The Primary Survival Skill of the Animal Kingdom and How We’ve Lost It

Red Bench under Maple Tree at Chicken Coop

I saw something this morning. I’ve seen it countless times. It’s so normal that I don’t even think about it beyond just that — being “normal”.

What did I observe? Simply, my chickens as they went on about their morning. Their day. Always the same.

I was sitting on my recently painted Red Bench watching the chickens with my dog as he sat on the grass next to me. Positioned under the Maple Tree beside the chicken coop, pen, and fenced-in range, it’s the perfect shady spot for chicken entertainment.

What Animals Do Constantly…

Forage for food. It is their mission. Their primary survival skill. Find food. Eat it. Repeat.

It’s obviously Survival 101 for them. Must. Find. Food (and Water).

I find it entertaining to watch the chickens chase grasshoppers and other flying bugs as they race around with their Assault Beaks. More often than not their incredible eye-beak coordination chomps the bug — which sets off a round of “catch the chicken who has the bug” by all the others…

They will be out in their little open-range area for a while (looking for food of course). Bugs, insects, grass, weeds, whatever… Then they’ll walk back in to the pen (looking for other food of course) and munch on some grain pellets from their human supplied feeder. Maybe they’ll walk over to the water feeder.

Then it’s right back outside again because one of the hens appear to have found something! (more food of course). On and on. Amusement all day as they constantly search for food.

It’s not just chickens. Think about it. Pretty much all animals are always looking for food. Priority One. All day (or night) long. The birds. Deer. Bears. Whatever…

“Hey Ken, So What?”

Well, while sitting there on the bench, it just popped into my head how we humans used to be pretty darn similar!

Some in this world of ~ 7 billion still are. Though the MAJORITY of world population no longer need to spend their day on the constant quest for food sustenance.

Increasingly modern technologies have enabled humankind to entirely ignore the primal nature and know-how of acquiring / producing one’s own food beyond simply paying for it.

Within the timeline of human civilization, this luxury has been very recent indeed. It has happened quickly.

We go about our days doing other things. Food is never a concern for most. You might simply say that we’re an advanced species so that’s no big surprise. Well, that’s true.

But sometimes I can’t help but contemplate the risks. What if our own hubris of high technology somehow leads to our downfall? And what if it happens quickly?

The chickens know what to do and how to do it. The animals roaming the land know.

But do we?


  1. Many people have forgotten that there is a “pecking order in nature” and even though the socialists want to ignore it, there is a kind of pecking order in mankind as well. Toughen up or get on your knees, will be the choice of the future.

    1. Looks like big brother is always trying to train people to get on their knees, giving out freebies and buying votes at someone else’s expense, while at the same time making millions of surfs dependent on Government handouts.

  2. We are blessed with deer,bear,quail,turkeys,cougar and wolves in our area. I agree with your assessment of the critters, they’re driven by food,always foraging always eating.

    Another trait we have noticed is their alertness to the world close about them. They are easily spooked, which I consider a survival trait. In the animal kingdom they are very much in a YOYO world,no 911 for them.

  3. Of course, some might say that the Free Sh*t Army is always looking for food/EBT cards. Judging from some of those huge Ladies butts in yoga pants, I would say that they found too much.

  4. My Dad used to say that deer live 3 seconds at a time. Eat something, head up and look and listen,if all ok have another bite.Humankind maybe was the same a long time ago,what with someone ready to throw a spear at you.Not so much anymore. Cell phones get the attention now.

    1. That’s exactly how they (the deer) do it. Interesting to watch. A few munches down in the grass, then head up, ears turning this way and that – listening for trouble – wait a bit, then back down for a few more seconds of munch.

      Food and Security.

      1. I am amazed at how deer travel stealthily through the woods or even tall grass. They walk about 30 feet on our property and then stand still listening and watching for about 2 minutes before proceeding. When standing still, if you do not keep your eye on them, they are almost invisible to us humans.

        1. Yes, the deer are like specters. They can walk upon you without a sound. We have learned this while being the yard. Just as if they materialized out of thin air the fawns are behind you wanting an apple or just curious. What is interesting about these fawns is they have been raised by humans however their instincts from the powers that guide them are remarkable. Knowing what to eat, knowing they must fatten for the winter, knowing certain sounds might be dangerous, but not knowing humans should be avoided. :-(
          They are ‘gray’ just like we need to be at times and maybe might need to be all the time in the coming future…..

  5. Earlier this year I watched a butterfly and thought this insect has a brain the size of a grain of salt yet can operate two wings to fly, six legs to walk, navigate where it needs to go and return, gather its own food, take care of its needs and all while looking as though it didn’t have a care in the world.

