Raising Chickens – The Perfect Solution To Self Sufficient Living

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When it comes to self-sufficient living, nothing quite compares to the benefits of raising chickens in your backyard. Our small flock of hens provide us with so much more than just great tasting eggs. They also help eliminate weeds, keep

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Raising Chickens: Coop Considerations

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If you are reading this article hoping to figure out the absolute best coop option available for raising chickens, you’re going to be disappointed.

That’s because the coop, as we know it today, is more about what humans want than about what makes chickens happy.

Depending on your location, regulations, and preferences, you might decide to go with a movable chicken tractor, a fixed coop and run, or a fixed coop with free-range access or paddock areas.

You can raise healthy, happy poultry in any of them, as long as they meet your birds’ six basic needs, provide them with enough space to keep your chickens healthy and happy, and make it as easy as possible for you to manage poop and thwart predators.

Meeting Chickens’ Needs

From a chicken’s perspective, its needs are basic:

  • Fresh air
  • Clean water
  • A patch of dirt to use as a dust bath
  • Lots of forage (particularly insects)
  • Options to let it escape from predators
  • Enough freedom of movement that it doesn’t have to spend all day standing in its own poop

Sometimes it needs a little private time, away from the rest of the flock. If it’s a broody hen, then it also wants a safe place to nest, undisturbed, for about twenty-one days.

The Last-Century Chicken

If it had been a backyard chicken a hundred years or so ago, it may have roosted in the barn with other animals, roosted in a tree, or found shelter around the porch of the family that threw it scraps.

Maybe it spent its nights in a designated outbuilding reserved just for chickens, but it probably wasn’t anything like the luxury chicken manors found on sites like Pinterest today.

It probably didn’t have a nest box.

Eggs were often collected by children in a manner resembling an Easter egg hunt, since the hen’s goal was to hide its eggs for safekeeping until it had enough to make it worth risking life and limb to set a nest.

As long as it laid eighty or so eggs a year and managed to hatch a brood of chicken replacements once in a while, the family that let it forage in the yard was content to keep the bird around.

As far as predator protection went, the bird and its flock mates kept watch and used elaborate vocal communications to warn each other when trouble was near. If there was a rooster among them and the flock was attacked, he might defend the hens in his care to the death, if necessary.

Mamas would also protect their chicks by sheltering them in her wings.

But, among mature hens, with the moral imperative to survive and reproduce hardwired into their chicken nature, the expression “you don’t have to be faster than a bear, just faster than the guy behind you” usually applied.

Weak or sick hens were often pecked to death by stronger hens for the health and safety of the flock.

And though the birds may have really appreciated it when the lady who lived in the house threw them kitchen scraps or a handful of grain, they’d watched her wring enough chicken necks to realize they should scatter if she got too close.

How Things Have Changed

Things have changed a bit in the last hundred years.

As more areas are developed and populations increase, so does predator pressure on livestock. And it’s not just your random roaming mountain lion (which is now a rarity in the suburbs) or a wily coyote.

Now, chickens have to be careful about domesticated dogs and cats, escaped pet snakes and ferrets, car traffic, and even overzealous or malicious neighbor children. Top that off with all the local legal ordinances, HOA requirements, and other lethal hazards in our environments, and we’ve got to rethink the way we raise chickens.

Toward that end, let’s take a look at chicken space needs.

The Truth About Chicken Spaces

A hundred years ago, eggs were eaten when available and chicken meat was reserved for special occasions. Now, the average American eats 90 pounds of chicken meat1http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/percapita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-inpounds/ and about 250 eggs2https://www.uspoultry.org/economic_data per year.

In fact, chicken-based products rank No. 3, just below bread and dessert, among our sources of calories in the American diet.3http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/top-10-sources-of-caloriesin-the-us-diet

Living Space for Factory-Farmed Chickens

The amount of space and quality of life considered suitable for raising chickens seems to have declined in direct proportion to the amount of chicken meat and eggs we want to eat. Today, your grocery store egg layer gets about a sheet-of-paper-sized allotment of space and shares a battery cage the size of a filing drawer with five to nine other hens.4https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage

Your typical grain-fed broiler gets only eight-tenths of a square foot per bird.5http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/industry-issues/animal-welfare-forbroiler-chickens/

“Free-range” birds need only two square feet of space outdoors to qualify and “pasture-raised” requires 108 square feet per bird.6http://certifiedhumane.org/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officiallydefined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label/

All of us who are concerned about the state of our factory-farmed food system would love to give our chickens as much room to roam as their hearts desire. But sometimes you’ve only got a limited area to work with.

