Hatching a Business
Shawn and Karen Fisher began a poultry operation two years ago that offers a variety of birds
On an unseasonably warm afternoon in the Ozarks, life is celebrated at S & K Poultry with honks, quacks, clucks and just plain old-fashioned squawks as a variety of feathered friends celebrate the first hint of spring.
Located at the home of Shawn and Karen Fisher in rural Laclede County, just northeast of Lebanon, Mo., this 2-year-old poultry operation supports a variety of chickens, ducks, geese, guinea hens, peacocks, quail and golden pheasants.
“We hatch our own here,” Shawn Fisher explained. Their poultry enterprise covers the gamut, from egg laying and meat chickens to ornamentals, several breeds of ducks and geese, pheasants and quail.
“And everything is for sale,” Shawn continued with a laugh. “We sell eggs on occasion, but truthfully, we hatch most of them, using GQF incubators. I really love hatching, raising the birds from eggs to full grown, and then to be honest, we eat some of the eggs, too.”
S & K also offers a selection of coturnix quail, a domestic breed that does not require a wildlife permit like some other quail and pheasant breeds.
“They are not considered a game bird so no permit needed,” Shawn explained. “We have buffs, tuxedos, and Italians as well as Texas A & Ms. They are just beautiful birds. Most people buy them as meat birds, although some use them for dog training. We also have jumbos, which have the same appearance but are nearly twice the size so a number of people prefer those. We raise the quail pretty much on a supply and demand basis, meaning in season.”
Shawn said the birds require a 27 percent protein mix or better in their feed and that makes for considerably higher feed costs.
“You don’t want to be sitting on 300 of those birds for very long,” he said. “Some people even buy a few to use as live yard ornaments,” Karen added. “Like the Polish and Silkies to just run around in the garden because they are so pretty.”
While Karen is originally from Arizona, where she worked as a massage therapist and private duty nurse, she is not yet accustomed to Ozarks winters, which she acknowledged with a shiver. Shawn Fisher, however is a Lebanon High School graduate who came closer to growing up with ink in his veins than chicken manure on his mud boots. They met when the southwest U.S. transplant purchased a load of firewood from the Ozarks native.
“When I was little, my mom and dad, Leonard and Flora Fisher, worked for the local newspaper and if I wasn’t at the paper office within a half an hour of that last school bell ringing at Donnelly School, there was a search party out after me,” he remembered with a laugh.
After they left the newspaper, the Fishers ran their own printing operation in downtown Lebanon for nearly 30 years before retiring.
Shawn attended the University of Missouri, studying finance but left school before graduation after an extraordinary job offer came his way from American Century Investments of Kansas City.
“By 1990, I was trading stocks and bonds and working in investments, but instead I traded in my suit and tie for jeans and mud boots,” he said with a grin. “I definitely prefer this job, working with the animals, being outdoors and talking to people.”
Sadly, Shawn and Karen learned their new career has its hazards as well when tragedy struck and their poultry barn caught fired and burned late last year.
“It went up in 15 minutes,” Karen said. “We were trying to put it out with a garden hose, but it took five county department trucks to get it done. We lost a lot of animals so it was really a big loss for us,” Karen said.
And these days, all of the animals also includes the quiet ones, because S & K also offers a wide assortment of rabbits.
“We sell most of the rabbits for pets, as we supply the local pet stores” Karen explained. “Right now we have about 35 adult breeding does, the female rabbits and 300 babies, all colors, white, black, gray, spotted. We have New Zealands, the white ones with pink eyes and ears that most people know as well as California, Rex, and Chinchillas, also another rabbit breed. Their fur is like velvet soft,” she added. “We sell meat rabbits and doctors are now recommending rabbit meat as a delicious alternative white meat, as it is lower in fat and therefore, helps with lower cholesterol levels.”
Spring is definitely the opening of S & K’s busy season, beginning with direct sale of chicks and bunnies at Easter and includes many other facets such as the sale of rabbit manure for garden fertilizer.
“We also help a lot of kids with FFA and 4-H projects,” Shawn concluded. “And of course, now we’ve got future plans that include raising organic fodder to help offset feed costs, quail flight pens, raising chukars, a type of partridge game bird, as well as building a bigger, better barn, to get all of the animals under shelter, all of the time.”
Shawn and Karen are enjoying life with their two and four footed livestock and have their eyes set firmly on the future, in terms of building projects as well as working with the students who are the agriculture stars of tomorrow.http://www.ozarksfn.com/2018/03/07/hatching-a-business/http://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Fisher_1-1024x569.jpghttp://www.ozarksfn.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Fisher_1-150x150.jpgMissouri NeighborsNeighborsKaren Fisher,Lebanon,Missouri,Poultry,S&K Poultry,Shawn FisherShawn and Karen Fisher began a poultry operation two years ago that offers a variety of birds On an unseasonably warm afternoon in the Ozarks, life is celebrated at S & K Poultry with honks, quacks, clucks and just plain old-fashioned squawks as a variety of feathered friends celebrate the...Laura L. ValentiLaura L. Valentilauravalenti@live.comAuthorOzarks Farm & Neighbor Newspaper