How Many Acres Do You Need For Survival?

This is one of the best intros for any prepper. It came from an old email thread that is since long gone. These are not my words but those of Joyce from Lutesville. Thank you for this Joyce, whoever you are.


I once read that you need less than 600 square feet per person to survive. Personally, I want more than survival.

What do you want?

If you eat three eggs each for breakfast, and use some for other purposes, you will want a dozen or maybe more eggs per day. You need as many hens,along with a rooster. We (there are three in my house, but one doesn’t count) eat less than a dozen eggs per week, most weeks, so three hens are enough for us. Excess eggs can go into the incubator, and the chicks can be sold if they are not needed for meat. If you don’t want to use an incubator, boil the eggs, mash them, and feed them back to the chickens, or save them for the pig, dogs, and cats. To feed the chicks, plan on letting them run part of the day, if you can. Plant desirable food plants too, whether you plan to grow your own feed or not, the fresh food is good for them. I have read, though we never did it, that one large zucchini and 3 lbs. worms per day is all you need to feed a dozen chickens. Chicken feed and soil amendments from a minimum of space, effort, and expense. Or give them 4 oz grain per bird daily.

For milk, do think about getting goats rather than a cow. One milk goat will produce all the milk you can use while she is lactating. Two, bred to alternating schedules, should leave you with excess all year around. You will need less than 1/2 acre of decent pasture for them and the chickens together.

If you want beef, you should need no more than one calf per year, and I would suggest that you find a dairy in the area, and buy from them one male calf each year. Have a goat coming fresh at the same time, and raise the calf on the goats milk. You will have some of the healthiest calves in the area. Plan on butchering them young, as they take a lot of space as they grow up.

Castrate if you are letting the calves grow much over a year, or they will want to visit the neighbor’s cows. Raise them in a pen for three to six months, and feed them only milk for excellent milk veal, or let them eat grass and raise them up to a year for good, lean beef that is still technically veal. This should be plenty of beef for a year, and won’t take over 1/2 acre.

If you really want cow milk, look into Dexter cattle. They are a small breed of multi-purpose cattle. Two cows can run on two acres of good grass, and give you all the milk and meat you need, with some left over. You will most likely need to feed them, though.

Think carefully before getting a milk breed of cow. She will produce five or more gallons of milk per day for 305 days per year. Many cows can give over 13 gallons per day. She will need lots of grain to do it, and you will need to milk her, twice every day. Even the dexter will give a gallon per day, which is a lot for three people. Don’t forget to make butter and cheese!

Pork is good. You can often pick up a weaned piglet for under $20, sometimes under $5. Feed it those leftover kitchen scraps, milk, eggs, and let it clean up the garden every year. Butcher at less than 100 pounds, and get another for the next year. Or go to the pork auction and pick up an old boar for less than 5 cents per pound. Take him straight to the butcher though, as
he is strong enough to tear up your barn, and will, just for fun. Don’t even think about breeding your own hog.

One acre of orchard should do for you: 4 Cherries, 2 apples and 2 pears around 30 ft. apart, 2 Peaches at 20 ft, 2 plums at 15. I’d add 100 strawberries, 6 blackberries, 6 raspberries, and 4 grapes to the mix, as they will bear sooner. A few nut trees would be good to add, if you can grow them where you are. Maybe 2 pecan (35 ft), 4 hazel (15 ft), and 2 chestnuts (30 ft). Even if you put in a 50 ft row of asparagus, 4 hardy kiwis on a trellis, and 12 rhubarb plants, this is less than an acre. Fewer trees if your neighbors have them close enough for pollination, and closer together if you get dwarfs.

I don’t know what you are gardening now, but 1/2 acre is a lot of garden. 330x66 ft, re-arranged in whatever shape it comes in. Point is, that should be plenty of vegetable and herb garden.

Add at least 1 acre if you need a wood lot, and 2 or 3 for growing your own grain, though I don’t recommend it. Add 2 beehives to the orchard, if you can, and spend all you can on GOOD fences.

Five to ten acres should be enough for three people, if you get decent land, put up good fences to keep out the vermin (deer, coyotes, feral dogs…) and put in the work. More would be nice, though.

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Obviously the more land the better. I’ve got about 15 acres and have more than enough for food, water, and survival. I used to keep chickens but it was too much work. I still do some small game trapping. Plenty of food out there you just need to know how to get it.

Any of you chaps looked into Aquaponics ? Closed loop system, not dependent on soil and large yields with small surface area. I intended a move to do this few years back but hasn’t panned out but still interested in the method and think it fits well once set up as part of a survival plan as relatively unaffected by weather too.

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I needed to look this up here:

This sounds like a really cool idea though. Now that I think of it, I’ve had some lettuce that was grown using this method. Twice the price but it was the cleanest tasting lettuce I ever ate. I wouldn’t even know how to begin setting something like this up. The hydro part seems easy. What is complicated is getting the pH levels needed for growth.

I’m spoiled. I have a natural creek and a deep well. My clean drinking water and limitless irrigation system comes from my backyard.

I have some PDF’s if you want them here ? I think it can be done quite cheaply, it doesn’t have to be expensive if you are handy. Easy to build own grow beds and plumb in etc. So initial set up might take a bit of time but once you have it sorted the yields are far superior I believe.
Your lettuce was likely grown using hydroponics ? Once you introduce the fish it goes up another gear, plus you have a protein source if you breed and harvest the fish too.

Hey southern, what state you from. Born in Mississippi and moved to SC at 15. Got family scattered from Mobile to Baton Rouge. BTW I assume that’s ol’ Bedford on the left of your pic?

Permaculture is another well established process. Again bit of work to get the design right but beyond the initial set up it is a no dig continual food source.

Years ago I had nearly 5 acres in a local valley. High ground - southern exposure - small year round stream & an area that could be turned into a 3/4 acre pond. 2 acres flat & clear & 2 acres of trees. Had to give it up; and it only cost me $12,000. Health issues. Now too old to start over. What made it great was, all the neighbors were more or less homesteaders & were ready to lend a hand with any project I had in mind. It was a toss up between a small white cedar log cabin or a geodesic dome. More than enough room for intensive cultivation - drip irrigation systems - greenhouse. Life ain’t fair; & the clock is only wound once. There was a farmer on the opposite side of the valley who owned over 1,800 acres - mosty trees; and firewood was free for the taking. On top of it all, produce from other farmers was always available. From vegetables to poultry to livestock. All the fruit trees I wanted for free; and experts who knew how to trim them. I would have had poultry, maybe a few goats. Large livestock would have been a bit much. Regardless, the valley had a few dozen experts.

It depends entirely where you live. A person could not survive indefinitely on 1/2 an acre where I live if their life depended on it.

An American football field is just about an acre, 0.91 or some such.

A man can’t do squat, other than play football in such a space.

In the Mountains, I find 150 acres a start, on the high prairie more like 500, low mid-west prairie common wisdom was 40 acres and a mule, mixed one can compromise either way depending if you want to primarily hunt/trap or farm.

It helps and hurts to back to Federal or State land that is not fenced.

Concerning the valley where I had the land. I have a friend whose family owned the entire valley in the early 1800s. Slowly parceled out. Had to be many many many 1,000s of acres. Much of it went to two state parks ( one on each end of the valley ), so still open land.