Country Living Series

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A "hellish struggle"

In response to yesterday's blog post A Yummy Experiment, a poster raised an excellent point as follows:

You've said on other posts the chickens are fed bought-in feed -- and I assume the cows have supplemental feed in the winter. This reminds me of a community I know that claims to be 100% self-sufficient in chicken and chicken products -- they're ready for any that hits us -- but feeds them almost entirely on bought-in feed! I know this is Scroogey, but the reality is that if this boat goes down, even the most determined of us is going to have a hellish struggle.

This poster is entirely 100% correct. We do rely on store-bought chicken feed, and we purchase hay for our cattle for winter feed. We're fully aware we're not 100% self-sufficient (which raises an entirely separate question of whether 100% self-sufficiency is even possible without reverting to caveman hunter-gatherer status).

We are taking a two-pronged approach for feeding our livestock when and if purchased feeds are no longer available. The first prong is simply to stock up on feeds to the best of our ability. The second prong is to be able to feed the livestock on what we can grow/raise/gather ourselves.


Chickens can get by on grain (such as cracked corn and wheat), though mineral supplements are certainly handy (having the ladies free-range helps in this regard). Under "bleep" conditions, we are prepared to cultivate both wheat and corn in greater quantities for animal feed. I don't know if it will be enough to maintain a large flock, but hopefully it will sustain a small flock. Spring wheat doesn't need irrigation; we have enough drip irrigation hoses to dramatically expand the amount of corn we grow.


As for the cattle, if we are unable to purchase hay, it means we all fan out with scythes to the surrounding fields and begin cutting by hand. It won't be easy and it won't be fun, but we have the tools to do it. We'd also be drastically reducing our herd size.


This poster is even more correct in that, no matter how "prepared" anyone likes to believe they are, we are ALL in for "a hellish struggle" if the bleep hits the fan. It's one of the reasons we're trying to acquire both tools AND skills now, while we still have the luxury of failure.


I am interested in hearing how other people are addressing the issue of store-bough animal feed, and what to do if it's not available.

54 comments:

  1. This is what pre-19th century life was like. People died, whole families died, entire tribes died typically from famine but just as often from others taking their food or the land they harvested their food from. And SHTF situation will bring back the rules of survival that our ancestors lived under. The average height of a man in feudal England was 5' 6". This was mostly because of poor nutrition while they were growing up. Life was hellish and if our modern society goes belly up it will be hellish.

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    1. Well..I just have to say..I've read the bios of Ben Franklin and Mark Twain..they fared better than ok. They describe their childhoods as a kids paradise. I've also read true tales of Pioneer Women who delt with marauding Indians on top of everything else. Indians survived and thrived for that matter. our parents endured and survived the Great Depression. My dad says his family hardly noticed, as they lived on a farm. I know the coming times will be incomparrable, but I dare say, don't under estimate the power of prayer and the human spirit.

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    2. That's not an unreasonable point of view. BUT keep in mind you are reading the stories of the survivors. In that time period that you have glorified 50% of the children died before their 18th birthday. As for the Indians they would totally wipe out neighboring tribes for their land and women, kinda hellish. The tortures they inflicted on prisoners were too gruesome to discuss here, kinda hellish. If our society collapses it will be hellish.

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    3. Many farms went "belly up" - no rain during the Dust-Bowl-Depression..... Natokadn

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  2. We buy our feed from a local feed miller who gets all his ingredients from local growers. He mills the feed using technology from days gone by. You should check around your local areas and see if something similar is available.

    ~~Petra in SW Oregon

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  3. In our case tree leaves are a valuable addition to the flock's diet, fresh or dried.
    In some parts of the world they still harvest small branches during the summer and hang them from the barn rafters for winter silage.
    No mowing or leaf raking required around here. The sheep do it all.

    To say we'll be in a world of hurt if TSHTF is an understatement of the highest order.

    A. McSp

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  4. Stocking a few hundred pounds of whole corn as a buffer for poultry. Have a grain grinder to crack it. Corn won't make them lay but it will keep them alive and fat through the winter, and it stores very well. They will also eat most any scraps (there will be few). Sorghum is another option that the local coons won't destroy. Spring-Autumn the birds forage very well.

