During October 2009 our youngest two children travelled to Wales for three weeks. They went alone and stayed with relatives while they were there and it was a fabulous experience for them in many ways. What made this trip extra special is that they earned the money for the trip completely on their own. My husband and I believe this has given them both entrepreneurial skills and confidence in their abilities that will last forever. It also gave our family some encouragement that there were things that children can do on the farm to make an income without very much risk.
Return trip airfare to Wales and insurance cost them approximately $1,600 each, so they budgeted $2,000 each for the trip. This was a huge amount of money for a 16-and 17-year-old to make, but once the decision to go was made in 2007 they got right at it.
The fact that the two of them are home-schooled made the preparation a bit easier because they had more time to work. My daughter, who graduated last year, funded most of her trip with her babysitting income. She had taken the Babysitting Certificate course through the Manitoba 4-H council and has had great success. She also owns a small beef herd and a small flock of goats. Our son, being still in school, had less time on his hands and so had to be a bit more inventive.
The two ways he made most of his money was raising meat rabbits and raising pasture-raised poultry. The very encouraging part of this story is that both of these are enterprises that, if he desires, could be made into full-time, profitable businesses when he finishes school.
Most of his income from rabbits is selling breeding stock and pets. He chose to raise recognized meat breeds because in Manitoba there is a growing market for rabbits to ship to California. A part of this project was to learn to research. Through talking with Rex Pettigrew of Rorketon, Manitoba he learned how much he could expect to be paid for rabbits that went to California. He then set his price to reflect the amount he would be paid if he were to increase his numbers and ship them there so he knows what profit there is. This is important because any of our children’s endeavours are independent of my husband and I so must be budgeted profitably. The rabbits to California are shipped at regular intervals at a predetermined pickup point.
If anyone wants to learn more about setting up their own rabbit business in a large-enough scale to make shipping to California profitable, Pettigrew is the person to contact at 1-204-732-2427.
When he realized that the rabbits alone weren’t going to make adequate money fast enough, pastured poultry was added to his plans. With some of his rabbit profits he purchased Cornish Giant chicks. For the first six weeks he kept them in the barn under heat lamps until they had enough feathers and size to be moved outdoors. It was important that they had shelter from the elements, which was satisfied by making some rough shelters out of used pallets. They needed to be protected from foxes so he used our buck pen, which is electric fenced, and was empty for the summer.
Raising the chickens on a pasture also allowed him to keep feed and water costs minimal. He used four-litre vinegar jugs cut lengthways and small grain troughs that we use for creep feeding orphan lambs. For the waterers he used our chick ones till they outgrew them, then he just used old pails that were short enough that the chickens could reach in without wanting to perch on the sides.
These chickens were the happiest ones we have ever raised. We used all the whey from my cheese making to soak their feed with as well as using up all the old frozen vegetables in our freezers for them to peck through. Every day my son would mix commercial chicken feed with some of the vegetables, soak it with the whey and leave it overnight. Then he fed them in the morning and repeated the process for nighttime chores. I am not sure if it was because of the extra calcium from the whey or just the extra exercise they received wandering about in the grass all day, but these chickens had the strongest legs of any meat chickens we have ever raised. We usually have a few that grow too fast for their legs but not one of these chickens had that problem. For pricing I contacted other pasture poultry producers and checked the grocery flyers in our area.
His advertising campaign for the chickens consisted of putting a notice on our farm website and notifying all our regular farm gate customers that they were available. He had no problem selling out and everyone that ordered last year has increased their orders for this year. I would recommend a deposit be considered if any number of them were to be raised though. That way a child isn’t working with a lot of overhead expense. The rabbits have been advertised through Kijiji and a roadside sign, which is working because of our location.
I am sure there are many other ideas for young people on the farm and these are just a few that worked for us. It was an exciting day when they flew off in the plane to Wales. It was even more exciting for Mom and Dad when they came back! If anyone would like to view the pictures of their trip they can be seen at
Debbie Chikousky farms at Narcisse, Manitoba
Email her at [email protected]