goat needs 2-3 gallons per day.

If she doesn’t have enough water, she won’t produce as much milk. The best way to make sure she’s drinking enough is to provide ready access to a constant supply of clean water.

Diet

What your milk animals eat is important. A lactating cow will eat a hundred pounds of food per day, once everything is included. Even if they’re getting a ton of roughage, they need to eat both forage and concentrate. For cows, the percentages of forage vs concentrate varies depending upon where she is in her lactation cycle, but she should be eating about 3.5 percent of her body weight in food daily between forage and concentrate.

Dry forage is grass, quality alfalfa or alfalfa-grass mix hay, or straw. Wet forage, or silage, is fermented forage and consists of corn, barley or alfalfa. You can feed either or both, as long as they’re getting enough. Concentrate is cereal-based grain/pellets that provides the energy, fat, minerals, and protein that they need.

Finally, minerals are critical to milk production. For goats, the primary minerals that they need are calcium, sodium, and phosphorus. Cows need a wider variety. The easiest way to make sure that your cow is getting enough minerals is to feed quality concentrate and provide a mineral block that they have easy access to.

On the flip side of this, if your cows are overweight, that can reduce milk production, too. Know your cows, know what they’re supposed to look like, and make sure that they’re getting enough but not too much.

Lack of Space

Cows need to have plenty of space to roam and lie down. Standing in an over-crowded, free-stall operation can limit production because, among other things, standing for too long causes fatigue stress. Same thing with goats. They need plenty of room to wander.

Stress

If the cows or does are stressed, be it from heat, a disruptive environment, or illness, their milk production may decrease. To combat heat, provide barns or at least a lean-to if you don’t have plenty of trees so that they have shade. Enough water will help, too.

If the stress is environmental – too much noise, dogs, predators, etc. do what you need to do in order to provide a calm environment in which they feel safe and can get enough rest.

Also, if you’re stressing her during milking, she may not let her milk down.

Health Problems

If your milk animal gets sick, her output will decline. Take care of her teats so that she doesn’t get mastitis, keep her on an effective parasite program, and make sure that the pasture is free of toxic weeds. Also, make sure that her hooves are in good condition and that she’s just healthy in general. A health cow or doe produces optimal milk.

Improper Milking Techniques

You need to know how to properly milk your cow or goat so that you’re getting all of the milk out in a manner that’s not stressing her.

For instance, we have one cow that we can literally milk in the field if somebody holds her halter. Another needs to be in the milking stall with the head gate locked, but she’ll stand there patiently even if she runs out of feed to occupy her. And our problem child is a young cow. It’s her first year and if you don’t get in and get out in five minutes or so, you’re done, even with the kick stop on.

Now, you need to milk her dry, or as my dad says, strip her. If you leave more than a pint of milk in each quarter, for a cow, then you’re asking for problems. Both cows and does need to be milked completely in order to optimize production.

In summary, your goal is quiet efficiency. Start milking within a minute or two of getting her into the stall, get her milked in 5 or 6 minutes, then let her out before she has a chance to get fussy.

Video first seen on The Flip Flop Barnyard

Psychological Trauma

Yes, you read that right. If one of your ladies has had a negative experience sufficient enough to traumatize her, she may have a problem letting down her milk, which means you won’t be able to milk her sufficiently. There’s not much you can do other than provide a calm atmosphere now and don’t make matters worse by being mean to her for misbehaving.

Don’t do anything in that stall other than milk – it’s not the place where she comes for shots or veterinary appointments because you don’t want her to associate it with anything painful or scary.

It’s not that hard – make sure that your dairy animal is healthy, well fed and watered, has plenty of space to move, and is relaxed. And make sure that you milk her properly. A decline in production is going to occur a couple of months after giving birth, and again as her dry cycle nears, but a rapid decline in production is cause for concern.

In short, if you want to increase milk production, take care of your animals. Follow these tips and take one step toward family independence!

If you have anything to add, please feel free to do so in the comments section below. There’s always more to be said on topics like this!

This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

How To Build A Rabbit Coop

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Food and water are essential survival items in every imaginable survival scenario.

Buying and stockpiling most of your emergency food may be the only option for urban dwellers, while learning how to grow and raise your own survival food, provided you have the possibility i.e. you live in “flyover America”, is an essential skill to master for any prepper.

However, there are numerous other reasons why you should learn how to grow/raise your own food. Food that is easy to grow and breed, and multiplies like rabbits.

The cost factor comes into play more often than you may think, and that’s why many preppers are starting to farm at least a portion of their (decorative) gardens in order to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, and medicinal plants. And even if you’re an urban dweller, you can grow something using containers on your balcony and things of that nature.

Moreover, if you live in the countryside, the possibilities are almost endless, and that brings us to today’s article, which will teach you a thing or two about how to build a rabbit coop.

Why rabbits, one may ask?

Well, to begin with, rabbits breed like, well, rabbits. And their meat is exceptionally tasty and healthy, i.e. low in cholesterol, low in fat and a great source of high quality proteins. Truth be told, rabbits are the multi-purpose tool for any twenty-first-century homestead.

Learn from our ancestors the old lessons of growing your own food!

Rabbits are awesome for numerous reasons: besides being a quasi-infinite source of survival food if SHTF, they breed fast, their fur is great for DIY-ing survival clothes and making wool, and they also make for an excellent source of manure for your survival garden. Also, rabbits are terrific pets for your kids and they require minimal space, time and relatively little money to raise.

Not to mention that if you’re getting serious about raising rabbits, you can sell what you can’t eat and make extra money for your homestead. With rabbits, it’s a win-win situation.

What Kind of Rabbit to Grow?

There are many different breeds of rabbits and each one serves best for a different purpose.

For example, Angoras are great for their wool, while Giant Chinchilla, New Zealand, and Californian are the best choice if you want high-quality and tasty meat.

Also, regardless of the breed, rabbits will provide you with 1 pound of potent, seed- and weed-free manure per week for your survival garden, which makes for an awesome fertilizer, especially for demanding (as in heavy feeding) plants.

When it comes to raising rabbits, the breeding part is the easiest, as they are very enthusiastic about fornication. Female rabbits will breed at any given moment, as long as they meet a buck, i.e. there’s no set estrous period for female rabbits (they’re just like humans in this regard).

The rabbit’s pregnancy period is approximately a month (28-30 days tops) and within hours of giving birth, the female rabbit will be ready to mate again and spawn another “batch” of little darlings! One buck will take care of up to thirty does, but to keep the gene pool in tip-top shape, you should use one buck to “service” 5 does max. A mature and healthy doe (female rabbit) will give birth to 5 -10 young 4-6 times a year.

The ideal meat breeds are New Zealand and Californian, or a combination of the 2.

But don’t worry; the rest of the “deal” is equally hassle-free, as rabbits only have basic needs in order to flourish—food, water and shelter—together with a cozy place to nest.

As per food, rabbits thrive on high-quality hay. High-quality hay has a nice sweet smell, but watch out for water damage, i.e. make sure there’s no mold (your rabbits may get sick). Besides hay, rabbits love to eat birds-foot trefoil, red clover, Kentucky bluegrass, alfalfa, timothy and basically every type of native grass you can put your hands on.

Besides food, your rabbit coop should be furnished every day with clean water, but be extra careful so your rabbits don’t contaminate the water source (the same goes for the food!) with their body waste, as they’ll get sick pretty quickly and die in droves.

Keeping your rabbit coop clean is essential for the well-being of your rabbit population.

How to DIY a Rabbit Coop

And here’s where the rabbit coop comes into play. DIY-ing your own rabbit coop/hutch will cost you less than purchasing pre-made, commercially available models and the building process is not very complicated, regardless of one’s skill levels with regard to basic carpentry.

Building a decent rabbit coop will only require some elbow grease on your part, along with some time, a little bit of money, and readily available tools. Very basic carpentry skills would be sufficient for building the nesting box, the feeder, the watering device and eventually a wire hutch.

And if you’re asking why use wire, well, the answer is simple: wire is cheap, durable, light, and, unlike wood hutches, rabbits can’t soil/gnaw through wire hutches.

Standard rabbit coops are built using wire and wood and depending on your preferences, they can vary greatly both in terms of shape and size. Also, the number of rabbits you’ll be keeping is a factor.

Obviously, there are many ways for designing/building a rabbit coop (or hutch, which is actually the more common name), but there are some things to remember regardless: the rabbit must have enough room to literally stretch out, and to sit up on its back legs.

The cage itself should be (at least) approximately 4x the size of your rabbit. Rabbit coops are typically separated into (at least) 2 compartments or sections, in order to provide separate sleeping areas for the rabbits.

Outdoor coops should be built on 4-feet tall legs as a method to repel predators. Rabbit tastes just as good to them as they do to us!

Here’s the first video tutorial on how to build a rabbit coop/hatch.

Video first seen on amybrett95. You could also check Part 2 and Part 3 of this video.

The lesson to be taken home is this: wire flooring is preferable to wood flooring in rabbit coops, as a rabbit living/walking around in its own body excrements (feces and urine accumulate  quickly on the wood flooring) will quickly become sick and will probably die.

Wood flooring is extremely hard to keep clean. The only issue with wire flooring can be elegantly resolved with resting pads for your rabbits.

Here’s a cheap and easy version, i.e. how to build your rabbit hutch nice and easy without breaking the bank in the process.

Video first seen on Great Cove Adventures.

Easy DIY for Your Rabbit’s Water and Food

Here’s another video tutorial about a simple DIY rabbit feeder.

Video first seen on Stan Sullivan.

 And here’s how to make the best DIY rabbit waterer.

Video first seen on Martin Olivares.

Or, if you like, a DIY gravity-fed water feeder using plastic bottles.

Video first seen on High Standards Everything Poultry.

I hope this article helped give you some ideas for how to build your rabbit hutch. It will help you take one more step to your food independence, and live the healthy life our parents used to live.

Click on the banner below to discover more of their secrets!

If you have any suggestions, idea or comments, feel free to use the dedicated section below.

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.

Prep Blog Review: 60+ DIY Chicken Coops You Need In Your Backyard

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Are you raising chickens for eggs or meat? If not, you should, it’s easier that you think!

Back in the days, raising chickens was a normal thing, even in the city, as part of a self-sufficient life. Why not doing it again, especially if you need a food plan in case the SHTF? You and your your loved ones will enjoy fresh eggs every day and fresh, chemical free meat.

After deciding on the best chicken breed, it’s time to take the next step – prepare the chicken coop. With this thing in mind, for this week’s Prep Blog Review I’ve gathered some amazing DIY chicken coops projects you can build right now.

1. 57 DIY Chicken Coop Plans

“If you’ve found this article you`ve at least thought of raising chickens one day and as any experimented householder would recommend, you need to build a chicken coop before actually purchasing the little creatures; you are here because you have realized that a pre-fabricated coop might not be something that suits your needs and you’ve made the right decision, you need to build an easy simple chicken coop tailored to your needs, the following article contains spectaculous diy chicken coop plans in easy to build tutorials, 100% free of charge.”

Read more on Homesthetics.

2. 11 Charming Chicken Coops You Will Love

“Have chickens or looking to add them? A coop will be near the top of your list of needs for sure, it is important for protection from weather and predators too.

Even if you free range them a coop will give them a safe place to go and a place for them to lay eggs as well. You may have chosen to DIY a Chicken coop to save some money or create a custom look.”

Read more on Little Blog In The Country.

3. Raising Baby Chicks – Beginners Guide

“Raising baby chicks is a right of passage for any homesteader or self-sufficiency folks. But when you’re a beginner raising baby chicks, you want to make sure you’re caring for your animals correctly, after all, this is your egg and meat production.

These tips on raising baby chicks pertain to chicks purchased from a hatchery, feed store, or in the mail, when they haven’t been hatched out with a Mama hen. It’s much easier when we let nature do her thing, but many people don’t have the luxury of an already established flock or broody hen and need to begin their flock with baby chicks.”

Read more on Melissa Knorris.

4. Coping With Chicken Loss

“Losing animals is an inevitable part of raising them. No matter how careful and diligent you are, at some point you will have to deal with saying goodbye – and not just due to old age, either – to some members of your flock or herd. This is heartbreaking even if your animals were meant to end up as dinner at some point. So much more if you treat your livestock somewhat like pets. I remember one time years ago, crying and telling my husband I’d rather give it all up and never keep anything living but plants again.

We have lost a lot of chickens during the years – to predators, diseases, accidents, and sometimes for no visible reason at all.”

Read more on Mother Earth News.

 

This article has been written by Drew Stratton for Survivopedia.

DIY Winter Water Heaters For Chicken Coop

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DIY Water Heater Coop

If you’re a chicken farmer, you may already know that chickens actually thrive in colder temperatures, as they’re designed with a unique ability. They are excellent at regulating their body temperatures – way better than humans actually.

However, with the winter upon us, it would be nice to help our little feathered friends as much as we can.

The thing is that during the winter, your chickens require at least as much water as they do during the summer in order to generate body heat, so it’s still crucial that they receive an adequate supply of fresh, clean, unfrozen water. Going without water for even a couple of hours can decrease egg production for up to 2 days.

Keep Your Chickens Hydrated During Winter

Dehydration sets in quickly with chickens, especially in extremely cold environments. Even though your hens will drink significantly less water during the winter – about 3 times less on average than in the summer – it’s critical that you keep your “girls” properly hydrated during the winter.

Also, depending on where you live, wintertime survival for your chickens can be anything from a walk in the park and a day of busting bricks, if you know what I mean.

Another fact is that chickens are basically 65 percent water and shuffling back and forth to the chicken coop 3 or 4 times a day carrying heavy buckets of water in freezing cold and/or heavy snow is pretty far from my idea of having quality time during the winter months.

The problem with harsh winters and chicken coops is that water tends to freeze rather quickly in sub-freezing temps. Since your chickens need water on a daily basis, you’ll have to find a way to provide it to them without breaking your back in the process.

Water is involved in all aspects of poultry metabolism, which essentially means that if they don’t get enough of it, your girls will not be able to regulate their body temperature properly among other things (food digestion, body waste management etc).

Also, water is very important in the production of eggs, as an egg is made roughly from 74 percent water. If your girls don’t have access to enough clean/fresh water, you can kiss your egg production goodbye during the winter.

Just like humans, poultry are more sensitive to a lack of water rather than a lack of food, so you must be extra careful that they always have access to fresh and clean water (water no older than 24 hours would be ideal).

Discover how to easily build an attractive and affordable backyard chicken coop!

How To Stop Your Chickens’ Water Freezing

Now, during the winter, your biggest problem is preventing your chickens’ water supply from freezing. I know I am stating the obvious here, but just like with so many other issues, this is easier said than done.

Even if chickens come equipped with pretty tough beaks, they’ll never use them to pierce through heavy ice to get to the water. In other words, this will be one of your many designated jobs during the winter.

There are 2 main strategies when it comes to mitigating the freezing issue:

  • the hard way is to manually replace the water when it freezes
  • the easier way is to prevent it from freezing in the first place.

Carrying water may be quite fun – some may even say idyllic – during the summer, when it’s nice and warm outside, but it will make for a miserable experience during the winter’s freezing dark conditions. While this is basically the most passive option, it’s pretty far from the ideal one, at least in my book. It’s labor-intensive because you’ll have to refill the chickens’ water at least 3 times/day. Which brings us to the second option: prevention.

It pretty much goes without saying that in order to prevent water from freezing, you’ll have to summon a little bit of magic to apply some heat to the water container in your coop 24/7.

I must emphasize the word “little” here, because chickens aren’t very fond of drinking lukewarm water, pretty far from it actually, so you’ll have to pay attention to that issue. You should concentrate only on keeping the water from freezing because, as a matter of fact, chickens really love sipping freezing-cold water.

Again, there are 2 strategies involved here: if you’re not DIY friendly, you can always take the easy approach and buy an electrically heated pet bowl, though you’ll have to cough up a few bucks in the process.

Also, this solution only works if your chicken coop has easy access to a source of electricity (solar panels would work, but that’s overkill for your budget). These bad boys will do the hard work for you, but you’ll have no fun in the DIY-ing process and that’s a bummer.

Now, the flip-side to that coin is to use that big brain of yours along with a little elbow grease and build your own water heater.

Start building your own chicken coop. No special tools required. Get your free easy plans! 

DIY Winter Water Heater Using Electricity

As long as you’re handy with a screwdriver and you don’t have a problem with getting your hand dirty whilst saving a few bucks in the process, you can do this. To improvise a water heater you’ll just need a few basic materials and tools, including:

  • a stepping stone
  • a cinder block
  • a light bulb (the good old-school incandescent variety, alright folks?)
  • a fixing bracket.

The fixing bracket will be used to secure the light bulb firmly in place to the side of the cinder block. Also, you’ll have to drill a tiny hole through the side of the cinder block, so you’ll be able to run an electric wire to the light bulb.

When turned on, the light bulb will provide enough heat to keep the cinder-block warm provided it’s strong enough. It needs to be at least 40 watts. Obviously, if you place the chicken’s water bowl on top of the cinder block, it will stop the water from freezing without making it so warm that they won’t drink it. Depending on how low your temperatures drop, you may need a stronger bulb, or a weaker one.

Make sure you isolate all the electrical parts properly, because you don’t want to wake up in the morning and discover some fried chicken inside your hen house.

Video first seen on Gustavo Monsante

DIY Winter Water Heater Using Sun Light

If you don’t have electricity available or you just don’t want the fire hazard or you’re afraid of electricity, wiring and what not, don’t despair just yet. We have another solution for you: the Sun-is-your-best-friend approach. The idea behind this DIY job is to use the sunlight (if any) for keeping the water from freezing.

Since chickens are usually sleeping during the night, they’ll only need water during daytime, when the sun is presumably up and shining.

For this DIY job, you’ll only need:

  • a tire
  • styrofoam
  • a rubber tub
  • sunlight.