    Yet a very large portion of our population doesn’t have the capability to feed itself or it’s offspring, needs a three-wheeled scooter to get through the grocery store, relies on a GPS/phone to get anywhere and has nowhere near the IQ level to fly an airplane. Basically 70% of the US population serve no purpose except to waste oxygen.

    1. RC
      Oh hell it don’t take a whole lotta brain power to fly an airplane.
      Granted you have to do some thinking but anybody can fly with
      a little learning.

      1. K-bay
        I began flying lessons in an Aeronca Champ when I was 15 and soloed the day I turned 16. Flying is the fun part, landing well that’s when the fun begins!

        I’m a retired air traffic controller and we use to say “it doesn’t take brains to fly, only money….just ask any Mooney pilot”.😃

    2. R.C.

      I knew a GS-15 who used her GPS every day to work and back home. Could not get to her places without it. Isn’t that something :). Used GPS once since it became available. Actual map is my thing. As to the 70%, perhaps that elite 1 percenter who said that the majority of the population is useless eaters was right?

      1. TxinEP
        That 1% was a realist. I’m with you, I just received my new 2021 spiral bound atlas and a new set of area maps. Never needs batteries or a satellite signal and if I go the wrong way it’s my fault!

      2. Reminds me of one of our moves when it was the 12 year old’s turn to navigate with the map for her dad. She had him take a wrong exit and quickly noticed so he could correct. Then, in exasperation, said they should just pave the roads in the same colors as they show up on the map to make it easier.

        I rarely travel anywhere – even to areas I travel frequently – without a map and I have the detailed road atlases for each of the areas we spend significant time. Don’t know how often I have circumnavigated traffic jams as a result.

  6. Downfall to me has been lack of knowledge, which was the result of not having the need to do many things for ourselves because it was often cheaper and far less time consuming to pay for it. But within this new reality of self-sufficiency we now need to gain those skills personally, which is less costly and laborious to use the technology of websites and YouTube’s to learn.

    Case in point is that Prepper Dan stated a 75:1 ratio of birds to humans. The great hunting expeditions of the suburbs will indeed be birds and an occasional squirrel. Neither of which I have ever had the need to cook, nor would I know a soul who could tell me where to even begin. So I did spend the morning reading a step by step guide, with gory pictures, on Bass Pro of how to skin a squirrel and subsequently cook it. Then went to Outdoor Life to read about how to cook with crow, since quail and the other birds can be roasted basically. But crow has to brined in a hard cider to remove toughness and squirrels need to be field dressed very quickly, then iced. Long ago my grandmother would have known those things and been able to tell me firsthand, yet now it’s the internet that returns us to those roots.

  7. Finding food while watching your back is the way of the near future.We can all learn from nature.

  8. Predators and prey. Carnivores/omnivores and herbivores/smaller and younger carnivores/omnivores. Apex predators tend to have eyes on the front of their faces (dogs, cats, people); prey tend to have them on the side (birds, grazers). Prey tend to eat for daily needs and use a lot of energy staying alert. Some apex predators gather food and store the leftovers, like a cougar that caches a goat in a tree, and have the luxury of napping and play. Both predators and prey are most effective and safest when part of a group.
    . . . .
    Depending on our circumstances we can be either predator or prey. Our ability to cooperate makes us less likely to be prey.

  9. I was raised eating wild game. We routinely eat venison. The wife is a good cook and can handle most everything I bring home; deer, catfish, crappie, wild rabbit (mostly cottontails around here), doves, quail, the occasional pheasant, even crawdads if we seine some big ones. The old girl will not cook squirrels. She thinks they’re cute and refuses to cook them. Therefore, I don’t squirrel hunt anymore. I’m sure that mindset could change, if things get tough.

    I’d encourage everyone to learn what they need to learn. Hands on, with a sharp knife is the way to go. You’ll get better and faster at doing what’s required. Butchering meat is an undervalued skill. Learn to skin a deer and butcher it. Your first one won’t be great, but you’ll get better. How well you process your venison, will determine if it tastes good or is barely edible. If ya don’t like venison, it’s likely because it wasn’t butchered correctly. Ya really need to remove all the membranes, before grinding. It takes some time and effort, but well worth it. Ya don’t want ANY deer fat or membranes, in your food. We prefer beef fat mixed in when grinding, though we have used pork.

    It’s easy to think of your meat all wrapped in plastic, at the grocery store. Those guys/gals in the back are doing all the “dirty” work. It’s just nature. Predator and prey, as noted above.

    1. Good synopsis, but I think the venison prep is the half of it. How you dispatch any animal
      is just as key. Running game is full of adrenaline and hormones. No different than when we exercise. Lactic and adrenaline build up affects the taste. Hanging time is also key. But in the end meat is meat and calories are calories… especially from the fat.

  10. Humanities biggest mistake, industrialization. Jefferson was right, America should’ve stayed agrarian. Lower population, more exercise, stronger family bonds, any many fewer cities. Industrialization allowed us to expand beyond the natural capabilities of our environment.

