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Delafield Neighbors

From Farm to Table: Local Connections that Matter

Mar 01, 2014 01:59PM ● By Laura Ustanovska
Duck….duck….duck….goose! That old children’s game will come to mind later this month as baby chicks and ducklings descend on Morning Star Family Farm - Hartford, WI. Having hatched the day before just an hour away at Abendroth Hatchery in Waterloo, the little chirping puff balls take their first road trip up to the farm. It is a noisy ride home, but also one filled with excitement and anticipation.

Supporting a local hatchery, like Abendroth’s, is important for many reasons, some more obvious than others. We vote with our dollars. The money we pay to purchase these chicks and ducklings helps to support local agriculture. Our customers buy our meats in order to do the same thing; buying our animals from neighboring farmers simply adds another layer to the “Eat Local” idea.

Buying from a hatchery within driving distance also decreases the stress that the birds endure. Most chicks and ducklings must be shipped via the postal service in order to reach their new owners. Two and even three days are not an unusual length of time for birds to travel by mail. Freshly hatched chicks are able to last up to three days without food or water, as they are still consuming their yolk sac which they swallowed prior to hatching from the egg. Long days and nights riding in trucks still do take their toll on the hatchlings, however. In our experience, mail order birds are not as perky as those we get locally, and are more apt to succumb to sickness in the early days.

And so, later this month, our newly hatched Abendroth chicks and ducklings will complete their short road trip by arriving at our farm. We will carry the boxes of chicks into a special room in our barn that is set up for their arrival. There will be freshly ground, certified organic feed available in various feeders around the room. Warming lamps will be suspended above soft, clean bedding. Waterers spiked with raw apple cider vinegar and sugar, two old time tricks for giving chicks a good start in life, will also be available. This will be a temporary home for the birds, as they will be moving out to the pasture in just two weeks. To introduce them to their new home, we will lift each chick from the box individually, help it to drink from a waterer and then place it under the heat lamp. Their pleasant, persistent chirps tell us that all is well on the farm.

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