    Hay for the cows and goats is the biggest concern. Have read about winter grazing, not sure it would be reliable. The old timers here left field corn in shocks and fed through the winter. Hand cut haystacks are probably our only other option, but we can't hand cut 100 rolls worth, so yes herd size will go down drastically. One old man I know that went through the depression said "to survive those times you needed a milk cow, a good garden, and some hogs." We have seed and land and work like mad every day gaining experience and exploring alternatives. It will indeed be a hellish time, and defending the crops and animals will consume a lot of time. We will have to keep each other alive, animals and people.

    Feeding our dogs will also be tough. When I was growing up we fed them mostly table scraps and a little commercial food. But as I said earlier, I don't expect a lot of table scraps.

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    1. milk cow, garden, hogs.

      for the milk, someone needs to keep a bull within walking distance.
      for the garden weather must be perfect so variety and permacrops are needed along with equipment to preserve the harvest in good years--remember joseph and the 7 fat and the 7 lean years.
      for hogs you need enough land to have trees for mast, like oak trees which heavy crop every other year, so several mast sources needed.
      and water, which is not reliable, storage for drought years and forethought for flood years.

      requires much preparation.
      people are never self sufficient. we are born into families, which, when extended , are clans.
      we rely on God and on each other.
      extend your family now, if necessary by 'adopting' friends and neighbors.
      may God bless and save all of us!!!

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    2. i do worry about the dog an the cats as far as feed is concerned.
      a vet said the cats may eat the rodents they catch but should be cooked first to avoid disease.
      mouse casserole!

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  5. In Idaho in the 1800's a Quaker community went thru a hard winter by planting and feeding their animals carrots. In fact, the place is still called carrot ridge. Cattle did OK and so, I assume, did the chickens. We hay a small field to see us thru the winter, but in heavy winter, chickens would have a hard time.

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    1. I've always heard chickens won't eat root crops. I've tried with mine, and they won't touch carrots, potatoes, etc.
      Kay

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    2. see 'the deliberate agrarian' web log for info on 'clamps' for preserving root crops right in the garden through winter.

      have read that cows love mangels and other roots. they can be left in ground in winter but need a covering you can get through under snow.
      once saw a chopper for mangels. not made any more. had one in every barn for winter feeding.

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  6. I have lived next door to my maternal grandparents for the past 30 yrs and hubby and I spent every moment of vacation time with them at our camp in far northern Ontario (nearest electricity is 6 hrs away). Then I spent 6 recent years caring for my 90+ yr. grandfather (born 1918) and 80+ yr MIL (bipolar with alzheimers) at home. I used my time with my elders profitably by questioning them about their childhoods and how they did things, what sort of things they had to buy at the store, what sort of things they bartered for, etc.
    All farming was done with horses, and they also raised and trained horses for sale. They also had some of the first pedigreed cattle in the state, due to great-grandpa working for the land grant university part-time...he took his pay in stock. They couldn't grow, process and store enough hay for large herds over winter, so along with hay and grains, they also grew mangel beets, turnips, carrots and squashes that they kept in a large root cellars (also good for human consumption). One of gramp's jobs, even when small, was to use an axe to cut up the roots and squashes each day for feed. Every early winter they would butcher what they couldn't feed over winter, or trade a few animals for something else...keeping their best breeding stock. Most folks wouldn't even try to keep more than minimum breeding stock over winter. If feed ran low before the pastures greened in spring, they would thin the herd again...meat could always be used by the family or traded.
    I chose to raise chickens and Nubian dairy goats (and hogs soon) because I can feed them with what grows here. I grow a large garden, we have 50+ fruit trees and 20 acres of forest/wetlands. I move the goats around all growing season and they keep the brush eaten so the forest doesn't take over our growing areas and lessens fire danger. I have started piling the smaller branches with leaves when we cut firewood, so I can supplement the winter hay with the leaves and bark cut at their prime. And they and the chickens (and soon hogs) love the bounty of the garden trimmings and less than perfect produce, along with the windfall fruit and pomace from our cider pressing. I do feed some bought food and hay now, and store a lot of food and minerals in 55 gal food-grade barrels, for ease while I get the rest of the homestead set up, but pretty sure I could do ok if the worst came soon. And have agreements with neighbors to graze the critters on their land or cut hay with a scythe in exchange for meat, milk/butter/cheese, eggs, produce, cider or young critters when the worst comes.
    This highlights the importance of land, good land with water. If you have that, you can make it through most anything with hard work and knowledge of how to use it wisely. In some places, like here, we are only a generation or two away from folks who lived without much outside input in their daily lives...it can be done again. After all, folks survived for tens of thousands of years without all our modern conveniences. We need to read more history and talk to the elders for a blueprint as to what worked and what didn't, as all this "survival/self-sufficiency" thing has been done before successfully - or we wouldn't be here (hehe).

