Commissioner Scott Soares
Commissioner, Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR)
The holiday season is upon us with just 12 days to go before Christmas Day! It’s the perfect time to to reflect on the classic Twelve Days of Christmas carol. In the spirit of the season, each year we calculate how much it would cost to make those purchases today in Massachusetts.
Thanks to DAR staff and our friends at the Department of Fish and Game we had some fun estimating the prices of the agricultural and wildlife products and services mentioned in the song.
Eight maids a-milking? At $8 to $10 an hour, eight maids (or lads) a’ milking would cost around $50. It takes less than half an hour to milk a cow. But of course that doesn't account for the total cost of producing the milk.
Seven swans a-swimming could cost you in fines up to $375 to $20 to $50 per bird plus an additional $25 for illegal possession of mute swans. Illegal possession of the birds also carries the possible penalty of 30 days in jail. If you hold a grandfathered permit for mute swans, it will cost you $30 for the lot, no new permits are issued.
Six geese a-laying? Goslings cost about $8 a piece, but, if you sought the instant gratification of laying geese, you'd need a mating pair at $40 to $100 each or $240 to $600 for the lot.
As to five golden rings, this does not actually refer to jewelry but rather golden-ringed pheasants at a cost of $60 for five. Or, you could hunt the birds at a cost of $325 plus $10 for a hunting license.
Buyer beware on the four calling birds part (a.k.a. Colly birds or blackbirds). There are 65 species of blackbirds and most, like the red-winged blackbird or the common grackle, are protected by both federal and state laws. Any romantic ideas of procuring these birds will carry stiff fines and possible jail time (up to six months). It is illegal to hunt blackbirds in Massachusetts – taking these birds would cost between $50 and $300 in state fines – at $10 to $50 per bird plus an additional fine up to $100, with up to 30 days in jail and a revoked hunting license for three years.
Door-to-door delivery of three hens from France could cost as much as $2,800 in airfare and paperwork. The cost rises to $4,000 for the additional cost of quarantining the birds for 30 days (a state requirement for livestock imported to Massachusetts) and incidental veterinary fees. Don't forget to check if your intended recipient lives in a community that allows back-yard poultry!
Two turtle doves cost about $40 a piece from a pet store licensed by DAR. A partridge (a.k.a. a ruffed grouse) is a native game bird which can be hunted in Massachusetts only in October and November.
A Massachusetts resident adult hunting license is $27.50 –other costs include shotgun ammunition, shotgun, and a ($100) Massachusetts gun license.Finally, a 9-foot, fruit-bearing pear tree costs about $100 (not including installation)!