BYC Member Interview - Ozexpat

Discussion in 'Family Life - Stories, Pictures & Updates' started by sumi, Sep 3, 2014.

  1. sumi

    sumi Égalité

    Jun 28, 2011
    Rep of Ireland
    Mark, known to BYC members as ozexpat, or simply Oz to friends, have been entertaining us with his chicken adventures since November 2012. He will most often be found sharing news and updates in his wonderful thread, Getting the flock out of here - a diary of a crazy chicken man (a highly recommended read), or doling out well researched advice on Sally's Diary & Notes thread.

    1. Tell us a bit more about yourself.

    I was born in Australia 51 years ago. We moved to “the bush” from the beach when I was 14 when my parents bought a 1000 acre sheep and cattle farm. Along with the commercial animals we had livestock for home consumption including pigs, dairy cows and poultry. I loved the farm life and especially animal husbandry. When I was fifteen I discovered my need to fight for injustice and took on the federal government over the banning of the aerial application of high concentration sulfa fertilizer. I wrote a full page op-ed that was published in “The Land” newspaper. This triggered a movement in the country that had the ban reviewed and removed.

    I went on to become a nurse and took a 12 month contract in the USA. That was in 1989 and I am still here. I met my wife at a hospital I worked at and it was love at first sight. In 1995, I married my soul mate and best friend. We had the classic double income no kid (DINK) lifestyle. We traveled the world, ate in fine restaurants and became SCUBA diving fanatics.

    The no-kids thing was not an issue but we decided to adopt. We were all set to file and then Mrs Oz fell pregnant. We had a miscarriage in 2006. This rocked our world. We spent the next two years and well over $100,000 on infertility treatments and multiple rounds of IVF.

    Finally we decided to adopt again. After doing a lot of research we discovered that we could adopt locally in my wife’s native country of The Philippines and it was just a 2 year process. In Jan 2009 we quit our jobs and moved to a beach house on 2.5 acres in the central Philippines.

    It’s now five and a half years later, the amended birth certificates of our two adopted kids are finally available for pick up. The rush on overseas adoptions by celebrities caused changes in international adoption laws. By the time we get green cards for the kids, it will have been a six and a half year process. I could not afford to stay unemployed in The Philippines so I had to leave my wife in country to keep the adoption process moving while I commuted to and from SoCal working as a Cardiology Service Line Administrator. I have racked up over half a million flight miles to kiss, cuddle and smell my family.

    Some things about me:
    • I have crawled down into the center of an Egyptian pyramid, had our boat break down in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after feeding a goat to Komodo Dragons and have been adopted by a Balinese royal family
    • I gained EPA certification as a HVAC technician so I could install my own central heating/air-conditioning
    • I love a good road trip and have driven a car in twenty countries. I have been pulled over by police in six of them and escorted by a military convoy in one.
    • I have never paid a bribe
    • I have been handcuffed for obstruction of justice but the charges were dropped when the emotional red neck cop realized that he was arresting me for telling him he was in the wrong
    • I was the “star” of a TV commercial about toilet seats and have performed on stage in a tutu

    I have always run towards life and embraced adventure.

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    2. Why and when did you start keeping chickens?

    We have had chickens on our one hectare beach house property since we bought it but this story is really about going from keeping chickens to raising them. In October 2011 when I was sitting on my lanai at 5:30AM admiring our chickens free ranging through the front yard. It's a great sight to see a mother hen and her brood picking through the grass for bugs and other treats. About 45 minutes later I was told by the lady that prepares our food that we were out of eggs.

    I paused to think about our chickens for the first time. We had chickens but no eggs... When I thought some more I realized that in the two years we had lived in the Philippines, I had not eaten an egg from our chickens, and never even eaten a chicken. The only eggs I had eaten in the Philippines were store bought eggs from battery hens. This made no sense to a chicken novice.

