The Masters Cup Poultry Show

The weekend of November 21st through 23rd, 2014 was one that will be remembered by many as the start of what generations ahead will read about with curiosity and appreciation.  What started as a vision from event producer, Bart Pals, to the fruition of the event being highlighted by the awarding of a $1,000 check, the Master’s Cup Poultry Show was a privilege to be a part of.  Below is quick recap of the event – more pictures and stories will follow in future posts.

On Friday night Murray McMurray Hatchery hosted a social event at the hatchery that included a very rare treat of a hatchery tour.

A demonstration during the tour of the hatchery operations.

A demonstration during the tour of the hatchery operations.

One of the unique aspects of the social event was directed by emcee Ronnie Lopes of Bermuda as he shared some interesting characteristics of life in Bermuda.

Saturday morning kicked off with Murray McMurray Hatchery hosting over 150 students from various poultry enthusiast groups for tours and questions & answers with staff members.  The students enjoyed the same detailed tour provided the night before to the poultry show participants.  It was such a treat to have one of the students tell us, “My grandmother said to tell you hello and that she has been ordering chicks from you for 70 years!”  Our thanks to the students and the adults accompanying them on their trip to the hatchery and throughout the show weekend.

 

One of the many student groups that toured the hatchery on Saturday.

One of the many student groups that toured the hatchery on Saturday.

At the show arena throughout Saturday, over 70 fowl were exhibited and judged by Steve

Judging the Poultry entrants

Judging the Poultry entrants

Jones and Conor Keegan.  Poultry enthusiasts from more than eight states and territories were on hand to watch some of the highest quality of fowl being exhibited.

Murray McMurray Hatchery staff preparing for the dinner

Murray McMurray Hatchery staff preparing for the dinner

Saturday night was a time to celebrate the hard work and efforts of all involved, learn the winners of the show and share in wonderful stories of past.  Murray McMurray Hatchery presented a formal dinner with catering by Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames, Iowa.

Winners of the day’s competition included:

1) Black Rosecomb pullet-Dr William Patterson-Oakland, MI
2) Light Brahma Standard-Pullet-Larry & Mark Peterson-Amboy, MN
3) White Call duck Cock-Wapsipinicon Waterfowl-Independence, IA
4) Black East Indie Cock-Lou Horton-West Chicago, IL
5) Black Australorp-Pullet-Paul Flemming-Emily, MN
6) Black Cochin-Pullet-Larry & Mark Peterson-Amboy, MN
7) Black Rosecomb-Cockerel-DR William Patterson-Oakland, MI
8) SC R.I. Red Standard-Cockerel-Adrian & MaryAnn Rademacher-Waconia, MN
9) Buff Orpington Standard-Cockerel-Dr William Paterson Oakland, MI
10) Black Ameraucana Standard-Cockerel-Max Strawn-Princeton, TX

Bud Wood (MMH), event organizer Bart Pals, with Mr. and Mrs. Bill Patterson

Bud Wood (MMH), event organizer Bart Pals, with Dr. and Mrs. William Patterson

 

Event organizers are already planning for next year’s event, which will again be hosted by Murray McMurray Hatchery.  More information can be found at http://www.mastercuppoultryshow.com.

 

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Turkey Reflections by a Stuffed Pig

Another Thanksgiving holiday season is behind us and as I continue to reflect on my many thanks, a certain feathered figure sticks out in my mind – the turkey.

It started in March of this year when I put in an order for turkeys, 16 to be exact.  I chose four breeds as I wanted to see a variety – these included Bourbon Reds, Royal Palms, Standard Bronze and Broad Breasted Bronze.  At the time we lived in town but with the feasibility of living on some acreage more real in our minds than in practicality, it seemed that was sufficient enough for proper planning.  Fast forward two months and by the grace of God we found ourselves a foot on 18 acres.  The timing worked out very well as I had my order of 16 turkeys scheduled to arrive in late June.