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    1. Love reading this,, my Grandma (who grew up "in town" ) born 1901 , had a LOT of information about how to do things and I often wondered if she got sick of me pestering her with questions..the funniest thing she said when I asked her what she thought the greatest invention of the 1900 's was (she lived until 1990) SHAMPOO!!! she said she would go back to no central heat ,electricity ,or indoor plumbing but NEVER give back ready made store bought shampoo ! She answered this question quickly too , like she had thought it over before ! What amazed me was that even living in town they butchered a hog and grew veg and dried and canned and had a horse , sewed all their own clothing .

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  7. I bought myself a scythe from the local Ace hardware a while back, and am unimpressed by both the tool, and my ability to care for it properly. The snath's handles tend to slide around all over, which is essentially useless, and though I'm fairly fit, I can't use it too much without wearing out a few key muscles. Can you talk about where you got your scythes, how you use them, and whether you're confident you could realistically use them for all your mowing if needed?

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    1. I use a European-style scythe, which is in some ways different and in others similar (what you got from Ace was probably a Seymour American-style setup). They can be made to work well--they haven't endured for centuries because they can't be made to cut well. It took me several tries to get going with mine. Do a search on YouTube for videos (FortyTwoBlades has a lot of American scythe videos covering all aspects, including some featuring exactly what you probably have). In days of yore, you would have had a mentor show you in one morning how to use it. Nowadays you most likely have to figure it out for yourself. You can do it.

      I can mow an acre in about 10 hours, but I'm slow. Maybe a little less. I think the general rule was an acre a day, but then there's raking and hauling hay off to a haystack or baler. It would be hard.

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    2. Lehman hardware everything You would ever need https://www.lehmans.com/

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  8. We struggle all the time with our lack of skills like you all have. And my faith takes over where we lack knowledge, skills, and years of living the agrarian lifestyle. This hymn comes to mind when I feel especially unprepared;
    When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
    When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
    When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
    Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

    We shall see.

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    1. Yes indeed! Let's never forget the Creator!!! He fed and watered all of the Israelites for ~40 years in the desert were there was nothing. "I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. It's a secret known only to Him." I know He cares for us and knows all of our needs. I have 'prepped' for myself and my family and a few close friends. But there will always come a time when it runs out. You need to have your faith in action before this day comes.

      "Why prep at all? God feeds the sparrows." I have been asked this question and I reply "Yes, He feeds the sparrows, but He doesn't throw the food in their nests."

      God Bless, (and may we have a quiet 9/11 this year)
      Janet in MA

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  9. As one respondent mentioned, horses were invaluable. Horse drawn implements are still available in Amish communities. A horse drawn mower would make a lot more sense than a scythe in my humble opinion. But then that adds more mouths to feed.

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  10. I live in Florida, so it is growing season year round for something. Sorghum and sugarcane grow quite well, so we'd have sugar. We're not too far from the ocean, so we could make our own salt.

    The hardest part about living in Florida is keeping it from reverting to jungle in the summertime. I let one pasture go completely fallow this summer (just this summer!) and there are dog fennels 10' tall, air potato vines, blackberry brambles, and various small trees growing. I need to scythe it, but there are a lot of volunteer sorghum plants setting seed, and I gather that as a supplement for the chickens.

    Even after a freeze, there's usually something green growing. Live oaks don't lose their leaves until about March. Wax myrtles (so called because you can make candles from the berries) are an evergreen shrub growing wild. I can and have fed sheep on branches and leaves during a couple weeks after the grass was knocked back by a hard freeze and hay was not available because it had all been bought up and shipped to Texas during their drought, and I hadn't planted anything like turnips, oats, and rye for them. My sheep love the acorns from the live oak trees.

