Chicken Whis­perer

IN­JURY LED JEREMY GAR­RETT TO FULL-TIME FARM­ING

McDonald County Press - - FRONT PAGE - Sally Car­roll McDon­ald County Press scar­roll@nwadg.com

Jeremy Gar­rett doesn’t mind be­ing called a chicken whis­perer. He knew from an early age that he had a knack for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with an­i­mals. He and his cousins used to ex­plore their grandpa’s thou­sands of acres, which fea­tured an old

barn. One time, his cousins thought a wild cat was in the barn. They sent Gar­rett in, be­liev­ing he was the only one in the bunch who could talk to — and deal with —

the feral cat.

Jeremy Gar­rett doesn’t mind be­ing called a chicken whis­perer.

He knew from an early age that he had a knack for com­mu­ni­cat­ing with an­i­mals. He and his cousins used to ex­plore their grandpa’s thou­sands of acres, which fea­tured an old barn. One time, his cousins thought a wild cat was in the barn. They sent Gar­rett in, be­liev­ing he was the only one in the bunch who could talk to — and deal with — the feral cat.

Gar­rett thought it was cool that his cousins rec­og­nized that gift, even at a young age.

These days, the full-time farmer doesn’t take of­fense at be­ing called a chicken whis­perer.

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic,” he said. “I find it of­fen­sive when peo­ple con­sider my farm­ing a ‘hobby.’”

Gar­rett cares for his an­i­mals, con­ducts re­search and has learned a lot through trial and er­ror.

He read­ily ad­mits he hugs and com­mu­ni­cates with his an­i­mals so they know they are well cared for.

In par­tic­u­lar, he loves chick­ens. He finds their per­son­al­i­ties in­trigu­ing.

“They’re my first love. It’s like hav­ing a best friend and a dog around,” he said.

For The Love Of An­i­mals

Gar­rett has nearly 100 free-range chick­ens, as well as sev­eral pigs, sheep and goats — and bees — on his farm near Seneca. He bales and sells hay, has 73 piglets on the ground and has kicked his farm­ing into high gear.

The for­mer project man­ager who worked for an elec­tri­cal con­trac­tor started farm­ing three years ago with two pigs. He tran­si­tioned to full-time farm­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

Of his chick­ens, two in par­tic­u­lar made their way into his heart. Denise was his shadow. She stayed by his side and loved to sneak in the house. Denise of­ten found her way through the house’s doggy door. Gar­rett would find an egg sit­ting on the couch.

One time, he awoke and found her sit­ting on top of the clothes bar in his closet. She also snuck in the house when Gar­rett went to town to run er­rands. “Ev­ery time she would hear the truck start, she would try to get in the house,” he said.

Some­times, Denise left him a prize and Gar­rett had to watch his step.

He was fond of Denise, but found her an­tics too un­set­tling. “She was just too much,” he said.

Denise re­cently found a new home, but Gar­rett still has Lloyd, a laven­der breed rooster, who ac­com­pa­nies him on er­rands.

He also likes to stir up a lit­tle trou­ble with the hens, mak­ing a big deal out of rocks and plas­tic to “get the hens to come run­ning.”

Lloyd likes to run er­rands with Gar­rett, hop­ping in the truck, like a dog would, for a trip around town.

“If I leave the door open too long, Lloyd and the hens are in the truck, house, and any­where else I may be with food,” he said.

Gar­rett likes to ob­serve his chick­ens, watch their be­hav­ior and let them know they’re cared for. He’s learned how to boost egg pro­duc­tion and pro­vide the best mix he can for them. He lets them eat what­ever they find, but also gives them a spe­cial feed. He mixes three feeds to­gether to make sure they have the right bal­ance of cal­cium, pro­tein, soy­bean and corn­meal.

He’s also branched off into spe­cial breeds of chick­ens, those known for their egg-laying and their tenac­ity. Gar­rett op­er­ates an in­cu­ba­tor to help with the self-sus­tain­ing op­er­a­tion, which sells eggs and chick­ens.

“The best part of chicken farm­ing is the en­ter­tain­ment and get­ting one of your chick’s first egg,” he said.

Gar­rett does all he can to “get a chick to a chicken.” That hard work pays off.

A lady in Kansas City pur­chases roost­ers from Gar­rett, ap­pre­ci­at­ing the qual­ity of chicken she’s re­ceiv­ing.

“I’m not that guy at a swap meet that shows up with a chicken for $10,” Gar­rett said.

Jump­ing In Head First

As a lit­tle kid, Gar­rett’s fa­vorite book was one that fea­tured an­i­mals. He wanted to have an­i­mals, specif­i­cally a pig, but his par­ents wouldn’t give. Too much re­spon­si­bil­ity, they said.

When he got out on his own, how­ever, he de­cided to buy a pig.

“No­body told me I couldn’t,” he said.

He was con­tent with his two pigs for a while. Then an in­jury cat­a­pulted his farm­ing ca­reer.

Gar­rett shat­tered his foot and was laid up for three months. Dur­ing that time, he turned off the TV and be­gan to watch YouTube classes.

He pur­chased some chick­ens, and be­gan ob­serv­ing their be­hav­ior. From there, his farm­ing con­tin­ued to get “a lit­tle more se­ri­ous and a lit­tle more se­ri­ous” un­til it “just blos­somed” into a fullfledged ca­reer.

He’s taken on­line classes through OSU and Back­yard Chicks and re­searched quite a bit on his own.

All of his an­i­mals are placed in one pen. Gar­rett spends time with all the an­i­mals and keeps abreast of their progress.

“It doesn’t mat­ter what’s go­ing on with me. They have to be taken care of.”

That can be chal­leng­ing for the one-man show, but ill­ness or other tasks don’t pre­vent him from tend­ing to his an­i­mals. From help­ing sick an­i­mals to hav­ing to put them down, Gar­rett runs the gamut of car­ing for his grow­ing busi­ness.

Though he has a con­nec­tion with his an­i­mals, he doesn’t have a prob­lem with tak­ing hogs to the butcher at Good­man Meat Shop and Pro­cess­ing.

He knows, from the start, that the hogs are be­ing raised for a pur­pose and he can dis­con­nect at some point when it be­comes butcher­ing time.

What both­ers him, how­ever, is un­nec­es­sary death, such as the 200 chick­ens lost in the flood ear­lier this spring.

He also fights a preda­tor prob­lem, in­clud­ing a fox and a bob­cat.

“I was find­ing car­casses in­side my coop,” he said. A con­ser­va­tion agent came to ob­serve and footage re­vealed the bob­cat prob­lem.

Gar­rett has since stretched net­ting fur­ther to keep the bob­cat out.

A fox also hit his coop pretty hard, even with a dog 50 feet away watch­ing over the chick­ens.

But Gar­rett re­bounds time and time again. He didn’t seek out farm­ing for fame or for­tune, but to live off the land and find suc­cess in rais­ing an­i­mals.

Despite the job that spans 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Gar­rett feels for­tu­nate he can make his liv­ing farm­ing.

He loves and hugs his an­i­mals and re­al­izes his gift en­ables him to con­nect with an­i­mals in a spe­cial way.

“I haven’t been this poor in years, but it’s a work in progress and some­thing to strive for ev­ery day,” he said.

“How­ever, I haven’t been this happy in years!”

Gar­rett Moun­tain Farms can be found on Face­book.

PHOTO SUB­MIT­TED

Jeremy Gar­rett’s rooster, Lloyd, of­ten jumps in his truck and helps him run er­rands around town. Gar­rett said Lloyd is like a best friend and a dog, all in one.

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