Having raised chickens, I was fairly comfortable with the idea of raising turkeys but quiet honestly I didn’t know completely what to expect.  What does a newly hatched turkey look like?  How fast do they grow?  I could have read a ton of books or asked around among the experts, but with the busyness of the season I didn’t take the time.  I think more of it was that I wanted to experience the nuances of the journey first hand, unhindered or influenced by others perceptions and ideas.  Really, as I think about it more, I wouldn’t change a thing about that approach.

As I watched the turkeys grow and learned some of their different personalities, it was fun to identity the “leaders” of the group.  I know in a previous post I posted how I developed a cue of sorts with them through a unique whistle that let them know I was coming.  For the size they would get to be, I was very surprised at how gentle the turkeys were to be around.  While chickens are an iconic site to a farm, to see my turkeys walking around eating grass with the sun setting behind them offered a whole new level to the beauty of the summer and fall.

With Thanksgiving’s arrival, the time to harvest the Broadbreasted Bronze turkeys was upon us.  All of my Broadbreasted bronze turkeys were females but they still offered what I expected to be sufficient table meals.  My two largest tipped the scales at 20 pounds live weight.  While these were a  little underweight than what I was expecting (later reading the averages are around 20 pounds at 20 weeks – mine were 23 weeks), the weights certainly were within what I should have expected.   Just weighing the turkeys was a funny chore in itself.

The turkeys didn't want to stand still on my scale so I grabbed the first box readily available...

The turkeys didn’t want to stand still on my scale so I grabbed the first box readily available…

Putting the turkeys down was a….an…hmm….what is the word… organic or wholesome experience I guess is the way to put it.  A quick cut to the jugular was given as I had my hand over their eyes and held the body tight.  As I felt the last contractions of their pulse I placed them in a cone so the carcass could fully drain.  When it came time for plucking one thing I learned was the high importance of correct water temperature for scalding.  The first turkey we dipped was in water that was not nearly hot enough.  We paid dearly as the plucking time was a duration I do not care to recall.  The subsequent scaldings were done at a a correct temperature and the features literally came off in clumps at the touch of the hand.

We kept one turkey for ourselves and gave out a few more for others to enjoy.  As I sat at the tables of the various meals we shared, fat and happy as a stuffed pig, I had a great, new found appreciation for the food in front of us.  I remembered the many days my turkeys enjoyed out in the fresh air, scratching around in the grass and pasture, extending their wings, occasionally being chased by the ornery golden retriever, and responding to an affectionate whistle that signaled the daily meal.

During the weekend a friend stated, “I just don’t think I could eat something that I raised myself.”  I immediately saw visuals of crowded turkey houses, turkeys that didn’t know what grass felt like or knew the warmth of the sun, turkeys crammed on trucks passing me on Interstate 35 and the mechanical processing that takes place.  My question remains, “How can you possibly eat something that you didn’t raise yourself?”

I look forward to further self sufficiency and my family is making great strides towards it.  This isn’t necessarily out of fear or absolute discontent but because we can and it suits us best.  Was it work?  Yes, and it never felt more rewarding.  Of course, this process of enjoying the turkeys from hatch day to consumption took some planning.  The first thing you need to do is order the turkeys.  Here is to what was a happy Thanksgiving in 2014 and a to a new experienced Thanksgiving, through your personally raised turkeys, in 2015.

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Which Turkey to Choose

A question recently asked on the Murray McMurray Hatchery facebook page was this, “I have never raised turkeys before, what is the best breed for me?”

While this question certainly can generate many valid opinions, it is almost too difficult of a question to answer with a breed type. In following the training of years gone by, I would ask several questions to better understand the needs of the customers: What do you want to accomplish with the turkey? What kind of area will the turkeys be raised in? Are you concerned or interested in hatching your own turkeys? How involved do you want to be with your turkeys?

While this can be unpacked in several ways, let me stick with the brief questions I posed above to give some perspective on the question that will hopefully help you determine what breed is “right” for you. The timing of the question could not be more perfect as I just returned from the Livestock Conservancy Convention held in Austin, TX this year. The Livestock Conservancy just published their book, “Introduction to Heritage Breeds” and I referenced it several times in the marketing talk I was giving. A lot of statements in the book were enlightening on discussing what the best turkey breed might be for you and I  reference several thoughts from reading the book in the below statements.

