When There Are No Pellets

What are you going to feed your animals? We have raised animals for many years, dogs, cats, chickens and goats, mainly. As the world has evolved into a place where we are no longer as sure of the animal feed supply as we once were, we have begun to question the sustainability of maintaining our animals should the SHTF. Thus, the title, when there are no pellets. There are many people that write and talk about storing up 500 pounds of animal feed or extra hay in case things get bad and they can’t buy anymore. Take dog food, for instance. Eventually, that food will run out. Then what are you going to feed your dog? Are you going to let it go because you can no longer feed it? And if you do, will it leave? It has always been dependent on you. Are you going to eat it? Most people would cringe at reading that sentence, but if it comes down to you or your dog, what are you going to do?

Sustainability. It’s something we contemplate regularly. The projects we work on are geared toward sustainability. Why start a new project, especially involving responsibility for another living creature, if it’s not sustainable? We have gradually started trying to grow more feed for our chickens and goats. Luckily, these animals can graze and forage for most of their own food, for most of the year, should the need arise.

Our cats will have plenty of rats and mice to eat. But what about our Great Pyrenees, Pearl? She doesn’t eat a whole lot, but she does need to eat. That goes back to storing 500 pounds of dog food. But what is dog food?

Most dog food and cat food is made out of corn and other assorted ground grains.We supplement the cats’ and Pearl’s diet with scrambled eggs from the chickens and milk from the goats. It’s good the goats and chickens can forage for themselves, but would some grain be nice? Yes, and you can raise some grain if you try hard enough. But you’re going to have to have a way to grind, or crack it for them to efficiently digest the nutrients inside. And if it is truly an SHTF scenario, you’re not going to be putting all that energy into raising grain for your animals, you’re going to be raising it for yourself. 

When we butcher goats, we save the organs, fat and some grisly meat that we don’t eat for dog food. We bag it up and freeze it, then add it to the dog’s diet on a regular basis. This, along with the milk and eggs, cut down on the amount of dog food she eats, and also has the added benefit of being a natural food source, which is much healthier than what’s in that bag of dog food. So if we ran out of dog food altogether, it wouldn’t be a big shock to her system to change over to these other foods. We would need to find a way to preserve this food for the dog instead of relying on the freezer. We would probably can it when we canned some of the meat for ourselves. Sounds kind of familiar, right? Canned dog food.

We have a friend that raised pigs every year for meat. A portion of their diet was always road kill. Yes, road kill. This friend would keep a container in the back of her truck and whenever she found a dead animal on the road, she would load it up and take it home to her pigs. She was different sort, and lived a life of sustainability with solar panels and a wood cookstove long before Y2K and the prepper movement came along, but it’s another example of how to manage. 

Now, if the SHTF we’re not going to be driving around gathering road kill, but we could trap things like opossum, raccoon, skunks and the like. This could feed our dog and cats, and it could also feed us as well. Until not so long ago, in the area where we live, people ate mud ducks, opossum, squirrels, raccoon, cotton tail rabbits and of course, deer. If people from 

this area ate these animals for food, then dogs and cats can too. Not so long ago, dogs and cats lived off of the leftovers from their owners, and will probably will have to again. We have never done this, but I do know someone who has recently begun to learn how to trap animals the old fashioned way. They caught a racoon and cooked it like a roast, eating only small portions at first to see how it might affect their bodies, which I thought was wise. They thought it tasted good, and just so you know, by watching these folks, you would never expect them to be doing these activities. It goes to show, that looks can be deceiving.

So, if you’re thinking about getting animals to increase your ability to raise your own food and become more self-reliant, stop and think about how you will feed them if there are no more pellets. Some animals that are great

meat producers, like rabbits, require specialized pellets when grown in hutches. We researched rabbits more than once because of the great feed to meat production ratio, but it always came back to the reliance on specialized feed. That is not something we wanted to be dependent upon. I know some will comment that you can raise your own rabbit feed, but today’s commercial rabbits are extremely sensitive to dietary changes which greatly affect their behavior. Therefore, rabbit will not be on our diet, unless of course, it’s wild rabbit, and we have some big, fat, wild rabbits around here.