    Making more products with machinery increases the wealth of a few while unemploying the masses. When the masses can no longer buy those industrialized goods we start to see the fall of industrialization. Which is kind of what’s happening with our current credit based economy. It’s a slow crash, for a time, then it’ll be sudden.

    COVID, and its subsequent supply shortages, has shown us that even the great and mighty power of industrialization can’t keep up with demand. Industrialization can only produce and warehouse goods ahead of demand. When demand exceeds expectations industrialization always falls short. It can never keep up with demand on-demand. I haven’t seen Purell or Germ-X in stores since February, the only hand cleaner I’ve seen is generic or brand names I’ve never heard of. Not even store brands.

    Granted, I’d much rather go to the store for an ear of corn than have to deal with the bugs and time and effort of growing it, but eventually in the end it’s not sustainable. If you don’t learn to plant food, then you will be planted.

    1. History will show the most destructive invention to mankind is the microprocessor (computer chip). This allowed the invention of personal computers, cellphones, the internet and social media which, in my opinion, has done far more harm than good. Sure there are good things like MSB and the convenience of readily available information but it has also skyrocketed the dumbing down of the population and made their quality of life of many dependent on how many “likes” they get. Sad.

      If I could go back in time and change one thing so that it would never be invented it would be the microprocessor. No cellphones, no internet, no Amazon, no FB but a lot of encyclopedias and libraries.

      1. And Sears might have survived. I remember as a kid my parents getting the catalog.

      2. It all started downhill when someone invented the wheel and started cooking with fire. 😃

  11. In hindsight I was fortunate growing up with a hunting and fishing extended family from a wee lad, home was rural and next door to a dairy farm. Cleaning and processing all kinds of fish and game, picking wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms. Trapping in the late fall winter, skinning and preserving muskrat and mink. Spring bow fishing and Spring stream flooded night spearing, winter ice fishing and spearing, trapping bait and crayfish. Processing and cooking many types of birds and animals. Many differrent ways of fishing from fly casting, spin and bait casting, river trolling at night, drift fishing, brush pile fishing, all giving up different meals. Shotguns, rifles of various calibers and actions depending on the game, single barrel, hammer 16 gauge for winter snowshoe hunting, one shot does improve the concentration (second shell in the trigger hand for fast reload).
    Still hunted, tracked many things, learned how to call certain species, chased hound dogs night hunting, also chased pheasant and rabbit dogs, blind hunted on land and water, boat blind hunted, tree blind hunted (fell about ten feet out of a tree I climbed once, fortunately no injuries).

    Very ok adapting in order to locate and get food, may not be successful, but just need a chance.

    An odd observation, sitting on a hill, rise or in a tree stand I have never seen a deer look up (unless you do movement or noise), they scan horizontal 360 degrees by not up, no predators are above I guess. Not sure if chickens do.

    1. In area with a lot of hunting pressure, I’ve observed deer looking up. They’ve obviously learned that danger can be lurking in the trees (tree stands). Smart critters…

      1. Ive seen them looking at noises period, Up,down, sideways, doesnt matter

  12. Actually, according to some, 2 of the worst inventions to happen to this country, were:
    Television & Air Conditioning.
    Growing up in the 40s & 50s, I experienced it happening.
    It brought everybody inside !

  13. I read the comments with interest. I would remind us that whitetail deer were hunted to near extinction in the southeast states. Out west, the elk and mule deer were nearly wiped out as well. In Appalachia, ALL elk were hunted to extinction for their native varieties. The Great Depression made it even worse. People ate possum, coon, and nutria right around the depression to survive. It was the only protein that was consistently available and easy to obtain. Chickens were too valuable to slaughter unless they quit laying. Rabbits and squirrels were hunted hard by school children. There was a great book many years ago about a family that lived in rural southwest Mississippi during the depression. The book is well written and very descriptive. I sure wish I could remember the name of it. It hasn’t been in publication in at least 50 years. I was loaned the book by a friend as a teenager because I loved to read about coon hunting. They even talk about the family having to eat the dog bread because there wasn’t anything to eat at certain times. They would eat all the regular cornmeal and then have to eat the meal that was meant for the dogs and other animals. Funny thing is people call them “Hush Puppies” now days; I was raised calling it dog bread. Anyway, I’ve said all this to remind all of us that we live in a time of great abundance. Scrambling to make a meal isn’t someplace we wish to return.

    1. Exactly. Joe hunter out there thinks they could survive on venison, etc if things went south. That’s delusional thinking rooted in normalcy bias, as is the idea that everyone in the country could survive if they could just live the old fashioned homesteading lifestyle. There are far too many people on the earth today to support that on a fixed amount of land.

