News from Springfield Farm in Sparks, Maryland is usually about sustainable farming or which regional restaurants get their antibiotic-free meat from the multi-acre farm in the Hereford region of Baltimore County, but today the farmers at the Northern Baltimore County farm are saddened by a livestock theft on their Yeoho Road property. Most farmers are prepared to have a certain amount of livestock loss from predators, but reps from Springfield Farm, the place the Washington Post says many Marylanders go for their organic heritage Thanksgiving turkey, say that this loss of 200 turkey babies or poults was theft, as gates were unlocked.
Catherine Webb, one of the owners of Springfield Farm posted a notice on their Facebook page to alert people in the area to a theft that took place in the late hours of May 18 from a brooder building under warming lights. The farm had just received the 200 Standard Bronze babies (poults) and picked them up from the local Sparks Post Office on May 17.
“Last night, we believe, someone came onto our farm, entered one of our brooder buildings, and stole 200 baby turkeys, valued at over $2,300. This is not a case of a predator, as there are no signs of attack, and other animals in the brooder remain unharmed.”
Webb and her father, farmer David Smith are asking that anyone who notices someone with many unusual looking turkey babies to contact the farm or call Baltimore County Police.
“Please contact us ASAP with any information you may have, or if you notice someone has suddenly acquired baby turkeys.”
Webb’s main concern is that someone is not properly caring for the newborn turkeys, who require heating lamps and waterers that prevent the little ones from drowning.
“The thief came prepared with their own containers because the shipping boxes were left in the brooder. The latch on the door was also left undone, and the gate was opened.”
Webb added that she is touched that so many people have shared the original Facebook post to help track down the poults.
Standard Bronze turkeys aren’t your everyday turkey one can purchase at a local chain food store. Standard Bronze turkeys are a breed descended from “the original turkeys brought over by New England colonists (think the first Thanksgiving) and date to around 1700,” says Baltimore City Paper.
Smith says sadly, this isn’t their first experience with theft in what is considered one of the safer communities in the Baltimore metro area.
“Back in 2001 I believe, someone stole two four-wheelers from near the house. They came prepared because they rolled them onto some kind of flatbed. More recently we had ducks and a basket of duck eggs stolen when someone disconnected one of our electric fences.”
Outside of rural areas, livestock theft is not exactly a hot topic, but those inclined to steal rare breed poultry, in particular, do so because it is hard for the rightful owner to be identified (especially with babies or poults who are not tagged). Leicestershire Police in the U.K. through their Rural Watch program has provided a list of tips to avoid poultry theft in particular.
- Electric fencing can deter potential offenders, as well as being a deterrent for foxes and other pests. Remember to put a visible sign warning that an electric fence is in operation and take precautions to protect the energizer).
- Geese and guinea fowl can act as a natural alarm system as they are very vocal if someone enters the premises.
- Take photos of your birds, including any distinguishing marks and any expensive equipment you may have.
- There are a number of ways to mark your poultry which will act as a deterrent, identifying stolen birds and proving ownership. Ways to tag poultry include:
- Wing tagging (similar to ear tagging in sheep)
- Permanent tattooing
- Spray or mark plumage with vegetable dye
- Closed rings on the birds’ legs
- Wing stamping
Motion-sensing lights and secure padlocks to protect your poultry and your feed in farm outbuildings. They also suggest that you should always report a theft, even if it seems insignificant. This is the only way police in rural areas can establish a pattern and nab a poultry thief.