So, how are you going to feed your animals when commercial feed is not readily available? You can’t just say, “Time out, I wasn’t ready yet!” and expect your livestock or pets to wait six months or a year while you get ready. I know we’re not ready, but we are working on it, and we’re trying to be realistic about it. If you know that something is coming, and you’re trying to live a sustainable lifestyle, then don’t play head games with yourself. When you alter that rabbit’s feed it is going to kill and eat any other animal it has access to. And don’t think that your lap dog is going to revert back to it’s wolf ancestors and start

hunting for it’s survival food. It ain’t gonna happen. We know that when we turn our chickens out to forage, our egg production is going to drop. Some of the weaker animals may not make it. When we quit feeding our goats grain, the milk production will drop sharply. These are just the realities of raising animals. Will our domestic animals eat foods raised in the garden? Hopefully. Will they eat meat and internal organs from trapped animals? Absolutely. So, give some serious thought to how you’re going to sustain your livestock and domestic animals, especially if you are depending on them to provide you with food and protection. It’s your responsibility. Think about it.

Until next time – Fern

26 thoughts on “When There Are No Pellets

  1. Hi, Lucie, thank you for sharing. We have never raised rabbits, but we have raised chickens. Free range chickens are very easy to feed. Even a small number of confined birds are easy to feed from a year round garden. Thank you for your comment.Frank

  2. We had a few rabbits some time ago and we never fed them with pallets. I fed them naturally – grass, herbs, flowers (all these dried in winter), fresh vegetables of all kinds and apples, fresh leaves and young sticks of fruit and nut trees… We are a family of 5 but only 1 eats rabbit meat, so we don't have any now but they're maybe easier to feed than chickens…

  3. Rabbits can forage 85% of their feed from grass. We have shelters that we pull around the yard twice daily and they forage most of their feed that way. We can supplement the rest with garden waste, hay or pellets. We prefer heritage breeds that people raised long before pellets were around. Joel Salatin has lots of info on raising rabbits this way.

  4. Fern I once met a woman who was a sheep farmer in Idaho. When her ewes were culled from her flock she had them butchered for her great Pyrenees dogs. That is all she fed them, raw, of course. Her philosophy was the dogs took care of the sheep when they were alive, then the sheep took care of the dogs when they were dead. Full circle, in her opinion.

  5. Fern, I'm so glad I mentioned the maggot idea to you. If I hadn't, I probably would have never known that it was dangerous to the chickens. And who knows, if it's dangerous for the chickens, it might also be dangerous for the humans who would eat those chickens' eggs. It's a gross subject anyway, so I'm kind of relieved to know we won't be doing that!

  6. Thank you, Leigh. Your article about goat feed is very informative. The philosophy of restricting grain and providing a more natural forage can also be applied to other animals, like pigs and chickens.I had to laugh when I went to read your article after posting this one. They are very similar, even though we didn't plan it that way. Thank you for sharing here and on your blog. It is a great way to learn.Fern

  7. Fiona we use a very similar technique. We have our 10 acres divided into four paddocks and I brush hog them all every couple of years. We try to keep at least two of them in full summer growth for winter use. We refer to this process as growing standing hay. Our animals are never fed hay unless they're penned up for some reason. This also gives us the ability to rotate pastures, which minimizes worm development. It works well for us. Unfortunately, it doesn't work for everybody. We have neighbors all around us that never rotate pastures, same animals, same pastures, year round, year after year. Come winter time they feed tons of hay, in the spring time they spray heavily. Someday, when the 'perfect storm' comes, then spraying and baling will no longer be part of the yearly cycle. Time will tell. Thank you for the comment.Frank

  8. Thank you for sharing this information, Fjordhest. You know some companies even put coloring in their animal feed and make them into cute little fish shapes, just to please humans. Yes, dogs and cats are carnivores and meant to have a diet of meat and protein. Too bad there are so many head games played by corporations to convince people their animals have human emotions and dietary needs. Thank you for the comment.Fern

  9. Our experiences with chickens eating maggots have not turned out well, C.M. Any time our chickens have consumed maggots, most of them usually die. At first we thought this was because the maggots would feed on the chickens crop, then their neck, and eventually kill them. Then we talked to a professor of poultry, and found out the maggot produces an enzyme that kills the chickens. So, from our experience, feeding chickens maggots is very destructive.We also think the time is coming when we will need to be as self-reliant as possible. It's good to know others are doing the same. Thank you for the comment.Fern

  10. Excellent post Fern. Goes so hand in hand with what I just posted but I think you really give the reader a reason to stop and think about the \”why\” of it all. We all need to do that.