If you want a turkey that provides the most meat possible, the Broadbreasted Bronze or Giant Whites are the breeds to get. These turkeys provide, generally speaking, a 23 pound hen and around a 40-45 pound tom turkey. Birds of this size, and specifically these breeds, are artificially inseminated because their size does not allow for them to mate naturally and successfully. Birds of this nature are typically more inclined to being fed rather than foraging for themselves. These breeds are typically what has been featured in the grocery stores during Thanksgiving. While the demand for these breeds is high, because of the large size, they pose a problem for small farms to raise and sustain future flocks as most small farms are not positioned well to artificially inseminate. This practice may be more embraced by larger farms with more resources. When grocery stores and the large farms push these types of breeds, it can reduce the demand for some of the heritage breeds that our country was naturally inhabited by.

According to the Livestock Conservancy, heritage breeds, “are the animals that you’d find on your great-grandparents farms. Heritage is an umbrella term that embraces pure breeds of livestock and poultry with deep histories in the United States. These are animals that were bred over time to develop traits that made them suited to specific local environments. Because these breeds have been developed and selected over time, they tend to have better disease resistance, are well-adapted to their environments, and thrive in pasture-based settings.” Heritage breed turkeys include Chocolate, Midget White, Narragansett, White Holland, Bourbon Red, Royal Palm and Standard Bronze, among others.

While the above breeds may not get as big as the Broadbreasted Bronze or other commercially created breeds, they offer several advantages as they are typically better foragers, which means on the pasture they will thrive. Turkeys that you can put on pasture may offer you a little more freedom from having to hand feed them everything they need. As well, heritage breeds will tend to thrive in the various climates throughout the country better than some of the commercial breeds. One of the fun aspects of the heritage breed turkeys is tracing the history of the breed and finding one that would best fit your particular environment. The historical aspect of the various heritage breeds allows people to enjoy the same or similar breed of turkey that their past generations also raised on the family farm so the connection to history is achieved. Of course, heritage breed turkeys are also able to mate naturally and produce offspring. If you want to create your own flock of turkeys, a heritage breed is what you want to look for. Again, those that understand and appreciate the benefits of raising the heritage breeds also are taking an active role in ensuring the various breeds that our ancestors enjoyed will continue to be enjoyed by future generations as well.

Murray McMurray Hatchery is happy to offer several of the heritage breeds of turkeys if that is the route you choose to follow. For more information on heritage breeds and the work of the Livestock Conservancy, please visit their website at http://www.livestockconservancy.com.

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Catalog Time

Catalog time is here again!  Actually, it has been here for several months but now we are at the stage where final decisions need to made and the final blessings are put on the various pages.  It is always a fun process but certainly brings with it some frustration as things don’t always happen when they are supposed to.

With several hundred product skus included in the catalog, it can be a challenge to get every vendor’s prices just right or predict cost increases and decreases.  Some vendors simply don’t know, for certain, what their prices and costs are going to be in the next 18 months or so!  We take a look at historical evidence, look at the value chain partners involved in the delivery of the products and develop our pricing.  Of course, this is just part of the process.

Deciding what products to put in the catalog is a collective process that starts from the day the previous catalog was printed.  New products that we have introduced in the past year are included and new products looking forward are reviewed to include.  The catalog in total involves several product managers, customer service reps, directors, buyers, IT personnel, hatchery managers, owners, vendors, printers, delivery trucks, the postal service and so much more!

Our 2015 catalog is nearly complete.  It again, has been a lot of fun putting it together and we look forward to sharing it with you in the next month or so.  In the mean time, feel free to look at our www.mcmurrayhatchery.com website!

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2014 Fall Photo Contest Winners

Congratulations to our 2014 Spring into Fall Photo Contest Winners!

1st Place

1st Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2nd Place

2nd Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3rd Place

3rd Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4th Place

4th Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5th Place

5th Place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6th Place

6th Place

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2014 Spring into Fall Photo Contest – Semi Finalists Announced!

