Ask a Poultry Farmer: Don't forget your exit strategy
Whether you're planning to start raising chickens for the first time, or just try a new breed of poultry, make sure you have an exit strategy set in place.
It happens to the best of us: full of idealistic good intentions, we make plans to raise chickens for fun and profit in the backyard/garage/abandoned corn crib.
But after a few months, you may realize raising poultry is not, ahem, all it's cracked up to be.
It's ok if you decide that Muscovy ducks aren't really your thing. We understand if you like the idea of having a pet, but would rather have your Sunday dinner arrive in a shrink-wrapped package instead of a cage.
That's why it's so important to draft an exit strategy before you take your next step. You don't want to face a difficult decision once you have the birds.
Call a family meeting and discuss why you want to have poultry.
—Will these birds be considered pets? If not, it's best not to name them.
—If you are interested in eggs, what will you do once the layers reach the dreaded henopause?? (If someone tells you about no-kill chicken sanctuaries, don't believe them.)
—If you are interested in raising meat birds (be it turkeys, geese, ducks or chickens), do you have a method for getting them from coop to table? Check state regulations if you hope to sell the finished product.
—What type of predators are in your area? How will you protect your flock?
—Have you factored in the cost of feed, housing, heat lamps and processing?
—Who will be the primary avian caregivers? (Hint: shoveling out pens really builds character)
—Do you have someone willing to take the poultry if it doesn't work out?
Craigslist is a much better option for sending your poultry off into the sunset as opposed to...just opening their cages and sending them off into the sunset.
Once you've done your homework, you're ready for the next step: obtaining the birds!
Dale Wheelock has been raising chickens, turkeys and waterfowl since he was a farm kid in the 1950s. He owns and operates the Wheelock Family Farm in Walworth County with his wife, Barb, and has been an agriculture leader in the community for decades. Read more about poultry farming at askapoultryfarmer.blogspot.com.