    It turned out that the chickens we had were native chickens. Visaya, as we called them, when they do lay eggs, go broody after about 12 eggs and sit on them. Between going broody and raising chicks, they would only lay about 50-60 eggs all year. Of the eggs that hatched into chicks, we were barely getting any old enough for our neighbors to steal. Something had to be done.

    We wanted chickens that would not fly over a 6 ft fence but would free range readily. We wanted happy chickens like my grandfather had that would supply us with both meat and eggs.

    We also found that there was a real need for quality lines of birds for poultry fanciers and backyard collectors in the Philippines. I figured correctly that if I wanted these chickens, others might want them too.

    Finally we discovered a need for education of locals and an opportunity to make a difference. This educational deficit is present from the Barangay where the local Filipino is trying to provide nutrition for his family all the way to the chefs of fine restaurants and the purveyors of poultry.

    CocoFarms Poultry was incubated and hatched.

    It took more than eighteen months of research and experimentation to find the right birds and then work out how to hatch them in the humid climate at Coco Beach. Hard work and perseverance paid off.

    We now have an amazing collection of pure bred heritage class birds producing healthy farm raised cage free and free range eggs in a myriad of colors. The meat from our birds is tender and rich in flavor.

    We have set up a "Chicken Mission" to provide chickens with hybrid vigor to the needy locals at no charge along with education on raising dual purpose chickens.

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    3. Which aspect(s) of chicken keeping do you enjoy the most?

    Short answer – the wins.

    Long Answer - Raising chickens in the third world has its issues. Being a part time trans-Pacific chicken owner compounds those issues.

    My first win was tackling incubation. Most of us know the pain associated with shipped eggs but mine were not only travelling from points across the USA to Los Angeles but then shipped in foam inserts 7496 miles to our local airport then another 4 hours on rough roads to the farm. Ambient humidity is perfect for hatching but aweful for the first 18 days of incubation. Even with local eggs I was only getting 50% hatch rates. Whole batches of shipped eggs would not even show viability at 10 days and then most that did failed at 18-21 days. They were tough times.

    I ended up buying a dehumidifier on Craigslist that was under the 50lb weight limit on a checked in suitcase and hauled it to the Philippines. The results were immediate. Our hatch rate on local eggs shifted to the 85+% mark and shipped eggs now fared as well as they did when I hatched in LA.
    The second win was mastering chicken nutrition. I spent hundreds of hours reading over articles on the internet, downloading textbooks and researching nutritional values of locally available feed ingredients. We now mix our own feeds for all our animals. We have approximately 1.5 tons of rice bran, tuna fish meal and soy meal delivered each month. I also had planted 50 Ipil-Ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) and 50 Malunggay (Moringa oleifera) trees to supplement various animal feeds. We then add a vitamin and electrolyte pre-mix and have five recipes that we modify slightly for all our animals. The savings from doing this is around forty percent. Our birds have been on farm mixed feed for more than a year and are laying and hatching appropriately.

    The third win is ongoing and not won. It’s about keeping poultry alive. I have had several “plagues” that would rival those cast upon the Egyptians in Moses’ times.
    The first was with our Cotournix Quail. We hatched fifty quail and I was ecstatic. We got them through the brooder stage, giving them a 28% protein mix with Amprolium and no signs of coccidiasis. Then we lost 10 over night. Then 15. After researching I decided to treat for Necrotic Enteritis and we gave them Bacitracin. It worked but the carnage was 40 birds. The ten remaining were boosted by another 50 hatched chicks and now we have approximately 150 quail giving us eggs and meat. We hatched 50 more this week so we will be having lots of quail adobo in a couple of months as we refresh our stock.
    I vaccinate for Coryza. I learnt that without vaccination I will lose birds. We lost several birds at 16 weeks to this disease. Since vaccinating we have had not had problems. Now all birds get 0.5ml of vaccine at 8 and 11 weeks.