The idea with the tire is that, being black, it will absorb the sunlight, thus keeping the water from freezing.

The styrofoam is used for insulating. Remember, this neat trick only works if there’s enough sun, which is a best case scenario during the winter. This may not be reliable enough if you don’t live in an area that gets lots of sunny, albeit cold, winter days, though it’s worth mentioning.

Video first seen on Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily

The easiest way to prevent water from freezing is to float 5-6 ping pong balls in your water container. The ping pong balls will float around the container at even the slightest breeze, thus making tiny waves on the surface, which will prevent the initial layer of ice from forming. That’s right – ping pong balls can prevent water from freezing as long as the temperature doesn’t dip much below freezing.

It’s essential to remember during the cold season to never use a metal water container. Always go for dark-colored (ideally black) plastic or rubber containers during the winter. For example, a deep-black rubber container alone, if placed in the sun (if any) will prevent the water inside from freezing to temperatures several degrees below freezing.

Also, the larger the surface area and depth, the longer it will take for the water to freeze. A 40-gallon rubber-made water trough will rarely freeze during the winter, but it all depends on where you live.

You can build your chicken coop on a budget with these ready-made easy to follow plans! 

This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.

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Winter Survival: 5 Tips To Boost Your Dairy Cows

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Dairy Cows

Winter, in most parts of the US, is never a good time for animals. It’s cold and often wet, the days are short, and fresh grass is non-existent. It’s no wonder that milk production may slow down a bit.

For example, cows get stressed when it’s cold, and they don’t produce as much milk as cows that are comfortable. Routines change, it’s colder, the food is different, there are many factors that stress your cow, but the number one stressor is cold.

We talked about how to get more eggs. This time, let’s see what to do to boost your dairy cows and keep the milk coming in the freezing winter days!

1. Have Your Cows in Good Condition

cowBefore winter sets in, it’s important that your cow is in good physical condition.

She needs to be at a good weight, and she needs time to acclimate to the cold so that she can grow her winter coat.

If she’s going to be outside for winter, leave her outside as the days grow shorter and the weather drops.

If she’s used to being in a barn during the summer, she’ll need to stay in it during the winter, too.

Assess your cows a couple of months before winter. Body fat is going to be one of the top two factors that help her stay warm. If you only have one or two cows, this obviously isn’t as difficult as if you have a herd.

Still, if your girls are a little on the thin side, increase their feed so that they’re carrying the right amount of weight heading into winter. This will keep them from stressing so much from the cold.

If they’re thin, they’ll use what fat stores they have to keep warm instead of giving milk. Thin cows may also produce weak calves, have problems producing colostrum, and take longer to come back into heat.

How your cow should look depends upon her breed and age – two year olds are the toughest if they’re breeding because she’s giving milk, growing, and eating to feed a baby, too. She may need A LOT of feed. Know your cows and know what they need.

On the other end of the spectrum, if your cow is obese, she’s not going to winter as well either. Just like people, obesity in an animal does not contribute to good health. Adjust feed as necessary.

In addition to keeping her milk production up, being at a good weight will also help her give birth easier if she’s pregnant, and will help her regain her weight and come into heat earlier after she gives birth.

2. Feed them Enough of the Right Feed

Throughout winter, your cows are going to need more food that they do during the summer. It’s also important that they have access to plenty of water and a salt lick as well.

Roughage – hay – is what helps a cow produce the energy she needs to stay warm and happy. If she doesn’t have enough hay, the weight will fall off of her.

This is because the fermentation and breakdown of the cellulose in the hay creates energy. High quality alfalfa may provide plenty of nutrients, but alone, it won’t provide enough roughage for your cows to stay warm.

You may not know it, (if you don’t, you should) but cows shiver. If they get that cold, they’re burning calories like mad. You need to avoid that. Give them plenty of hay.

Just so you know, a cow’s energy needs increase by anywhere from 17-50 percent after giving birth, so there’s a starting point for you.

Next, consider the temperature. A cow in good physical condition that has acclimated to winter by growing a good coat is good to go on regular winter rations until she reaches her critical temperature.

That temperature is around 20-30 degrees F. At that point, she’s burning fat to keep warm and you need to increase her feed in order to keep getting milk. A rough rule of thumb is to increase her rations by 1 percent for each 2 degrees below critical temperature.

Once the temperature drops below zero, she may be eating up to a third more than she would at 50 degrees just to maintain her body heat.

Don’t forget to factor in wind chill, length of the cold snap, and whether or not she’s wet. Even the best winter coat doesn’t trap body heat if it’s wet – imagine going outside in wet clothing.

3. Give them a Morning Boost

This goes along with feed, but I thought that it merited its own section because it’s just that important. If you’re counting on pasture to provide part of your rations, you may need to give your ladies a little push in the mornings with some hay to get them warm.

Even though there’s pasture available, if they’re cold, they’ll stand huddled to preserve body heat instead of going out to graze. Give them some hay in the morning to get their bodies producing heat and then they’ll go out and graze.

4. Build a Shelter

You know that even if it’s 40 or 50 degrees, if there’s a good wind blowing, you’re going to pull up your collar and huddle into your coat. If it’s raining, it’s even worse. It feels a lot colder than it actually is. Your cows feel the same way.

It’s important that your cows have shelter. If you don’t have to worry about much snow or wet, then a windbreak may do, but if it’s raining or snowing much, they need a at least a lean-to to shelter in. A barn is preferable. Whichever route you go, your cows need to have a warm, dry place to get in out of the weather if it’s cold.

If you keep them in a barn, make sure that it’s well-ventilated. Damp and moisture lead to respiratory conditions in cows.

If you’re getting a blizzard, you can partially close some of the vents to keep the snow from blowing in, but you want at least a half inch of open ventilation for each 10 feet of building width, no matter what.

Provide Adequate Bedding

If you have free stalls or lean-tos where your cows sleep, provide adequate bedding in them. This means that it should be dry and there should be enough to provide some warmth.

5. Protect Her Teats

Just like our delicate lips, faces, and hands get chapped in the cold, so do a cow’s teats.

It’s extremely important that you make sure that her teats are dry when she leaves the milking stall or feed area, and you should also provide windbreaks around the barn, too.

Bag balm is called that for a reason. It helps sooth bags and teats that may be moderately irritated.

Dip teats before milking and after milking. Though it adds a few seconds to the process, it’s worth it because it really does help reduce mastitis both directly by killing bacteria and because chapped, cracked teats inhibit the milk from dropping, which leads to infection.

Video first seen on MonkeySee

Use germicidal dips that also contain 5-12 percent skin conditioners. Don’t wash them because that washes off the natural protective oils, and make sure that the teats are dry before they leave the milk shed.

Warm, well-cared-for cows are happy, healthy cows who give lots of milk. If she’s stressed so much by being cold, or is so cold that she uses  all her energy staying warm, or if her teats are chapped and sore, she’s not going to give good milk.

Your goals should be keeping her warm and healthy, and these are all steps toward that outcome.

Are you prepared for a coming food crisis? Click the banner below and discover how you can feed your family with healthy foods during any collapse!

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This article has been wrriten by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

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3 Ways To Add A Rooster To Your Flock

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Rooster Flock

Roosters. These beautiful birds often earn a bad reputation. But, when carefully selected and introduced, a rooster can be a blessing to your hens, not a curse.

I’ll jump into the how-to part of adding the rooster a little later in this post. Keep reading to find out more!

But first, let’s talk about some basics behind adding a male bird (or birds) to your flock.

How Many Roosters?

If you have too many roosters, they’ll spend more time fighting than doing their job. A good way to calculate how many roosters you need is to count your hens. You want one rooster for every six-ten hens.

That way every rooster can have his own little flock of hens to care for and breed with. Your hens will be happy because there won’t be three roosters trying to mate with each one. It’s a good ratio to try and maintain.

When deciding upon the number of roosters, take into account the following factors:

Space

Are your chickens confined to a pen and a run? If so, you’ll need significantly more space per bird if you plan to keep multiple roosters in there. Each one needs plenty of space for his flock.

If your chickens free-range, you’ll be able to get away with less space in the coop. But, you’ll want to make sure you don’t go below the minimum recommended space of four square feet per bird.

Having multiple, small coops available also helps minimize rooster squabbles. Or maybe you’ll have some of your birds roost on the barn roof at night like mine do.

No matter where they are, make sure each rooster has roosting space to enjoy at night with his hens. They will enjoy being together night and day.

Rooster

Feeders and Waterers

Many rooster fights originate over a battle for resources. If you have multiple roosters, you may need multiple feeders and waterers too. You definitely want to keep an eye on your flock, and if there are meal time problems add some additional options.

You’ll want them to have plenty of food and water for their ladies. Roosters will eat whatever your hens are eating, so you won’t need to worry about separating food.

Chicken feeding tips

Noise

Roosters are roosters. And they make noise. Contrary to popular belief and many movies, roosters don’t just crow when the sun comes up.

They crow pretty much all day, or at least mine do. When a hen lays an egg? They crow. When they sense danger? They crow.

Roosters are loud. So if you have a backyard flock in the city, be sure to check out your town’s ordinances before introducing a male. They aren’t as easy to hide behind a privacy fence as hens are.

How to Pick a Rooster

There are so many breeds of chickens available, so you’ll have plenty of choices for your rooster. While there are breeds that are known for being more docile, each rooster will have a temperament all his own.

That means you can pick a docile breed and still end up with a mean rooster. Likewise, you can raise a rooster from an aggressive breed, and wind up with a sweet, docile boy.

So basically, there are no guarantees when buying a rooster when you buy one as a baby.

I’ve had the best luck with banty roosters. My Ameraucanas, Australorps, and Blue Andalusians were all aggressive. While Ameraucanas are typically aggressive, Australorps are supposed be more docile.

The banty roosters have been fine. So have all of our new cockerels since the initial banty, that are half banty.

There’s been a little fighting, typically when a new batch matures in the summer, and they establish a new pecking order. Thankfully, there’s been no aggression towards myself or my children with these smaller roos.

Since breed isn’t a reliable indicator of a rooster’s personality, here are some characteristics to watch for when buying a rooster that’s full-grown. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to see him in action at his current residence before purchasing.

  • What do the backs of the hens this rooster is with look like? (You don’t want a rooster that tears up the backs of his ladies.)
  • Has the current owner noticed any aggression?
  • Is this rooster the dominant one at the top of flock, or a beta male?
  • Does the rooster share food with the hens, or does he keep it for himself?
  • How old is the rooster? (Young roosters who are just figuring out the mating thing are typically the roughest on hens.)
  • Is the rooster healthy?

Be careful buying roosters sight unseen unless you’re prepared for your new rooster to end up in the stew pot. Many people who get rid of their roosters are getting culling a problem bird. It’s not always the case, but is common enough that you should always be aware of it.

3 Ways to Introduce a Rooster to Your Flock

Over the years, I’ve introduced roosters to my flock in three different ways. They were all successful, but each had their pros and cons.

1. Buying a Rooster Initially with Baby Hens

The easiest way to introduce a rooster to your flock is to do it before your flock is established. When you’re buying baby chicks for the first time, just add roosters to your order to maintain the proper hen to rooster ratio.

This is how I started off. I ordered my chicks, added a couple of cockerels to the order and raised them all together. They established their pecking order from the time they were small, and I didn’t have a problem with fighting.

The chickens and roosters knew each other. I didn’t have to worry about isolating new birds, or introducing illness. It was simple.

But, you really don’t know the temperament of roosters until they are bigger. The roosters I ordered as cockerels turned mean. They were a risk to the children, and those roosters are no longer on the farm.

2. Adding a Full-Grown Rooster to Your Hens

About the time I got rid of my other roosters, a friend of the family had given my mom a small flock of banty chickens that included two roosters.

At first, she kept her flock in her coop across the road, though the long-term goal was always for them to move over here to join my flock.

Isolation: It Takes Time

The new birds were kept them in their coop for three weeks. This isolation time allowed for illnesses to be displayed. The birds were healthy.

Whenever you introduce a new bird, it’s important to not just stick them into your flock and hope everything goes well. A quarantine period allows you to check for mites and disease. That way you don’t inadvertently expose all your chickens.

If you don’t have a separate coop, you can create a smaller coop inside your existing one with chicken wire. Or you can use a shed or barn on your property. It won’t be forever, so as long as the space is predator proof it’ll work.

For introducing a single rooster, you can also use a large dog crate. I did this when introducing a batch of chicks, and it worked well for the birds to get to know each other.

Just be sure to keep an eye on food and water in the isolation unit, and make sure you don’t let the birds get too cramped.

Rooster ans chickens Start with Face to Face meetings in Large Spaces

Once you know your new rooster is healthy, you still don’t want to just add him directly to your flock. Give them time to get to know each other in a less territorial space.

My chickens and the new chickens free ranged together at my house. They had plenty of space, and at first both flocks stayed separate. They each foraged over a different section of land, and all went to their known coops at night.

After a few days of this distant meetings, the birds began to mingle. This mingling was repeated every day, and became more frequent.

Let the Rooster in at Night

Now that all the birds knew each other, it was time for the next phase of the assimilation. One evening after all the birds were roosting, I began to move the new ones. Since they were roosting, they were calm and easy to move.

I walked each bird across the street and into my coop. In the coop, I placed them on an extra roosting pole. That way they weren’t directly touching any of my existing flock.

By introducing the birds to sleeping together at night, the birds will be more likely to accept the new member. Then you can just let them all out in the morning.

Don’t Let Your Chickens Be Bored

Many problems with roosters arise when they’re bored. To solve this problem, provide your chickens with some activities they can do together.

Provide a spot for them to take dust baths. Toss out some grains and let them scratch. Give them your food scraps.

These things are simple, but will keep your chickens engaged and busy. They’ll be less likely to fight.

Know a Pecking Order Will Be Established

Even when you take precautions to introduce your new rooster, there will be changes in your flock. Each rooster will want his own girls, and there will be a new pecking order established.

There might be some squabbles while this occurs, but they should be minor. If you notice severe fighting, or injury, the rooster might not be a good fit for your flock. Slow down and go back to isolation at night.

Once my flock had its new pecking order figured out, one rooster took his hens to the barn to sleep at night.

Since they could get up high on the rafters, they were impossible for me to get back down and bring into the coop. So they still sleep there at night.

You might notice your chickens and roosters sleeping a little differently as well.

3. Letting Hens Hatch New Roosters

The final way that I’ve introduced new roosters into the flock is to have my hens do it for me. One benefit of having a rooster around is the fertile eggs. If you have a hen that will brood, you can have a self-sufficient flock.

When the chicks hatch, the mother hen will take care of flock introductions. By the time the hen leaves her chicks, they are grown enough to know their spot in the flock.

But, there will be a new pecking order established. I’ve seen the most problem as the new roosters begin to become interested in mating. They will always try to claim hens for himself.

In that process, he will almost always step on the toes of an established rooster. There’s a bit of squabbling, but the older roosters help the young ones learn their place.

The downside of this method is you can end up with too many roosters. So be prepared to cull some for the stew pot to keep there from being many problems. Then you’ll get both meat and eggs from your flock!

Adding a new rooster can take time. But, having one around can bring plenty of benefits to your flock.

A chicken flock is  as crucial for your homestead nowadays as it was for our grandparents in the past. Discover the secrets that helped them survive during harsh times.

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This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia. 

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Prep Blog Review: Gardening & Farming Winter Tips

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Winter Gardening

For many people, gardening and farming are two activities related to spring and summer, but not for preppers.  Even though the outdoor gardening and farming season is ending, you can continue growing your own food during winter.

Is important to keep your plants safe and your flock warm during the cold season and don’t forget to start preparing for the moment when you’ll start working again in your lovely outdoor garden.

Until then, let’s see how to keep growing your own fresh vegetables and herbs, how to keep your chicken warm and happy and how to prepare your spring crops, because I’ve gathered 4 articles on this topic for this week’s Prep Blog Review.

  1. 6 Fasting-Growing Indoor Vegetables You Can Harvest Within 2 Months

Winter Plants

“The outdoor growing season is ending for much of North American, but don’t despair — you can continue to grow food to eat. With the help of grow lights, you can provide fresh vegetables to be harvested during the cold months of winter.

And if you get started soon, you can be eating your vegetables in January. All of these vegetables can be grown in two months or less.

Microgreens are a delicious choice for an indoor garden. The leaves are harvested when young and tender, which makes a wonderful addition to salads and winter dishes. They can grow as quickly as two to three weeks. When the plants develop at least one set of true leaves, they can be harvested. You only harvest the part above the soil. The leaves are not only tasty but also are rich in important nutrients.”

Read more on Off The Grid News.

  1. Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm

Chicken coop

“Keeping your flock safe from the elements of winter’s fury is a prime concern for most backyard chicken enthusiasts. But with just a few simple tips, it’s actually quite simple to keep your chickens happy and safe through the cold winter months.

Chickens are bothered more by dampness and cold drafts than the actual freezing temperatures of winter. If you concentrate winterizing efforts to eliminating those two concerns, your chickens will stay comfy and happy all winter long! Here are a few of our best tips on winter chicken care.”

Read more on Old World Garden Farms.

  1. Straw Bale Gardening: Smart Reasons To Grow More Food In Less Space With Little Effort

Straw Bale Gardening

“Limited space? No soil? Toxic or rocky ground? Spare corner? Edge of drive or yard? Here’s bales of advice for you on the straw bale gardening way.

TIP: Kids just LOVE to climb on these irresistible messy playthings, so if it’s feasible, get an extra 1 or 3 bales and put them out of the garden just for fun.

Straw or hay bale gardening is not to be confused with using loose straw in your garden for mulch or compost. What we’re talking about here is the whole bale, as it stands, tied with twine and used for planting plants on the top.”

Read more on No Dig Vegetable Garden.

  1. 24 Ways To Prepare For Your Spring Garden In The Dead Of Winter

Spring Garden

“It can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!

If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them in the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong.

You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.”

Read more on The Survival Mom.