And when you factor in the costs of predator protection, less space starts to make a whole lot more sense.

The Ideal Amount of Space for Chickens

So, how much space do chickens really need to be healthy and happy?

We’re not talking about how much they can survive in, but more like what amount of space would be enough to keep you from having to trim their beaks to keep them from pecking each other to death.

The answer is, “less than you might think, but more than factory farms allot.”

Right-Sizing Your Coop

As Marjory tells us in her Grow Your Own Groceries video series, you will need about four square feet of space per chicken in the coop if they will be allowed to forage outdoors most of the day.

If your chickens will be confined full-time, then you need to add an additional 10 square feet to that number. If you have an 8-foot-by-8-foot coop, or 64 square feet of chicken space, you can protect 16 chickens for overnight lodging and only 4 chickens for full-time living quarters.

But as Marjory also points out in her video, a suburban backyard may be best suited for about two or three hens if you intend to allow your chickens unfettered access to your landscape.

Cost Considerations

Building or buying coops can be expensive—even if you free-source your materials by using discarded pallets, scrap wood, or non-traditional building materials.

The larger your coop, the more labor intensive it will be to build and the more space you have to maintain. It may also mean more regulations to navigate and more hoops to jump through. Additionally, if you live in cold-climate areas, smaller coops that keep chickens in close contact are warmer without supplemental heat.

So, bigger is not always better when building a coop. However, for overall chicken health and happiness, the more outdoor foraging space you can provide the better.

These space suggestions are just a starting point for determining your coop size and style of raising chickens.

Coop Concerns When Raising Chickens

All chicken owners need to think about two major things: predator protection and poop.

Chicken books and blogs often break these ideas down into more categories. But for simplicity and easy memorization, we settled on these two concepts as the big ideas chicken keepers should address to provide safe, healthy habitats for chickens.

Predator Protection

Many chicken owners will tell you that the hardest part about keeping chickens is keeping them safe. When you confine chickens to a limited space, you also limit their ability to protect themselves from predation.

Also, when you invest your time and resources into caring for your flock, you don’t want to face the 40 percent loss rate that would occur if your chickens were not housed in a predator-proof coop.7http://www.thehappychickencoop.com/a-history-of-chickens/

Suburban development has placed pressure on wildlife to seek new habitats and find alternate ways of feeding themselves. As a result, suburban areas are sometimes the most predator-prone places of all.

Add to that the number of backyard pets eager to express their genetic history (i.e., dogs descended from wolves, house cats from jungle cats), and you’ve got lots of incentive to place priority on building a rock-solid coop.

Ways Predators Can Breach a Coop

Here’s a few predator facts to be aware of when planning predator protection.

  • An owl can fly through an open window and carry away a small chicken.
  • A fox or digging dog can tunnel under a foot of dirt to get to your chickens.
  • A determined raccoon can claw through chicken wire, reach a paw through openings over an inch wide, and open many doors.
  • A bear can tear a door from its hinges.

Planning All-Around Predator Protection

Given these examples, as you are planning your coop, you will want to consider predator protection overhead, underground, and all around (e.g., windows and eaves).

This includes measures like the following:

  • Burying wire mesh (better than chicken wire) underground around the perimeter of your coop or placing it underneath moveable coops, over windows, around eaves, and over any openings otherwise not protected
  • Building a floor in a fixed coop or elevating a coop off the ground to deter diggers
  • The use of electric fencing, motion-sensing lights, or even a well-trained livestock guardian dog (LGD)
  • The use of overhead netting if flying predators (e.g., hawks, owls, magpies) are a big concern—or keeping chickens confined until they are full sized

You may also want to keep separate storage and feeding areas and make egg collection a frequent activity.

