First Job of Herding Poultry Was Exhausting

Youngster’s first job consisted of looking after beef cattle, turkeys and geese, and he needed advice to herd poultry.

  • Herding Poultry
    With some advice from Dad, the hired hand was able to herd those unruly geese and turkeys.
    Illustration By Brian Orr
  • Angry Poultry
    Angry geese roughed up the young hired hand.
    Illustration By Brian Orr

  • Herding Poultry
  • Angry Poultry

Everyone remembers their first job, and I am no exception. Even after many years, I still smile when I think about it. Our neighbor, Mr. Weston, was one of those old-time, crusty bachelor farmers, the type of guy with weathered, wrinkled skin and an expression that told a story of resilience.

One summer, he approached Dad and inquired if he might hire me. Mr. Weston had to have an operation followed by time in the hospital to recuperate and wanted me to look after things. At 9 years old, I was keen to show I could handle responsibility like a grown-up.

Before he left for the hospital, Mr. Weston showed me around his farm. He had a herd of beef cattle, a flock of woollies (everyone called sheep woollies back then), and poultry.

Mr. Weston showed me the poultry barn last, and no doubt there was a reason for that. It turned out he had a big flock of turkeys and geese. Not the dozen laying hens I’d expected, but a hundred birds in two large stalls. He explained the feed schedule, what animals got which feed, when to muck the stalls, and instructed I let them run outside — just be sure to close them in at night since the foxes were around. Finally, he asked if I had any questions. I told him not to worry; the property would be safe under my watchful eye. He sighed and told me to be careful and not get hurt. At the time, I was thinking something along the lines of, “What could possibly go wrong?” Well, it was more premonition than baseless worry.

My first morning on the job, everything went great until I opened the turkey stall. That stall door opened, and a blizzard of white turkeys rushed me, the birds clearly having no sense of personal space. I jumped back, slamming the door. How was I going to fill the feeders and not get swarmed? Putting that question off for the time being, I decided to look at the geese. I opened the stall door and stepped in carefully. The geese seemed better behaved and were all waiting to go outside.

Then and only then did I realize that a superior method would be to let the stock out and fill everything while they were outside. Of course!

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