My name is Wally and I started Backyard Chicken Chatter ([email protected]) to help others learn everything about raising chickens from my 50 years of experience. Let me share a story of how I was introduced to raising chickens when I was 12 years old.
This is my Story!
I went to several small schools from first to fifth grades. First and second grades were a one-room school with all grades being taught by one teacher. Third through fifth grade were larger classes for each grade but still in smaller schools.
Sixth grade was totally different when I moved to the new large school with classrooms for each grade from kindergarten to twelfth grade all in the same building. This was my first experience with a separate place to eat my bagged lunch.
The cafeteria was a big thing for me. I could buy a hot lunch for 25¢ and an extra helping of the main dish for 10¢ more. Milk was 2¢ and chocolate was 3¢. I didn’t have any money because I didn’t get an allowance as other kids did. This made me more envious rather than jealous.
When I built up the courage to ask my dad for an allowance for the work I did on the farm. He promptly said no way, can’t afford it. This is where the discussion ended.
I did a few chores before going to school and when I got home. I had to feed and water the animals, split wood for the stove and anything else that my father wanted to be done.
One day soon after school, my dad motioned to me to follow him. He took me across the creek in the back of the house. I thought, “Now What did I do”. I’m going to get whipped for something that I had no idea what I may have done.
There stood an old abandoned chicken coupe nestled in the grass and brush. He opened the door and he said to me, “This is your allowance”. I peeked inside the door and there stood 100 White Leghorn chickens.
He said that they were old hens that a neighbor sold to him for 10¢ each or $10.00. He said they still lay eggs but not as many as a younger chicken. At the local feed store, he bought 100lb bag of laying mash for $3.25. This would last about 2 weeks. We had our own corn and wheat which was a plus. He said this is not a present but a loan. You owe me $13.25. He also loaned me 50 egg cartons to pack the eggs in. My entrepreneurship had begun.
Next, he said to put a sign out by the road for farm fresh eggs. I asked him how much should I charge a dozen. He said 35¢ a dozen or three dozen for $1.00 would get the business going. I was now an entrepreneur and didn’t know it. However, I was excited and scared at the same time. The old hens were laying about 40 to 50 eggs a day or about 25 dozen a week. I had kept track on a paper chart to keep track of the production. I would vary the times that I fed and watered them trying to find out when would I get the most eggs. He also told me that they would lay eggs for nearly 6 months before going into a molt or resting period.
I had soon paid my dad back and was able to have my own money to buy lunches and reinvest back into my egg business. This was a win-win for my Dad and I. I furnished the eggs for our household as well as what I sold. I now needed to replenish my flock or buy some more old hens. My Dad said to look into the Montgomery Ward Catalog for day old baby chicks.
It was now January and pretty cold. I asked if I should wait for spring and warmer temps. He said we already had a baby chicken brooder that we set up in the kitchen. It would hold 100 baby chicks. Here they would remain until they were 4 to 6 weeks old. Then I would move them out to the insulated brooder house outside. The pullets would start laying eggs at 21 weeks old. The cockerels I would fatten and sell them to a local meat market for $1 each dressed.
As time went on, my flock had expanded to about 400 chickens. I had steady weekly customers that would stop by the house and pick up their eggs. Now I had more eggs than customers, I decided to deliver to our closest city with a population of about 5,000 people. I rode my bike about 2 or 3 miles and knocked on doors asking if anyone was interested in having eggs delivered every Saturday for 50¢ a dozen. The response was overwhelming. I had a wooden box on the front and a wooden box on the back. This would safely carry 20 dozen eggs. I drew a white chicken on the back of the box and called my business ‘Wally’s Kackle Berries”. Some Saturdays I had to make more than one trip to fill all the orders.
In the summer months, I would plant tomatoes, cantaloupes, cucumbers, and sweet corn. I added saddlebags to my bike so I could carry my fresh vegetables. I built a self-serve roadside garden stand and left a box for money. In those days, honesty was not an issue. I would open the stand at noon and close it at 7pm. It worked out very well unattended.
I would go with Mom and Dad and deliver the eggs while they were shopping. The store was within walking distance of the local A & P store. I made a deal with the store owner to buy 3 shirts, 3 pairs of pants, 3 pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes. He made me a charge tab for these costs. I would deliver him eggs and vegetables throughout the year until my debt was paid off. Then the following year, I do the same again. I always had new clothes for school and my old school clothes for working on the farm. Next, I also bought a new bigger bike the same way from the local Western Auto store who became a customer as well.
I bartered for my own school clothes. The owner of a men’s clothing store in my hometown wanted me to deliver 4 dozen eggs weekly and vegetables when in season. My mom and dad shopped in town every Saturday. This city was about 7 miles away so I couldn’t ride my bike there. I offered to but Dad said it would be too dangerous. So then I had to come up with another plan.
I graduated from high school I had a large flock of chickens producing more eggs than I could deliver with my bike or sell at the house.
At 16, I got my driver’s license and at 18 bought my first car. I expanded my delivery routes to restaurants and residential. I had a commercial route and 2 residential routes. This continued until I received a draft notice during the Vietnam conflict. I had to sell out and go to work for Uncle Sam.
Just to think that this all began because I asked my Dad for a weekly allowance to buy a 25¢ lunch. Soon I was buying lunch every day.