Many predators, such as bears, snakes, and opossums, are more interested in your chicken feed or eggs than in eating your chickens. By removing red-carpet invites like a feed trough housed in your coop and by emptying nest boxes daily, you can discourage some predators.

If there are other chicken keepers in your area, talk to them to find out what kind of predator pressure they have experienced to determine where to focus your efforts and what to expect.

Poop (Ventilation and Cleaning)

Yep, we just said poop, not manure. When the thick, putrid stink of fresh chicken droppings first hits your nasal passages, you’ll understand why.

This stuff doesn’t come out as lovely, garden-friendly manure.

It’s as rank and nasty as our stuff is until the freshness dissipates, which—depending on degree of soppiness and external humidity—can be minutes to hours.

How poop is treated in the collection process also determines whether it is useful manure or nuisance “feces” (as it is often referred to in city ordinances on chicken keeping).

Managing the Smell

Chickens may have just as many olfactory senses as human beings,8http://www.wardhenline.com/uncooped/behavior_senses so managing poop odors is as important for your chickens as it is for you (and your neighbors).

For indoor areas, good ventilation is key.

  • You can use wire-mesh covered windows or vents for this purpose and open coop doors during the day. Placing windows on opposite sides of the coop with access to the prevailing winds can be helpful.
  • However, keep in mind, ventilation is good, but drafts in extremely cold weather are bad.
  • For cold-weather areas, avoid placing ventilation openings directly across from nest boxes or roost bars.
  • For warmer climates, feel free to take advantage of cross breezes over roost bars. Or better yet, opt for an open coop, with plenty of fresh air for your chickens’ olfactory pleasure.

Other ways to minimize poop odors include adding a layer of fresh litter to poop-catching surfaces (e.g., straw, wood shavings, or cardboard chips on floors) or using a square head spade to scrape up manure and ladle it into a lidded bucket on a daily basis.

Alternatively, if you use a chicken tractor instead of a coop, you may need to move your chickens once or twice daily to keep them from spending the day standing in their own poop or creating problems in your soil from excessive nitrogen and phosphorous.

Except with a chicken tractor–style coop, you will need to the clean up the poop in the coop—and the more often the better if you want to cut down on pests, attract fewer predators, minimize the potential for health issues in your flock, maximize compost for your garden, and remain friendly with your neighbors.

(NOTE: Some people also use the built-up litter method to control odors, generate a little heat during the winter, and produce some nice compost for their spring garden.)

Coop Design With Cleanup in Mind

So, an important consideration related to poop and coop design is easy cleanup.

If considering an elevated coop, it’s a good idea to bring it up to waist height and make sure you can reach all parts of the coop by bending at the waist rather than hunching. This way you can use a hand shovel, dust pan, and brush for easy cleaning. In larger elevated coops, this may require more doors for comfortable cleaning access.

A coop that is tall enough to stand up in with easy-to-sweep floors or pitchfork-accessible areas also works. And the fewer unnecessary horizontal poop-catching surfaces, the better.

Bottom line, the easier your coop is to clean, the more likely you will be to clean it.

A clean coop contributes enormously to chicken well-being. It also cuts down on the likelihood that neighbors will take offense over your keeping chickens. Plus, fresh poop has a lot more benefits for your compost pile than old, dried droppings, so collect it early and often.

If chicken poop accumulates in outdoor run areas or heavily trafficked chicken hangouts, occasionally adding some kind of mulch material or hosing down the area to dilute and distribute can help.

You can also minimize poop plots by using movable pens or paddocks to direct chicken activity.

Once you’ve established how much space you need for the number of chickens you want to keep and how you want to manage the two chicken biggies of poop and predation, you can move on to choosing the coop style that works best for you.

Remember, there is no one perfect coop for everyone. But, by thinking through these coop considerations ahead of time, you’ll be well on your way to choosing a coop that’s perfect for you.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/percapita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-inpounds/
2. https://www.uspoultry.org/economic_data
3. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/top-10-sources-of-caloriesin-the-us-diet
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battery_cage
5. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/industry-issues/animal-welfare-forbroiler-chickens/
6. http://certifiedhumane.org/free-range-and-pasture-raised-officiallydefined-by-hfac-for-certified-humane-label/
7. http://www.thehappychickencoop.com/a-history-of-chickens/
8. http://www.wardhenline.com/uncooped/behavior_senses

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5 Excellent Reasons To Keep Backyard Chickens

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Ah, those versatile backyard chickens!