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This article has been written by Drew Stratton for Survivopedia.

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How To Plan Farmer’s Calendar All Year Round

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Farmer's Calendar

A farmer’s work is never done. You’d think that in the winter when there are no crops to tend or hay to mow, there may be some time to take a break, and that’s somewhat true, but not really.

Winter is actually one of the busiest times of year; in addition to taking care of the animals, clearing snow, and keeping things running, you need to plan and prep for the next year.

Winter appears to be a time of sleep and relaxing by the fire, but for a homesteader, there is no such thing. If you have cows to milk and chickens to feed, then you still have to take care of that. Then there are all of the other tasks that you have to do: clearing the roof, bringing in firewood, making impromptu repairs.

Winter is a great time of the year to make a plan for what you need to do in the spring, summer, and fall to make your homestead successful.

We’ve put together a calendar of things to do in the winter to help make your homestead successful all year round.

Check your Stockpile

Winter is a great time to check your stockpile for several reasons, but the primary reason that we’re adding it to the calendar is so that you can decide what to plant in the spring.

If you’re running out of green beans but still have a ton of corn, you can adjust your crops accordingly. Plant more beans and less corn. The same thing goes for canned meals and condiments. If you’ve just about eaten all of your beef stew and salsa but still have a ton of chicken soup left, adjust accordingly.

You can also determine whether you’re best using your crops. Say you had a bumper crop of apples and made pie filling, applesauce, apple cider vinegar, and apple butter. Now you’re out of pie filling but still have 32 quarts of applesauce. It seems like you may want to adjust how you use your apples next year.

Make a chart and record your findings so that you can compare to last year and make your adjustments. You don’t want to use your entire stockpile.

It’s good to have enough for a couple of years, but you don’t want to can 6 months’ worth of apple butter and 5 years’ worth of okra, especially two years in a row.

Concentrate on Your Herbs/Winter Crops

I don’t know about you but I love herbs. They’re great for adding flavor, and for using medicinally. Since they’re easy to grow inside, you can grow them year round. Since you’re likely slam busy all summer and fall, wait until winter to harvest and store your herbs. This is a good time to make your essential oils and medicinal blends, too.

If you live in a moderate climate, you may be able to grow some winter crops such as garlic, kale, carrots and potatoes during the winter. They’re easy to grow and won’t take up hardly any time. Search the internet for crops that will grow in the winter according to your zone.

There are also early spring edibles that you can start growing and have ready to eat while you’re waiting on those peppers and tomatoes to grow.

Winter crops

Start Your Seeds

If you live in a zone where you have short summers and you want to grow crops that have a long growing period, start them inside as early as February. That way, you’ll have healthy seedlings or young plants to transplant when the weather warms up. Your garden will have a great start before the snow is even off the ground!

Make a To-Do List for the Coming Months

Plan your summer. Sit down and make charts of what you’re going to plant, how much of it you’re going to plant, and where you’re going to plant it. Keep in mind soil types and compatible plants when you’re making your chart.

Think about your animals. Do you want to breed? Do you need more eggs? Did you put back enough meat this year? Are your chickens cramped and need a new coup? How about the barn – does it need repairs? Is the tractor running rough? Do you need any new equipment? Make a list by month of all these projects that you need to address.

Plan Your Expenses

Now that you’ve sat down and planned your crops and equipment repairs and made a list of other things that you do, then plan how much you’re going to need to spend versus when you’ll need it and when you’ll have the money to do it. Try to project any equipment replacements or repairs that you’ll need, too. Remember to allow for any unexpected expenses.

You don’t have to stop with just the next year. Do a five-year plan, then adjust as needed. Keep adding a year every winter. This will really help keep you on track as long as you actually refer back to the list and follow it as much as possible.

Make Syrup

If you live in an area where you have birch or maple trees, late winter is when you can gather the sap from the trees and make your syrup for the year. Just FYI, it’s a bit of work to make, but it’s free and you can sell it for a great profit. That’s assuming your family doesn’t make you keep it!

Do all of the in-house repairs. Think about those creaky stairs, unpainted rooms, loose carpets and wobbly stools that you’ve been meaning to fix all summer. Now’s a great time to get all of that stuff done so that you can check it off the list.

Video first seen on TacticalIntelligence.

Help Your Animals Adapt

Winter affects different animals in different ways. Chickens will likely slow down production when the weather changes. You can head this off a bit by making sure that they’re snug and warm, but make sure that the coop stays well-ventilated. Keeping your hens happy will make your breakfast a happy event, too.

Cows and horses, on the other hand, may need to be fed more so that they have enough energy to stay warm and (in the case of cows) keep producing quality milk. If you’re new to homesteading study up on your animals before winter so that you’ll know what to do to keep your animals safe and healthy.

Winter is definitely a bit slower than the rest of the year, but there are plenty of things that you can do to maintain and improve your farm. Relaxing a bit isn’t a bad thing, either – you work your buns off the rest of the year, so give your brain and your body a break.

Have Some Family Time

Farms are a ton of work and though we all squeeze in “together” time while we work, cleaning out the chicken coop together just isn’t the same as picking up a Redbox or heading out for pizza and an evening of fun. There’s so much work to be done in the other months that it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle and forget to have some fun. Now’s your chance!

Educate Yourself

Winter is a great time to use your mind instead of your back. Farming, homesteading, sustainability, and prepping are ever-changing beasts, so take the downtime to catch up on the latest news and ideas that are available all over the net.

Feel free to go old-school and buy some books and magazines to get some new ideas about how to move your farm forward. Think about planting guides, new equipment, new prepping ideas, or ways to help keep your animals healthy naturally.

Another good subject to study up on is the plants that you’re growing. If you don’t know all about each plant that you grow, take this time to learn. Not all plants like the same types of soil. Some like rich, loamy soil, some like sandy soil. Some grow great next to each other and others, such as tomatoes and potatoes, shouldn’t be grown together.

Just knowing these small facts will increase your yield and even improve the quality and flavor of your crops.

If you have anything else to add to the winter calendar to-do list, please share it with us in the comments section below.

We can all learn from each other, but never forget the ways our forefathers made their own food, harvested their own plants and made their own medicines to survive during gloomy times.

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia. 

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What You Need To Do For Your Livestock This Fall

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Summer is gone, we are enjoying autumn days and heading to winter now. In many regions, this cold season brings snow, low temperatures, and plenty of harsh winds. You’ll need to take some extra steps this fall to ensure your livestock make it through winter in good condition.

Water, food, shelter and safety are essential for your livestock. Focus on these requirements and follow the next steps to prepare your livestock for the coming winter.

Water

Animals can’t live without water. When the freezing weather hits, watering the animals takes a little more effort. You’ll need to make sure their water doesn’t freeze. Here are some tips:

Use Electrically Heated Waterers

Waterers are available in a variety of sizes with electrical heating elements built in. For large stock tanks, you can find electrical heaters in a cage that floats in the water. Your local feed store should have all of these available.

The purpose of the electrical heater is to keep your animals’ water from freezing. The electrical part stays just warm enough that the water stays liquid. These are the easiest way of ensuring your animals have plenty of water all winter long.

The downside is that you have to have electricity available where you water, which isn’t always feasible.  There are propane stock tanks available, which might be your best solution for large livestock.

Water More Frequently

If you’re around the farm during the day, make it a point to check on your animals more frequently. Since I don’t have electricity out by my rabbit pens, I water them three times a day instead of only twice. That extra watering keeps them in water for the bulk of the day.

When the weather is extremely cold, I only fill their water halfway during each watering. This usually keeps it from getting filled completely with ice. I still have to bring out hot water once a day to take care of the ice, but it’s easier than doing it every time.

Make Sure Your Waterers Work in Winter

My first winter with rabbits I made the mistake of trying to use water bottle type waterers. The water froze completely on the straw portion which meant even after I’d filled the waterer, the rabbits couldn’t drink it. I quickly realized my mistake and switched to bowl style waterers.

Be sure to check any special water tanks you have for your critters to ensure they are working in the winter.

Move Your Waterers to a Heated Shed

If your animals have a shed to take shelter in, you may be able to move the waterers in there. Then you can run a propane or electric heater to keep the water from freezing. The roof and sides of your shed will protect your heater.

Have a Backup Water Source

If I lose power, I lose water too. The electric pump at the well house can’t run. Since we normally lose power for several days each winter, a backup water source is essential.

Thankfully there’s a creek running through my farm. My husband and I have broken ice and hauled water 5 gallons at a time several times to water livestock.

If you don’t have a creek or pond nearby, you’ll need to think through another water source.

Do you have enough water stored that you can water your animals during a power outage? Do you have a large enough tank that they can go without a fill-up for a couple of days?

Hoses Tips

Watering in the summer is simple enough. You hook up a hose and run it to the tanks to fill. But when the cold weather hits, you have to take extra precautions with your hoses. That way they’re available for watering each day and not frozen solid.

In the winter, I run my hose through the barn instead of around the outside. Though it means I need a little extra hose, I’m able to drain it and store it in a room with a small heater. It’s just enough to keep it from freezing. Usually.

Sometimes it gets colder than I anticipated, and the heater can’t keep up in the uninsulated barn. When that happens, I haul the hose into the house and let it thaw behind the wood stove.

It’s also a good idea to keep a backup hose on hand. Perhaps you can store an extra in an outbuilding or in your basement. That way you always have a hose ready when your animals need a drink.

Here is an interesting project on how to keep your livestock’s water from freezing.

Video first seen on WELSBY ROOTS.

Feed

Animals need plenty of feed to stay warm in the winter. Stockpiling feed in the fall will ensure you won’t run out midwinter if a large storm keeps you away from the store.

If you’re feeding large animals hay, you’ll want to store at least a ton per head. Depending on your location and the length of your winter, you may need more.

I don’t like having to track down hay in the winter because it’s typically more expensive and a pain to go get. I usually store enough hay to get me from September to May because by May, even in a bad year, the pasture is ready.

You know what your winters are like, so do some basic calculations and figure out how much of a supply you’ll need to build. If you’re feeding grains or other concentrates, you’ll need to keep it stored in rodent-proof containers.

Keep a close eye on your animal’s condition over the winter. Most animals will lose some weight over the winter, which isn’t anything to be concerned about. However, you don’t want them to get too thin. If you start noticing ribs sticking out, it’s time to increase their rations a bit.

If your animals are used to eating fresh pasture, be sure to start their transition to winter feed a couple of weeks early. That way they can eat both and slowly get used to what they’ll be eating.

Timing of Feeds

To avoid dealing with feeding and watering in the dark, my winter chore schedule is different than the rest of the year. I feed later in the morning, and earlier in the afternoon.

If you’ll be adjusting feed times this winter, be sure you give your animals a chance to get used to the new schedule. I tend to start moving the time up in early fall, and then adjust by a half an hour or so each week. That way the animals aren’t startled by an entirely different schedule out of the blue.

Hen Feeding During Winter

Light

Chickens need a certain amount of light each day in order to keep laying eggs. If you want your chickens to lay all year, you’ll need to provide them with some sort of artificial light.

I have a light plugged into a timer in the coop. It turns on early each morning and automatically shuts off around 9 AM. By that time the birds are all out of the coop and frolicking in the barn or around the yard.

Be careful having your light turn on in the late afternoon. If your chickens don’t realize it’s night, they won’t hop up on their roosts for the night. Then the light will shut off suddenly, and they’ll have to stumble in the dark to get where they need to be.

Heat

Some animals need some extra heat to make it through the winter. For instance, some of my chickens don’t handle the cold as well as some of the others.

To help provide a bit of extra heat, I have a red heat lamp plugged into the coop. It’s on a sensor that turns on when the temperature drops below freezing. When the temperatures warm back up to 38 degrees, it shuts off.

It’s not a lot of heat, but it’s just enough to keep the coop warm. Keeping it on a sensor means I don’t need to keep turning the lamp on and off manually. It definitely cuts some work out of the winter chores.

The red lamp provides heat, without bugging the chickens by turning on and off in the middle of the night. A yellow heat lamp provides the same problems that a regular light does when it shuts off suddenly.

Shelter

Your animals need a place to go to get out of the wind. It gives them a place to bunker down on a cold winter night.

You’ll want your shelter to have a roof and a couple of sides at least. You can use tarps to create sides if necessary, but make sure you do this in the fall. Otherwise you’ll be outside in the cold yourself trying to wrestle a tarp in the wind. It’s much easier if you do it before winter!

Tarps around rabbit pens helps keep the wind from blowing right through the wire sides. You can also secure tarps to wire cattle panels to create temporary shelters, like this one.

tarp

Bedding

A good layer of bedding inside your shelter keeps your animals warm. I typically use straw or old hay as bedding. The carbon from this material will also help reduce odor from cooped up animals.

Chickens

I employ the deep layer method of bedding for my chickens. I clean out the chicken coop each spring, and get all the old bedding out. Then I slowly start adding straw as necessary to cover up poop. By the time winter comes around, they have a fairly deep layer, as you can see in the picture below.

As the lower layers of poop and straw slowly break down, it releases a little bit of heat. This helps keep the birds from freezing.

Chicken coop winter

Cows

I’ve started using the same deep layer method with the cows. They get a little bit of fresh bedding each day, covering up the poop piles. Then in the spring the tractor cleans it all out.

Rabbits

I ensure my rabbits have plenty of straw to burrow in to stay warm. My pens have a portion with a solid bottom, which is where I put the straw. If your pens have a wire bottom, you can use a piece of a cardboard box to hold straw in for them.

Other Animals

A good layer of bedding will keep your animals warm. Be sure to check it frequently and replace as needed.

Ventilation

When you’re looking at the shelters for your animals, you need to keep ventilation in mind. When animals are cooped up without proper air flow, sickness can spread quickly.

You’ll want to ensure air flows well through your chicken coop. If you have windows, leave them open just a little bit throughout the winter to get the air moving.

Cattle, sheep, and other large livestock benefit from a shelter that isn’t completely closed in.

Here’s a picture of the large pen where most of our cattle spend most of the winter. You’ll notice that it’s partially open to the elements. This open side allows the air to get in, and helps prevent illness. The closed side provides the much needed windbreak, and keeps the cows warm.

Cow Pen Winter

There are a lot of homesteading and survival secrets you can learn from our descendants. Click the banner bellow to find out more about them!

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Are Your Animals Ready for Winter?

Are your critters ready for whatever winter brings? Did I forget anything about preparing? Please share what steps you take to get your livestock ready in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.

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How to Make And Use Liquid Manure Compost

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28064194 - two buckets and spade in irrigation ditch between vegetable beds with growing wheat as green manure and some bootles as small hothouses for growing seedlings

Manure tea – doesn’t that just sound like something you’d like to have some crumpets with? Well, no.

But your garden will most definitely enjoy a cup, so today we’re going to talk about how to make and use your very own manure tea to get the best out of your crops.

Don’t mistake manure tea with compost tea; they’re two completely different beasts. Compost tea is all about microorganisms that are beneficial to both soil and plants. Manure tea is all about the nutrients in manure.

What is Manure Tea?

Manure tea is pretty much what it sounds like: liquid compost made from manure steeped in water. It’s not just manure that you add water to – well it is, but it’s a bit more involved than that, but not by much. Just like everything else in prepping or homesteading, it just requires a bit of effort and a small bit of time for a big payoff.

It’s high in nutrients needed by plants, especially nitrogen. It’s particularly good for deep-rooted plants such as vine plants and cereal grains that are deep feeders that take a toll even on fertile soil. Since it’s liquid, it seeps down deep into the soil to nourish the plants where they need it. It’s a wonderful compliment to the benefits that your compost adds to the soil.

Benefits of Manure Tea

There are several benefits to making and using manure tea, including:

  • Even if you have to buy a bag of manure, which will make several 10-gallon batches of tea, you’ll still only spend a few dollars – less than you’d pay for a fancy cup of coffee.
  • Unlike commercial chemical fertilizers, manure tea won’t damage your soil or add chemicals to your plants.
  • It’s nitrogen-rich, which is the primary nutrient that many plants lack. Lack of nitrogen is what contributes to bottom rot in tomatoes and soil often gets “tired” and needs this boost.
  • In addition to nitrogen, manure tea contains many other natural enzymes and micro-nutrients that your plants need that aren’t in commercial fertilizers.
  • It’s quick, or sort of. Unlike your compost pile, which can takes months to break down, tea can be made in a matter of a few days, or a couple of weeks, tops.
  • Since it’s in liquid form, it’s easy for soil to absorb, and your plants can use it right away.
  • You can use it, diluted of course, right in the soil around your plants.

Manure tea sounds even better for plants than herbal tea is to us!

Rules to Making Manure Tea

Like I said, making manure tea takes a bit of time and effort but, unlike many of our gardening tasks, it’s not particularly labor-intensive. If you have some manure on hand, you can easily do it.

There are only two main rules for making manure tea: don’t use manure from carnivorous animals and don’t use the original tea without diluting it. Think of it as any other concentrated fertilizer, except it’s organic, arguably of better quality, and practically (or completely) free.

What Type of Manure is Best?

Just like there are things that you can’t put on your compost pile, there are also certain types of manure that you shouldn’t use.

You can use horse manure, cow manure, goat manure, or even rabbit droppings to make the best manure tea. If you’re in an area where you have elk, moose, or other large, herbivorous animals such as elk or moose, you can use that too. If you’re in a survival situation after a SHTF event, you can use just about anything as long as it isn’t a meat eating animal.

The reason that you don’t want to use manure from a carnivorous animal is that it contains toxins and pathogens that can make you extremely sick.

Fresh manure is best, but dried will work just fine. You may need a bit more dried manure in order to get the tea strong enough.

Either use your own manure or make friends with a local farmer or horse stabling facility. You can also buy bagged manure from a garden center or a nursery. Believe it or not, there are actually places online that sell manure tea bags so that you can make your own without having to source the manure.

It kind of makes you wonder if they come in single serve or family size, right?

manure tea

How Do You Make Manure Tea?