I love having photo contests as we get to see all of the beautiful birds that are raised with wonderful love and care.  Many of the birds showcased left our hatchery as newly hatched chicks and have since been providing loving memories, funny antics and so much more for families across the United States.

We recently announced our semi-finalists for the 2014 Spring into Fall Photo Contest.  Now you can rate these top 10 photos and determine our six winners!  Here is the link to rate the semi-finalists’ photos: https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/p/fall20141

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October is here!

Welcome to the first day of October…now it is really Fall in my mind! Today marks the opening day of pumpkin doughnuts at the local bakery. Bring on the pumpkin spice coffee, straw bales and corn stalk decorations and much more!

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Mold in the Feed

I didn’t know what was happening until I saw the mold in the feed bag – by then it was too late.  Unfortunately what I had to endure this week was nothing we had encountered on our little patch of heaven yet.  As I looked down at the snow covered feed, I couldn’t help but think, again, “I should have known better”.  I have said that many times since we moved onto the farm and I guess no matter how much you know or how much you research,  things can still happen.  This time they did.

Walking through the dew drenched grass I often envision a party type of atmosphere in the coop as I hear Mr. Doodle, our male Pearl White Leghorn sounding the morning bell early and loud.  His crowing in the morning has become a welcomed sound on the farm, one I didn’t realize how much I would appreciate.  His bold proclamations are gentle reminders that as I work on things around the property, he has everything under control in the coop.

Mr. Doodle

Mr. Doodle

When I open the coop door in the cool mornings my flocks of chickens are typically eagerly greeting me.  “Oh he’s coming in, he’s coming in Martha!”  “Glattice, Glattice here he is honey, come on, I think we need be first in line” I imagine the various girls yelling to each other.  I humor myself and greet them with a slow and deep voiced “Hellllloooo ladies…”  They have their clicks and groups they stay in and unfortunately there is the one chicken that everyone seems to like to pick on.  Call me a softy, but I always pour that poor chicken a separate little pile of food so she can eat in peace without getting pecked on.  I’m assuming she made a smart remark about one of the other girls’ patterns or made a comment about their naked legs as she stood full feathered and covered.  Regardless what it was the others no longer take to her well.

That’s the normal thoughts and sights and sounds to my morning feeds.  This particular morning when I opened the barn doors, however, there was no crowing heard from Mr. Doodle.  My normally anxious girls were rather in a slumber, some still high on the roost while others were walking around slowly, in a bit of a stupor.  As I surveyed the other pen inside, my group of male chickens appeared to have been injected with a balloon full of air.  They were puffed up like pumpkins and one, in the corner, lay dead.  I went to fill the feeders and the waterers but to my surprise, all were still half full.  This was like some weird scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie (I hated those movies).   They all stood still staring at me as if saying with their eyes, “Do not look behind the nest boxes, do not go there, walk slowly…”.  Was it a snake I wondered…oh, please please please do not be a snake I thought.  Unfortunately this would continue for the next several days.

Trips to the chicken coop were very frequent over those next days.  On day two, after losing five chickens, it came to a head.  It was an early afternoon and I went to check on how they were doing only to find, Mr. Doodle, our prized Pearl White Leghorn male that was the voice of our new farm, laying down, with little motion and sad looking eyes.  I couldn’t believe it.  The chickens that had perished so far were younger chickens and I thought perhaps they were just weaker in nature.  Mr. Doodle, however was the Mr. T of the farm.  He controlled the coop and everything in it.  He was the epitome of handsome chickens but now he was failing.  I went and tended to the turkeys and pheasants across the property and when I came back, just that quick, Mr. Doodle was dead.

It all happened so fast looking back I didn’t recognize the magnitude of the problem at hand to treat the flock with anything.  After Mr. Doodle died, we gutted the coop from top to bottom with a clean that would make the Chrysler building jealous.  I switched to a straw flooring piled high and washed all the waterers and feeders that were used.  As we worked on the coop cleaning I kept thinking, “I wonder if its the feed?”.