All of us who aim to grow our own food and medicine could use a little help sometimes, right?

Maybe someone to aerate, till, and weed the garden, and remove some of the peskier bugs.

It’d be great if they could make our kitchen chores easier by reducing waste and providing healthy food for our families.

They need to be affordable.

And if they can also offer peace of mind and maybe even some entertainment—all the better!

If all that sounds like a skill set you could get behind, then you already know where to look…

…those friendly backyard chickens!

Read on to learn more about the benefits of keeping these fabulous home and garden helpers!

Benefit No. 1:  Eggs, Meat, Manure, and More!

Eggs, meat, manure, pest control, and the joy of keeping them are some of the biggest reasons folks raise backyard chickens.

For instance, did you know that your average dual-purpose backyard hen can produce more than 180 eggs a year—and about one cubic foot of highly prized manure every six months?

if you’re looking to put meat on the table, you’ll be glad to know that same chicken can achieve a slaughter weight of up to eight pounds in as few as six weeks.

You can also use every part of the chicken—not just its meat. Its bones make nutritious stock, you can use its feathers for composting or craft materials, and the rest can provide nourishment for other carnivorous animals, such as dogs.

As omnivores with a strong preference for live insects and sometimes small critters, chickens can help with overpopulations of grasshoppers, wireworms, cutworms, Japanese beetles, brown marmorated stink bugs, small mice, and more.

They are also fascinating creatures to watch and can provide endless entertainment.

Benefit No. 2: Eliminating Waste

But how about recycling?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture 31 percent (or 133 billion pounds!) of our available food supply is wasted by retailers and consumers annually.

Most of this waste occurs because consumers—that’s us—just don’t want to eat it. Maybe the fruit was bruised, the leftovers were unloved, or the baking became a debacle.

Whatever the reason, perfectly safe foods end up in landfills at alarming rates.

Since chickens have no concern for the aesthetics of food and have fewer taste buds than your average human, they make great “recyclers” of unwanted, but still safe, edibles.

If every household or community had backyard chickens, we could potentially eliminate 21 percent of the post-recycling waste overwhelming our landfills. (Note that feeding chickens kitchen scraps is illegal in the United Kingdom unless you are vegan, so this benefit may not apply equally in all circumstances.)

Benefit No. 3: Garden Helpers

Backyard chickens are also great workers if managed in a manner that respects their inherent behaviors.

  • For example, with their powerful scratching abilities, backyard chickens can be used to help break down a compost pile.
  • Using electric netting or runs, they make great Weed Eaters along hard-to-mow fence lines.
  • In winter, backyard chickens can help prepare your garden beds for spring. As they scavenge through mulch and organic debris looking for overwintering pests, they will essentially be doing light tilling. And, of course, they’ll be fertilizing your soil along the way!

Benefit No. 4:  Healthy Chickens Means Healthy Meat and Eggs

If these great reasons to keep backyard chickens haven’t totally convinced you, then how about peace of mind?

We all know factory-farmed broiler chickens and egg layers are not raised using ideal methods when it comes to chicken well-being. But these conditions also contribute to potentially problematic effects related to human well-being.

For example, from 1944 until 2015, arsenic was an FDA-approved feed additive used frequently for speeding chicken growth, enhancing skin pigmentation, and preventing parasite infestations.

It was believed that the arsenic ingested by chickens would remain organic and be excreted prior to processing, therefore posing no risks to humans.

However, new scientific testing proved that inorganic arsenic—the kind that causes lung, bladder, and skin cancers and contributes to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive deficits, and adverse pregnancy outcomes—did build up at greater levels in chickens fed arsenic and was likely transmitted to humans during this period.

Although arsenic does occur in nature and there are certain times when it might be useful (e.g., as rat poison), intentionally feeding it to chickens on a regular basis to make them fatter has proven not to be the safest idea.

