Fact or Fiction? Barnyard Myths Exposed

| 9/25/2012 10:56:28 PM

Tags: alpacas as guard animals, hogs in electric wire, turkeys and chickens, roosters, do alpacas spit, shearing alpacas, meat chickens, Suzanne Cox,

Just when you think you’ve heard just about every farm myth imaginable, someone goes and gets creative. Between our own farm and those of our parents, we have just about every “common” barnyard critter imaginable, and a few not so common ones. We love getting inquiries from those on the brink of starting a farm, those with an incredible desire to get back to a more self sufficient lifestyle but without the knowledge and confidence level to take that first leap. Through the years we have helped people interested in chickens, pigs, sheep, alpacas, and turkeys begin their own operations. Our philosophy has always been to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. The good, bad, ugly, stinky, and totally disgusting truth. Anything less would not be fair to these people depending on us for “real” knowledge. Not the prettied up, well dressed, rose scented version of the truth that may guarantee us a sale. The great side of this is we sleep well each night with a clear conscious. The down side is we do occasionally walk away without a sale. Even then we manage to leave those we have talked to with more knowledge and skill than they came with.

It should be the goal of every person involved in an agricultural practice (or any industry for that matter) to do the same. Occasionally however, bad information gets thrown into the mix. This isn’t always done purposely or with malicious intent, but the effects are no less devastating. We have heard some good ones lately, and I’d just like to share a few now.

Poultry There are several things I commonly hear or get asked about poultry that just aren’t true.

You have to have a rooster to get eggs. We recently had a woman tell us how badly she wished she could keep some backyard chickens. I asked her if they were not allowed in her area, and she said that roosters were restricted. She had been told that meant her family could not keep chickens for eggs because hens had to have a rooster. This is simply not true! Hens will lay eggs regardless of a roosters presence. However without a rooster they will not be fertile, meaning no baby chicks. But by all means folks, buy you a few hens! Everyone should have at least a few hens in their back yard to eat their kitchen scrapes and make nutritional eggs for the family. Why buy nutritionally lacking grocery store eggs when you could raise your own nutrient packed eggs from a beautiful backyard flock instead?

   Americauna Rooster

If you raise turkeys with chickens they will all die. We raise turkeys, chickens, guineas, ducks, and are starting with geese. It amazes our visitors that our turkeys, chickens, and guineas are all raised together. And it simply blows their minds that they are all raised in a pasture, scratching and scavenging amongst sheep. Why is this so shocking? This is how it used to be done! Over the last 50 years though we have migrated away from integrated livestock and entered a world of monoculture agriculture. This is true for fruits, vegetables, and livestock. When we first got started with turkeys we were told be several seasoned farmers to absolutely NOT let our turkeys get near our chickens or they would all die. I was terrified! Apparently it is a common belief that mingling turkeys with chickens will lead to an almost immediate outbreak of disease quickly followed by death. I am well aware of the Black Head disease. And I do not doubt that it is a deadly disease that strikes turkeys. However, it is possible to successfully raise healthy chickens and turkeys together. I don’t think this, I know this. We have proven it, and others like us have done so as well. We have never had a single turkey drop dead after a rendezvous with a chicken. On the contrary, we have had the most success with our young turkeys when they are hatched and raised with several chicken friends. Chicks are smarter than turkey poults, plain and simple. While chicks figure out the feed, water, heating, and bedding system rather quickly turkey poults will still be cocking their heads from side to side trying to figure out what these things are. As the chicks go about their normal chicky business, the poults will observe and copy their behavior. The result is fewer dead poults from stupidity. We always leave these few chicks in with our poults as they mature. The result is adult 40 lb. turkeys roaming around the barnyard with their little 6 lb chicken friends side by side in harmony. Fighting or picking on the chickens does not occur to our turkeys, because they see them as buddy’s instead of intruders.

suzanne cox
11/8/2012 4:08:32 AM

Oh I love those dogs! Thankfully we have never seen a bear nearby. I have heard rumors though that they have been spotted close to my parents, and they have pyrenees with their alpacas. So hopefully that won't be a future issue!

lisa - fresh eggs daily farm girl
10/1/2012 7:03:04 PM

The alpacas next door are protected by two Burmese Mountain Dogs I think our neighbors told us. We have coyotes and foxes roaming and the occasional bear sighting.

