There are a good many people who already raise live critters in their backyards and are more familiar with the ins and outs of such a chore that I am, but I thought I’d address a few points on my own for those of you who may be considering such a gruesome task. I know, I write about survival, and what’s keeping a chicken in the back yard got to do with survival. I’ll be the first to admit that I make light of survival foods when it comes to fresh meat for the table after the ceerap hits the fan. Ask me sometime for my recipes for Kung Pau Kitty, Szechuan Seagull, Peking Pigeon and Poo Poo Puppy. They sound pretty tasty. I’m just joking by the way. But it makes for good entertainment at a function or get together.

I know that in many communities it is darn near impossible to have any animals in your backyard beyond the family pet, but some are actually beginning to allow chickens, but you can only have so many, and you cannot eat them. It’s a kind of ignorant view to take in regards to animals for food, but at least you can benefit from the eggs, and the manure will help towards fertilizing your survival garden. I checked around in a few cities, and it seems the trend is to allow up to six laying hens, and no more. That means no rooster, and no fertilized eggs so when your stock dies you’ll need to by new chicks or full grown hens. Not an economical situation, nor is it sustainable as farm as developing a long term survival plan.

What do you need to raise chickens? Not much, really. You’ll need a coop, or henhouse to house them in inclement weather. Plus you’ll need feed and so forth, and a watering pan of some sort. It can get pretty involved, and I would suggest you go to www.backyardchickens.com to get some excellent resource materials. The important first step, however, is to make sure the backyard Nazi’s that run your community allow you to raise chickens in the first place. I know, this is America and we should be able to do what we want in our back yard if it doesn’t bother anyone else. That’s a good point but remember, we no longer live in the land of the free anymore.

If you have a yard big enough for chickens and a garden, then I strongly suggest you go for both, but if you can’t have both, then you’ll obviously want the garden over the chicken’s any day. I keep saying that your best bet is to live in a rural location, or at least a semi rural location and try to get a big a piece of land as you can, and I will always say that. During the Great Depression people who had land and could garden and raise small animals came out better than the city people did, health wise at least.

Another backyard animal that has a growing support group is the mighty rabbit. Rabbits are going to be tougher to raise from a zoning perspective, and they take more capital investment to raise, but you’ll more than recoup your expenses in the meat they provide, especially if you sell them for that purpose. When the grocer shuts down and fresh meat takes a flight out of town those who have the ability and opportunity to raise meat for sale will be in a better position than those who can’t. You’ll need a shed or barn large enough to hold the cages and so forth, so the building expense may be a problem for you at first. Make sure that you can legally raise them before you get started.

A potential problem with bunnies is that the kids may just decide that they are pets, instead of fricassee, so make sure you lay out the ground rules before beginning this endeavor. You can download a pdf here of some of the basics for beginning rabbit raising if you think you might want to learn more about this as a potential business, or even if you just want to raise them as pets. It’s some good information to have in your library either way. A great side effect of the rabbit business is that you not only have meat to sell, but you also have the pelts that can bring in a good chunk of change.

Sheep and goats make good choices as well, but I believe the goat is a superior choice. With the sheep, you get meat, and of course the wool if you decide to shear it. However, when you raise goats you also have milk, which also gives you cheese as well. Sheep take less of an effort to keep as they can live on good pasture alone, but most people in a community setting cannot afford to set that much space aside. One single sheep would probably be doable in many locations, but that doesn’t give you an ROI worth talking about.

However, you can keep two or three goats in a much smaller area as long as you can fence them out of the garden plot. One thing to bear in mind though is that goats lactate ten months out of the year, and thus require milking twice a day, whether you like it or not. They can also make quite a ruckus and they tend to have a knack for getting into places you don’t want them to be, such as your garden. Or worse; the neighbors garden. So you’ll want to keep that in mind also. And don’t even think of breeding them unless you do live in the country with no close neighbors.

There’s an excellent article at Mother Earth News you can look at here that gives a good comparison of the pros and cons of backyard livestock. I suggest you read the article, and if you still have a mind to raise backyard livestock, then check with the local officials to see if you can get away with it or not.

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