Benefit No. 5: You’re In Control

When you raise your own backyard chickens, you get to choose what they eat, how they live, and how they are treated if processed for meat.

You also control the cleanliness of your chicken coop and can play a direct role in ensuring your chickens’ health as a means of contributing to your own good health.

Getting Started With Backyard Chickens

Raising backyard chickens is not difficult, but it does require commitment and certain skills.

People all over the world have done it successfully for thousands of years without all the technology we have today. However, as a result of modern food conveniences like grocery stores and fast food, many of us have lost our connection to food-raising traditions and need a little help reconnecting with our heritage.

To learn more about raising backyard chickens for eggs, meat, and fun, be sure to check out our latest film + book here. 

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10 Ways To Save Money Raising Chickens

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10 Ways To Save Money Raising Chicken Of the many benefits that come along with raising chickens, there are a number that can actually effect your wallet. Chickens cost you feed, bedding and the occasional meds for keeping your flock as well as other rare costs. For the most part they are such a giving …

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Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens?

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Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens? I think generally we all would like to raise chickens, either for the eggs or just as pets. Lets be honest tho, do you really know what keeping chickens costs to raise? I know I didn’t until I read the amazing article from …

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The Baby Chicks Are Coming! The Joy and Ease of Raising Backyard Chickens

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In just a few weeks, the farm will have a few new residents! 18 of them in fact. Cute, fuzzy, little balls of fur that will grow to be our latest flock of chickens at the farm. More and more

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Basic Survival Skills for Living a Good Life

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Basic Survival Skills for Living a Good Life It may seem like survival skills should come along with common sense, but with modern conveniences, it’s easy to get someone else to do most things for you.  Food preparation, laundry services, and vehicle maintenance can be easily outsourced these, days but what do we do in …

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14 Common Chicken Predators and How to Protect Chickens

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14 Common Chicken Predators and How to Protect Your Chickens Other than diseases, predators are the biggest problem of every chicken owner. Being able to protect chickens from these predators can be tricky though. If you’re a new chicken owner, you might not notice it yet but there are many animals out there interested in having …

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Your Getting Started Guide To Fall Gardening Like Your Life Depended On It: Part I

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I used to wait for spring with bated breath. I would watch for a good day for tilling, go out and buy a bunch of transplants and seeds, and then have a wild and crazy weekend tearing up the earth and putting everything in the ground.

Thinking ahead? Naw… I had Spring fever! I wouldn’t think much about gardening until the seed catalogs started arriving… and then I would mostly browse and dream.

My nice garden beds were a good supplement to our diet but they weren’t a huge part of it. I was playing around with pretty beans and purple peppers, a few garlic plants, an heirloom corn I wanted to try… but it was haphazard and not planned for a long-term food security situation.

About a decade ago I realized how shaky the world was getting and knew things had to change. I also realized that just tearing up the ground and tossing fertilizer around wasn’t the way to ensure our piece of land was going to be healthy and strong enough to grow all of what we might need in a crash.

Even if you do work hard to build the soil, growing “all you need” is a tall order and it’s one even I haven’t reached yet… though every year I get closer. In 2015 I hit 1,000lbs of produce from our gardens (counting the random produce my children ate before it hit the scale) for the first time and the curve keeps going up.

The reason? I now work on preparing year-round by clearing and digging new patches of land, producing compost, planting fruit and nut trees and testing crops to find varieties that will go through the cold, the heat, the pests and the many diseases that want to rob us of our gardening sweat and toil. Much of this knowledge and experimentation culminated in my Survival Gardening Secrets course.

This fall, Chet and I want you to get ahead of the curve and get growing on a larger scale that takes less money out of your pocket and puts more produce on your table.

Here’s how you can build a fall garden – and an upcoming spring garden that will keep you fed through the year.

Let’s start with chickens.

Chickens Are Gardening Machines

When you pull out the gnarled remains of your summer tomatoes and squash, why not let chickens do the hard work of preparing your fall garden plots?

Get a good chicken tractor or fenced area in place around that plot and let those claw-footed tilling and manuring machines go!

