Victoria Redhed Miller followed her path from urban life to an old farmhouse miles from 21st century comforts. She finds a lifestyle that suits her and brings us all along in her memoir, Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks of how this city girl goes off the grid.
She and her husband move to his family farm after he retires from his city job. That’s the first indication of their willingness to step outside the mundane and take a chance. The old place needs work and is far from the Seattle they have called home. They step out into the eastern Washington countryside, willing to do what it takes.
And it takes chickens, ducks and turkeys! She’s a novice, but soon gets up to speed on the chickens she acquires, from a retiring farmer and later, more deliberately, by choice. She learns the advantages of heritage breeds for small flocks: good foragers, hardy in all weather conditions, willing to brood and raise the next generation.
Thankfully, she’s also a thoughtful diarist, keeping track of what happens and how it works out. She keeps good track of her poultry experiences, too. That’s invaluable for improving breeding and monitoring costs. Breeder records are crucial to heritage flock keeping. The records are testament to how each breeding works out. She tracks egg production and feed costs.
She’s willing to do what it takes, and open to new experiences. When a local restaurant wants to buy her eggs, she’s ready with the required state licensing to sell eggs legally. She brings with her a capable background that helps her navigate new experiences.
Chopping her own wood for heat and canning her garden and flock surplus immerses her in sustaining the small farm. From her experiences, she draws some general principles to conclude her book: Purebred birds are more sustainable: Shorten the food chain; Challenge the ‘Get Big or Get Out’ adage; and Have fun!
As a newcomer to poultry, she learned by doing. From that experience, she created a Poultry from Scratch Worksheet. It’s a useful tool for anyone without experience considering poultry. Going over her questions and pondering the answers – What do I plan to do with hens who are past their prime laying years? How much time am I willing to spend learning about poultry health issues? – will spark the family discussion that needs to be part of entering into small flock poultry raising.