By Lynne Phillips
Many kids are on the receiving end of an allowance for spending money, but nine year old Garnett (“G”) Hess earns his own spending money by raising chickens and selling the eggs.
G’s Farm Fresh Eggs, located at the home of John, Jen, Josh, G, Logan and Bella Hess in rural New London of the Firelands, are ‘Home Raised and Hand Gathered’.
G’s mom, Jen, said the chicken and egg endeavor all began with a week long visit to some friends in southern Ohio. “He spent a week there and they had chickens. He helped with their chickens and gathered the eggs everyday. He just fell in love with them and when he got home he told his dad, ‘I want some chickens’.
“His dad wasn’t so sure we needed chickens, but the friends told him, ‘you really need to get that kid some chickens’. So we did.”
“His chickens are his allowance. We pay for the feed and he does everything else and makes his money by selling the eggs. So far it has worked out pretty good,” G’s dad, John said.
G added he is saving his money to buy a Polaris Raptor. “They are $14,000.”
Jen said he has over $1,000 in a savings account.
The first chickens arrived at the Hess home about two years ago.
“Hank” was one of the first birds, according to G. “We thought he was a boy till he laid an egg. We know Hank is a girl, but her name is still Hank,” he said with a smile.
With Hank held in one arm, G displayed his Chick la Pedia book and a small, blue and white knitted rectangle. “Chick la Pedia has everything you need to know about chickens,” Jen commented. “If anybody asks him anything about chickens he checks his book and can answer about any question you want to know.”
The knitted piece is a chicken sweater G said. “We had a girl buy eggs from us and she knitted two sweaters for us. One of sweaters is Hank’s and the is other for one of the larger egg layers,” he shared.
Hank also sports an angel bracelet on one leg. According to G, Hank is a storm survivor. “I think she was protected by an angel during a storm and a tree fell on the coop,” he said. “It isn’t really a bracelet, but it looks like one.”
G gets his chickens from Meyer Hatchery in Polk. Laughing, Jen said, “Other kids would get excited if they got a toy catalog, he gets all excited when he gets a new hatchery catalog.”
Showing the catalog, G pointed out how he orders chickens. You just look through the book and pick out the chickens you want and put the letter (letters designate which type of chicken you are seeing) and then you just put the letter in the box and call the hatchery, place your order and go pick them up.
Leafing through his catalog he pointed out different breeds, noting he started with a small batch of chickens and worked his way up to the 48 chickens he has today.
“I don’t know what breed they are,” he said, “I just look in the book and pick the ones I like.
“When we pick them up they are in a box with air holes and that’s how we take them home, he commented.”
“We haven’t ordered any new chickens for a while,” Jen said. “The ones he has are laying pretty good right now. So we usually wait until they stop laying or really slow down, then we will sell some of them and buy a new batch.”
G said he gathers about two dozen eggs a day from the chickens they have right now.
“We had a girl that came and bought 15 dozen eggs,” he related. “Then we had a girl that wanted 20 dozen. We didn’t have that many, but we gave her all we had.”
Each evening G said he feeds and waters the birds in the barn which takes about an hour and half. “They have self feeders and we have three of them so they can eat out of whatever one they want.”
The chickens also have a fenced outdoor area outside of the barn as well. “They used to be free range,” said Jen, “but they destroyed my flowers.”
The chickens nest in large plastic buckets stacked in wooden frames inside the barn. “My dad came up with the idea for the buckets,” G said.
Each morning G spends about 30 minutes just checking on his chickens to make sure they have enough food and water. With school starting soon, he said he said his day will start at 6:30.
Every few months the manure is cleaned out, according to G. “I use a shovel and wheelbarrow to take out the manure and then we put it on the garden. It’s usually two wheelbarrows full.”
After the eggs are gathered, sorted and washed they and hand stamped with his signature “G” and placed in clear plastic egg cartons. G’s Farm Fresh Eggs have his own label telling buyers the eggs are Home Raised and Hand Gathered.
A baby goat named Charlie, a Basset hound named Fred and six Texas Longhorns round out the Hess family of animals.
The longhorns, according to Jen were shown at the recently held Longhorn Show in Wooster. She said they actually have three generations of the longhorns: Mama (Loretta), the daughter Jolene, son Merle, a grand daughter Patsy, a bull Lawless and another girl named Suzannah also known as ‘Suzie too Tall’ because her horns are taller than all the others.