Miniatures make for marketable backyard farm

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Some business ventures are intentional. Others evolve from good experiences. Such is the evolution of Stancil Farm in the Gray area.

Kendall Cook had suffered from anxiety and depression. As part of his therapy, he took up gardening and raising Seramas, a breed of Malaysian chicken that is small and easily trained. It worked.

Caring for Seramas grew into breeding, showing and selling the birds as a business for Cook and his partner Lennard Stancil, who contend they are part of an emerging industry.

Seramas have been dubbed the smallest chicken by poultry growers. Mature cocks generally weigh between 12 and 20 ounces. Hens range in size from 10 to 18 ounces.

According to the Serama Council of North America, these birds are half the weight of Modern Game and Old English Game poultry. This small size comes with many advantages for those wanting to raise poultry in limited areas and primarily as pets or for egg production.

As for the tiny bird eggs, four Serama eggs equal the size of one store-bought chicken egg. Cook said that the egg flavor is somewhere between the blandness of store-bought and full-flavored farm chicken egg. “They taste a lot cleaner,” Stancil said.

Seramas range in price between $20 and $50 each for those used as pets and for egg production. Show birds sell for $200 or more.

As one of the 400 registered SCNA members, Stancil Farm has both credibility and resources to help customers select poultry that can be used for egg production, or even trained as pets, and provides health information for the animals.

Stancil Farm has most of its success raising show birds, from which they have gained a waiting list of customers.

“We do a lot of our marketing on Facebook with the groups and forums they have, and a lot is word of mouth,” Stancil said. “I sold one lady three birds and after her friends saw them, I had 20 more sold.”

Responding to reports that spark concern about backyard chickens spreading salmonella, Stancil said occurrences are over exaggerated. “Any animal raised in very small quarters that is never allowed out, never let to roam is going to be more likely to catch an infection,” he said. “Young children should not handle poultry without supervision because they can get feces on their hands and ingest it. With proper care there is rarely a problem.”

In addition to raising Seramas, Cook and Stancil have added other miniature livestock to raise and sell from their farm. Their variety of livestock includes miniature rabbits and Nigerian dwarf goats. The duo also grows vegetables, mostly for their own consumption, but intend to offer that line as well at future farmer markets.

Goat marketing for Stancil Farm is generally done through 4-H clubs and trade-day festivals as well as over the Internet. “Most of the sales are online,” Stancil said. “Fresh goat’s milk tastes identical to fresh cow’s milk. You can’t tell the difference. It is not quite as fatty.”

A standard male goat sells for approximately $100, while a breeding male is $200. A female goat sells for $150 to $300 because Stancil Farm keeps their livestock triple registered through goat associations.

During their five years of operation, Stancil Farm has transitioned into practicing and promoting backyard farming as a way to make grocery dollars stretch farther. It is an added operation they intend to grow.

Backyard farming, also known as tract farming, box farming and by other names, has grown and died over the years. Its popularity has generally been driven by the economy.

Multiple sources and models are available from making planting beds to using milk crates and flower pots to produce a variety of home crops. Making use of miniature livestock, according to Cook and Stancil is a way to enhance the backyard farm experience and productivity.

“You can support a family of four on a quarter acre of land,” Stancil said, noting that the basic growing techniques can be scaled down to backyard farming.

Stancil Farm, is a working example of backyard farming and is self-sustaining. “The rabbit manure goes towards the plants,” Cook said. “Then what plants we don’t eat goes back to the animals. We have goats that we can get milk or meat off of and vegetables.”

In Louisiana, or any state, Stancil recommends that people check with local ordinances regarding miniature animals. “To my knowledge, in Terrebonne Paris as long as you don’t have a rooster there are no requirements, other than limiting the number of chickens [kept on residential property] within the [Houma] city limits,” He said. “There are some homeowner associations that might limit it.”

Cook said that in addition to operating the miniature farm, he and Stancil constantly research ways to grow tomato and pepper plants as well as other small yield crops in confined spaces.

“The [miniature farming] is good, but the main part of our business is still raising the Seramas,” Cook said. “As long as I sell one goat baby a month, we break even on everything else. These [birds] are still the main thing.”

As for Cook’s health concerns, operating the miniature farm has been beneficial. “My anxiety attacks have calmed down since I’ve gotten involved in the farming,” Cook said. “It has turned into a good way of life for us.”

Kendall Cook, left, and Lennard Stancil show off some of their working animals, including a Serama rooster named Elvis and Louisiane the Nigerian dwarf goat. The two are making their development of a miniature farm into a growing business.