      If forced to go back to a simpler life, there would be a huge die off due to scarcity, and even many of us that are knowledgeable and prepared wouldn’t make it due to the conflict and initial overharvesting that would occur. It wouldn’t be pretty…

      1. I think there will be a lot of hunting initially if that scenario befell us. Sadly, the game will be taken within a year and we will have very little large game in certain areas. We will again become dependent on subsistence farming which is never a good choice if given better options. One bad month, one bad batch of insects, or even one hungry critter can wreck a garden.

        I know that I was shocked when I realized that everyone in SETX and SWLA had the plan of coming to my neck of the woods and “surviving” off the land. In reality, they will be starving, desperate, and unwilling to listen to reason by the time they get to my place. It has made me reconsider a lot of things if there was a significant disruption in our society. It’s just me and one boy until the rest of the kids get here, and that’s if they can get here. I have 2 kinda close sets of neighbors who are good people. But they are all very elderly. They aren’t going to help me fight off a desperate man or men trying to feed his or their starving family.

        It’s a very sobering realization.

    2. Soul –
      That’s one of the aspects that I spend the most amount of time trying to untangle ahead of time. I do foresee us winding up within groups that are very diverse, simply because of where we stand when the lights go out. Then we have to make the best of the situation despite each other’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as in spite of our fundamental differences that comprise our core beliefs.

      I can scuffle with the two of you, yet that’s no more to me than my brother’s tussling around fighting at 10:00 a.m., then at 10:30 they were putting together an Erector-Set. The three of us would each collectively survive and thrive together. Yet add some SoyBoy’s or Kardashian Princesses to the mix, let alone a few punks and the dynamics change quickly. I fear that there will be those who just get voted off the island because they cannot pull their weight. Reality tells me that only the strong survive and we cannot sacrifice our chances of making it out alive because of them, yet envisioning that moment of turning someone out because they won’t learn the lessons that have to be taught is somewhat difficult to wrap my head around some days. As a result, I say a lot of prayers for discernment and fortitude during what lies ahead.

  14. Another reason why i think im going to stay put,,
    Our wilds are loaded with edibles, if you go hungry its because you dont know what you are looking at or are just too damn picky.
    That and,
    It never freezes here

  15. In our area there is evidence of human activity going back hundreds of years and what we find are the broken and discarded tools of eating: pottery shards, arrowheads, metates and manos (rocks used to grind seeds and vegetable material). I look around and there is food everywhere. Juniper berries, Emory oak acorns, wild grapes, and lots of wildlife. Primitive survival is doable, just not easy or convenient. In our family, there is a guy who will eat anything (rattlesnake tastes good, ground squirrel tastes horrible) and a gal who won’t eat any of our beef if she thinks she’s looked the eye. I know the hunter will do just fine; the gal…not so much.

    1. I like the whole foods shopper who says the universe will protect her children,,,,
      Yet they cant fathom getting dirt under their nails

      1. Kulafarmer
        Idealistic expectations are rarely infused with reality.

  16. So, living in Hawaii, one of the basic built in rights is gathering, mostly aimed at Native Hawaiians and their right to gather food and medicine,
    There is a lot, but sadly, the knowledge has been lost to most. Shoreline has typically been the primary focus, along with maintaining shoreline access, but forest and mountain is also part of that, especially for medicinal plants,
    Gathering can definitely be a strong part of any food system, but maintaining a healthy harvest so as to not destroy The resource. This holds true for all natural systems, plants, animals, aquatic life,,,,

    1. We were told by a taxi driver in the Dominican Republic that it is a national law that public areas, including parks and even highway medians must include edible plants in the landscaping. He said that anyone can harvest the food, but only as much as their hands can carry…no bags or baskets. I don’t know if that is true, but I like the idea.

      1. That’s going to be the problem in most areas, even rural, if we all end up suddenly going off grid. Hunting and gathering worked when the entire global population was under 100 million people spread out everywhere. With over 7 billion now, everything will be picked clean in short order.

        Yes, many will suffer due to ignorance im the early stages but the survivors will catch on pretty quickly on what they can gather to eat. We only need to look at places like Venezuela to see what’s in store for us should that happen.

  17. ‘Lord of the Flies’ novel, pretty much describes what will happen in groups.
    Human nature never changes.

  18. Worse yet, MILLIONS feel entitled to food they didn’t pay for, that food paid for with someone else’s work! …God help us all…

    1. Those people are the ones who will die off early!
      They grew up believing that they were entitled to food clothes and a place to live.
      Unfortunately they will not learn to adapt, a few will but most not.
      Please don’t think that I am being negative or discriminating, I just believe it is a fact, they don’t know any skills and will not learn quick enough.
      Again not negative but they will be the quick die off expected in the cities
      No food no water and the fight for survival will be merciless!

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