There are three basic ways to make manure tea. They’re all easy, but one requires some easily-obtainable materials. However, it has some additional benefits too, so you may consider it worth the extra effort. Regardless of which method you choose, consider using pond or lake water for the additional nutrients.

The toss it and stir it method

This is probably the easiest way to make manure tea, but there are a couple of downsides that we’ll get to in a minute. To make the tea this way, you simply toss your manure in a bucket or barrel, cover it with water (about twice as much water as manure), and let it steep preferably in the sun so that the water stays warm, which helps break down the organic material. You’re making sun manure tea!

Stir it once a day or so to help the chunks break down, and add more water if it isn’t extra soupy. Let the tea steep for a week or two. The longer it steeps, the stronger it gets but you can start to use it after a few days – it just won’t be as strong.

Though this is crazy simple, you’re going to have to strain the leftover organic matter from the liquid using either a fine screen or some kind of cloth such as an old pillowcase or burlap. That can get sort of messy, but you don’t want any of the larger chunks to make its way into your tea. This is where using a “tea bag” comes in handy.

Another downside to this is that it doesn’t smell so great. You could, of course, put a loose lid on it to keep it from smelling too much.

The tea bag method

This one is exactly what it sounds like – you put the manure in a “tea bag” of burlap or an old pillowcase (use whatever fine cloth you have on hand), then steep it in a bucket or barrel of water, depending upon how much you’re making.

“Dunk” it good once a day or so to help break up the matter and speed up the steeping process. As with the first method, let it the manure tea steep for a week or two in order to get maximum effect. After it’s steeped long enough to be the color of strong coffee, pull the bag out and tie it above the bucket or barrel for a day or two so that it drains, then.

The Manure Teapot Method

I like to refer to this method as the teapot because it’s quite literally sitting in a barrel while it steeps, then is filtered as you drain it out. Cut the top off of a 50-gallon drum and clean it well. You’ll also need:

  • A spigot with an open/close valve
  • Enough sturdy, medium-mesh screen to cover the back of the spigot (about 6 inches in diameter, so that you can bow it toward the inside of the barrel a bit instead of having it flat against the hole)
  • 2 pieces of fine-mesh chicken wire, cut just a bit bigger than the diameter of the barrel
  • A couple of bricks
  • Enough hay or straw to fill the barrel about 1/3 of the way full (straw works best because it breaks down a bit slower)
  • Enough manure to fill the barrel 1/2 – 2/3 full
  • Water to fill the barrel almost full
  • A lid (plywood works) for the barrel
  • 3 concrete blocks

This is super simple to make. The hardest part is securing and sealing the spigot to the barrel. Speaking of which, that’s the first step.

  1. Cut a hole in the barrel about 4 inches from the bottom and secure the spigot permanently; if you use a metal barrel, braze it, if you use a plastic one, you can either do it yourself or buy a spigot kit from your local home improvement store.
  2. Shape the screen into a bowl shape and secure it over the hole inside the barrel. I prefer to secure it temporarily by simply duct-taping it so that I can clean it when the barrel is empty.
  3. Push the first piece of chicken wire down into the barrel, being careful not to squish the screen. The wire should be above the screen.
  4. Place the barrel in a sunny spot on top of the cinder blocks
  5. Put the straw in the barrel.
  6. Put the second piece of chicken wire on top of the straw and weight it down with the bricks.
  7. Add the manure.
  8. Add the water.
  9. Add the lid.
  10. Once a day or so, circulate the water so that the tea steeps better. Do this by filling a bucket from the spigot and then pouring it back into the top of the bucket. Drain and circulate a few buckets full each time.
  11. Steep for a week or two. You can actually keep adding to the mix as necessary, though I prefer to drain the barrel so that I can clean the screens and add more straw.

The straw or hay serves two purposes: it acts as a filter and it adds its own bit of nutrients to the mix. I’ve wondered if leaves would work as a filter because they’re so nutrient rich, but haven’t tried it yet because I’m afraid they’d clog the screen. I may try just adding a few in with the straw.

Tip: This can be scaled down if you don’t need this much manure tea. Use a 5-gallon bucket instead of a drum. You could also use a plastic garbage can of any size.

How to Use Manure Tea

Regardless of which steeping method you use, the tea will be strong enough within just a few days to burn your plants if you don’t dilute it. It should be the light-brown color of fairly weak tea when you use it. This tea is great for your patio plants and vines as well as your edibles. Just about every plant loves manure tea!

The only vegetables that you probably shouldn’t use manure tea on are root vegetables such as turnips, carrots, beets, radishes, and potatoes. They prefer a more potassium-rich soil than nitrogen-rich, and if you use tea on them, you’ll likely end up with big, beautiful top greens but not-so-beautiful veggies.

Now that you know how to make your own manure tea, your plants are going to love you. If you’ve made or used manure tea, please tell us about your experience in the comments section below.

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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How To Slaughter And Skin A Cow

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Survivopedia slaughter cow

There’s no doubt that having fresh milk is a wonderful thing, and an awesome reason for keeping cows right now. Good meat is currently available cut and ready to toss on the grill or in the oven, so there’s not need to butcher your own cow right now.

But what if SHTF? Will you know how to turn that cow in the pasture into a steak in the freezer? After this post, you will.

Warning: Before reading this, you need to know that it’s a bit gory. You are, after all, taking a life animal’s life, disemboweling it, then removing its skin and cutting it into edible chunks. If reading that sentence makes you gag, you may want to stop reading because it’s going to get even more graphic from here on out.

Are you still with me? Good. Since I was raised on a farm, the circle of life is a natural thing to me. Animals are bred and born to provide us with some source of food. Eggs, milk, cheese, and meat.

Though butchering has never been one of my favorite parts of farming, it’s necessary and natural. The key is to do it humanely and properly so that the animal doesn’t suffer and the meat doesn’t go bad and make the death a waste.

We always had a firm policy on the farm for hunting and butchering; there were only three reasons to kill an animal: to eat it, to put it out of its misery, or as a last resort to protect life and limb. That’s it. Now, that being said, let’s get down to the business of butchering, and see what steps to follow.

1. Picking the Right Season

Now, there’s not always going to be this option, but ideally, you want to butcher when it’s cold but close enough to spring that you’re not going to have a 2-month-long freeze. This is because you’re going to hang the meat (more on this later) for at least a day or two and you don’t want heat or bugs to become an issue.

2. Preparing Your Tools

You’re going to need a loaded gun, rubber gloves and extremely sharp knives. A small butcher knife will do for now. A hay hook will come in handy, too.

3. Picking a Spot

You need to bring the cow to an area that’s clean and drains well. You also want the area to be accessible by backhoe or equipment that can at least lift the cow high enough for it to be fairly vertical. Finally, you’ll have to get the carcass out of the area, so pick a spot that meets all of those needs.

4. Killing the Cow

Bring the cow to the killing area. You want to kill it with one shot, humanely. To do that, mentally draw a line from the base of each ear to the inside corner of the opposite eye. Where the lines intersect is the kill spot.

Shoot the cow from a few feet away on that spot. If you’re not a competent shot or if you’re not comfortable doing this, ask somebody who possesses both qualities to do it for you. Now is no time for a shaky hand – you want to do the job with one shot.

cow head

Any gun from a .22 caliber and up will do. As soon as the cow drops, pull its head up to expose its throat. Slit its throat right behind its jaw clear through the carotid artery. At this point, the cow is brain dead but its heart may still be beating a bit, which will help pump all of the blood out of the body. This will make for a much cleaner slaughter in the following steps.

A cow has A LOT of blood, so it will likely take a half hour or so for it to bleed out. There may be some thrashing in the beginning, but as long as you shot it properly, it’s brain dead and not suffering.

5. Gutting the Cow

This part is where things start to get a bit messy. We always “bunged” the cow – cut around the anus and tie off the end of the intestine so that fecal matter doesn’t get into the cavity and contaminate the meat.

Now roll the cow over on its back and make an incision from the sternum to the anus. Make this incision as shallow as possible; you only want to cut through the  thin stomach muscles, not into the guts.

Hopefully you have help; if so, have them hook the hay hook through the stomach hide and muscles on the top side, if the cow has rolled onto its side, or on the far side away from you. Have them pull the skin and muscle back so that you have access to the innards. If you’re going to be using the heart, liver or other organs, now is the time to get them.

You can start rolling them out from the front back now but you don’t have to get them completely out because you’re going to be lifting the cow in a minute and gravity will pull the rest of them out.

Next, make a slice between the bone and the tendon of each of the cow’s rear legs, right above the joint that holds the hoof. Be careful not to slice through the tendon because you’re going to need its strength to hang the cow. Slide a sturdy piece of wood or pipe through the slits and attach the ends to a hoisting line, which you’ll attach to your come-along.

Now of course if you don’t have equipment, this next step is going to be hard work because you’re going to manually toss the line over a limb, or through the rings on a tripod, and hoist the cow up so that it’s hanging. You can also use a manual come-along.

If you have the equipment, you can attach the end of the line to your come-along and pull the cow over an extremely sturdy tree limb (it’s going to be holding a cow!) or you can use a large tripod made for this.

Be aware, because once the cow starts lifting, the rest of the innards are going to flop out and if you’re in the line of fire, you’re going to need a shower!

When you have the cow hung, it’s time to start skinning it.

6. Skinning the Cow

If you’re going to be using the hide (of course you are!), you need to skin it carefully so that you don’t puncture the hide. Make cuts all the way around the rear legs just above (well, below, now) the hock. Make a cut that goes through the hide but not into the meat down the inside of the leg to the cut that you made for the anus. Cut off the tail at the base.

Using an EXTREMELY sharp skinning knife, start separating the hide from the meat, starting at the cuts that you made on the rear legs. You’ll notice that the skin starts to kind of peel off – use that space to continue skinning. Work your way around the cow so that the hide is coming off evenly all the way around it.

When you get to the head and front legs, make a cut in the hide all the way around the head and all the way around each front leg above the knee. Some people just make the cut at the top of the leg but I like to get that extra little bit of hide if possible.

Cut up the inside of the front legs to the incision that you made when gutting the cow. Next, complete the cut from the sternum to the cut that you just made around the neck. Finish removing the skin.

Now it’s time to take the carcass to the barn or wherever you’re going to hang it. The easiest way to do that is to quarter it, but that’s a story for another article!

There are many different methods to killing, slaughtering, and skinning a cow. The guys from the video below are doing it a little bit different, according to they means and available equipment, but you still got the idea, don’t you?

Video first seen on TheFlyingKiwi.

I know that the content of this article is a bit sensitive but having fresh, nutrient-rich meat for your family will make it all worth it. If you don’t want to do it now, that’s fine, but if SHTF, it’s a skill that will come in handy.

I may have left something out because the process is so familiar to me. But if you have any comments or alternate methods to share, please do so in the comments section below!

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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Starvation by Regulation: Farming Bans And Clever Work-Arounds

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SVP farming ban

It used to be your right to openly grow a garden or have livestock in your yard if you so desired, but the laws are now so strict that, for many of us, growing our own food when living an urban life is nearly impossible.

The government has slowly made it illegal to be self-sufficient all in the name of public and personal health and safety.

In fact, if things were to go south today, many of us wouldn’t be able to feed ourselves with fresh food because the laws today forbid it. However, as any experienced prepper will tell you, there are work-arounds if you’re willing to look for them. 

Read this article to find out more about a few anti-gardening and farming laws and how to get around them.

Watering Your Plants

Again, “for the good of the community”, cities often limit the use of water for gardening or watering your lawn, especially in summer, and this is due to limited water supplies. Some people are fortunate enough to have an old well on their property that allows them to circumvent the restriction but for most people, defying the ordinance means facing a fine if caught. This requirement is hard to face when trying to grow your own food.

Work-Around

Use grey water, or catch rain water if you are allowed to. Grey water is water that you use in your house that doesn’t contain any type of bodily waste or hazardous material. The two easiest ways to use this grey water on a small scale are to save your warm-up water and recycle your wash water.

We waste literally hundreds of gallons of water per year waiting for it to get hot for showers or washing dishes. That water is perfectly clean and running it down the drain is part of the reason the restrictions are in place to begin with. Catch it in buckets and use it to water your garden. Washing machine water can be re-routed and used to water trees and larger plants, too. There are some rules that you need to follow to use this water safely, though.

Rain water can easily be caught in barrels, then used to water plants, if rainwater usage is legal in your state. Don’t let it sit for too long though, because it can grow stagnant and attract unwanted bugs such as mosquitoes.

Yard Regulations

gardenMost cities have regulations about how you can keep your yard.

Gone are the days of you being the king (or queen) of your castle; you have to keep your yard looking a certain way so that it maintains “curb appeal”.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you own the place, you can’t grow squash if your city thinks it’s ugly.

Homeowner’s Associations are even worse; they have to follow city laws but can also make stricter regulations that can quite literally get you evicted from your own house if you don’t follow them.

Of course, this is partially your own fault if you bought the property after these rules were in place, but communities often come under the rule of homeowner’s associations after people are already living there.

In this case, you’re going to have to be smarter than they are. Fortunately, that usually won’t be too hard.

Work-Arounds

The easiest ways to get around these laws are to grow privacy hedges or put up a privacy fence, at least in the back yard.

You need to be careful here, because many cities require that you provide open access to water mains; thus your front yard can’t be fenced in.

Another good work-around is to use raised beds or vertical gardens; they’re attractive and you can plant edible ornamentals in them to give them even more curbside appeal.

Compost Piles

Now, I understand that compost piles can be a bit visually off-putting, but then again, so can your chubby neighbor while he’s mowing his lawn with no shirt on. Unfortunately, there’s no law against that, though there probably should be. There are often laws against composting, though.

One of the primary reasons composting is banned in many places is because of the odor. Properly tended, a compost pile shouldn’t smell like anything other than dirt unless you’re composting manure in it. If your compost pile smells, it’s likely not heating up enough for the organic material to break down. It could also be that you’re adding the wrong things to your pile.

Even if it’s legal, many towns have regulations about the size of compost piles or regulations that require a certain distance between your compost pile and your neighbor’s house or property line. That makes it difficult for many “townies” to have one due to the size of their lot. In numerous communities, outdoor compost piles are illegal, no matter how small it is or where you put it.

Work-Around

You can, of course, go before city or community councils and make a movement to fight the regulation, and you may win. You also have the option to have a smaller compost bin inside, often under your sink. This is a great option to cultivate fertilizer for your flower beds or raised gardens. It also gives you experience on a small scale so that if SHTF, you’ll already know your stuff.

Livestock Laws

Keeping livestock, even something as small as chickens, is often prohibited within city limits. There’s not really a good work-around for this other than to connect with local farms that may be willing to let you keep some animals on their land for the cost of feed. Co-ops are also an option as they offer the opportunity to get a variety of vegetables, and often meats, on a regular basis.

You probably won’t be able to raise a calf in your back yard, but if you really want chickens, you may be able to get away with a few using a privacy fence. You’ll have to keep the coops extremely clean so that they don’t smell and offend the neighbors to the point that they complain to authorities.

Urban Farming Laws

This is kind of a catch-all description of the way that government restricts farming and gardening. Most cities, and counties, are zoned in a manner that restricts what can happen on particular parcels of land in specific areas.

The entire city (or county) is divided into zones, including farming, commercial, and residential zones. Depending upon your zone, you’re restricted to, and from certain activities. For example, in a residential zone, you likely won’t be allowed to operate a business.

These zoning laws seriously affect people who want to farm. Fortunately, many cities are now revising these laws and relaxing what types of gardening and farming activities are allowed, but there’s still a long way, and thousands of cities to go before you’re allowed to openly garden or farm in a zone that doesn’t permit it.

Most of the work-arounds described above apply to this problem, but you may still be subject to fines and could be ordered to destroy your gardens or get rid of your animals. The most pro-active thing that you can do is to start a movement toward acceptance of urban gardening in your community. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

govt

The fact is, gardening and prepping is becoming much more main-stream than it was even 5 years ago. Some people garden as a means of knowing exactly what they’re putting in their bodies and others, like us, have gardens that produce food to feed us now, and in case of emergency.

Because of this shift from covert to main-steam, urban farming laws are changing and you have the ability to help facilitate that change in your area. This doesn’t mean that you have to let your neighbors know about the cellar or the bunker that you have hidden out back, but you can give things a nudge in the right direction by gathering with like-minded people to get the laws changed.

If that fails, continue as you’ve been doing and just be smart enough to find the loopholes and work-arounds that are there if you’re determined enough to find them. There’s no government agency planning to rescue you in the middle of chaos or giving you and your family the food that you need to survive. The only thing they really plan about you is starvation by regulation.

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

 

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10 Breeds Of Hogs To Choose From For Survival

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Survivopedia: 10 breeds of hogs

Pigpen? Check! Food source? Check! Lots of fresh water? Check!

You’ve made the decision to raise hogs for survival. You’ve lined everything up. You’re ready to go. Except something is still missing, you need to buy some hogs.

But what kind should you get? With so many breeds out there, how do you know which one is best? Is one kind of pig better than another kind?

Is There One Breed of Pig That’s Best?

The short answer is no. The long answer is, there’s a breed of pigs, or a crossbreed, that’s best for you and your farm. What’s best for you might not be best for me.

There are several things to think about before selecting a particular breed.

Four Factors to Consider Before Picking a Breed

Before you bring hogs home, take a few moments to research the breed you’ll be getting. In particular, you’ll want to look at the following things.

Temperament

Where will you be raising your pigs? Will they have lots of room to roam, or just a small area? Will the pigs be around other animals or small children?

Some breeds of pigs are docile. Others are more aggressive. There are pros and cons to both.

If predators attack your farm animals, a more aggressive pig might fare better. Conversely, if you have small children, you’ll probably want a gentler pig. Remember that temperament can vary, even across breeds. No two pigs are the same.

