We got to see many of you at the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton a few weeks ago. Our booth had chickens (five different breeds), turkeys and the ever noisy guineas. We gave away almost 2,000 of our refrigerator magnets, featuring a photo of either a Barred Plymouth Rock or a Delaware.
Several people at the Fair asked me if I do this (raise dual-purpose poultry) full time. Actually, in terms of time, it’s more than full-time — it takes more than 40 hours a week to take care of the dual-purpose breeds that I raise. But I think the real question being asked is: “Can you make a living doing what you’re doing?”
If you’ve been around me long enough, you’ve heard me repeat this joke: “Want to know how to make a small fortune in poultry?” Answer: “Start with a large one.”
Raising poultry the way we do — small flocks, quality feed, keeping the birds on pasture, and doing many things by hand — is labor intensive. And it isn’t going to make anyone much money.
In fact, this year, with our dual-purpose breeds, our goal is to break even. That is, if I don’t count the cost of my labor, our goal is to make enough income by selling chicks, hatching eggs and meat; by teaching classes; and by doing poultry-related consulting to pay all of the out-of-pocket expenses. That mainly includes feed plus some marketing expenses.
To support my family and pay the bills and taxes, we raise a different kind of poultry. We buy day old chicks (pullets) from three different hatcheries: Murray McMurray, Hoover’s Hatchery and Cackle. We raise the chicks up to a point, then drop ship them as started pullets in the 4-8-week-old range or 16+-week-old range to fulfill orders for these hatcheries.
Yesterday was spent shipping 40 orders that we received from Murray McMurray hatchery, then moving birds to the fields, cleaning pens, moving birds from brooders to pens, cleaning brooders. And then when a new group of day old chicks from McMurray arrived (we have them sent by air cargo to minimize losses) we dipped 1,300 chick beaks in water and got them all settled into their new homes. In 4-7 weeks, most of these chicks will be sold and shipped out as started pullets.
In addition to the 4-8 week olds, we raise several breeds to 16 weeks of age: Red Star, Black Star, Pearl White Leghorn, Cuckoo Maran, Light Brahma, and Easter Egger. Once they reach 16 weeks, they are sold through McMurray to fulfill drop shipped orders for them.
Sometimes we overestimate how many day old chicks we need. When that happens we end up with extra birds that are 8-weeks old and older. Now we are offering those for sale through our website.
They can be picked up locally, or we can ship them. They have been given the same high quality feed that we use for all of our birds and the same level of care, but again, they are stock from the other hatcheries that I mentioned and not from our own dual-purpose flocks.
Today – March 1st as I write this – we move the first Beltsville White eggs from the incubator to the hatchery. In a few days, we should have the first turkey hatch of the season. The Heritage Bronze just started to lay, and we are getting about an egg a day. Once it picks up a bit, we will start setting those eggs.
Mottled Java Flock for Sale
I’m offering for sale the Mottled Java Flock that I’ve been breeding for several years. There are 2 Roosters and around 10 hens. They are currently laying, and I’m getting a good hatch rate. If you are interested, please let me know. Local pickup would be best, as shipping would be expensive.
Black Australorp Breeding Goals
Matthew’s been making some adjustments to his breeding program for the Australorps and wanted to mention some things in the next few newsletters that he thought might be instructive.
The first article in his series focuses on breeding goals and lists many of the specific goals he’s set for his breeding program.