FEATURED STORY | Frances Garcia: Growing Up in a Feed Store
For Frances Garcia, raising poultry isn't just a hobby, and neither is helping people start their own poultry flocks. Frances is a second generation Purina®dealership owner, purchasing Bernalillo Feed, from her parents, in 2007 with her husband, Johnny.
"My parents, Frank and Georgina Chavez, established the dealership in 1967," said Frances. "We are a family owned and operated business with a big heart. We truly do appreciate and value our customers."
Frances has worked at the dealership her entire life, starting out on the cash register when she was nine and even worked there while attending the University of New Mexico.
"I was always under my Dad's coat tails," said Frances. "My dad was raised on a ranch and taught me about his experiences with animals. By the time I was 15 or 16 years of age, I knew enough to look over the store while they went on vacations."
It was in the store that Frances was first introduced to poultry, helping out at the annual Chick Days events as a child.
One of her favorite memories, and something she still enjoys about Chick Days, is the colored baby chicks that come in two weeks before Easter.
"When those came in, you knew it was spring and the weather would be good," Frances said. "They come from the hatchery already colored green, purple and pink, and they're so pretty and vibrant."
Bernalillo Feed has been doing Chick Days for more than 25 years, and this year, Frances really wanted to focus on the local food movement, since that's why many people decide to start their flocks.
"People want to know where their food is coming from," Frances said.
Frances planned a day of special activities the weekend of their Chick Days event, complete with a petting zoo, free food, prizes and pictures with Chicken Peckin' Pete. There was even a miniature backyard flock inside the store to help people picture what their backyard could look like.
"It was great success," Frances said. "People are really excited to eat good, healthy eggs from their own backyard! And to see the kid's faces was amazing. They got so excited and ran to the back of the store to see the chicks."
But for Bernalillo Feed, baby chicks aren't just a spring thing. They try to have chicks available all the way into September.
"Having chicks until September, people are able to come in and get what they want," Frances said. "It's also good because people can replace their stock if they don't make it."
Frances's personal flock is made up of about 25 birds and is a mix of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Ameraucanas, Buff Orpingtons and Cornish game hens.
Bernalillo Feed is a Purina® Certified Expert Dealer, which means their staff is specially trained to answer questions about care, feeding and management of poultry and other animals. And, just like she recommends Purina® SunFresh®Start & Grow® feed to new chicken owners that come into the store, that's what Frances uses with her own flock.
"I like how well the animals eat the feed," said Frances. "They truly like it, and it's nutritionally balanced for them. You can see how healthy the chicks are when you feed a good quality feed."
For people that are interested in chickens, but aren't sure if it's really for them, Frances recommends giving it a try.
"The benefits are well worth the investment and time it takes to care for them," Frances said. "You get a quick return with the eggs, they're natural rakers in the garden and their poop makes great fertilizer. And it's not as hard to raise chickens as people think. There are a lot of products out there that make it very easy and because the food has everything you need in it, you don't have to feed them anything extra, just water."
Although Frances sees her chickens as a food source, they're also her pets.
"They're very smart and great companion animals. I was surprised at how you just fall in love with them and how happy they make you feel," she said. "I really enjoy their distinct personalities. I just love to watch them."
Frances also has a Yorkie named, Manhattan or Matty for short, and although she wasn't sure about the chickens in the beginning, they're friends now.
"The chickens and Matty love each other," said Frances. "At first she tried to bite them, but now she likes them and walks around with them. She's smaller than they are, but they all kind of play with each other. The chickens are so smart, too, they know how to use doggie doors and sneak into the kitchen while I'm making dinner and lay down by my feet like a dog would."
The best policy for keeping your flock hydrated is to make sure they always have clean, fresh water. Water consumption varies with different weather conditions and from bird to bird. In moderate weather, a hen may drink up to a pint of water a day but when temperatures rise that amount can nearly double. Birds that are allowed to roam freely may consume more water than confined birds, depending on the amount of moisture content in their food supply and their activity levels. Be sure that during cold weather the water is kept at a comfortable temperature to encourage adequate drinking. Animals that do not drink enough also reduce their feed intake, which will impact productivity.
Provide one 1-quart waterer for every 25 chicks. Use fresh, cool (not cold) water, and be sure to clean and replenish it daily. Be sure to disinfect waterers prior to filling them for your chicks and then weekly. To teach your birds to drink, dip beaks of the chicks into the water. Elevate waterer after the first week to reduce contamination from litter, but the waterer should not be higher than the chick's back. Double waterer capacity at 6 weeks. Provide adult birds one or two 1-gallon waterers, depending upon floor space, for every 25 birds.
A special note on Turkey Poults: Turkey Poults are slower to understand eating and drinking, so be sure to watch closely the first few days. Just like for the chicks, dip beaks in water and feed to teach drinking and eating. Provide adult birds one or two 1-gallon waterers, depending upon floor space, for every 25 birds.
A special note on Ducklings/Goslings: To get ducklings and goslings started, again dip beaks in water and feed. Provide adult birds one or two 1-gallon waterers, depending upon floor space for every 25 birds. Ducklings and goslings may begin to play in the water at 3-4 weeks. These guys love to swim, so place marbles or small rocks in the bottom of the waterer to reduce splashing.