    I really need to sneaky get some kudzu corms and plant them in a barrel to have kudzu available for both fresh and dried feeding. It's high in protein, all livestock thrives on it, baskets can be woven from it, and the leaves, flowers, and roots are edible by humans. It does, however, grow *very* fast (grin).

    There are so many bugs and mosquitoes that we NEED to have chickens and ducks to keep them in check. To supplement the feed of orphan ducklings that I have caged in movable cages in the summer, I'll let a bucket set with a few inches of water in it. Then, I'll put it and the resulting mosquito larvae in the ducklings water/swimming pool, and all larvae will be devoured within a couple minutes. To supplement chick feed, I'll put some old veggies or meat scraps or eggs into a container, wait a couple days until maggots have reached a nice size, and then put the container into the cage. Sometimes I grow mealworms. Sometimes I grow crickets. Maggots are easiest.

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    1. As a fellow Floridian..er... Swamp Woman, I hear ya loud and clear. Forever beating the jungle back. My chickens had trouble with VERY hot humid summers and freezing cold winters. meanwhile, they ate crickets and frogs besides mosquitoes. I didn't have coyotes eating the chickens, but HOUSE CATS from surrounding neighborhoods. I will look into kudzo corms..never heard of it, and may give my neighbors a tip or two, since I now trade them stuff for a dozen eggs now and then. They have a better coup than I ever did!

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    2. I also live in Florida and YES, fallow ground becomes a jungle in just a few months. Brazilian Pepper Trees are excellent forage for goats, perhaps your sheep will like it? I consider it Florida's substitute for kudzu because it grows everywhere! I also plant pigeon peas for my animals---they become tall bushes that are always producing pea pods that are 20% protein. The plants will last a few years and supply a near constant supply of peas. Just a few ideas for you!!!

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    3. These descriptions of Florida flora remind me of an old saying: "A yard is nothing more than a forest held at bay."

      Just Me

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    4. www.floridasurvivalgarden.com This guy tells us how to create a florida survival forrest!

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    5. I do like David the Good's gardening advice! I have pecan trees, oak trees, pear trees, and elderberries, and grapes. Must plant more!

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  11. We live in an area where many cattle and horses are left to fend for themselves through the winter- most do just fine. We don't live too far from you so I imagine your herds would fare ok- they, like us will have an adjustment period for sure. But I guarantuee you the early settlers to the west and the big ranches that had hundreds of thousands of free ranging cattle did not hay but only the injurered, expecting or most prized head.

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    1. True enough. Even old episodes of Bonanza show them letting most of their cattle winter alone in the wild. It was on TV so it must be true, right? ;-)

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

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  12. I am not trying to criticize anyone or any ideas, but the infrastructure to support old style homesteading isn't there. One person suggests getting to know a miller who uses old techniques, Good idea, but the miller will still need to obtain the grain. Do his suppliers have animal powered farming equipment and wagons to deliver the grain? Do they have the tack to attach the horses to the equipment? Do they have horses to do the work? Do they even have the knowledge to use the horses? I worked on farms when I was a kid. The tack was still in some barns and a good number of the old people knew how to use it, but the horses and the equipment was gone by then. Now the tack is gone and the people who knew how to use it are too. The home forges that they used to make or repair tools are gone. The blacksmiths are gone and farriers are rare. If things get bad, it cannot not be a return to the 1890's, the equipment and skills that made that world function are gone.

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    1. This is so right. I spin and weave, and I've tried and tried to learn all the foundation technologies of dying, but all the mordants, the chemicals used to fix vegetable dyes,
      increasingly hard to find, are produced only in huge labs -- who knows anymore how to make simple iron and alum mordants? No one, is the correct answer. Not even an analytical chemist I asked.... If anyone thinks we'll return to 1800's technology, he or she is wrong. It's all lost. We start from scratch. Look at your local library. If it's anything like the one in my area, there aren't even any textile reference books anymore, I've made a home library of classic textile books dumped by libraries into the McBookseller market or into landfills, for pennies, they're so little valued -- there's nothing substantial left on the shelves! "Weekend Projects" books that are an insult to even a child's intelligence, aesthetic sense, and dexterity! I don't see anything good coming. Heartbreak, and utter, total degeneration. A few pockets of pre-contact Easter Islanders.

