A new farmer who has bitten off a little more than he can chew is asking the community for apples, which he has been using to feed his many critters.
Thomas Boettger of Central Whidbey Funny Farm describes his family’s move across the water as “a crash landing on Whidbey.”
Two years after moving from Seattle to south of Coupeville, he has a total of 250 birds including turkeys, chickens, ducks and geese and the newest addition, four pigs.
But recently, he has been struggling to feed the porkers due to some financial hardship brought on by COVID-19.
“We didn’t expect a pandemic,” Boettger said. “Who did?”
Luckily, he found out how to make his own apple cider vinegar to feed the birds and pigs by putting it in their water supply. The pigs also enjoy eating the pulp of the apples, in small doses.
Since buying the five-acre residential property and turning it into a family farm, Boettger has let the animals do the landscaping work. Overgrown grasses have been pecked down by chickens and munched by pigs, who also enjoy blackberry bushes.
The pigs have even unearthed strange objects during their foraging, such as cinder blocks and a buried CD player.
“It’s been fruitful for sure,” Boettger said about his landscapers.
Central Whidbey Funny Farm is still in its early stages, with the goal of becoming a for-profit egg and meat farm. Ducks, chickens, pigs and even bunnies are being raised to one day be on someone’s dinner plate.
“This is our start-up here,” Boettger said. “We really want to get into this.”
Boettger’s wife, AJ, is an artist and has painted one of the chicken coops. The couple has talked about adding painted chicken coops onto the business.
Although he has been around the farms of his family members his whole life, this is Boettger’s first farming venture of his own.
“For me to take this on, it was really no talent other than straightening up the infrastructure,” he said.
As with anything, there has been a lot of trial-and-error. At first, Boettger kept losing his birds to owls during the night. That’s when he started using cover nets and making chicken tractors.
Boettger himself has made chicken tractors out of PVC pipe, a movable enclosure that allows the flock to peck at different areas of grass while being fed and watered. Every day, he moves the chicken tractors around to somewhere new.
Boettger estimates that he feeds his animals a total of 25 gallons of apple cider vinegar every month.