If you’re picking out breeding stock, be sure to ask your farmer what character traits they’re breeding for. Also, check out the pigs in person if possible. That’ll help you make an informed decision.

Size

In addition to temperament, pigs vary in size. Some pigs get huge. Others are smaller. Some pigs produce a lot of lard. Others are known as bacon pigs, producing a lot of lean meat.

How much meat will you be able to store in a survival situation? How much lard will you use? You’ll want to honestly answer these questions, and select a breed accordingly.

Where Are They Being Raised?

Modern pigs have been bred to survive in confinement. Commercial farmers have used selective breeding to ensure the pigs will stay alive on concrete, eating exactly the same food for its entire life.

If you prefer your pigs to act like pigs, and be raised humanely, modern breeds may not be what you’re looking for. Heritage pigs are breeds that were popular back before CAFOs entered the scene. They were the hogs that farmers and homesteaders raised.

For survival situations, you’ll want a pig that grows well on pasture, dairy, and scraps—foods that you can scrounge up even in the worst of times. Pigs who are used to eating only hog feed won’t be as useful when the SHTF.

Location

What hogs are available where you are? You can bring in pigs from far away to add to your line, but that definitely adds to the cost. Local pigs have the advantage of being local. You know they’re adapted to your climate. That’s always a plus.

Ten Breeds of Hogs to Consider

Since I don’t have time or space to dive into every single breed of hog available, I’ve compiled information for ten common breeds. These are well suited for survival situations. Any of them would be an ideal addition to a homestead.

1 – Berkshire

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Discovered several hundred years ago in Berkshire County, UK, the Berkshire is dark with white points. This coloring means they’re less prone to sunburn than lighter colored hogs. These friendly, curious hogs are a hardy breed. They hold up well over long, cold winters, as long as they have proper shelter to take cover. They’re adaptable hogs, and can thrive in many environments.

To help lower the food bill, Berkshires are able to graze on pasture. They grow more slowly than some other breeds, but their meat is delicious. In fact, they’re known as the favorite pork breed in Japan.

Berkshires are larger than many breeds. When mature, they average 600 pounds.

The mama Berkshires have good mothering skills. They produce a lot of milk, which helps the piglets get off to a good start.

2 – Duroc

duroc

Durocs are one of the most common breed of hog in the world. With the ability to convert feed into lean muscles, Duroc boars played an important role in breeding lines for factory farms.

Despite their use in confinement lines, Durocs are an ideal outdoor pig. Their thick, red coat provides protection from cold winter weather. When the weather warms the coat molts, allowing these pig to thrive during dry, hot summers.

They enjoy running and grazing on pasture, but their growth will slow considerably. To maintain the quick growth, these hogs need good quality feed.

Durocs are medium sized pigs. When mature, the sows range from 450-650 pounds. Boars are slightly larger, with an average range of 500-750 pounds.

Historically Durocs were considered an aggressive breed. However, many farmers have successfully bred out much of the aggression. It’s still a trait to be aware of though.

3 – Tamworths

Tamworth

These ginger colored hogs perform well on pasture, earning them the nickname Irish Grazers. Their long snouts are perfect for rooting and foraging. They also have long legs.

Because they have smaller bones, Tamworths typically produce a better ratio of useable meat. Their hanging weight is a higher percentage than many other breeds. When mature, both sows and boars average 500-600 pounds. They are an active, medium sized hog.

Their athletic personality means Tamworths require solid fencing. Be sure to have it installed before you bring them home.

Tamworths produce large litters, and the sows are usually able to care for them. Piglets are usually active, and full of vitality.

4 – Large BlackLarge_Black_pigs

Large black pigs are named for both their size and their color. They average 700 pounds. Because they’re bigger than many other breeds, you’ll need to make sure your housing is large enough for your herd.

These pigs produce tender meat with excellent flavor, especially when allowed to forage. They’re well suited for grazing in wooded areas. The nuts and other food they find plays a role in the flavor of their meat.

Their docile personality makes pasturing Large Blacks simple. Many farmers have success with just a single strand of electric wire.

Large Black sows are excellent mothers, and usually have large litters. Obese sows can have problems with fertility, so it’s important to keep their weight in check.

5 – Gloucestershire Old Spot

Gloucester_Old_Spot_Boar

White hogs with black spots, Gloucestershire Old Spots grow well from forage. They take your agricultural by-products like whey and bruised fruit and turn it into delicious meat. These are lard pigs, even though they aren’t as large as others breeds. Old Spots average only 500 pounds upon maturity. But, they have a higher ratio of fat compared to the bacon breeds.

With their white skin, this breed is prone to sunburn. Be sure to provide them with plenty of shade and mud to wallow in.

As far as temperament goes, Old Spots are docile. They aren’t aggressive, and are known as easy keepers. They do know how to bust fences though, so make sure yours are tight!

Gloucestershire Old Spot sows are good mothers. They average nine piglets per litter, though many sows will have more. Their milk production is high, helping the piglets grow.

6 – Hereford

Hereford-sow

Hereford hogs were bred to match the coloring pattern of the cattle with the same name. They’re reddish with a white face, legs, and belly. Herefords are large pigs. At maturity, males average 800 pounds. The sows average 600 pounds. These hogs grow quickly, and fatten easily. They often reach ideal slaughter weight in 5 months while eating less than many other breeds.

They are easygoing pigs, and typically docile. This temperament makes Herefords ideal for first time handlers. As such, 4-H children often use them.

Adaptability is another positive character trait for Herefords. They do well on pasture or in an enclosed pen. With their strong rooting ability, Herefords make great tillers.

Sows of this breed are prolific. They average 10 piglets per litter, and are normally good mothers.

7 – Yorkshire

Yorkshire_pigs_at_animal_sanctuary

Currently the most common pig in the United States, Yorkshires are also known as English Large Whites. They have light pink skin that’s covered in thin white hair. Their ears are erect. Yorkshires are used in many breeding programs because they aren’t fatty. While they are large pigs, they are very muscular. This lean meat means they are bacon pigs, not lard pigs.

Pasture can make up part of a Yorkshire’s diet. They are hardy, and can handle cold winters and hot summers.

In addition to highly desirable meat, the Yorkshires also bring excellent mothering genes to breeding programs. They have large litters, and take care of their young well.

8 – Mulefoot

Mulefoot-pig

The hoof of a Mulefoot differs from other pigs. It’s not cloven, so it’s like a mule or a donkey. These hogs are solid black, though some will have white points.

Mulefoot hogs are smaller than many other breeds, averaging 400-600 pounds. Because of their small size, the pork chops will be smaller. Don’t let the smallness fool you though; the marbled meat is tender and tasty.

These hogs are active, but not aggressive. They’re good at grazing, and do well in many climates. Their unique hooves allow them to thrive even in wet areas.

Mulefoot sows are calm mothers. They average 5-6 piglets with each litter.

9 – Red Wattle

Red_Wattle_pig

The Red Wattle is the only domestic hog with a wattle. These flaps of skin on the neck are not believed to have any particular use. They are large pigs, with the boars averaging 750 pounds when fully grown. Despite their size, they produce high quality lean meat that’s favored by many chefs.

Because of their size, you’ll need to make sure your structures are big enough to accommodate. The good news is that Red Wattles are hardy, and easily adapt to a variety of climates. They thrive on pasture, which can help lower your production costs.

As far as temperament goes, Red Wattles are very docile. Many farmers consider this breed among the easy keepers.

Red Wattles are attentive mothers. Sows average 9-10 piglets per litter.

10 – Hampshire

Hampshire-Sow_and_Piglets

Hampshire hogs feature a unique look. They’re black with a white belt around their midsection that covers their front legs. With their erect ears, they can hear what’s going on around them. They are very curious pigs. However, they are docile.

They are excellent foragers, and gain weight quickly. Hampshire meat is prized as being extremely lean. These are definitely not a lard breed.

Hampshires are known for their quick growth. It takes less time to raise them to market weight. Additionally, large litters are common for Hampshire sows, so you’ll have plenty of pigs around to raise.

Before You Start Breeding Hogs

Before jumping into a breeding program of your own, I’d recommend starting with a couple of seasonal piglets. This will allow you to test your desired breed of pig in your environment.

You can check out your fences, and make sure they’ll keep your hogs in. You’ll also be able to taste the final product. The experience will help you know if that breed is a good match for you. Once you’ve done a test run, you’re probably ready to dive into breeding.

Sometime during your breeding program, you might decide to introduce another breed into your herd. Crossbreeding hogs adds vitality to the mix. Vitality is an important trait for long-term survival.

Regardless of the breed or breeds on your farm, always remember the most important rule of raising pigs. Breed the best, and eat the rest. That way you keep only the best genes moving along.

Hogs of all breeds are an excellent addition to the homestead. It’s no wonder they were given an honorable mention in this Survivopedia post on top survival animals. They root, cut down on waste, and produce good meat that’s valuable for eating, selling, or bartering. But if you plan to get your food production to another level, then CLICK on the banner below to find out more!

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Do you raise pigs? What are your favorite breeds? Did I miss any that you love? Please share in the comments section below.

This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.

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What You Don’t Know About Raising Pigs For Survival

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big pork

Have you noticed the price of bacon lately? How about pork chops? Pork prices are soaring.

Besides costing an arm and a leg, grocery store pork often contains questionable ingredients. Things like benzoate preservatives and ractopamine. Ew! I like to be able to pronounce the ingredients I eat.

Thankfully, there’s at least one solution.

Raising your own hogs will help lower the price point per pound. It’ll also give you complete control over what goes into your meat. Hogs aren’t only beneficial in today’s market. When the SHTF, they’ll be invaluable. They’re the perfect homesteading addition as you prepare for the future. Ready to get started?

Here’s what you need to know before bringing home the bacon.

3 Important Considerations for Raising Hogs

Before bringing home any new animal, there’s a lot to think about. But there are some specifics just for hogs:

Do You Want to Breed Pigs or Just Raise Them Each Year?
There are two primary methods of pig raising. You can start each spring with a couple of little ones and butcher them in the fall. Or you can get your own breeding stock and raise pigs year round. There are benefits to each.

I’m currently buying weaner pigs each. My parents kept pigs year round when I was younger, and I enjoyed that. Someday I’ll winterize our pig pen and get breeding stock of my own.

Having your own stock will ensure your access to pork annually, which is preferred for survival. You may not always be able to find piglets to buy. Keeping pigs year round eliminates the search. However, year round hogs are the harder option. You’ll have to ensure your pig pen offers adequate protection for each season. Your feed costs will also be higher, as pregnant pigs eat a lot.

If you’ve never raised pigs before, consider starting off with just a couple of weaner pigs. Raising these to market weight will provide valuable knowledge and experience. Try this at least once before tackling your own hog-breeding program.

Cost of Pigs

Pigs used to be inexpensive animals. But now, $100 seems to be the new low for weaner pigs. During the spring, when everyone is buying, they’ll be much more.

Adult breeding stock costs more. Expect to pay several hundred for each sow and boar.

Since pigs enjoy the company of other pigs, you should raise at least two. If you don’t need the meat, you can always sell it.

What Will Your Pig Eat?

The easiest thing to feed your pig is a steady diet of hog chow. It’s formulated to meet your pigs’ needs, including the proper amount of protein and nutrients.

Hog chow is also the most expensive way to fatten up your hog. Each one will take a half ton by the time they reach butcher weight.

There are ways to lower your feed bill. You can give your pigs table scraps. These creatures eat just about anything.

Mine don’t like citrus or banana peels, onions, or raw potato peels, but eat everything else we feed them. We collect our produce scraps in a container in the kitchen, and feed them to the pigs once a day. They love it. We also feed ours extra milk from our cows, eggs that got cracked, or bruised apples. Pigs are a great way to reduce wasted food!

Just because a pig can eat almost everything, doesn’t mean you should feed them everything. They should never eat pork products, rotten foods, or highly sugared pastries. Remember that what you’re feeding them is turning into the meat you’re going to be eating.

To lower your feed costs even more, you can get creative. Are there any local cheese making companies that’d let you have whey? Or a small grocery store that’d give you unsold produce? Look around, and think creatively to obtain feed.

Water

Pigs drink a lot, so you’ll have to give them constant access to fresh water. While you can use a trough, your pigs will probably dump it out a couple of times each day. They like playing in it. To solve this problem, you can get an automatic waterer at most feed stores. These hook up to a hose, or to a bucket. The pigs drink through a nipple.

What Do You Need to Raise Pigs?

Hogs aren’t as needy as many other livestock. They don’t require as much infrastructure. They aren’t as picky on their feed. In addition to the feed and water mentioned earlier, your pigs will need the following:

Shade

Pigs need shade. They don’t sweat, and can easily overheat in the hot sun. Make sure they have shade.

If your pigs are on pasture, trees are one way to provide shade. If they’re in an outdoor pen, give them a roof or tarp. Indoors, make sure they have ventilation to keep the heat down.

Shelter

If you won’t be wintering your hogs, they won’t need a complicated shelter. Give them a place to get out of the wind and rain.

For cold climates, your pigs will need more protection. You can knock up a sturdy structure for them. That way they can bed down and stay warm.

Fencing

If your pigs will be outdoors, you’ll need a fence to keep them in. Pigs are notorious for testing fences and finding holes. Make sure yours are secure.

Common hog fences are made from hog panels or field fence. You can also train pigs to electric wire. To teach them, run an electric wire at snout level around the perimeter of a small pen.

While they’re learning, it’s best to have an additional fence up. That’ll teach the hogs to go backwards from the shock instead of running forward.

Inexpensive Pig Pen

It’s possible to provide everything your pig needs without spending a fortune. Here’s what our pig pen looks like:

pig pen

We used four hog panels, but didn’t make it square. Instead, we curved one of the panels, increasing the square footage of the pen. We secured the panels to T-Posts we already had around the farm.

To provide both shelter and shade, we added a simple roof over part of the pen. We used wooden poles we made from trees on the property for the structure. Metal scraps left over from other projects topped it. We used treated posts to hold the roof up. If you have rot-resistant wood in your area, those are even cheaper.

To make my pen winter ready, I need to enclose the sides under the roof. That’d give the hogs a place to stay dry and warm. It’s on my someday list!

Farrowing Area (If Breeding)

A sow’s gestation lasts about 115 days. You’ll want to make sure she’s in her own area before giving birth. Make sure she has plenty of bedding.

You’ll need to check for stillborn piglets. Check in on your growing litter frequently at first. Inexperienced mama pigs can lie on their babies and squish them.

Why Would Anyone Choose Hogs Over Other Animals for Survival?

When times are tough, you need an animal that is low maintenance. You need one that gives you the most value for your money and time. You need a hog.

It’s true that you can use everything but the squeal. Hogs give you tasty meat, fat for lard, and fertilizer for your vegetables.

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Hogs also require a low time commitment. Once you’ve gotten their fence and shelter up, you just need to feed, water, and add bedding as needed. They are low maintenance, except during the farrowing season.

The hogs will also eat your food scraps, helping to keep your waste piles small. In a crisis, trash can easily pile up. Pigs will ensure there’s no food scraps going to waste.

Hogs don’t require as much space as larger animals, so they’ll be easier to keep in smaller quarters. Their snouts are great at tilling the ground and can prep your garden. They’re very versatile animals on the homestead.

Other Essentials About Raising Hogs

Because they’re constantly rooting around, hogs are prone to intestinal parasites. Some farmers routinely worm. You’ll want to check with a vet to find the recommended wormer for your area.

Many farmers castrate their male hogs, especially if they’re running males and females together.  A castrated male is known as a barrow. Uncastrated males, known as boars, produce meat with a different flavor. It’s known as boar taint. They’re also more likely to be aggressive.

Ideal Butcher Size

Most pig farmers and homesteaders raise pigs to 225-250 pounds. It’s considered the perfect market size. Any bigger, and your feeding costs go up and you’ll get more fat.

Historically, pigs were bigger at butchering time. That’s because pioneers depended on lard for cooking, making soap, and plenty of other tasks. They needed fat pigs because they used the fat. If current economic conditions continue to change, you might see the return of the extra big pig.

Don’t worry though. You won’t have to drag a scale out to the pigpen. You can calculate a pig’s weight based on some simple measurements. All you’ll need is a piece of string, a measuring stick, and some time. It really works! It’s how I determine when it’s time to butcher.

Butchering

When your hog reaches market size, you’ll need to make butchering arrangements. Since pigs are smaller than cows, many homesteaders handle this part on their own. I don’t. I call our local butcher, and they send someone out to the farm. The pigs are dispatched here, while I watch and learn all I can. Maybe someday I’ll try it myself. After dressing, they’re hauled in a refrigerated truck to get processed. The facility also smokes the meat for me.

If you decide to butcher on your own, this field dressing guide will help. Pigs are covered in hair, which you can either singe or scrape off. Skinning is also an option.

After you dress the pig, hanging for a few days will improve the flavor. The cool days of fall are perfect for butchering. Then, you can proceed to cut and wrap your pork.

DIY hog bbq

How to Make Money From Raising Hogs

Pigs can be profitable! If you’re hoping to make money from raising hogs, you have several options. You can invest in quality breeding stock, and sell piglets for show. These typically sell for more than piglets for the table. 4H students are prospective buyers.

If you aren’t raising show hogs, consider selling them at a variety of sizes. Weaners are small pigs, around 25 pounds. They’ve just been weaned and are ready for farmers or homesteaders to raise. You can also keep your piglets a little longer, and sell them as growers. Those weigh 40-70 pounds. Hogs weighing over 150 pounds are known as finishers. They require more time and feed on your part, but usually sell for more money.

In addition to selling live pigs for others to finish, you can sell market ready hogs. A typical pricing method is to sell at a price per pound, hanging weight. You can add the kill fee into your price per pound. Once the hanging pig arrives at the butcher, the buyer can have it cut to specifications. The buyer is then responsible for cutting and wrapping expenses.