My friend Larry built this simple chicken tractor for about $150:

He raises a good portion of his large family’s meat in there while improving his lawn. If you did the same thing with a garden plot, you’ll reap the benefits of all that turning and manuring. Chickens will compost in place while ridding your garden plot of stinkbugs and cutworms. I’ve pulled out a mess of spent vegetable plants from a garden bed and have been amazing to see just how many destroying insects are crawling around in the suddenly uncovered shade area beneath the brown stalks. Chickens turn those pests into eggs!

While this is a GREAT approach if you have a flat lawn, this sucker gets real heavy to pull through loose garden soil, up hills, in and around tightly planted Orchards or over raised Garden beds, which is why Chet Created these plans for a more light weight Chicken Tractor:

The Ultimate Portable Chicken Tractor

(Chet’s Chicken Tractor Blueprints Can Be Purchased Here)

Paul Gautschi of Back To Eden fame has a different approach. He uses his chickens to make good soil in their pen, which he then sifts and takes to his garden beds. If you have a big problem with predators snagging your Kentucky Fried goodness, this is another approach worth considering:

Kill the Weeds While the Sun Shines

I used to avoid using plastic in my gardens. Then I discovered its power for weed killing and I haven’t looked back.

If you have an area you’d like to garden but you haven’t gotten around to tilling it yet, summer and fall are the time to use the remaining heat of the sun to get it ready for later.

Get yourself some thick sheets of clear plastic and put them over the area. Pin down the edges with rocks or logs and let the sun create a weed-destroying greenhouse effect that will kill what you don’t want without removing the good biomass of all those weeds. They’ll bake and put humus into the soil beneath that plastic, then you can get out there and loosen the soil with a broadfork (this one from Meadow Creature is my favorite) or spading fork, then get planting when you’re ready.

When you till you turn up a lot of seeds that are waiting in the ground. When you kill with tarps this is less of a problem. I used to prefer black plastic until I saw some tests that were done side-by-side. Now I’m in the clear plastic camp.

An Alternate Approach

If you want to kill the weeds and really improve the soil long-term (and if you don’t have a big problem with pests like snails and slugs in your area), sheet-mulching is a good approach. The downside of sheet mulching is how much material it takes to cover a large area. If you have a friend with a tree-trimming company, great. If not, it’s not easy to get everything you need.

I successfully knocked out a persistent patch of Bermuda grass by putting down a double layer of cardboard and then stacking a foot of tree company mulch on top of it for a year. Back when I tilled that same area I had a very hard time keeping the grass from invading my beds and sapping the life from my tender domesticated vegetables.

Get Digging

One of my favorite ways to improve the tilth of the soil and reduce the water needs of my crops is to deeply double-dig garden beds. This is hard work but it’s good work. If you double-dig a garden area it adds more oxygen to the soil, improves the drainage and helps your crops delve deeply with their roots so they can get what they need in the soil.

I once did a test where I created a perfect square foot garden bed and a double-dug bed in sand that had only been amended with a half-inch of compost on top. The double-dug bed gave us about the same yields but needed a lot less watering. It also ate up a lot less compost, as a “proper” square foot bed is 1/3 finished compost. That’s too much pile-turning for me!

If you dig a garden bed well and then don’t step on it, it can stay loose and friable for a year or more. Pick areas where you can expand your garden beds while you’re planting your main beds in the fall, then get digging. If you’re not going to plant them right away, cover the area with tarps – or even better – woven plastic professional landscape “fabric” and then they’ll be ready to go when you need them. You can also dig beds and plant them with bags of beans, peas, rye, buckwheat, lentils, fava beans, chick peas, mustard or wheat seed from a local organic grocery store with the bulk bins. That’s a cheap way to cover the ground to keep out weeds while improving the soil at the same time. Sometimes I make a big seed mix from these bins, scatter it on the ground and rake ‘em in. As a bonus, you often get a bit to eat from these beds.

Double-digging is time consuming but when you dig a bed here and there on nice days, you’ll find eventually that you have a lot of long-term space in which to plant.

