From professional tennis coach and European premier league football referee to local high school soccer coach and a successful poultry and pig breeder, Jonathan Stone leads a very busy and interesting life.
Jonathan, who hails from England, has a history of chicken breeding. He previously ran a show chicken company in the 90s in Kent, England so when he came to the US in 2011, he decided to make raising show birds his life’s calling and began breeding Silkies, originally in Tennessee.
“But the winters in Tennessee can be really cold, so I decided to move to Florida,” said Jonathan. “And that’s where I met Courtney, my wife, a native Floridian and lifelong animal lover,” he smiled.
Together the couple run Pixie’s Poultry & Pigs LLC located in Brooksville — Pixie being Jonathan’s fond name for Courtney.
Since first meeting, the couple has worked hard to grow their Silkies breeding program — a chicken known for its easygoing temperament and unique look. Silkies come in various colors and have silky feathers, pom-pom crests and beautiful full tails.
“Show Silkies are particularly beautiful when they have been washed and blown dry,” said Jonathan. “They probably get washed more than I do,” he said jokingly.
“In simple terms, breeding poultry and pigs to pedigree standard is to refine all the required characteristics present in our stock, so that it conforms as closely as possible to breeding society standards,” said Jonathan.
He explained, “we do this by selectively breeding the purest birds from our stock and using them for future breeding some don’t breed to close.”
Now the couple has expanded their farm to include Ameraucanas — a snowy white Call Duck, the female of which can be incredibly noisy, and Berkshire Cross pigs.
If you think farm life is listening to cows lowing, pigs snorting, ducks quacking and poultry happily clucking away all day while producing their eggs, think again. Both Jonathan and Courtney pursue other careers. Courtney works full-time in a medical office and Jonathan is also a soccer coach for Hernando High School.
Presently, the farm houses about 1,000 chickens, six pigs, and a variety of turkeys, cows and other fowl.
With so many potential feasts on hand for hungry predators like raccoons, opossums and rats that may be lurking, the couple revealed their secret diversionary technique — two llamas, located at the back of the Stone’s property. The llamas, who are sisters, are allowed to roam the back and side perimeters of the farm to ward off any predators.
“It’s all because of their urine,” said Jonathan. “It’s a natural deterrent to predators and it really works.”
Keeping track of every single animal at the farm is a full-time job in itself.
“Every single bird and piglet is registered, logged and tracked on our computer equipment,” said Courtney. “Each one is given an identification tag and even if that bird is sold and goes to another state, we can provide its history in a heartbeat, she said.
“My goal is to breed out the bad characteristics and bring in the good,” said Jonathan. “Basically, I’m trying to breed the Tom Cruise of Silkies and Berkshire Cross pigs and accurate records play an important role.”
“We don’t have a lot of downtime,” said Courtney. “Everything is geared around taking care of our farm, our jobs and soccer tournaments,” she said smiling.
Besides taking care of hundreds of baby chicks, juveniles and adult chickens, pigs, ducks, cows, turkeys, llamas and guinea fowl on their property, Pixie’s Poultry & Pigs recently welcomed their new Berkshire Cross sow No. 238-1, fondly known as Lucy.
Bought from a breeder in Arkansas, she was delivered to a friend’s farm in Georgia where the couple drove to collect her.
“Lucy was expecting her second litter at the time so I had a special pen and shade made for her to travel back in,” Johnathon said. “But, as a treat, we stopped at a car wash in Chiefland and we sprayed her down much to her delight.”
Lucy delivered one day early on July 26, 2018, producing 10 lovely, healthy piglets.
“Unfortunately, we are housing our sow and her babies in a temporary area of the farm,” said Jonathan. “as we were hit badly by Hurricane Irma felling trees that destroyed a lot of our outbuildings, pens and much of our livestock too.”
“We’ll care for the piglets through the winter until they reach 40 to 60 pounds in weight and then they’ll be included in our local student 4H program.
Jonathan is a member of the Hernando County Fair Livestock Committee and works with a large number of both 4H and FFA members.
“We consider our involvement very important in the local 4H Program for students,” said Jonathan. “We opted to do whatever we can to invest in the youth of today and future farmers of tomorrow.”
Lucy’s piglets will play a role in the 2018 4H program. Students who purchase a piglet from the Pixie’s Poultry & Pigs will take care of the pig and learn the basic principles of animal science. They’ll also gain vital knowledge of sound breeding, feeding, and management practices and the nutritious value of swine products.
Then at local fair time, the students will be judged on their quality of the pig’s care and showmanship. Students can be awarded certificates, pins, ribbons, trophies and trips depending on their level of care.
“With our program, if the students wins First Place, we give them back $50,” he said. “If they come Second or Third, they also get a return on their investment and we’ve found it really encourages the kids to do good work to get good results.”
Jonathan is a triple Master Breeder and the couple’s chickens do well at shows — no mean feat to win awards at shows in a period of less than 5 years since launching their breeding program.