When I raise spring pigs, I usually buy one extra to sell. It usually brings enough money to pay for the initial cost, feed,  and butchering costs for both pigs. It also covers my cut and wrap expenses.

Alternatively, you can have the pig processed and then sell the meat. This requires additional legalities than selling them live.

Around here, I’d have to pass an on-site inspection to legally sell pigs this way. Then I’d have to use a specific butcher that’s been USDA approved for hogs. Your local requirements may vary, so be sure to research these before you start selling processed pork.

If you smoke your own bacon and ham, you have a value added product. Maybe you’ll discover a niche market for dry canned bacon. Just make sure to follow the laws in your location. In addition to selling your pigs for meat, you can use other by-products for profit. You can sell manure for gardeners. You can turn the ears into delicious dog treats. With a little creativity, your pigs can bring income to your farm.

Are you raising pigs for survival? Do you have any additional insight to share, or questions that still need answered? Please post them in the comments of this article.

More are still to come about the simple ways to food independence. CLICK on the banner below if you are willing to take your farming to the next level!

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This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.

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9 Ways To DIY A Chicken Feeder

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chicken feederEverybody loves chicken meat and eggs and many preppers have taken to chicken ownership, so we thought that some DIY projects for feeding chickens would be of interest to you.

These will be particularly useful if you’re a chicken owner looking for cheaper ways for feeding your, ahem, “livestock”, and who isn’t?

Chickens? Why?

For those of you who haven’t jumped on the chicken train, yet: Why raise chickens, you may ask? Well, home-grown chicken meat is healthy and it tastes good, and besides being a great source of food (eggs included), they’re fairly easy to raise and they’re also good fun (as in entertainment).

Are you sold yet? If not, keep reading!

Chickens can be grown in small, even portable, coops which are nicknamed chicken-tractors. These are excellent to use if you have a smaller backyard. Chickens are not picky when it comes to food, and they eat some of the stuff we eat regularly (bread, grains and stuff like that).

In the best of worlds, you should let them feed themselves, as in “free range chickens”, but in our modern day and age, that’s often difficult due to space restrictions or local laws. Many city ordinances don’t even allow chickens, let alone free-range ones. There’s also the safety of the chickens to be considered; if you live beside a person who has dogs or cats that run loose, your chickens are going to be considered dinner!

So, today’s article is about how to DIY chicken feeders. You may enjoy feeding them by hand, but this projects will free up some time in case you’re too busy to throw scratch every day.

Ask around and you’ll find out that chickens regularly spill the food in the feed dish or even poop in it, so go for a fresh and clean start with your chicken farm project by building a feeder which does not allow them to get inside the feeder and waste the food.

I know, chicken-chow is relatively cheap, but that doesn’t mean you must lose half of it to waste on a daily basis.

Are you ready? Let’s get it on, right after the break!

Project 1: PVC Chicken Feeder

PVC is almost a panacea for your homestead. I mean, if you can build entire underground watering systems from PVC piping, chicken feeders are child’s play! So, if you want to say goodbye to chicken feed waste and trampled grass, build your own chicken feeder using plain-old PVC piping.

The simplest design is a T-shaped system which can be easily built using 90 degree elbows along with PVC piping. The beauty of this chicken feeder is its simplicity and effectiveness. Also, this baby can be used for both feeding and watering your chickens, making it an absolutely must-have for your coop.

In terms of materials required, you’ll only have to go shopping for a 5′ long PVC pipe, a “T” joint, two 90-degree elbows, a cap and a jar of PVC cement. The idea is to cut off two 3” pieces from the PVC pipe which are required to join the “T” and elbows together.

The PVC cement must be applied in each one of the two holes of the “T” and, as quickly as possible, both of the 3” long pieces of PVC pipe must be firmly secured into the respective hole. I say quickly because PVC cement dries in a matter of seconds and it becomes rock-solid. Basically this is a two step process, repeated for each side hole of the “T”.

Next, the elbows must be dry-fitted onto the 3” pipe stubs. After you have them on, make a mark on the elbow pieces across to the joining parts of the “T” using a sharpie, to help you later when you’ll be gluing them together.

After you mark them, glue these parts together with PCV cement. The long pipe must be also glued in the top hole of the “T” piece and that’s about it; you’ve ended up with a T-shaped chicken feeder which can be placed basically anywhere and it can be used for watering your chickens too. For keeping it fixed firmly in place, you can use wire or something similar. Then, all you have to do is to fill the tube with whatever chicken feed you’re using, and place the cap on top.

This is how the two-sided gizmo looks in the end; the finished product and some complementary chickens, for your viewing pleasure:

Chicken Feeder 1

Photo source: Backyard Chicken Lady

And here’s a video tutorial depicting all the details for making a simple chicken feeder from PVC pipes.

Video first seen on Specific Love Creations

Actually, there are three different models along with the first T-shaped one, so go ahead, take your pick. There’s this next one:

Video first seen on Hobby Farms

And then these other really cool ideas:

Video first seen on Green Power Farm

Video first seen on Carolina Coops

Project 2: The Rodent-Proof Chicken Feeder

If you’re having a pest (read rats) infestation problem in your backyard where your chickens march gloriously enjoying the spring breeze, what are you going to do? You can’t just let the rats spread disease and eat you out of house and coop. Call pest control?

Well, that could work too, but the elegant, more permanent, chemical-free solution would be to build a rodent-proof chicken feeder. By rodent-proof, I mean the rats will be unable to get inside and grab a free meal on your dime whenever they want.

Enter the Chicken Feeder 9000; check out the video below and don’t worry because the door shuts in slow motion so that the chickens are safe and in a couple of days, even the oldest and stupidest hen will learn how to use it. And yes, it works folks. You can see the desperation in the little grey fellow’s misty eyes, can’t you?

Video first seen on East Bourne Diver

Here’s a video that will help you with the DIY job if you’re into trolling rodents!

Video first seen on TCSRock78

Project 3: The Wooden Chicken Feeder

This falls into the “high end” category of DIY chicken feeders and it requires excellent skills in terms of wood cutting and assembling. However, if you’re good with tools and wood, this project will fit you like a glove and your chickens will be happy. As you know, happy chickens give more eggs, so go for it.

In the photo source you can find detailed information about the respective job, including parts list, tools list and schematics. Materials required are screws, plywood, redwood plant stakes, veneer and miscellaneous materials (washers, sandpaper etc.). And here’s how the end-product should look in the end. Beautiful, isn’t it? On top of its astounding looks, this high-end feeder is bird/pest-resistant and, not counting the labor, it will cost you about 40 bucks tops.

Chicken Feeder Project 3

Photo source: Back Yard Chickens

Project 4: Zero Waste Chicken Feeder

Here comes a similar project, the zero waste chicken feeder, which also requires moderate carpenter skills, but don’t worry, here’s a video which will help you a lot with the DIY job. It looks easy and simple, right? What are you waiting for?

Video first seen on Stan Sullivan

Project 5: “The Best” Automatic Chicken Feeder

I don’t know if this one’s the best, as the ad says, but it certainly looks pretty good. The gizmo will provide your chickens with enough food to last 10 chickens for 2 weeks and it can be built for less than 40 bucks. It works very nicely and helps reduce food waste a lot. You can fill it with both pellets and crumbles and here are the detailed instructions.

Video first seen on Shawn Whetsel

Project 6: The Bucket Feeder

If you’re on a tight budget or just looking for the best deal in town, the bucket feeder is the answer to your prayers. This project will cost you 15 dollars tops and I think it’s the best idea that’s been created for a chicken-lover since immemorial times, or at least since plastic buckets were invented.

So, all that you’ll require for this bucket feeder/waterer (it works both ways, check that out) is a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a lid, an oil pan, washers, a nut, adhesive and some screws. I bet that most of you already have them around your homestead somewhere, right? So you may end up with 0 costs after all. Here are the detailed instructions.

Project 7: The Bulk Chicken Feeder

For this project you’ll require a drum, a flanged elbow and some basics tools, like a ruler, a pen, hacksaw or something similar for cutting the hole. Total building time? 10 minutes. Budget? 20 bucks. Satisfaction? Infinite!

Here’s the video tutorial, so check it out.

Video first seen on Rob Bob’s Backyard Farming

Project 8: The Three Bag Easy Automatic Chicken Feeder

Almost last but definitely not least, ladies and gents, I present you with the 3 Bag Easy Deluxe! This project requires a thirty gallon trash can (go for the least expensive one), six 3” pipe elbows and six 3” pipe end caps. The end result will be an automatic chicken (and duck) feeder which is fairly easy to make and works like a charm.

And here’s the video tutorial, folks. Life is great with chickens, isn’t it?

Video first seen on J&J Acres

Project 9: The Absolutely Free Gravity-Operated Chicken Feeder

The best things in life are free, including gravity operated chicken feeders. This project is at an 8-year old level of skill, it requires $0 and it can be built in 10 minutes or less. All you need is a PVC bucket, some thick wire, a knife and a few spare minutes to build it, so check out the tutorial.

Video first seen on Anže Rogelja

I hope this article helped and if you have suggestions, comments or other ideas about feeders, feel free to express yourself in the dedicated section below.

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This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.

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Prep Blog Review: 5 More Tips For Your Livestock

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prep blog reviewWe’ve talked about gardening on our previous Prep Blog Review, and now we are focusing on taking care of your livestock too. Once the weather gets warmer it’s the perfect time to start cleaning their spaces and think of adding up to your existing farm animals.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at five articles on this topic we found for you these days!

1. How To Attract Barn Owls (And Keep Your Homestead Rodent-Free)

Prep 1“Rodents in your fields and gardens can decimate your crop, and their resilience and numbers make them hard to eliminate. Enter your new best friend: an owl. Owls love to eat rodents, mice, rats, voles and sometimes larger animals like moles. A nesting owl is a killing machine, storing dozens of dead rodents in preparation for incubating the eggs.

Barn owls don’t build their own nests, however; they look for sheltered places to roost and nest. Traditionally invited into barns, today’s owls rely on natural crevices and man-made boxes to find a place to hatch and rear young.”

Read more on Off The Grid News.

2. 3 Non-Lethal Ways to Protect Your Livestock from Predators

Prep 2“Losing your livestock to predators is expensive, frustrating, and flat out heartbreaking — and protecting them isn’t always the easiest of tasks.

While you may be tempted to break out your shotgun, there are numerous non-lethal steps you can take to keep your animals safe.  Join us for this guest post!

Guardian Animals

Guardian animals are one of the oldest forms of livestock protection. While dogs tend to be the most common guardian animals, llamas and donkeys are also popular choices.

Dogs

Guardian dogs are raised from puppyhood with the animals they are meant to protect. Certain breeds are commonly used, such as the Akbash or Great Pyrenees — however, not all dogs within those breeds are suitable.”

Read more on Homestead Lady.

3. This Little Piggy Went to Slaughter

Prep 3“It is always a joy whenever my wife writes for the blog. She doesn’t do it often, but when she does it is always from a viewpoint that either I haven’t considered or is presented in a way that just touches people that I normally can’t. I really appreciate the fact that she is so supportive of my crazy idea about writing and recording podcasts. It is just one way that I believe we can help others that are on the same journey as we are toward a more sustainable life. I find it really sad that there are so many couples out there that don’t take an interest in each others passions. Life is always fuller when you have an engaged partner.

Without any further delay, I present to you my wife, the Un-country Country Wife and This Little Piggy Went to Slaughter.”

Read more on The Rural Economist.

4. How To Keep Poultry Through The Winter

Prep 4“Are there certain steps that should be taken to keep poultry through the winter?

Making sure that your poultry flocks are happy and healthy through the winter will ensure that they reach the spring and prime egg laying time in top conditions. What types of things should you be looking for, and how warm do they need to be?

Winterizing The Coop

Ideally, winterizing the coop should have been done in the fall. Making sure the structure and roof were solid and that any holes were repaired is best accomplished in the fall, during nicer weather.”

Read more on Self Reliant School.

5. Alaskan Chicken Coop 24×10

Prep 5“Hi All!! I just wanted to add in some Coop photos.  Our Chicken house is close to being completed.  The actual chicken area is 10×16, it also has a feed room/egg access doors in a 4×10  area, and a 4×10 front porch.

We started building the coop in the shop.

Two coats of paint.  We used yellow because we had accidentally bought the wrong color last fall and didn’t end up using it in the house. So it was just sitting around”

Read more on Backyard Chickens.

And if you want to learn more about tending to your chickens, check back our website again tomorrow for a great article that will show you how to DIY 9 awesome types of chicken feeders!

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This article has been written by Brenda E. Walsh for Survivopedia.

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12 Must Know Before Expanding Your Livestock

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Goat
Animals add a lot of value to the homestead. They provide companionship, food, furs, and more. However despite all the benefits, animals are a lot of work.

If you’re contemplating bringing a new animal home to the farm, there’s a lot to think about first. Animals should never be an impulse purchase. You shouldn’t just go pick up a milk cow, a pig, or even a dog without first considering 12 “must know” facts that you’ll find below. 

1. Can You Afford to Take Care of This Animal?

From feed and supplements to milking supplies and unexpected visits to the vet, animals can be expensive. Before you bring home a new animal, take an honest look at your financial situation. Can you afford this creature after it’s yours?

If you aren’t sure exactly what everything will cost, try making a list. You can call local vets or feed stores to help make your numbers more accurate. Here are some expenses to consider:

  • Initial purchase price
  • Feed (hay, grain, treats, etc.)
  • Supplements (salt, minerals, etc.)
  • Supplies (varies based on animal, but could include)
    • Leash, collar, halter, lead rope, etc.
    • Milking pail and stool
    • Cleaning and sanitation supplies
    • Clippers or shears
    • Buckets
    • Waterers
    • Hoses
    • Heat lamps
  • Vet visits
    • Annual check-ups
    • Any required vaccines
    • Emergency care
    • Hoof care
  • Shelter
  • Fences or pens

Of course, you can always look for second hand supplies, and try to cut costs in many ways. But, at the end of the day, if you aren’t able to afford the care and keeping of an animal, it’s best not to bring it home. No matter how good of a deal you can find.

2. Do You Have the Land Bandwidth?

Animals, even small animals, require space. Do you have the room they need? Will your land support another animal now, or do you need to implement rotational grazing or other practices to improve your pastures first? The last thing you want to do is overgraze your land and find it in shambles.

Will this animal be free ranging, tied out, or in a structure? Do you have your fences built and shelters constructed? Don’t bring an animal home without being ready—temporary arrangements often just make everyone miserable. Take care of the to-dos first, and make sure your animal has a comfortable, safe environment to come home to.

Your plans may change over time, and that’s okay. You’ll have a place for the animals to call home while you rearrange. Our chickens are currently free-ranging, but we’re planning on enclosing a large run for them this year.

We’re tired of searching high and low for eggs, and also of stepping in poop. Building a run will give them the benefit of being outdoors, and allow us to not have to watch our step every time we head outside. They love our lawn too much! Here’s one of our roosters strutting his stuff right outside of our house.

Rooster

It’s also important to think about land space for feed. Will you be growing food for your new animal? Do you have the space and equipment needed to do so? Do you have fields set up to grow vegetables to supplement the diet? Or will you be buying all of the feed? If you’ll be purchasing it, make sure you have local suppliers lined up ahead of time.

3. Do You Have Time?

Think about the time commitment your new animal will require. Even if they just need feed and water a couple times a day, that’s time you’ll have to spend. When you factor in longer chores like milking, cleaning pens, or training, along with the daily chores, do you have the time?

Does your schedule allow consistent time for animal chores? Most animals prefer to eat on a regular, predictable schedule. Here’s one of our Dexters, munching away on some hay. If we don’t feed him on time, he lets us know by bawling and causing a commotion. It’s much better to keep him happy with some hay on schedule!

Eating cow

If you’re buying a milk cow that’s currently in milk, be sure to find out when she’s used to being milked. While you can change the milking routine, you’ll want to do so gradually over time. Your cow’s milk production can suffer otherwise, and she’ll be prone to mastitis.

No matter what species you’re thinking about adding, take a close look at your schedule before bringing any home. Make sure you (or someone else) will be around to take care of the new addition. Oh, and if you’ll be adding a milking animal to the mix, remember that milking sessions the first few weeks WILL take longer. You and the animal both need to get used to a new routine.

Also, it’s a good idea to stick nearby the first few days, in case your new animal tries to escape. They will almost certainly try. And, they’re all pretty good at finding holes in fences.

4. Have You Done Your Research?

Even if you know you have the money, land requirements, and time for a new animal, you still aren’t quite ready to go out and buy one. You have to do your research first. Otherwise, you could end up with an animal that’s not a good fit for your farm.

Let’s say you want to buy a milk cow. Do you know what breeds of cows are best suited for your area and climate? Do you know how much milk you want to deal with? For instance, there’s a big difference in milk output between Holsteins and Dexters.

There isn’t a perfect breed of cattle, just like there isn’t a perfect breed of dog, rabbit, or sheep. All breeds of every species have their pros and cons, and you have to figure out which one is right for you. You might even make a list of two or three breeds that you’d consider, and then use individual animal temperament to make your final decision.

I prefer Dexter cattle. They’re small, require less food, and since they put out only 2 gallons of milk at their peak, they’re perfectly suited for once a day milking. Their meat is excellent. The steer calf in this picture is almost a year old, and though he’s small now, he’ll put on some weight when he heads back out to the pasture. When we butcher him in the fall, we’ll get about 500 pounds of delicious beef in the freezer.

Calf

In addition to researching breed, you should also find out what kind of care this animal needs. Will you have to brush it or provide supplements? How will it get its exercise? There are many books on animal care, and your local library may even have one or two you can check out. That way you’ll have a better idea about what you should expect.

5. Have You Seen the Animal?

Buying an animal sight unseen often causes problems. From health problems to breeding issues, there are many sellers out there just looking to make a quick buck, or cull their problem stock. Do yourself a favor, and go check out the animal before agreeing to purchase. Or make your inspection a condition of the sale.