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  13. I am wondering if you pump your water via grid based electric? If the SHTF and power goes down how will you water yourselves, your animals and your crops? This July taught me some very valuable lessons on relying on mother nature to water, she didn't. While we have caught up on rain, almost too much, I decided to build a rain water retention system using those 300 gallon tubs that seem to be for sale everywhere. I made it so it is gravity fed by using cement blocks to raise everything up as high as 24" above the garden. While I don't get high pressure, I get enough to water if needed. I don't suspect that the amount of water I have will be enough if there isn't rain for a month, but I am working our how to expand the system even further. Of course winter will be hard because the rain comes in a different form(lol) and doesn't turn to water until perhaps march or April.. I hope to add a solar powered shallow well pump and pressure tank next year, if we last that long.

    Carl in the UP

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  14. Not to be negative but I fear if the S really does HTF you will be over run by starving hordes long before you reach the point of needing more chicken feed. In fact they will probably eat your chickens as you won't have enough ammo to hold them off. Lord, I hope I'm wrong.

    Huggs..

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  15. How does Fescue grass grow in your area? Here in Missouri where I live, due to our climate we can use rotational grazing most of the year and we have a technique whereby we bank Fescue by setting aside a winter field in late summer to be used just for winter grazing. We utilize a formula based on herd size, avg. weight of cow, and amount of fescue in field. Fescue will grow until first frost, then go dormant but it retains its nutritive value very well, even when it turns brown. And rather than just let them free graze you manage what they are eating utilizing a temporary electric fence that is solar powered. And cows will graze through snow.

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  16. my group will go mostly vegeterin.\

    it ain't a sexy diet, but corn bread, beans, potatoes and cabbage will keep you live a long time. and all, including the wheat for the corn bread can be grown in large quantites in my area.

    meat will be stray dogs, cats, trapped birds, ground hogs, snakes, and anything else that flys, walks, swims, or crawles.

    milk and eggs might be an issue, but except for baking, are not really a must in a long term survival diet.

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    1. This is your plan? It sounds like a survive rather than thrive plan to me. I wish you good luck.

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  17. This is why it s important to establish a community, to know and help our country/farm neighbors. Bartering and trading goods/services is a way we work in our farm community now and it will be necessary in SHTF scenario. My grandparents did this fifty years ago as they were dairy farmers and had a new hay baler which they would bale hay on shares with a neighbor who had one milk cow and did not need all the hay. I saw my grandmother take gallon jugs of milk to neighbors that were having a hard time or in exchange for other farm goods. So we prepare as best we can and just know that we will have to lean on each other!!

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    1. I agree.

      You can't chose your relatives but you can chose the people you're with. Being with God-fearing, country and farming folks is a great start. There is a lot of truth in the lyrics of, 'A Country Boy Can Survive'. And his loved ones can too.
      Montana Guy

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  18. I have actually thought about this exact problem. During my research, I ran across the process of making fodder out of sprouted Barley. You can feed it to goats, rabbits, chickens and horses, probably most livestock. If you can grow the barley yourself, you can be self-sufficient over winter. The system can be fairly compact, and if you do it right, 1 lb of barley can increase up to 7 lb of feed. It doesn't require much in the way of water, light or heat. The nice thing about living in the PNW is that we are a large barley producing area. I will be giving a small fodder system a try this winter.

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    1. Fodder is not a bad option, especially if you have a small herd. Chickens love fodder too. You can sprout grain using 2 gallon buckets with holes drilled into the bottoms. This is cheaper than an actual fodder system and you will have fodder for animals within a week. My cows are all grassfed, so I guess I would just turn them all out to graze. Chickens might be more difficult, but free ranging helps. Bartering with neighbors and other farmers would probably be useful. Honestly, my biggest concern would be people trying to come rob or killl livestock, etc.