Get Composting Now

Composting used to be a chore for me. Now that I’ve realized Nature doesn’t care all that much about turning and aerating and that jazz, I’m having a lot more fun. After over a decade of extreme composting experiments, I even wrote a popular book on it. I’ve composted meat, sewage, pasta, paper and all kinds of other naughty things and my gardens just keep getting better and better. There are two main ways I compost without much work.

The first way is to choose a garden bed that I think could use some help and then start piling up compostable materials there, like this:

The other way is even cooler. It’s borrowed from the Koreans and isn’t anything like most compost most Westerners have seen.

All you do is find materials you want to compost and throw them in a barrel of water to rot down and ferment. I pick highly nutritional items such as urine, manure, moringa, seawater and comfrey to start with, then add whatever else I have around. Like this:

That looks insane but it works.

Let that rot for a few months and then thin it out as a liquid fertilizer for your gardens. It’s the bomb and it grows some danged good corn. Corn is needy, so if that crop likes it… imagine how the others will do!

On the downside, it smells horrible. Get a clothespin for your nose and don’t worry about it. And don’t pour it right on anything you’re about to eat. That’s nasty. It’s best for the establishment phase of a garden up until a few weeks before harvest. It’s also powerful growing magic for fruit trees.

One thing you absolutely DON’T want to do is buy compost or manure for your gardens.

Why? Because a lot – and I mean a LOT – of compost, manure and straw now contains persistent long-term herbicides that will utterly wreck your beds for a year or more. Don’t believe me?

Just ask Karen about her tomatoes.

Yikes.

I’ve read a lot of stories like this now and it happened to some of my own beds almost 5 years ago. Don’t let it happen to you.

BONUS IDEA: Plant Fruit Trees!

Fruit trees are really cheap compared to their potential yields.

What is an organic pear worth? Maybe $2? Imagine getting 400 of those from a tree you paid $25 for! That beats the heck out of most investments. Yet many of us don’t want to wait the 5-10 years it takes for impressive yields on fruit trees.

I used to feel that way… and then I got older. I plant on being here in a decade. Don’t you? Then get planting.

Plant more fruit and nut trees than you ever think you’ll need. Every fall, plant more. Go, drop $500 on fruit trees. Seriously. Get them in the ground, mulch around them, water them for the first year or two… and then, each spring as you plant your new garden beds, watch them wake up and grow. Eventually they’ll bear a few beautiful fruit. And then more and more and more. You can dry and preserve them. You can turn them into wine or hard liquor with a still. You can barter with them. You can fatten pigs on the fruit that falls. You can make incredible pies and cobblers, serve your children sun-ripened apples and peaches.

Look – just do it. Don’t wait to plant. Plant now and in the future you’ll look back and thank the “you” that is reading this right now.

Conclusion

We haven’t even covered all the potential vegetables you can plant in a fall garden yet… but what I’ve shared in this post will hopefully get you thinking long-term about your survival gardening plans. Get those chickens working. Get those weeds torched. Dig some new beds. Start some batches of compost. When you have the proper groundwork in place, your cabbages and turnips will almost grow themselves.

And so will the purple peppers (shh!).

Want More Survival Gardening Ideas?

Grab a copy of my Survival Gardening Secrets course that teaches you how to grow enough food to feed your family, even after the gardening centers close and you can no longer buy seeds, fertilizers, or pesticides to keep your garden alive.

Click here to access Survival Gardening Secrets

The post Your Getting Started Guide To Fall Gardening Like Your Life Depended On It: Part I appeared first on .

How To Raise Chickens – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

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How To Raise Chickens – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide One of the biggest challenges to living off the grid is having a sustainable source of food. Gardening is one way to do this, but it’s not the only way. I’m a big fan of raising chickens. The reason? Because chickens can provide you with a …

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The post How To Raise Chickens – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.

The Recycled Chicken Coop Pallet Project

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Creating A Chicken Coop From Recycled Materials Ever since creating Old World Garden Farms in late 2010 – we’ve tried to really show that you can build much of what you need using recycled, re-purposed and reclaimed materials. More importantly – that

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Raising Backyard Chickens – Chicks To Coop

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As more and more people begin to think about raising backyard chickens – we thought for today’s farm update we would take you through the basics in raising your own – from chicks to coop!   There is little doubt

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