    We seemed to have everything going really well. We had hatched new breeds for us – Cream Legbars, Polish and New Hampshires and all in quantities that could develop into viable numbers. At five weeks of age feral cats got into the brooder house and wiped them out. I was devastated. We will have to wait till next spring to go through the import process to get the eggs here again. Any loss here can set us back so much further than the same loss in the USA. We do not have the resources at our finger tips.
    The final plague was just last week. During the transition of people who work on the farm, we missed vaccinating for Newcastle Disease. Just before I left for this trip I was sent photos of scores of point of lay birds in the same grow out pen all dead with the neurological symptoms of NCD - a loss preventable by vaccine sitting in my fridge.
    I consider these losses as future wins. Learning from setbacks are lessons that give you knowledge and knowledge gives you power to succeed. I have an arsenal of antibiotics, medications and first aid treatments in my “egg house” that can treat sick animals. I prefer to use none but won’t let a chicken die if I can help it. Vets are not an option as there is not a vet in twenty miles. I have become very adept at using my human medical experience and adapting it to animals and vaccinate for as many diseases as I can that are endemic. While the problems we experience cause pain – I get immense satisfaction from beating the problems as they come up.

    The final win is knowing that I stumbled into something good. After posting two ads on a local internet classified site I sold enough chickens to cover the cost of feeding my chickens since this all started. I have meetings set up to provide groups with large quantities of brown egg layers in regular shipments as well as orders for birds from chicken fanciers that are on waitlists. The purebred sales will maintain the farm while the commercial quantities could change our future. Compounded with our chicken mission project these wins have the potential to change the poultry landscape of the country.

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    4. Which members of your flock, past and present, stand out for you and why?

    I have a chickens-are-not-pets philosophy. I cannot eat my pets. As a consequence I don’t have many special chickens. My favorite birds are my BBS Jersey Giants and Orpingtons. They are huge and the locals get such a surprise when they see them.

    I have a mean old Tom turkey that I am always talking about turning into sausage but cannot bring myself to do it until I successfully raise replacements – a challenge I am yet to overcome.

    Finally I have one named rooster. A dear friend of mine from BYC gave me eggs from Blue Andalusians that I hatched. Her flock was shortly thereafter wiped out by Coyotes and she lost her show quality roo called Scooby Doo. In honor of my dear friend HillFlowerRanch (HFR) and all her generosity, the only male survivor of her line has been bestowed the name Scooby Two. He now has several offspring that should keep his genetics alive for years to come.

    5. What was the funniest (chicken related) thing(s) that happened to you in your years as chicken owner?

    When in SoCal I try and live frugally as I support my family and farm in the Philippines. One cost saving is that I share an apartment with a roommate in Anaheim. The roommate is a high functioning but harmless alcoholic that hits the booze pretty hard on his days off. One weekend I went to a chicken meet-up and to help out HFR I brought back a cockerel that I was going to deliver but could not do it until the following day.
    Later that evening, my inebriated roommate awoke to an escaped young roo perched on his table lamp letting out a huge crow or four. It was priceless.

    6. Beside chickens, what other pets do you keep?

    Pets – we have Hector the Basset/Askal mix that watches over us. He protects from fence climbers as is amazingly friendly and patient with our kids.

    We have a boar breeding project. I have another goal of providing high quality swine semen to the Southern Philippines at an affordable price. There is definitely the need. We have six Landrace and three Duroc crossed sows that we have raised and have artificially inseminated the first six with high grade Landrace, Peitrains and Duroc/Pietrains semen from a genetics group in Luzon, North of Manila. With selective breeding we hope to end up with eight to twelve Grand Parent stock pure Landrace and terminal cross bred boars.

    We have five local breed goats that we bred to an almost Nubian buck. We ended up with all doelings that are growing fast. The next buck will be one third each Saanen, Nubian and Boer. We will then go back to pure Nubian and start seeing how much milk we can produce.

