Saturday, March 28, 2015

Where do I go to buy and sell poultry?

If you want to find a variety of chickens, turkeys and waterfowl the best place to find them in one spot is a traditional swap meet. Swap meets are a great way to buy animals directly from the farmer.

In our area of Southern Wisconsin, swap meets with animals are typically held in fall or spring. Farmers and hobbyists bring all sorts of small animals from gerbils to guinea hens and pigeons to peacocks. You'll also find equipment like nesting boxes, feeders, pet taxis and more.

Key tips for first-time swap-goers: get there early, bring a box/crate for the birds you buy, and bundle up! (Most important for those in the upper Midwest, like us.)

Swap in Beaver Dam, WI, Fall 2014

Some of the animals are show-quality, some are barnyard-ready. But you can usually negotiate a good deal with the sellers and add variety to your flock. (Remember the old saying: never buy the best bird from a bad flock!)

Swap in Beaver Dam, WI, Fall 2014
By talking with the sellers, you can learn more about their birds and whether they have more at home. That relationship can pay off next time you're looking for birds or eggs.

Swap in Beaver Dam, WI, Fall 2014
Ready to try out these tips? Check out the 20th Annual Walworth County Fur & Feather Swap Saturday, April 4, 2015 at the Walworth County Fairgrounds in Elkhorn, WI.

The details:
Rabbits, poultry, small animals, equipment, crafts
Admission is $2, children under 12 enter free of charge. 
Outdoor selling spots are $5. 
Indoor selling spots with one table are $10. 
Lunch stand on the grounds.
State law requires all poultry be accompanied by health papers. Copies will be collected before entry to the swap.

I'll see you at the swap,

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

Friday, March 6, 2015

I ordered chicks. Now what?

Your chicks are on their way! Are you ready?

First you need a brooder.

Next is bedding. As we've mentioned before, the best bedding is pine shavings. No matter if you are new or an old hand this is what you should use.

You can get by with shredded newspaper or paper towels but you will be changing it often.
Do not use cedar shavings. It’s bad for their respiratory system. Do not use newspaper. They slip on newspaper and can hurt their legs.

Next you will need a heat source. We start ours inside the house and use two sixty watt bulbs. Notice I said two? This is in case one burns out during the night. You can get an adapter to put the two bulbs on one cord. It needs to be about 90 degrees and lower it by 5 degrees per week. Once you put the new chicks in the brooder keep an eye on them for about an hour. They will tell you if the temperature is right. If they are huddling under the light they are cold.  If they are far away from the light they are too hot.

If the chicks are kept in a place that’s colder you are stuck with using a heat bulb. Be careful with them since they can cause a fire. I have heard of ceramic heat bulbs that should be safer to use.

Once you have your feeders and waterers, you need to prepare them for the chicks. The day before the chicks arrive, fill your waterers. Water from the tap is 50 degrees. You need to get the water to room temperature but never just use hot water from the tap. They think the warmth is their mother, try to get close and get wet (bad).

With chicks that are sent though the mail, some use electrolytes in the water. The older way is to put a teaspoon of brown sugar in a quart of water.

Make sure you have plenty of the right starter feed for your chicks. This will help them grow to be healthy birds.

Bronze and White turkeys need extra attention

As always, this is based on our experience. If you are doing something that works don’t change just because we suggested something different.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

 photo credit: Mugging for the Camera via photopin (license)

Friday, February 27, 2015

What's the best way to get poultry for the dinner table?

Someone recently asked me where to find a "stewing hen". That's typically an old laying chicken that's at least three years old. That's a very specific type of chicken, and tougher than the type you'd find in a store. To find that type of chicken, find a local butcher and ask them to recommend farmers who might have some. You can also look on Craigslist or other sales sites. 

In the spring, if you go to the local outdoor farmer's market, you can buy one and try it. If you're specifically looking for stewing hens, try asking the vendors with eggs. Even if they aren't selling processed chickens there, they probably have some at home.