We had a ton of rain the previous days.  When I say a ton I mean 6-1/2″ of rain in one day.

Farm Rain Gauge

Farm Rain Gauge

The previous and post days also brought more rain and the temperature varied.  I have one particular low spot in the coop where it gets fairly wet during rains so I intentionally keep the feed on a board that serves as as type of wood flooring.  I was almost out of feed so I went and got new bags for all the flocks.  As I brought the new bags in and grabbed the remainder of the old bag, I glanced inside.   I mentioned above,  as I looked down at the snow covered feed, I couldn’t help but think, again, “I should have known better”.  There inside the feed bag was wet feed covered with a snow-like cap of mold.  I am not a veterinarian and perhaps there were other issues that I didn’t know about, but my conviction is that I let my feed go bad, and I fed it to my chickens.

Mold in the Feed

Mold in the Feed

I am further convinced the moldy feed killed the chickens as I read an excerpt from an article by Mississippi State University that says (talking about mold)

“The condition is caused by Aspergillus fumigatus, a mold or fungus-type organism. Occasionally other types of molds are involved. These organisms are present in the environment of all poultry. They grow readily on many substances such as litter, feed, rotten wood and other similar materials.

The bird comes in contact with the organisms through contaminated feed, litter or premises. The disease is not contagious and does not spread from one bird to another. Most healthy birds can withstand repeated exposure to these organisms. Inhalation of large amounts of the infectious form of the mold or reduced resistance of the bird apparently results in infection. In adult turkeys, the disease more often affects the male.

In the acute form in young birds, main symptoms are gasping, sleepiness, loss of appetite and sometimes convulsions and death. Occasionally the organism invades the brain, causing paralysis or other forms of nervous symptoms. The more chronic form in older birds usually results in loss of appetite, gasping or coughing and a rapid loss of body weight. Mortality is usually low and only a few birds are affected at one time.”

A day after we cleaned the coop, washed the waterers and feeders and changed the food, my girls were starting to come out of their trance.  By the following day, nearly all were back to normal.  When it was all said and done, I had lost five chickens in four days, including our prized rooster, Mr. Doodle.

While the lessons we learn first hand may be the ones that stick with us the most, again, I should have known better.  I should have anticipated the potential problems with all the rain we were having.  Now I have my feed bags in large plastic tubs with lids – off the ground.  Where I would normally have my feed bags open, they are now rolled closed with a clip on them to hold them tight together, as if unopened.

I hope you don’t make the same mistakes I do.  When the rains come and the waters fall, please keep your feed high and dry, remember Mr. Doodle, and your feed will be safe for all.

Mr. Doodle

Mr. Doodle

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Responsibility by Hunter Kemper

RESPONSIBILITY by Hunter Kemper

For the past several years, I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the Exercise Your Character Event in Des Moines, IA, organized by Hy-Vee Inc. This is an event I look forward to every year as 7,000 4th and 5th graders gather together at HyVee Hall to learn about the 6 Pillars of Character. The atmosphere is fun, energetic, loud, and inspirational as professional athletes and coaches share with the students what it means to exercise good character. The 6 Pillars of Character include caring, respect, citizenship, trustworthiness, fairness, and RESPONSIBILITY.

This year my wife created a board to hang on the wall in our house to teach and remind our own children how to demonstrate the six pillars of character in their lives. The arrival of our chickens this year has been an amazing way for our kids to practice one of the 6 pillars, RESPONSIBILITY. Always doing your best, doing your chores, doing what you’re supposed to do, and taking care of your things are a few of the ways we’ve defined responsibility. Davis, our seven year old, has learned a lot about responsibility as it is his job to help take care of the chickens.

As a family, we don’t do allowances. We figure that to be a part of this family, everyone has to do their share. Depending on the age of the kid, everyone’s chores are a little different. Davis knows that he has to make his bed, keep his room neat, help clear the dinner table, gather and take out the trash, and he now takes care of the chickens. This may seem like a big job for a second grader, but it is NOT. As the books says, it literally is just “5 Minutes a Day.” His main responsibility is to give them fresh food and water in the mornings and late afternoons. The part he enjoys best about this job is that he is the one that gets to collect the eggs! I’ve learned that it is best to always let Davis collect the eggs, otherwise he will get upset. He has become very possessive over “his” fresh eggs.

