Last week was not a real happy day on our farm. Five minutes after a placing an advertisement to sell my small flock of turkeys, the telephone began ringing. The first caller purchased them all.

We have had turkeys for many years, they just seemed to belong here. Throughout the day, we would hear their singsong voices as they went about their business eating bugs and insects on the ground and in the trees. That natural foraging instincts brought about their downfall.

They were not smart enough to stay out of the gardens. A haven for insects. Alas, our garden is not just for us, we are truck gardeners, selling produce at the local farmer’s market in town, three days a week. We have to be ultra careful in producing the food as does any farmer. Poultry free-ranging are not a good mix in the fresh produce business.

Someday I hope to purchase baby poults again, when our garden is just our own again. In the meantime, I do encourage you to look into the hobby of raising poultry. It is a past time that works for most any farm family.

Livestock and children are a perfect fit. They teach so much of life, responsibility in a real sense of the word, that animal is dependent on you for for feed and water, protection for predator and weather elements and just the perfect listener who reveals no secrets.

A good place to start is to look at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. They have listed older breeds of poultry and livestock that are rare, critical and on watch lists. From there one can choose a species that is endangered.

The fun begins as we have studied the different breeds listed. Taking into account their history and what makes the breed unique, has led us onto the quest for finding the right birds. Poultry was easy as there are several hatcheries that send us catalogs. We have had other animal species through the years, depending on our children’s requests.

For many of the animals and poultry there are associations that list members who have the animals with the purest genetics.

Raising livestock creates a natural environment for families. Working together to build barns and fences, doing chores; just dad, mom and the kiddos, what can be better than that!  

Learning where to purchase feeds, what rations are needed at what stage of the livestock life. All of this can be a young person’s research that he can put to good use. He learns by doing—the best teacher.

Not everything goes well, we have had eggs that didn’t hatch well in incubators, baby lambs, goat kids and calves would not always be born alive. We have had losses to predators, road kill or due to the natural cycle of life. Life’s lessons.

Sadly, making money seldom occurs, but this hobby has its own special reward;  food on the table. Our biased taste buds scores the unsurpassed flavor excellent. We knew the work that went into growing the meat.

We have learned to butcher chickens. The geese and turkeys we did take elsewhere. There was a bit of debate on the turkeys, but B&B Poultry in Hospers is just too close and handy. The geese were done at Martzahns in Greene. Both places are in Iowa, I am sure there are other good facilities elsewhere in our rural areas.

Raising animals for meat just seems to me to be a worthwhile avocation for any family. It does build memories, is a learning process for all, and is something everyone can be involved in, young and old. It is time well spent.

Since Saturday we have been hearing baby chicks  peeping under the heat lamps, just one of the springtime pleasures of life on the farm.


Essays from My Farm House Kitchen | Renae B. Vander Schaaf

Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa.

To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]