    We have Motza the water buffalo. I have about a year more to wait for her to be of breeding age. I am hoping to breed her to a Mediterranean river water buffalo to start a milking program for locally produced Bufallo Mozzarella cheese for personal and restaurant consumption.

    Add to that the Coturnix, Chukar, Muscovies and Giant Pekins and we have quite the managerie. We joke about Emu. LOL… one day.

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    7. Anything you'd like to add?

    Our farm is located on the island of Negros in the central Philippines. While just 85 miles from the airport, it’s a 3.5 hour drive on a good day. We have a decent power supply and municipal water. There are no phone lines. The nearest cell tower is 2 miles away. It works fine for text messaging but 3G internet will probably never hit our area as it is just too poor for the telecoms to consider a new tower closer a viable proposition. We can use Facebook and Whats App most of the day but real internet pages can only load with some reliability in the hours between 4 and 10am. Any other time it’s really random luck.

    We have three full time workers – a couple and a single guy that live on the farm. The guys look after the animals and the grounds while the woman tends to the vegetable gardens and works as out housekeeper when we are in residence. We employ day workers for projects such as coop construction.

    I want us to be as self sufficient as possible when it comes to food supply. The Filipino diet is strongly influenced by fish so we also buy locally caught fish and our pantry items from the supermarkets in the city.

    We get trailer loads of sawdust from a local sawmill to mix with our manures to make compost as an attempt to amend the beach sand we call soil. We have scores of tropical fruit trees, a vegetable garden that produces local veggies and we are experimenting with imported vegetable seeds to see what will grow in our equatorial environment.

    Within the next six months I plan to bring on an intern to train as the farm coordinator. There is a local ag college I am meeting with next week.

    BYC has bought many acquaintances and some special friends. Without the likes of OffGridMAMMA, LaPalma Chicks, Piglett, Phage and HillFlowerRanch I would not have my flock. Without Sally Sunshine I may have never hatched chicks. Thank you all.

    I hope you enjoy this looong interview and invite you to join us in our adventure in person through the chicken mission next year or vicariously through the “Getting the Flock Out of Here Thread”

    See here for more about the interview feature and a complete list of member interviews:
    ribomilgotafarm likes this.
  2. vehve

    vehve The Token Finn

    That was a good read. And I warmly recommend anyone who finds this interesting to check out Oz's own thread (mentioned in the beginning). Fair warning though - you won't do anything useful until you've finished every page of it.
  3. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler!

    Nov 27, 2012
    SW Michigan
    My Coop
    What a Fantastically Fascinating person.

    Great interview!! Long, yes, but actually rather concise considering the breadth of your activities and experiences.

    I can't follow those long chatty threads, so very nice to read all this in one place.
  4. MistyMountain

    MistyMountain Songster

    Aug 24, 2013
    Wonderful interview, oz!
  5. Sally Sunshine

    Sally Sunshine Crossing the Road

    Aug 23, 2012
  6. Judy

    Judy Crowing

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Thank you so much! Fascinating read!
  7. N F C

    N F C whaz sup?

    Dec 12, 2013
    Wonderful interview from a very interesting member! I'm sold, going to start reading Oz's thread today! Thank you Oz for sharing your story and thank you BYC for the terrific interviews.
  8. arkansas55

    arkansas55 Chirping

    Aug 23, 2014
    wow,awesome interview!!!!!!!!!!!!! good luck with all your project's!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thank's for sharing.
  9. KentuckyMom

    KentuckyMom Songster

    Jul 15, 2013
    Foster, Kentucky
    I enjoyed this immensely. And vehve is right, if you start reading " Getting the Flock Out of Here" , you won't be able to stop. I have been amazed at your perserverance, Ozexpat, despite many setbacks and against all odds. Thank you.
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2014
  10. scottcaddy

    scottcaddy Crowing

    A Very Good read!!
    Thanks OZ.!!

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