Some people are just old souls. You can tell from the moment you first meet them. Buzz Harris is one.
At 10 years old, the fourth grader at Smithton Schools, may not seem to be because of his young age, but spend a few minutes with him and you know immediately that he is, especially when you start to speak to him about one of his passions: chickens.
Harris started to raise chickens three years ago and has now built a hobby into a successful business venture.
“I got my first coop in 2013,” Harris said. “My dad thought it would be good for me to have something to raise and would help to teach me about responsibility.
“I stared out with five hens and a Rhode Island Red rooster I named Quinton,” he added. “Quinton would always come up and stand beside me and the hens just seemed to crowd around beside us.”
From the small start of the six birds, Harris has grown his flock into more than 80.
He not only sells the eggs from the hens, but also has sells some of his flock that he has incubated to other farmers and individuals in the area.
“You know that old saying, ‘Don’t count your chickens ‘til they hatch?’” Harris asked. “Well it’s true because sometimes no matter how careful you are you just don’t know if they all will hatch when you incubate them and raise them from eggs.
Sometimes as many as half of them won’t make it because they are just not strong enough to make it out of the shell,” he added. “They look like little T-Rex’s when they hatch out of the shell with their tiny little wings.”
Harris went on to say that chickens are in fact very close relatives to the T-Rex dinosaurs, as well as many other what he called “fun facts,” about his chickens.
“They are really two sure ways to tell when a chick is about to hatch,” Harris explained. “First you can always tell by the “peeping, chirping” sound they make.
“But eggs roll in the incubator or nest when they are ready to hatch,” he added. “There’s another trick you can do to is to take a toilet paper tube and put a flashlight at the end, and then you take the egg and put it on top of the other end. The light makes the egg translucent and you can see their development that way.”
Harris currently has three breeds in his flock, Cinnamon Queens, Buff Orpingtons and Rhode Island Reds.
He added that it was difficult to raise chicks from the Cinnamon Queens.
“I kind of lean on the Cinnamon Queens as my favorites because of their coloring, Harris said. “But they don’t hatch off well because it lowers their egg production. “
During much of the year Harris sells 10 to 12 dozen eggs a week.
Harris admitted that at one time he had more customers but many of them have started to raise their own chickens after purchasing some chicks from them.
There are always customers but when the volume of eggs is high Harris has donated the excess to the Open Door food Pantry.
“Last summer they started producing faster than I could sell them.” Harris said with a broad smile. “”I donated about 27 dozen eggs to the Open Door so other people could have some good fresh eggs.
“I like to sell my eggs within a week after we collect them because you want them as fresh as you can get them,” he added. “We keep them refrigerated until they sell but you can keep them out as long as they haven’t been washed.”
Harris also added that he allows his chickens to become “free range” as long as he is home to watch them so they don’t stray too far from the coops.
“Here’s another fun fact,” Harris commented. “One of my favorite things to do is watch them in the spring after we have tilled the garden.
“They will go down there and sit in the dirt and flap their wings and take dirt baths,” he said laughing. “It’s really good for them because it helps get the bugs like lice that might be on them off.”
Allowing the chicken to roam eliminates a lot of the bugs on the family farm because the chickens like to eat them he added.
The young entrepreneur has found another reason to love his chickens.
“They have interesting sorts of personalities,” Harris said. “They like to wander off into weird places and so I have found they can make for some very good photo opportunities.”
Harris’s mother, Leslie Harris, said both she and her husband, Ray Harris, were very proud of their son and the work he has committed to in raising his chickens.
“Buzz just truly appreciates the land and his animals,” she said. “He has three horses and three dogs and now has added two turkeys to his flock and he cares about them but he cares about helping other people too.”
Before he left to feed his chickens Harris answered an age old question for the Democrat: “which came first the chicken or the egg.”
“Since eggs can’t just poof out of the sky, it had to be the chicken,” he replied with his wisdom and logic. “God made the chickens first so they can lay the eggs.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.