Copper Creek Ranch Making your chicken habit pay for itself

Copper Creek Ranch

Sheep and geeseIs your chicken habit breaking
the bank?  I was given the opportunity to tour
Copper Creek Ranch a few weeks ago, and the
proprietor, Jane Hall, gave me some tips on scratching your chicken
itch while making a profit.

Jane moved to southwest
Virginia from Florida a few years ago and dove right into her 32 acre
farm.  Now she owns heirloom breeds of chickens, ducks, geese,
turkeys, rabbits, goats, sheep, and donkeys, providing the mixed herd
about 30 gallons of feed per day.  Despite rising grain costs,
though, all of her animals pay for themselves.

Pet rabbit

“We don’t get to eat any
eggs,” farm-hand Jeremiah said in mock complaint.  “They all go
into the incubator.”

Jane’s cabinet-style
incubator allows her to hatch 100 to 150 chicks per week, which she
sells on Craiglist and at the
organizes.  By zeroing in on the varieties that get snapped right
up, she grossed about $10,000 this year on chickens alone.

Chocolate turkeysChicken varieties on Jane’s farm
include three varieties of Marans (Black Copper, Blue-spangled, and
Blue), two kinds of bantams (Silver Sebright and English Game),
Buckeyes, and Ameraucanas.  She also raises Cotton Patch Geese
(the ones
can train to weed your garden)
, Sebastopol Geese, and
American Buff Geese (the last two being flightless geese raised for
meat).  Ancona ducks are reputed to be good layers, and her
Chocolate Turkeys were definitely the prettiest birds on the farm.

Meat rabbits

Jane’s rabbitry will pay
for itself in about five years, she said, with young rabbits sold for
pets (Mini Rex and English Spot) or to start meat operations (American
Chinchilla, Silver Fox, and Creme D’Argart).  The friends we went
on the farm tour with fell in love with the Silver Foxes, who sat like
lap dogs in their arms.

Among larger livestock,
Jane is raising Barbados Blackbelly sheep, Boer Goats (not an heirloom,
but in high demand Heirloom livestockfor meat), and miniature donkeys.  Next
year, she wants to branch out into heirloom pigs.

While I could tell that
the farm was a lot of work, Jane’s model isn’t a bad one to mimic if
you love animals but can’t afford them.  I’d love to hear from you
if you’ve made your farm pay for itself in an innovative way. 
What’s the secret to your success?

Our automatic chicken waterer was a hit when we gave one
to Jeremiah to save time during his daily chore of cleaning
old-fashioned waterers in the brooder.

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