Don’t just look at the animal, try to see it in action. If you’re buying a milk cow, ask to come by at milking time so you can see how the cow responds. Otherwise you may get home and discover that your new “sweet hand-milker” tries to kick your head in every time you touch her.

A gender check is also appropriate. Otherwise, you may spend six months wondering why your rabbits never reproduce. I did that, until the day I finally decided to catch my American Chinchilla, Beast, and check things out for myself. That’s when I realized that instead of two females and a male, I actually had three females. So Beast’s name was changed to Beauty, and I’m now looking for a male to bring home.

Bunny

If you’re buying breeding stock, it’s important to ask to see some records. Is the animal proven, or still green when it comes to making babies? Are the parents on site? A reputable breeder will happily answer your questions.

Doing some quick research on the people you’re buying from is also wise. Check out their names online, and see what information you find. See if they have a website that includes testimonials, or reviews on Facebook. Not having an online presence isn’t a definite red flag, but several negative reviews probably are. You can also trust your gut. If you don’t feel comfortable about the animal or the buyer, don’t feel bad changing your mind about the purchase.

6. What Does Your Family Think?

If your family isn’t on board with you bringing home another animal right now, it may be smart to listen to their opinions. I’d have a lot more critters around if it were solely my decision. But, animals affect the whole household, whether you do all the work or everyone helps. You don’t want your spouse or children to resent the time you spend doing chores at the expense of being with them.

Try to find out if there’s a fear or concern with this particular animal, or this type of animal, or if there’s another issue going on. The more you know, the better able to address the problems you are. Perhaps the perfect animal for your family is out there, but it’s not this one.

Also, if you are married—don’t just bring home an animal without first discussing it with your spouse. It’s just the respectful thing to do!

7. How Will You Take Care of This Animal in the Event of a Major Crisis?

When the SHTF, what’s your contingency plan for this new critter? With the world being like it is now, it’s important to have an answer ready.

Are you self-sufficient enough that you can provide food solely from your land? Are you stockpiling feed? Do you have a clean water source onsite? Will you butcher this animal in the event of a crisis?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, and no one can tell you what you need to do. You just have to think through this situation to make sure you have an answer before you bring home a new animal. When life as we know it changes, you’ll still be the one responsible for your animals. You don’t want them to suffer because of poor planning on your part.

We’re currently stockpiling some hay from local sellers, and trying to build our land up to produce more. Ideally, we’d be self-sufficient on the feed front, but we’re not there yet. In the meantime, in the event of a crisis, we’d butcher a few animals to save on care costs.

Hay

8. Does the Animal Provide Any Benefits?

Will the animal be contributing to your homesteading efforts, or just another mouth to feed? While it might be okay to have a couple of pets, you don’t want to continually bring home animals that don’t earn their keep.

What will you be gaining from this new animal? Will it be providing food, fiber, or bearing offspring? Will it provide protection around the farm? Make a list of what you’re hoping this animal will accomplish, and make sure you think it’ll be worth what you have to put into it.

9. Is the Animal Safe?

If you have children, especially small children, the last thing you want to do is to inadvertently introduce an aggressive animal to the farmyard. When you go inspect the animal before purchase, watch for signs of aggression. Also, know that some animals are more prone to dangerous behaviors, and should just be separated from children even if there hasn’t been a problem yet.

Bulls are especially notorious for aggression. They’re also strong enough that they can cause significant damage to fences, structures, and other critters. Have solid fences and sturdy pens ready before bringing home a bull, or other animal that could cause damage. You need to protect your family, property, and other animals.

It’s  best not to allow unsupervised interaction between small children and any new animal. Animals are animals, and can easily respond in fear to loud noises, sudden movements, or any number of stimuli, especially when in a new environment. Before bringing home any animal, make sure you have a plan in place to ensure everyone’s safety.

My red Dexter bull, Rusty Redbull is pretty tame as far as bulls go. But, we still make sure he’s in a secure pen and don’t allow the kids in the field when he’s doing his bull business each spring. Just in case.

Bull

10. What’s your Poop Plan?

From large cow pies to tiny rabbit droppings, all animals poop. How will you deal with all that stinky brown stuff? Before bringing an animal home, you should know what you’ll be doing with the poo. Otherwise, you may find yourself knee deep in poop wishing you’d never bought this crazy animal!

If you have a compost pile, most animal poop makes a great addition. But, you still have to pick up the poop and get it to the pile. Will you use a tractor with a bucket to clean out the muck? Will you do it by hand? Either way, make sure you have the tools ready and nearby to keep the job as easy as possible.

You should also know how soon you could use the poop. Many people take rabbit poop and throw it into the garden fresh. Other manure needs to age a bit to avoid burning the plants. If you’re unsure how long how to compost your animals’ poo, this Survivopedia article can help.

Some poop can’t be used as easily. For instance, dog poop isn’t recommended for composting. Make sure you have a plan to pick up and dispose of unusable poop as well. That way you or the kids aren’t stepping in piles all over the yard and tracking it into the house.

11. Do You Have Someone to Call in Case of Trouble?

Is there someone you know you can call if you run into trouble with your animal? If you’ve never milked a cow before, it can be intimidating the first time. Having someone experienced on call or better yet at your side can provide peace of mind. While not having someone to bounce questions off of doesn’t mean you shouldn’t proceed with your purchase, it might mean you should spend more time researching before you take the plunge.

Do you have any friends who have similar animals? How about a neighbor with the same kind of critter? Can you call the person you’re buying from if you have a question?

It’s also important to know the name and number of the local vet. Not all veterinarians offer large animal care, so check out the services offered beforehand. You’ll also want to find out if you have to bring the animal in or if the vet makes farm calls.

12. What’s Your Winter Plan?

Most animals join the farm in the spring or summer. If you’ll be wintering your animal, it’s crucial to have a winter plan in place. The needs of many animals change depending on the temperature and weather conditions.

Do you have shelter lined up that’ll protect your animal from the wind and snow? Is it well ventilated to avoid respiratory problems? How will you fill the water tanks when the hoses are frozen?

Before you buy an animal, think through all the seasons your area experiences. Make sure you’re able to provide care all year long.

Are You Ready?

If you’ve taken time to consider these 12 items, you’ll know if you’re ready to bring another animal home. You’ll be prepared to take care of it as long as it’s at your farm, and you’ll have plans in place for when the going gets tough. As long as you’re ready, animals make a great addition to the farm. I love all the critters around my place!

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This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.

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7 Tips On Getting Your Honeybees Ready For Winter

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big bees

You’ve enjoyed fresh honey all summer long. Maybe you’ve even made some candles from the beeswax, or experienced the pleasure of selling your goods at the local farmers’ market or giving them away to friends and family.

Regardless, your bees have given you pleasure during the warm and pleasant months of spring, summer and fall. Now it’s winter, and it’s time for you to take care of the bees that took such good care of you.

Bees, just like all wild creatures, have natural ways that they survive through the winter but since you’re keeping them in an unnatural habitat, there are some steps that you need to take to help them along the way.

Help Your Bees to Survive Winter Naturally

If you’ve done your research, and I’m sure you have, then you know that your bees don’t hibernate. As a matter of fact, it’s probably a good idea that they don’t or else they’d freeze pretty quickly –have you ever seen a fat honeybee?

Instead of hibernating, honeybees form clusters so that they can generate heat. They do this whether they’re in the hive in the wild or in captivity. The thing is, when they live in the wild, they have the option of choosing the perfect conditions, but if they’re kept in captivity, it’s your responsibility to provide them with an environment that’s conducive to their survival.

And what have we learned, as preppers trying to be as off-the-grid as possible? Keep things simple. Let bees be bees. They know how to take care of themselves because they’ve been doing it for thousands of years, so let them do it!

Let Them Make Propolis

Propolis is the glue that bees use for a variety of purposes in the wild. They use it to seal their hives and they also use it to keep their hive clean. It has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that are so powerful that it actually mummifies any other insect that makes its way into the hive.

If something inside the hive dies, the bees wrap it in propolis and the little corpse is actually preserved much like a mummy. Appropriately enough, propolis means, “defense of the city” in Greek. Sealing the hive with propolis protects the bees from viruses and bacteria that could cause illness, too.

People have also begun to appreciate the health benefits of propolis – it’s available for sale as a supplement and is used to treat a wide array of conditions including cancer prevention!

Even knowing all of this, many commercial hive operations have bred the propolis making out of their bees because it’s a sticky mess that’s similar to pine tar. Don’t make that mistake – bees will use the propolis to seal their hives in the winter so that the cold and yuck can’t get in.

Breeding bees that can’t make propolis is like de-clawing your cat – it makes your life easier but it takes away the natural defense and way of life of the creature. The bees will become dependent upon you for survival, which is needless. Let bees be bees.

honeycomb

Don’t Take All the Honey

Again, commercial operations, and even many small-time breeders, insist that it’s fine to feed your bees high fructose corn syrup in lieu of leaving them their natural winter food source – honey.

There are several reasons why this isn’t the best way to go for the bees, but that’s a debate for another article. In short, don’t be a pig. Leave your bees enough of their hard-earned work to feed themselves over the winter. If you aren’t sure how much they’ll need, harvest your honey in the spring instead of in the fall.

Ventilate Your Hive

As we discussed above, bees cluster to create heat. The inside of this cluster is 96 degrees Fahrenheit and, as you can imagine, when this kind of heat meets cold, condensation is created. This can gather at the top of the hive, then drip down on the bees and get them wet, which can cause them to freeze. Just like us, it’s hard for you bees to stay warm if they’re wet. Thus, it’s important to properly ventilate your hive.

Natural hives are usually made of porous wood that absorbs moisture. They also have another fail-safe in case there’s so much condensation that the wood can’t absorb it – the single entrance/exit hole in the hive is at the bottom so that the condensation can drip out. This hole serves a secondary purpose of ventilating the hive. When necessary, the bees can fan air through the hive up from the hole.

You can either choose to use wood that’s thick to try to emulate the natural hive, or you can add SMALL ventilation slit off to the side of the hive so that if the condensation does build up, it doesn’t drip down on the bees.

Don’t make this hole large because it will let in cold drafts that will cause the bees to have to work harder to stay warm. More energy used means they’ll need more food, or perhaps won’t be able to generate enough heat to stay warm.

Insulate the Hive

Since the wood that you used to make your hive is probably much thinner than what would typically make up a natural hive, you need to insulate it to help keep the heat in. The bees are going to seal all of the holes with propolis, so you can just use a layer of foam then a layer of roofing paper to wrap the hive in so that it holds the heat.

Also, move your hives to a spot that gets full sun in the winter, especially if you live in a place that gets bitter cold. Try to put them in a place that’s protected from the wind as well. This, combined with the black roofing paper, will help keep your hives warm.

Reduce the Entrance Hole

You don’t want to live with mice, spiders and other vermin in the winter and neither do your bees. You may have a larger “reducer” on your hive for summer months so that many bees can come and go at the same time.

This isn’t a good thing in the winter for a couple of reasons. First, it lets in too much cold air. Second, it lets in vermin. Reduce the size of the hole because in the winter, bees will only be flying on fairly warm days. You won’t need much room for them to make mass entrances and exits.

Let the Snow Gather

You’re going to be peeping out your window from your warm and cozy house looking at your hives. If you have horses, you’ll probably be looking at them, too. Both will have snow gathered on them and you’ll want to rush out and brush it off, but there’s no need.

As long as the snow isn’t getting the hive wet, it’s actually a really good insulator. Leave it where it is – there’s nobody in the wild to sweep the snow off for them.

When Should You Winterize?

This is a question that doesn’t have a definitive answer because it depends on where you live and when it gets cold. If you live in the far northern United States, it probably gets colder earlier in the year than if you live in the central or southern states.

You don’t want to winterize your hive too early, because as long as it’s warm, your bees are flying and doing what bees do. But you also don’t want to wait too long. Typically, if it’s going to dip below 20 or so at night or it’s going to be below freezing during the day, it’s time to winterize your hives.

Video first seen on David Burns.

The bees will sense it coming and will start with their natural preparations. They’ll start sealing cracks to eliminate drafts. “Natural” beekeepers won’t disrupt the hive after November or so when the bees have sealed it up but if you need to, make sure that you seal it back well. The propolis is gluey so you can push it back together fairly well but don’t do it unless you have to.

Just as with anything we do, getting your bees ready for winter is best done if you try to work with the natural order of things. Keep your hives as close to a natural wood as possible, let your bees eat honey, and let them make their own propolis to seal the air and cold out of their homes. Help where you need to and you’ll have a happy, healthy hive to start out with in spring!

If you have any additional tips to winterizing your hive, please feel free to add them in the comments section below. We know that there are different types of hives, and we all have different ways of doing things, so let’s share some information!

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This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.

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6 Things To Consider When Bugging In With Pets

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BIG Pets Bug InIf you thought bugging in with children was more complicated than expected, you may be surprised to find a whole new host of challenges presented by bugging in with pets. While you don’t necessarily have to worry about them trying to escape and going back to their old home, there are still many important things to consider.Though some of these problems can be managed with additional space or revisions in training, others will more or less be matters of chance. That being said, you can still do your best to keep pets safe during a bug in scenario and ensure that they are able to stay with you as long as possible.

1. Providing Enough Food

Overall, individuals from small towns or rural areas are likely to find it easier to provide food for their pets. Since many pet animals rely on small game for meat, it may be possible to feed them food from the animals that you hunt. By the same token, herbivores may also be able to consume grass and other plants that may not be readily accessible in a city setting.

Today, most pet owners rely on commercial foods because they believe these inexpensive products offer better nutrition. At the same time, if you ask these people what they think about the ingredients, they readily admit that pet food is more than likely made from ingredients unfit for human consumption.

This includes ulcers and tumors cut from meat that is placed into the human food chain as well as bone marrow, fat, internal organs, roadkills, shelter kills, and all kinds of plant waste.

To add insult to injury, many of the “food” ingredients found in pet foods may actually contain higher levels of  carcinogens and toxins than what registers in human foods.

Clearly, simply boiling everything down and forming it into nice neat little nuggets does not mean the food is truly the best or safest for your pets. In fact, research indicates that the rate of pet cancers are skyrocketing despite the fact that pet owners are fairly conscientious about buying special food for their pets.

From this perspective, it can be readily seen that perhaps you are best served by not stockpiling large quantities of pet food for your animals. In a bug in scenario, it is best to do some research on the actual nutritional needs of your pets and look for ways to wean them off commercial foods and onto those that will be used in a crisis situation.

Since animals will diarrhea when diets change suddenly, it is best to introduce survival foods slowly at this time so that they are fully adapted for any problems that come along. As an added bonus, if you decide to grow your own food (including raising insects), this is a perfect time to find out at least one part of how consumption of foods will compare to output.

2. Managing Waste

At the current time, you may honestly feel that you would never eat a cat, dog, pet fish, or bird. On the other hand, when people, including yourself, are starving, just about anything will be considered fit for eating.

Even if you would never eat your pets, anyone that comes across them may simply see a free meal. Under these circumstances, once a crisis hits, it will be extremely important to keep your pets indoors. If you have cats, dogs, or other larger sized animals, this means you are bound to have some problems managing waste.

No matter how hard you try, these obstacles will always be a challenge to overcome:

  • There is only so much you can do to tidy up litter and use it for as long as possible
  • Disposing of litter outdoors will reveal to anyone passing by that some human being has living animals nearby; and that there may be food and other items fit to loot
  • Storing up large amounts of litter will require a lot of space and also may add more weight than the building structure can handle
  • The odor of pet excrement can easily alert outsiders to your presence

While managing pet waste can be complicated, there are  few things you can do to mitigate the situation. These suggestions are mainly intended for city areas where you may still have a larger population density to contend with. It may also be useful in rural areas where gangs have decided to rove or other problems prevent you from simply letting your pets out.

  • Depending on the situation, you may be lucky enough to have functional toilets and other plumbing. In these cases, you can simply dump animal waste down the toilet.
  • If you have to dispose of pet waste outside, make sure you do so in a place where it is not likely to be traced back to you. When you leave home, make sure that no one is following you, and that no one sees you.
  • When preparing littler to carry, you will need to be able to carry at least 10 pounds. There are no easy ways to achieve this goal without coming uncomfortably close to the waste materials or  using some kind of stroller or cart.
  • You can use dirt for litter as long as it does not become obvious that you are routinely digging up the ground. You will most likely need a backpack or cart to carry new materials in.
  • Today, there are some fairly new products on the market that utilize enzymes and bacteria for breaking down solid waste. If you can find one that is safe to use in an indoor setting, it may reduce the number of trips you need to make in order to dispose of pet waste. These materials may also be of use if toilets and other plumbing stop working. Before a crisis happens, you should experiment with these products to see which ones will work best for your needs. As with many other supplies, this is one that may take up more space than you wish to devote to this kind of product.

3. Managing Noise

dog howlingChances are, the sounds of your birds chirping, cats meowing, or dogs barking represent the comforts and security of home. On the other hand, if someone is trying to find a place to loot, these sounds can easily alert strangers to your presence. From that perspective, managing pet noises can be very important to your well being and theirs.

Even though there are open mouthed muzzles that allow pets to drink water, it is not feasible let alone advisable to keep animals muzzled all the time. In most cases, even a muzzle that fits properly will not prevent sounds such as growls and whimpers from escaping.

To add insult to injury, your pet is likely to become emotionally disturbed very quickly when exposed to this kind of treatment. Since you will also need to take the muzzle off at feeding time, this also presents a danger time when sounds can escape and alert others to your presence.

Perhaps the best way to control pet noises involves setting aside at least one or more rooms in your home and making sure that it is sound proof. Ideally, if you have a basement and an attic, you can sound proof each of them so that they are all ready in case of an emergency.

Individuals that live in small apartments should soundproof the room where they most expect to be staying during a crisis situation. While you may actually circulate through other areas of the home, your pets will have to stay in this room until you are certain that the noises they make will not invite the presence of unwanted invaders.

