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Teen Starts Business With Black Chickens
After graduating from high school this spring, Alexa Lehr, 17, plans to get a degree in graphic design. She figures it will dovetail nicely with her career plan which is to breed designer chickens.
  The seed for that idea began when she and her twin sister, Anna, were 10 and raised their first batch of chickens. The passion was sealed in 2016 when Lehr bought her first Svart Hona eggs and successfully hatched three of them.
  “They are special because they are all black - on the outside, and the meat, organs and bones,” Lehr says. “They are even more rare than Ayam Cemani. Quality birds sell for $300 to $600 a bird. Lower quality chickens are $60.”
  While the Ayam Cemani is native to Indonesia (see FARM SHOW’s Vol. 39, No. 2), the Svart Hona come from Sweden. They look less gamey than the Ayam Cemani, weigh 5 to 7 1/2 lbs., and lay nice size off-white eggs that tend to be extremely fertile. 
  Raising the breed along with other chickens has been a learning experience for the twins. Though cold hardy, last winter’s extreme temperatures in Michigan meant extra work. Lehr coated rooster combs and wattles with coconut oil salve and occasionally housed the Svart Honas and a few other chickens in a warm garage to protect them from frostbite and cold. By spring, winter had taken its toll and the hens were too thin to lay eggs. Lehr adjusted her feeding program.
  “I started adding high protein supplements. They tend to need a higher protein diet to handle stress,” she says, noting she uses all organic feed and natural remedies. 
  She ordered more eggs from better breeders and plans to continue to grow her flock to do line breeding by selecting the best birds. Qualities she wants include: all black birds including the tongue and bottom of the feet; no purple hues in the combs and wattles; no floppy combs; and a good temperament.
  “My goal is to raise these birds so they are affordable for backyard producers who want to add variety. I want to develop a strain known for longevity and health. If bred properly, they can live up to 15 years or more,” Lehr says. She hopes to make a sustainable living with the Svart Hona strain, crossbreeding them with other breeds to create designer chickens - while doing graphic design work for extra income.
  “I don’t know why I’m so intrigued with chickens,” she admits. “Though Mom and Dad help and remind us about things, the chickens really are our responsibility. They are something I can call my own.”
  For income, the twins do a variety of things including selling how-to eBooks. Winter Chicken Keeping and Dairy-Free Cookbook can be purchased from their Pioneer Chicks website.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Alexa Lehr, Mt. Pleasant, Mich. (www.thepioneerchicks.com; marcopollochick@hotmail.com).

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2019 - Volume #43, Issue #3