Stocking Your Own Ark
While it’s unlikely that you’re actually building an ark, let’s take a moment to talk about your metaphorical ark. Consider the similarities between Noah’s reason for building his ark (the foreseen degradation of humanity) and your preparations for when the SHTF; both certainly run along the same lines. Being realistic, an ark is probably not high on your list of priorities, but what goes into the ark should play some importance in your general plans. So, keeping in mind that you won’t have room in your ark for two of every animal species (although, how cool would that be?), budget, physical space, and reality dictate it just ain’t happening. Bearing this in mind, let’s consider the top five animal species for your ark (ranked in no order):
Firstly, when decided what to include and house your animals, you’ll need to consider the climate where you live and the environment (suburban, rural, or somewhere in between). Not to mention your budget and your level of experience in animal husbandry. For the purposes of this article, let’s assume you’ve got sufficient land (and appropriate zoning laws) to raise the above-mentioned animals. So, let’s break them down one by one.
Dogs – Perhaps an odd choice but if you think about the contribution your dog (you already have one, right?) makes to your life, your wellbeing, and your protection (my Chihuahua is a bad-ass – he’s the first to sound off while my three German Shepherds blissfully snooze until the threat is in the house). Now would be the time to consider training your dog, whether for security, hunting & retrieving, or as an assistant should you or someone in your family become incapacitated. Feeding your dog is a consideration, of course, which means you’ll need to figure in her dietary needs. But, if you’re like me, feeding a raw diet not only minimizes your costs and keeps her healthy in the long run.
Horse – An admittedly bold choice, but if you’ve got the capacity, a horse or a few, can mean the difference between transportation or no transportation. If you’re not already familiar with raising and caring for a horse but you’re game to try, it’s best to get started. Consult a trusted friend or farm to learn the basics. Your horse gives you the mobility to scout areas, cut across terrain that your car can’t, and check in with neighbors when needed. As with everything, there are downsides, in the case of a horse, space, food, and access to it must be considered. If there are simply too many people in your family, you can at least consider the functional purpose of your horse to act as a pack animal to transport heavy loads or to carry that 10-point buck you bagged and now have to lug back. Lastly, and certainly not too pleasant a topic, is the meat source your horse provides when and if he becomes infirm or you simply have no other option. Certainly, one horse may simply provide too much meat for you to handle and any excess now becomes a tradable commodity.
Chickens – Just have a drive down any road and you’ll see signs for ‘Fresh Eggs’ on most any turn. There’s a reason for this, chickens are a full source of protein provided through their eggs and their meat. And, when coupled with the cultivation of your own garden, the two go hand in hand (chickens eat grubs and ticks and the nitrates from the feces are fantastic fertilizer). Check out a recent article I wrote on raising chickens for more details. In her egg-producing lifetime, one hen can produce anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 eggs, usually with one egg produced daily. While her eggs provide you a valuable commodity to barter with neighbors, bear in mind chickens don’t produce eggs all year long. When her egg production begins to decline she now enters the spent hen category and becomes a perfect candidate for chicken soup. Know that it’s a good idea to practice de-feathering and preparing a live chicken for when it’s time to put some food on your plate. Now that you’ll have a few chickens on your ark, consider other birds to include as well; turkeys, pheasants, pigeons, ducks, and geese all make meaningful contributions to your survival.
Goats – Regardless of the entertainment factor goats provide, their very practical application in your survival is considerable. While most humans were raised on cow’s milk and have developed a preference for it, there are a few reasons why a goat is more sensible than a cow in the provision of milk. Namely, goats cost less to purchase and cost less to raise. It goes without saying that they require considerably less space than a cow (they’re content to munch on brush over pasture). Consider also the return on your initial goat investment; one goat can produce two to three kids and will produce milk for up to two years. Speaking of milk, a goat’s milk is not only more suitable to human digestion, but more tolerable for the other animals on your ark in case they too need some form of sustenance.
Rabbits – Removing all thoughts of Bugs Bunny and his charming antics, rabbits are a reliable, abundant source of food. The best part about rabbits is their virtual lack of care required. Regular cleaning of their pen and creating access to forage are the two greatest considerations in raising and caring for your rabbits. One buck and three to four does should provide you with a sufficient source for little effort on your part. And, if you’re squeamish about killing such a docile, cute little creature, get over it. In one of the schools I attended during my Marine Corps training, we were taught to kill rabbits as a means of survival. Let me tell you after three days with no food, all I could imagine was how good that little bunny would taste in my belly.
Certainly, there are other animals you may prefer to include on your metaphorical ark given your experience, budget, land restrictions, etc. The purpose of this article is to get your thinking about practical sources of food that serve a dual purpose (in some cases) you can raise on your own when the option of skipping down to the local supermarket doesn’t exist. As I’ve stated a few times, if you don’t have the experience, gain it now before you need it. Search for local 4H clubs (get your kids involved), approach your local farmer for pointers, attend livestock auctions in your area (if you’ve never done so, now’s the time), make a point of attending your local county fair in the aim to educate yourself and to determine what is a reality given your situation. Maybe you’re better set up to raise one or two of the above mentioned animals and you’ve got a trusted family member nearby who can raise some of the others. Either way, once you’ve got your ark set up, you need to take off your Noah hat and start thinking about the medical needs of your animals. So, in our next article, we’ll talk about your new role as Dr. Doolittle.