For the best meat chicken on your table, typically a Cornish cross that's raised specifically for meat, build a relationship with the vendors at the farmer's market. Check on Craigslist and your local classified ads. This is also the way to find meat turkeys and waterfowl, although waterfowl are often harder to find. If you are having trouble finding waterfowl, ask your local butcher. 

Most areas have county fairs with 4-H and FFA kids selling their poultry at Fur and Feather auctions. This is a great way to find high-quality birds. If you talk to the exhibitors after the sale, you can usually find someone who has more birds at home. This has the added benefit of supporting local youth.

Bottom line: it's easiest to find your source for a local chicken dinner during the summer, when there are many different sales venues. If you cultivate your relationships with them over the summer, you can be a regular buyer throughout the year.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

 photo credit: Roast Chicken via photopin (license)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Tutorial: Heart-shaped eggs

While some chickens lay blue eggs and some chickens lay green eggs, we're sorry to report chickens don't lay heart-shaped eggs.

Here's a short video showing how you can create your own: 

Happy Valentine's Day from Ask a Poultry Farmer!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Where do I find birds for 4-H or FFA projects?

Many folks don't just raise poultry, they enter their birds in county fairs and other shows.
Here's an example of backyard Rhode Island Red chickens. The backyard Rhode Island Reds have a lighter color and feathers aren't in as good condition as show-quality birds.

photo credit: sammydavisdog via photopin cc
Here's an example of a show-quality Rhode Island Red rooster. His feathers have a richer color and sheen.

via Wikimedia Commons.
Youth and adults who are going to show poultry in 2015 need to order chicks now or at least need be thinking about it. Check your premium book, which lists the entry information, classes and categories for the show. Some shows only allow cockerels and pullets, which are hatched after January 1st of the show year. Some shows allow cocks and hens, which are older birds hatched before January 1st. Some shows use a different date as a guideline, so it's best to check beforehand.
There are many places to get purebred or show quality chicks.

The big hatcheries
. These are fine for backyard poultry but iffy for purebred birds. My understanding is most buy their hatching eggs. Therefore they have no control over the breeding and quality of the birds.

Swaps. Most people selling at swap are good and honest, don’t understand the concept of purebred poultry. Ask where they got the birds or breeding stock. Find someone from the area and ask if they know the person’s reputation.

Craigslist and other online sellers. This can go either way. Ask the same questions as at a swap.

Local breeders. By far the best. You will be able to drive to their house and talk to them. They are also able to give advice on raising that particular breed of bird.

While you are at the show talk to other exhibitors to get leads for next year     

Advice. If they have a multi-page color brochure, can’t tell you where they got the birds or don't know about the breeders stay away for your show birds.

Buying quality birds from breeders with good reputations is a start, but birds can still develop crooked toes or broken feathers that could affect their chances when they show. As an exhibitor, you need to coax them along and make sure they're in top shape.

And always remember the old advice: "Don't buy the best chick from a bad flock."

As always, post further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

Monday, January 12, 2015

Tutorial: how to prevent frozen combs

With this cold snap, keep an eye on single-comb chickens for signs of frozen combs.
Combs are the chickens' radiator. They help regulate temperature. In the wintertime, combs can freeze.
This comb was partially frozen.

When combs freeze, it can stop them from breeding or worse, they can die.

Usually, the roosters with single combs are the ones affected. You can prevent it by putting Vaseline on the combs as it gets colder.

This helps insulate the comb, even in an unheated coop.

As always, ask further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman

photo credit: HA! Designs - Artbyheather via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas from Ask A Poultry Farmer!

Here at Ask a Poultry Farmer world headquarters, we want to thank you for reading our blog over the past year.

But what to get you? Something to keep your head warm, perhaps.
photo credit: f_jensen_at_sdr.vinge via photopin cc

Maybe some decorations for the tree.
photo credit: brixton via photopin cc

Toys are always popular at Christmas.
photo credit: Luc Peeters via photopin cc

We thought and we thought, and finally decided a personal thank you was best.

-Dale, aka Turkeyman