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  19. "...the luxury of failure." There has never been a more apt phrase for so many things! How true that is.
    Maria

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  20. I would advise folk that want to have livestock that they don't have to worry too much about in a SHTF situation is to get the breeds of livestock that have historically done well in your area. In our area, "cracker cattle", i.e., the remnants of the old Spanish herds. Gulf Coast Native sheep have also been here several hundred years. Cattle and sheep brought in from other areas of the country, well, they have to be very well fed, medicated, and wormed to survive. The "native" animals, while not being quite as impressive a carcass, will produce milk, a calf, meat and leather (Florida cracker cattle) without much in the way of expensive feed supplements. My Tunis sheep haven't been wormed for years, and they subsist on grass most of the year. They don't get supplemented unless they're late in pregnancy or in early lactation.

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  21. Who are you going to barter with? I currently live in town. We can no longer afford eggs. We are slowly gathering the materials to build a chicken house/run for a few hens. The cost of chicken feed ffor a month rom the store is less than the cost of eggs for a month for us.
    Again who will be willing or able to barter with us for chicken feed?
    I don't know anyone else in walking distance or a short car ride who even thinks like we do. Or who is considering raising their own foods. Who will be willing to barter with us? And us with them?
    Selene

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    1. The cheaper feed store chicken feed is mostly GMO. Not so good... You will find a lot more of your chickens that simply don't live past 4 yrs and most will have unhealthy organs. I have found that if I buy some organic feed and some organic scratch that I can augment this with lots of different seeds (chia, buckwheat, sesame, millet, etc.) and some freshly ground oats, all bought from our local religious book center. It's cheaper and much healthier. The important thing is that the chickens require LESS of decent nutritious feed and they are healthier. Something to consider with winter coming.

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

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    2. This is an old and tired fiction that somehow GMO is deadly and the poor critters are dying off because of it. Everyone is either repeating the stories they have heard/read or making them up. There is zero evidence that GMO harms humans or animals. Yes I know there are stories of these mice who developed tumors but that is bogus. The GMO corn won't hurt you. 99% of all the corn in the U.S. has been GMO for over 20 years and everyone's is fine. Stop with the stupid GMO scare stories already...

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    3. Well, my research proves to me a much different picture than you paint for human and animal health but I will bow to your not-so obvious expertise in this matter. ;-)

      God Bless,
      Janet in MA

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  22. I feed my chickens carrots, I just shred them first. They love them! Also,, I just received today an order I placed with Sustainable Seed for their "Poultry Package" to grow some of our own feed next year. It contains corn, chard,pumpkin, millet, peas, hulless oats, flax, sorghum, and tobacco. I am not sure about the tobacco. This is our first year raising chickens. Blessings

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  23. Store grains for feed. Mix in diatomaceous earth to keep it dry and bug free. Just soaking it overnight will do wonders on nutritional benefits and extending how long it will last for feed.

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  24. i am surprised that no one has mentioned amaranth????

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  25. We have a six acre farm with chickens, rabbits and sheep. It would be pert near impossible to grow enough food for everyone, but we have organized the farm to be a bit better.

    1. This year we started to grow amaranth and so far we are happy with the results. Dual purpose as it is appropriate for man and beast
    2.Our main garden crop is butternut squash. All of the animals and humans can eat it.
    3. We are working to free range the chickens. It has been a year of things that didn't work out for one reason or another, so we decided to free range next year.
    4.We planted food/medicinal for animals such as comfrey and sunflowers for rabbits.
    5. We do not have the space that Polyface has, but we give our rabbits fresh hay pasture with broad leaf greens in it the summer but we give hay and pellets for winter with supplements (squash and other things in the winter. This includes the chickens, but they are natural scavengers and will eat a wide variety of leftovers, so they are less of a problem. They are also given BOSS
    The sheep are given well chopped up squash as a treat in winter, along with feed/grain especially for the pregnant ewes. They love the hay as well..which we purchase.
    PS We have a small apple orchard that helps with supplements as well

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  26. I no longer have the problem of larger animals , the last of the goats went today , I am tired of fighting a cougar who swings thru once a month and takes one , in hope some hunter has a good day and kills it .

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  27. I have heard that Bison are a lot easier to keep than cattle and they have no problem finding their own food in the winter. Bonus is that the meat is a lot more valuable on today's market. Healthier for you too, it's more lean. But we are all gonna be in a world of hurt if the internet ever goes down. Start hoarding books.

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  28. https://www.yahoo.com/makers/man-spends-6-months-making-c1258347491631158/photo-re-defining-homemade-1442441845225.html

    interesting idea

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