Unlike most gobblers awaiting their ends this month, 13-year-old Rawley Godsey’s buff turkey, Peanut, doesn’t have anything to worry about. While the pint-size poultry farmer occasionally raises birds for meat, Rawley’s got a principle for deciding which ones get the ax: “Our general rule is: If they get a name, they’re safe,” he says.
Rawley, a decorated 4-H winner, has made a name for himself over the past two years as one of the Denver area’s youngest egg and chicken sellers. When they’re in stock, you’ll find his Pan’s Prize Eggs at the Preservery in RiNo. The Bennett Middle School eighth-grader has already learned some harsh business lessons. Last fall, he lost almost 30 frozen chickens to a production glitch: His Akbash dog, Nika, got into the freezer, helped herself to some birds, and left the door open. In October 2015, after rescuing a flock of hens from slaughter (76 red star chickens at $7.50 per bird), egg production started out much slower than he’d projected. “I thought I’d be in debt forever,” Rawley says.
But the money isn’t the teen’s main motivation anyway. He likes to watch the birds grow and get to know their personalities—even if all the feeding and watering gets tedious. “They’re not as easy to take care of as dogs,” Rawley says. “You just install a dog door and they do the rest on their own.” (Evidently, Nika is still on his good side.) And raising poultry is in Rawley’s blood. His mom, Christie, the owner of Ambrosia Farm, typically raises 300 to 400 turkeys a year for retailers like Marczyk Fine Foods. Earlier this year, however, the Godseys chose not to raise any new birds while moving from their 37.5-acre property in Bennett to a 19-acre place down the road.
Despite the downsizing, Rawley plans to be back in action again by spring. This winter, he’d like to purchase a new flock of egg birds, and he’s also received offers from fellow farmers to raise meat birds on their behalf. The extra cash would be nice, Rawley says, but he’ll have to balance that with school, pep band, and his other avian interest: pursuing his Boy Scout eagle badge.