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Commissioner Scott Soares

Commissioner Scott Soares

Commissioner, Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR)

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Ever wonder how much it would cost your true love to procure seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying or five golden rings? With prompting last week from Sean Cole (reporting for NPR's business program Marketplace), some of my staff and folks from the Department of Fish and Game had some fun looking into what it would cost in Massachusetts to purchase some of the products or services in the song.

Eight maids a-milking? At $18 an hour, eight maids (or lads) a’ milking would cost around $144. It takes less than half an hour to milk a cow.

Seven mute swans

Seven swans a-swimming could cost you in fines up to $375 – for $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. The photo of the adult mute swan and its six cygnets is by MassWildlife’s Bill Byrne.

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.

The calling birds are really Colly birds a.k.a. blackbirds. Gift wrapping these would cost between $50 and $300 in fines – at $10 to $50 per bird plus an additional fine up to $100, possible jail time of 30 days and a revoked hunting license for three years. It is illegal to hunt blackbirds in Massachusetts.

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.

Two turtle doves cost $25 a-piece from a pet store licensed by DAR.

A partridge (a.k.a. a ruffed grouse) and a pear tree? A partridge goes for $9 plus $30 for a MassWildlife permit. A 9 foot, fruit-bearing pear tree costs about $100.

Click here to hear me on the show and find out more about this story – a holiday tradition tracking the Christmas Price Index – broadcast on NPR.

Happy Holidays!

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