  11. The natural feed source for our animals is one reason we are looking at bigger properties. We want to grow our own food and raise the critters winter food source as well. Each generation of animals we raise will become more adapted to our land and our management style. [Less grain and bought rations and more grazing and home cut and cured hay] When we were children our rabbits never got pellets…we picked grass for them all summer and they ate hay in the winter…it was normal for their digestive system. Modern butchering requirements want animal with more marbling, so more grain must be fed. However most livestock used to do just fine without excessive amount of grain in their diet. I used to keep one part of my asture free from grazing all summer and then in the winter let the cattle onto it..it was great for them and cut produced feed expenditure down a lot.

  12. Don't know if you realize, but the grains, vegetables and fruits put in cat foods are there to make us feel better. They are obligate carnivores meaning that they need meat, not vegetable matter, for nutrition. They would starve on a vegetable diet. Actually the additive of these things in dry food only cause problems. They should be on an all meat diet for them to be at their ideal health. Your suggestions are fantastic and wonderful food for thought – pun intended -(and action), but I just thought that tidbit about kitties may be helpful. Most people do not realize this. Thanks for the great info.

  13. Fern, my husband and I were talking about this tonight before I read your article. We don't have any animals now, but I've wanted to get chickens. My husband doesn't, and one reason is because we're concerned about their feed. Do you know how long chicken feed will last before it goes bad?We live in the south so hopefully they could get most of their caloric intake from grasses, weeds, and insects in all but the coldest months. If we could start a worm farm that should help, don't you think? Also I saw something really gross on television a couple of days ago. A couple who live a very back to nature kind of life had some kind of dead animal in a bucket with holes in the top of the bucket big enough for flies to get in. The bottom had smaller holes. The flies laid eggs on the dead animal, the eggs hatched into maggots which fell through the smaller holes in the bottom of the bucket and the chickens were very happy with the maggots for a meal. I think I'd have to try not to think about the maggots when I was eating the chicken's eggs, but it would be another way to come up with protein for the chicken feed.We think the time is coming very soon that we will need to have these decisions finalized, probably by September 2015 at the latest. I really admire all the work that you and Frank are doing to prepare and support each other. My best wishes for you and all your readers' safety.

  14. This is one of the first times we have heard of someone growing all of the feed for their rabbits. Do you keep them in standard hutches? I'm sure there are folks that would be very interested in how you manage rabbits without feeding pellets. Thank you very much for sharing this information.Fern

  15. Rabbit tractors. I haven't heard of this before, SFG, it sounds very interesting. Just let them graze in the tractor, and all they need is salt and water? Is this how you will be raising your rabbits? I'm sure rabbit makes a tasty dog food! Thank you very much for sharing this.Fern

  16. You're funny, Sandra. Yes, food for thought, just not pelleted food, right? I'm sure your dogs enjoy the surplus from your steer, just like ours does from the goats. Thank you for sharing.Fern

  17. It sounds like you have thought about this too, Tewshooz. It is an area that we still have a ways to go, but at least we have started down this path. Thank you for sharing your plans. Fern

  18. Red licorice, Joy? I have never heard of that one. We have known other folks that supplement the pelleted feed for the rabbits, but it still comes back to having pellets. We've decided it isn't worth the effort for us. Thank you for sharing this information, it may help some other folks.Fern

  19. They have rabbit tractors so that the rabbits can eat grass and clover. Just add some salt and you have instant rabbit food. They are one of the easiest animals to raise. Just don't change their diets suddenly and they will be fine. Then once you start breeding the rabbits, you can use them for dog feed. Win-win!

  20. We have enough hay and pasture for 12 sheep and/or a steer or two. Our cats have their bug out bag with food and also long term storage canned food. Dogs do not need a lot of food. That kibble is mostly just starchy junk food, IMHO. They used to live on scraps and maybe some milk or a meaty bone. Veggies, too, They were lean and alert. Our cats will hunt mice, rabbits and squirrels. They eat canned meat and dry cause we love them, but they eat well on their own.

  21. A family member has been raising rabbits for meat, and yes, he does buy pellets. But he also feeds them Vetch, ear corn, and vegetable scraps from his garden. Of course, they also eat grass. When I had rabbits for pets as a kid, I fed them red licorice, but not a steady diet. 🙂

  22. Just wanted to let you know that it is possible to have meat rabbits (we have New Zealand) and grow all the food they need. They will eat anything we store in the root cellar, squash, apples, dried corn, etc…We do grow our own alfalfa for our other livestock so the rabbits get some of that every day. I hope this helps you or your readers. Thank you, and God bless you

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