lisa - fresh eggs daily farm girl
10/1/2012 7:01:54 PM

What a great post! We raise chickens and ducks (together!) and live next door to alpacas. You are spot on.

suzanne cox
9/29/2012 4:44:41 AM

Alpacas are truly a joy. They are such gentle creatures in general, I honestly have no clue who would have ever thought to claim there were protectors! Sadly we know many breeders who have experienced losses in their herds because they did not have any means of real protection against coyotes and neighborhood dogs. One in particular lost several of their own animals, and a few boarders as well, to a small pack of neighborhood dogs one night. Several of the dogs were little, but don't under estimate a small dog! A cria still has no chance against teeth and claws. Guardian dogs or experienced donkeys could have made a world of difference! I wouldn't raise small livestock without them. We have both here for different purposes, with a large population of coyotes and several large breed stray dogs in the area. So far they haven't let us down!

suzanne cox
9/27/2012 10:15:59 PM

Thanks Hank! You were a huge reason we got into hogs to begin with. Boss Hog and I have a love hate relationship. He is good as gold though for my husband, who swears he's the smartest pig in the state. :) I do love the turkeys. They are beautiful to look at in the field. We have not had much success hatching the turkey eggs and then keeping the poults alive to adulthood. The few that have made it to maturity though have done just fine! It must just not be in the cards for me to be a turkey breeder! I find them to actually be more intelligent than I thought at maturity, but boy them poults sure have found some interesting ways to die here! We started with a pair of donkeys, of which we still have one. "Momma" is great with our young heifers and our adult sheep, but was a bit to pushy with our lambs in the spring. So she stays with our cows now and we have a young pyrenees x komondor girl with our sheep now. Momma donkey has gone after dogs before with a vengeance, I certainly would not want to be a dog crossing her path! We haven't yet gotten her used to our dog Tucker but thankfully he has learned to stay as far from her as possible.

libby and dave
9/27/2012 7:03:59 PM

What a great posting! We have been considering getting Alpacas for our little farm, and like you have heard all the stories about how they are "such good protectors." Having met many alpacas, I always wondered how this ridiculous rumor got started.

hank will
9/27/2012 5:22:05 PM

Nice looking boar, Suzanne. Nice looking tom too. :) I love this post for so many reasons. I've run pastured turkeys with chickens with nary a problem since I first tried turkeys in 1991. When I'm doing public speaking and mention it, I always get some finger wagging -- it makes me chuckle. I've also found that turkey don't look for ways to die or drown in the rain -- we have several breeding females that choose to nest outside the perimeter of the coyote proof zone and they've been at it for a couple of years. We use standard donkeys for coyote control among the sheep. In our hands anyway, the donks appear to loathe canines with a passion and will stomp and skin them if given the chance. We've worked hard to get them to tolerate our three dogs, which they do now. I am quite tickled with your hog successes. Have a great day.

suzanne cox
9/27/2012 4:50:20 AM

Thank you Dan on your nice comments! Good luck plowing with your pig. We sure have enjoyed using ours for that purpose. They also work wonders if you have any over-grown woodland.

suzanne cox
9/27/2012 4:49:48 AM

Depends on the size of her. We have this same problem with the piglets right now. As you can see in the last picture above, they are drinking from two shallow black containers usually sold as horse/cattle feeders. They can reach the water easily, but like to climb in for a bath. So I must clean the water out and refill it 2-3 times a day. They were the best we could find at the time that held a good quantity of water and were not to tall for the piglets to reach at a young age. Pretty soon they will move to a large (and heavier weight) black rubber stock tank. They are $69 at TSC. Our adult hogs rarely if ever knock them over since they are much heavier. There are waterers made specifically for pigs that can not be knocked over or climbed into. They are an enclosed unit, where the pig must insert their head to drink. It takes a little training up front, but I hear they are wonderful. Most hold 110 gallons of water so that would last you a while. They are in the $160-$200 range though. Which is why we don't have any! If we can find a good deal on one though we will certainly give them a try.

dan bauder
9/27/2012 12:54:36 AM

That was good and I learned something. My pig is plowing our garden space now and although she's slow I'm not complaining cause she still finds the time to give me the attention I need. She constantly knocks over her water and I'm looking for an alternative to supply her water. How do you deal with that problem?

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!