Thursday, December 5, 2013

Find an expert with experience

Q: "My pet hen has always been so friendly. Now she attacks me when I try to get eggs! Does she know I'm making omelets?"

A: She has turned broody. This means she wants to set on eggs, so she'll try to keep you from taking hers. 


These are the type of phone calls I answer on a weekly, and sometimes daily, basis.

But what if you don't live near someone who has raised birds for decades? When you're stumped, it is really tempting to hit the online forums and ask other anonymous backyard chicken enthusiasts or hobby farmers for help. 

But before you start taking advice from someone who calls themselves chixroxgrl78, you may want to try a few more conventional measures first.
Wikimedia Commons

--Contact the person or company who sold you the birds. If they raise poultry themselves, they've probably come across the situation you encounter. That's the key: ask someone who has raised poultry before. Sneezing turkeys aren't as uncommon as you might think.

--Contact your local extension office or state university. They often have poultry experts in their animal science or livestock departments.

--Online sources like the Oklahoma State University Animal Science Dept can help identify the breed of your bird. 

If you'd rather have a book with more information, check out The American Standard of Perfection from your local library or favorite book source. Poultry judges use the Standard to measure the quality of birds at county fairs and exhibitions. It's also helpful when you're deciding which type of bird you'd like to have for certain purposes, like egg production or meat.

(Plus, the Standard has lots of pictures and illustrations. Hooray, pictures!)

Have you noticed the common thread in these resources? They're low-cost and free! 

While we're sure you absolutely adore the black Polish you named Joan Jett, there is also probably a point where you don't want to spend dozens of dollars on a chicken that originally cost five dollars. Keep this in mind if you're tempted to take your bird in to the vet. Unless the vet is already at your place on a farm call, or unless your vet will answer your question over the phone, chances are you can find the answer without making an office appointment. 

--Dale aka Turkeyman