Although we don’t give allowances, we do provide our kids the opportunity to earn some money through jobs that are out of their normal responsibilities; one of these jobs is cleaning out the chicken coop. This is understandably not one of the most pleasant jobs, but Davis doesn’t seem to mind it. I guess a little cash reward works well when it comes to some chores.

So far we’ve experienced many benefits as backyard chicken farmers, one of them being, teaching our kids responsibility. Taking care of our chickens may be only “5 Minutes a Day,” but our kids are learning life’s valuable lessons along the way.

Hunter Kemper is the most decorated U.S. triathlete in history. A four-time member of the USA Olympic triathlon team, he is one of only two men in the world to qualify for every Olympic triathlon (2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012) and the only man in the world to complete all four.  You can follow Hunter and his journey with his Murray McMurray Hatchery chickens at http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/hunterkemper

 

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Chickens – A lot like my Kids by Hunter Kemper

I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Summer on “the farm.” I’ve been a chicken owner since the end of January and it has been a fun adventure. We’ve gotten to watch our baby chicks grow into pullets that lay beautiful white, brown, and blue eggs (like the kind you see on Easter Sunday). As we’ve gotten to know each of our girls, I’ve realized that there are many similarities between our chickens and our kids. First of all, we have four kids, Davis (7), Hudson (4), Case (almost 3), and Price (9 months); each with their own unique temperaments. We have five different breeds of chickens, and they too all have their very own personalities. Both flocks include a leader, a follower, a jokester, a tender hearted one, and an easy going one.

The leader in our flock of chickens is London, our White Leghorn. She runs the show. All the chickens wait for her to eat first when breakfast or dinner is served, and they let her be the first to drink from the waterer as soon as it is replenished. She leads and everyone else follows. With our kids it’s like that with our oldest son, Davis. He leads and our other 2 boys follow. This can be a really good thing when he is playing nicely with his 2 younger brothers; however, there are times when we question his leadership skills and he’s not making the best choices, his brothers continue to follow.

After owning chickens, I now have a much better understanding of the phrase, “pecking order.” Earlier in the Summer when our chickens just started laying eggs, Athens, our Barred Rock pullet, decided to pick on Sydney, our Buff Orpington. Athens didn’t just pick on Sydney, she pecked on her so much that she caused Sydney to bleed and almost pecked off her entire comb! I was shocked to come home one afternoon from the Olympic Training Center and find Sydney with blood all over her face. I had to give her some TLC and remove her from the other chickens until she was all healed up. Sometimes my oldest son Davis will buddy up with our 2 1/2 year old son, Case, and pick on our middle son, Hudson. They don’t physically hurt him like Athens did to Sydney, but they definitely try and stir the pot by leaving him out of things they may be doing together. Brothers can be the best of buds, but sometimes be the cause of tears all in the same day – just like our chickens.

Finally, my wife will say that the greatest similarity between our chickens and our kids is that they are very good at making messes and not cleaning up after themselves. Both kids and the chickens love to play outside, scratch around in the dirt, look for bugs, throw things around. Thankfully my boys are all potty trained, unlike the chickens.

After our first Summer as backyard chicken farmers, I now know how much our chickens act like our kids. They play nice together, they follow the leader, they share, they take things away, they make messes, they pick or peck on one another, and they cozy up all in the same bed/coop at night. Chickens, just like or kids are so much fun to have around. There’s nothing better than a cool Summer evening watching your chickens and kids interact and play with one another, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Hunter Kemper is the most decorated U.S. triathlete in history. A four-time member of the USA Olympic triathlon team, he is one of only two men in the world to qualify for every Olympic triathlon (2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012) and the only man in the world to complete all four.  You can follow Hunter and his journey with his Murray McMurray Hatchery chickens at http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/hunterkemper

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