It should be noted that many people keep dogs in hopes that they will act as alarms and also attack unwanted visitors. Unfortunately, there are several problems with this idea:

  • Guard dogs and security dogs require years of careful training. Most homeowners that “play rough” with their dogs, use choker/prong collars, and try to make their dogs ready to attack usually wind up becoming victims of their own designs. Dogs only understand love and pain. If you hurt them, they will eventually turn on you. While this may sound very complicated, it is truly very simple. If you want a guard dog and intend to have one for that purpose, go into training with a suitable dog or buy one that has already been trained and then attend training sessions so that you know how to handle the dog. This is one of the few places where “DIY” solutions won’t work and may just cost more than you were planning to give.
  • While pre-social collapse thieves may be deterred by a dog, those who survive a crisis may simply see the dog as an opportunity to grab some extra meat for dinner. Not only will these people come in prepared to loot your home, they are also likely to be more than ready to neutralize and kill your dog. Unless you are fully prepared and trained to back up any threat your dog presents to unwanted visitors, you might just as well write a “guard dog” off your bug in list.

4. Injuries and Illnesses

As with human injuries and illness, you will find that pets will also be inclined to suffer more medical related problems during stressful situations.

This, in turn, means that you will need to store away at least some basic medications that can be used for both human and animal needs. In addition, if you are going to grow herbs for medicinal needs, make sure that all of the plants selected are safe to have in the same area as pets. Ideally, you should be able to use these herbs to treat both types of ailments.

Here are some supplies and information that you should keep on hand for managing injuries and illness:

  • Detailed anatomy and physiology information for each species of pet in your care
  • If possible, try to obtain veterinary textbooks that will help you diagnose and treat pet diseases
  • Herbal remedies that can be used in place of conventional medications. This includes medications that can be used to sedate pets.
  • As sad as it may be, there may be times when the pet in your care cannot be saved, and there is no doctor or vet on hand to help resolve the situation. Under these situations it is cruel to allow your pet to linger on and suffer until he/she dies. Do some research on herbs that can be used to euthanize your pet. Bear in mind that even veterinarians cannot always guarantee an easy death even though they are using modern medicines and tested protocols. You should also have second, mechanical means available to euthanize your pet. For example, in many cases, a knife blade inserted between the vertebra at the base of the skull may work for both cats and dogs. If you have sedating herbs on hand, you may want to use those before delivering the final blow. As a last resort, you can try cutting the jugular veins in the neck, however that will be very traumatic for the animal and you.

5. Long Term Care Considerations

If you have ever kept dogs and cats, then getting them vaccinated may be a matter of routine. In the post-crisis world, these important medicines may not be available.

Therefore, you will have to be more careful than ever to make sure that your pets are not exposed to rabies, distemper, or other pathogens that will lead to serious, and possibly fatal illness.

In particular, since rabies can be transmitted from animals to humans, you must always be on guard once the rabies vaccine is 3 – 5 years past the last injection (unless your pet is under a year old and has not received the 1 year booster. In this case, the timeframe is much shorter.)

Some critical things to consider:

  • Make sure that your pets do not gain access to mice, rats, or other prey animals that may transmit deadly diseases. Unfortunately, once your pet comes in contact with blood from these other animals or gets bitten by them, your pet may contract any number of diseases that were once covered by the vaccines.
  • Make sure that you have a quarantine area for your pets so that you can observe them during crucial time frames if needed.

Aside from vaccinations, you must also think carefully about other pet diseases such as fleas, mites, and worms. While there are herbal remedies that will help with these problems, you must know how to recognize symptoms and deal with them as quickly as possible. In particular, worms can be dangerous to you and your pets before you even realize what is going on.

6. A Special Guide for Fish

fish bowl Contrary to popular belief, if you are in a crisis situation, it may not be as easy as you think to take care of fish. This is especially important to consider if you are going to use fish waste as a fertilizer in hydroponics systems.

Since fish for this purpose can get quite large and become difficult to maintain in crisis conditions, it is important to make adequate provisions for helping them survive during a bug in scenario.

Unlike cats, dogs, and birds, fish only have one little aquarium to live in. Taking care of them in a crisis situation can be very difficult if you are unable to provide adequate filtration and aeration to the water.

It may be of some help to keep battery powered pumps and filters on hand as well as oxygen generation tablets.

It should be noted that bubble up filters can make a good bit of noise, as can the pumps that deliver air into the tank.  To deal with this problem:

  • Be careful about when you run the filters and then use either airstones or air curtains to increase aeration when the filter is not running. Even though this will not provide filtration, it will help break the water surface so that oxygen can get to the fish.
  • Use nitrate reduces, pH stabilizers, water softeners and zeolites to help preserve good water chemistry and compensate for the lack of mechanical filtration.
  • Sludge reducers that are safe for aquariums may also be of some use.
  • If you are starting a new aquarium in the pre-crisis world, choose fish that can live without large amounts of aeration and filtration. For example, a male betta can live very happily in a 2 – 3 gallon tank and can last for weeks or even months without a mechanical filter in the tank.

Aside from maintaining water chemistry and temperature, you will also need to stock up on fish food. Depending on the species of fish, you may also be able to feed them human food.

For example, some fish are notorious for loving to eat vegetables while others won’t mind eating insects and other forms of meat. As long as you are aware of your fish’s nutritional needs and how to meet them, you will find it fairly easy to keep your fish healthy and thriving.

When you decide to bug in, there is always a chance that you will have to leave your home. Fish can be very difficult to travel with because you either have to place them in plastic bags or some other water tight container.

Always try to use the biggest possible container since it will allow more oxygen and water for the fish to live in. Since fish consume more oxygen when they are stressed, the very act of moving them from their usual home to a bag or smaller vessel may be enough to cause their oxygen usage to double or even triple.

Therefore, while you are in transit from one place to another, you may also need to stop frequently and run a battery operated pump and airstone to provide more oxygen for the fish. Needless to say, if you are using fish as part of a hydroponics system, it will be very important to secure the well being of breeding pairs so that you can repopulate tanks at your next location.

Since modern tropical fish are severely over bred, they also tend to suffer from immune system collapses from a narrower range of tank conditions.

For example, if an angel fish can tolerate a 10 degree temperature change tank water, newer fish may only be able to withstand a 5 degree temperature change before developing swim bladder problems, fungal, bacterial, and other infections. In most cases, you may not find much information on treating tropical fish with herbal remedies.

On the other hand, antibiotics and tank conditioners can be stored for several years without losing their potency. Since these items also take up fairly little space, it may be of some use to stockpile them.

As you can see, taking care of pets during a crisis and afterward can be every bit as challenging as securing your own survival. In some cases, if you have a specific need for certain animals, then you will need to be especially careful about making sure you can supply adequate food, water, shelter, medications, and waste removal.

If you cannot meet these needs in a bug in situation, then you will only cause you and your loved ones more hardship by holding unrealistic beliefs about “best case scenarios”. If you would not leave your well being to fate or luck, then do not simply hope your pets or other animal dependents will get through the crisis somehow.

At the very least, if you believe that a life threatening crisis is within 2 – 3 days of happening, and find that you cannot provide for your animals, during a crisis, it may be best to not take in any new animals, and also give the ones you have to others who will be able to care for them.

Interested in long-term survival? CLICK HERE to find out more!

This article has been written by Carmela Tyrell for Survivopedia.

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How To Use And Train Dogs For Survival

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Survival dogs

If you are a serious prepper with comprehensive bug out and survival plans an important question comes up as to whether or not you want, or more specifically do you really need, any animals or even a dog in your retreat environment plans?

In other words should you have one, or would you, and the animal, be better off without each other in the “end of days” breakdown? This seems like a loaded question because almost everybody likes dogs to some extent. And in normal times, if you can properly care for your pet, there usually aren’t too many issues precluding ownership.

But in a SHTF scenarios and the subsequent hard core survival requirements involved there are extremely critical elements that change the perspective and dynamics of dog ownership quite seriously.

Pros and Cons

Bad news first. A dog also eats, requires water, creates waste, and makes noise, and takes up space. Sometimes as much as you do, depending upon its size. In an all-out catastrophic long term event, this becomes an unavoidable concern.

And don’t think that you’ll be hunting or trapping all your fresh meat which you’ll share with your dog once you arrive and settle in at your rural BOL. That’s mostly an urban myth unless you’re so deep in critter heavy wilderness/mountains that even God can’t find you and you have an extensive trap line set up and substantial experience.

There’s a series on TV now called “Live Free or Die” and is a mild, orchestrated preview of what to expect if you choose that route, even though the wilderness location of the show is really not that far from civilization.

And what about your actual real time bug out adventure? Hungry dogs are nervous and unpredictable. You have to carry their food and water with you? Do your plans accommodate that? If you are diminutive in stature and deficient in strength to hump an extra-large backpack on foot, did you figure out something else yet, like maybe a small cart the dog could pull or a working dog back pack harness like they have now.

Among other issues, it’s not really a great idea to escape on a bike with your poor dog trying to keep up behind you until his feet start to bleed or he just collapses. In certain really bad scenarios hungry people see your dog as their next meal which they can’t get normally anymore.

They’ll think nothing of ambush sniping him right out from under your nose, and putting a few rounds in your direction to discourage any interference with their dining reservations, hoping you’ll just move on and leave the dog. If you stay and engage in a firefight then you risk your life, and anyone else’s if you have others in your party, and the dog will still be dead.

There are other issues, mainly because it’s unlikely that most people with a dog have it trained well enough to handle all of the complications of a bug out without problems. So all that should get you thinking straight from the start.

As for pros well, truth be told…in a bad bug out survival situation, there’s only two main rationales for having a dog. Possible personal and location security, and/or simple companionship. Especially if you don’t have any human companionship.

So, if you already have a dog, then there’s no real question of whether or not you want or need one in any survival situation. That decision was already made. If Fido is already part of the family, then fine, and that’s that. No dog left behind! But if you really do love your pet, a SHTF catastrophe prompting a serious bug out is a main game changer for both the dog’s and your world.

With that stated, dogs can provide good use and value in several other ways. The main being personal bodyguard protection for you and your family, especially your children. I never could understand how financially well off people with young children and a big home don’t have at least one protection dog, yet they have all kinds of expensive health and life insurance protection?

There are other ancillary uses in a survival scenario like hunting/retrieving game if you are in a wilderness area and have inexhaustible game resources, or shepherd duty over your own food animals you are raising.

I know a family who trained their canine on command to sniff and search for any member of the family who might wander off too far out of sight for more than five minutes on their land. First the dog barks three times to warn anybody else nearby that a member of the family is missing, then on command it will ‘bloodhound’ through the forest to track and find the out of sight family member.

Serious Mission Oriented Training

A question comes up in these discussions about whether or not a dog’s natural protection instinct is good enough for BOL perimeter security?

Based on years of private security contracting specializing in such, and I don’t mean just installing burglar alarms, and knowing a lot about how sentry/guard/security dogs are deployed, my personal professional opinion answer is a simple NO. They must be specially trained.

Your pet might be a good barker, and even little dogs are often decent anti-home break in alerts. This is because most dogs have a domestic pack instinct and naturally protect their “inner circle” or “den”’ which now includes their human family.

But this is not the same as the more complicated problems of having to worry about a concentrated well-armed attack on your BOL retreat if discovered by desperately savage groups, who aren’t really that afraid of a dog in the larger scheme of things or the police ever responding to interfere with their attack assault on your property so they will try to kill the dog first, and then come after the humans next.

Today, the days of having guard dogs or attack sentry dogs loose in an enclosed chain link fence to deter entry and protect property is becoming obsolete due to litigation liability issues and alternate improvements in security alarms and anti-intrusion systems which will soon be including autonomous robots and even tactical defense drones.

Especially as the cost effectiveness factor gets involved and robots become cheaper than dogs, and even humans. Dogs will always have a purpose but more specifically mission tuned to hunting down people and searching while always being in control of handlers. Which is not a main issue in defending your castle.

As you saw in the video of the White House intruder getting attacked by the patrol dog, he gave it a couple fast and serious karate kicks and body slams and wasn’t even fazed, until the K-9 security officers took him out the hard way.

Video first seen on DAHBOO77

In another instance, an ex- military combat vet tried to get into the White House and actually avoided the dogs by sneaking through heavy landscape bushes and only an electronic security breach signal ONCE HE WAS INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE, alerted the Secret Service guards who intercepted him!

In other words, instead of a dog for your serious perimeter security in a BOL compound, the reality is that you are better off with mechanical/physical barrier or electronic perimeter anti-intrusion security combined with alarm sensors and other alert devices, if you really want to protect yourself better.

And don’t start with me about “alarm systems can be deactivated too?”. Not the ones I use. They are something called “max perimeter default systems”. Even if they get through, which is highly unlikely, I will still be alerted with time to spare for the…relatively easy target practice session, or a tactical fall back if necessary. With my dog!

And you don’t have to worry about losing your “best friend” to some psychos who will stop at nothing–until you can unload a face full of double-ought buckshot from a 31/2 inch 12 Ga. magnum on them at close range.

The hard reality is that the best decision if you had to choose between a dedicated perimeter protection system and guard dogs, you would be better off doing the mechanical/electronic anti-intrusion system for all pragmatic consequences and expenses.

Having said that, a good PROPERLY trained dog for perimeter security is way, way, better than nothing. AND, some serious preppers opt for a combination of both a physical anti-intrusion barrier, and a dog.

Caveat

"It's the last one, boss!"

“It’s the last one, boss!”

However in a BOL environment, just like people, survival /protection dogs absolutely MUST be trained and prepped CORRECTLY for the circumstances. Otherwise you’ll both be in trouble. Currently there are specific survival prepping dog training schools in operation, and even videos and books on survival prepping dog training by now.

One of the big differences in normal training is that due to the intense differences in security mode in a bad SHTF combat firefight perimeter intrusion scenario which could rattle even the best of dogs, the tactical need exists to absolutely CONTROL the dog to command signals instantly, and completely, in any situation or distraction.

If the dog is trained for attack on command, they MUST be trained to ‘shut off’ completely on command. If you want a barking alert based on what the dog smells or hears in the distance, the dog must be trained to also stop barking and remain quiet upon direct command because you can’t have continuous noise giving away your exact location for roving predator intruders to home in on.

And if you are falling back for cover or counter attack positioning then the dog must instantly follow you, and not his instincts, if that’s the command. This is an often overlooked but important tactical necessity in combat situations.

The best way to start BOL survival training is to train your dog to be a personal protection dog. Check out this video to see what it really takes to do this right, and whether or not you want or are able to make the commitment.

Video first seen on David Harris

As you saw in this video, it doesn’t get much better than that unless you also teach your canine bodyguard how to CYA in a firefight by tossing a couple frags or smoke bombs to cover your flanking tactics.

And at the end of a hard day of training, make sure you always reward your best friend and sit down, relax and have a cool one together.

Interested in improving your safety? CLICK HERE to find out more!

This article was written by Mahatma Muhjesbude for Survivopedia.

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Prep Blog Review: The Animals Edition

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Prep Review Oct 17Some are our companions, on others we rely for food and others we’d better avoid at all costs if we care for our lives. I’m talking about animals, of course. What would we be without our chicks that provide us with fresh eggs and meat? Or without our goats, that are not just a source of meat and milk, but joy as well. And our dogs, our faithful friends upon which we rely for our safety?

Today we’ve gathered 5 articles that talk exactly about that: the animals we love and cherish for their contribution in our lives, and the ones we should avoid because they’re rather foes more than friends.

Scroll through the articles and let us know in the comments section below which animlas you have in your homestead?

1. Breaking chickens of flying over fences

hens“We had a chicken-flying-fences problem beginning in September, but it took until our staycation rested our minds before we were able to start getting a handle on the issue.

With problems like this, I’ve found that clipping wings (dealing with the symptoms) doesn’t hold a candle to rooting out the real cause of the problem. So I put on my thinking cap and realized there were several issues at play.”

Read more on Walden Effect.

2. Building a Goat Stanchion from A to Z

goats“Our original goat stanchion (made from PVC pipe fittings) was a home school project my daughters built around 20 years ago. It needed a lot of work or replacement to make it useable on a day to day basis.

After looking for a good goat stanchion in various catalogs and on the internet I decided to build one from scratch. A really good sturdy goat stanchion can cost upward of 300 dollars. It seemed to me I could build one for much less and with a little ingenuity I might be able to scrounge up most if not all the materials.”

Read more on Possum Ridge Farms.

3. Survival Fishing (Video and Transcript)

fishing“G.M.: Hey, folks. This is Backwoods out here in the… out here in the wilderness again.

Today we’re gonna try to show you how to set up a you know, a primitive fishing pole with just a very small amount of gear that weighs less than an ounce.

We’re down here by the river and there is lots of fish here. You’re gonna see those throughout this video. All we need is some way to get them.”

Read more on American Preppers Network.

4. Working Dogs on the Homestead

dogs

“Dogs are awesome. They provide companionship, can protect you, and they are almost always thrilled to see you.

Dogs are a staple member of the farm and homestead team, and they have been since humans started to settle down. Let’s look at some specific roles for our canine friends:

  • Herders
  • Protectors
  • Pest Control (i.e. Hunters)”

Read more on The Homesteading Hippy.

5. A Visual Guide to the Most Common Biting and Stinging Bugs

bugs“There are a lot of creepy crawlies out there that can’t help but bite or sting you when you get too close. This infographic shows the 28 arthropods most likely to cause you harm, and explains whether their bite or sting is medically significant.

Thankfully, most bug bites and stings don’t require medical attention (unless you’re allergic). Still this identification guide from Luke Guy and John Goldthwaite, and published by Pest Pro App, can let you know for sure.”

Read more on Life Hacker.

Interested in the best self-sufficiency solution during a food crisis? CLICK HERE to learn more!

This article has been written by Brenda E. Walsh for Survivopedia.

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